Browsing Category New Albums

The Radiation Flowers

Straddling the nebulous line between shoegaze and psych-pop, Saskatoon’s Radiation Flowers bathe in the warm amplifier glow of Spacemen 3 if they’d been playing split singles with Galaxie 500. Summer Loop, the band’s latest offering feels like it might stop vibrating about three minutes after the needle comes to a rest. The album is draped in a shimmer of lush production that sets Shelby Gaudet’s vocals in a languid landscape well suited to her dream-smeared delivery. They kick the switch nicely between gauzy float and a snakebite flash of fuzz that rears its head on heavier tracks, though, this is an album primarily about setting a narcotic mood. Far from an ardent dynamic shifter, Summer Loop is more concerned with laying the listener into froth than taking a good layer of skin off in the process.

The grooves stretch out, feeling around sonic fjords for hand holds in the rippling darkness, proving the band is more than just effects draped over drones. They make a case that they can hang with the Space-rock contingent on “Summer of Burnout,” a swirling instrumental that takes time to build out aural plateaus that run on par with some of this year’s other great psych records, including labelmates Mt. Mountain. Cardinal Fuzz has made its case as a well of psych inspiration and Radiation Flowers fit the bill nicely, up an comers with the right records on their shelves and some room to grow into themselves.


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The Stevens

Sharing members with The Twerps and Boomgates puts The Stevens in good company, but though they echo traces of the current new wave of Aussie bands, the group also taps into classic leanings in a bigger way than many of their compatriots. Trading out lo-fi grit and soft focus production for a tougher skin of meaty hooks and power pop thump alongside the requisite bag of jangles, Good is rooted in an alternate ’70s where the radio eschewed the sexual sweat of blues-baiters for a good dose of post-punk and anxiety.

As with their previous album, A History of Hygiene, brevity isn’t in The Stevens’ wheelhouse. This one clocks in with eighteen tracks, though to be fair that actually pulls back the reigns a bit on the last one’s twenty-four piece spread. They make good use of the material, though, using their songs to explore corners of their sound without feeling too much like they’re in need of an editor to put the indulgences in the bin. Plus, when the band is on, they’re on, threading the needle of angst with just the right amount of brain battering earworms. A solid sophomore effort that skirts the slump and puts The Stevens up on the chain of Aussie bands to keep your eyes on.




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Jon Brooks

Ghost Box drone slinger/synth wizard Jon Brooks has been an integral part of the label’s evolution, popping ’round in banner releases from The Advisory Circle, Pattern Forms, Hintermass and The Belbury Circle. He’s also been running a string of great releases out of his own Cafe Kaput, the latest of which takes shape as Agri Montana. The record is constrained to two instruments, the Buchla Music Easel and ARP Odyssey and as is often the case with self-imposed restrictions, the handicap becomes a decisive advantage. The resulting album, inspired by Alpine landscapes dives into the heart of ’70s synth work with an icy resolve that keeps emotions at an arm’s length, wandering around human ties with the kind of detachment reserved for Sofia Coppola films that should be packaged and released solely on filmstrip and cassette.

The record does have an isolating feel to it, that perhaps brings to mind the mountains if your idea of a trip to the mountains involves a lot of staring out the window contemplating the fragile line between life and death. The synthetic buzz and opposing emptiness give me flashbacks to the artworks of Alex Da Corte’s Free Roses, feeling just as much a soundtrack to his glowing, sterile surrealism as it could be to the Alpine hills. By the end of Agri Montana the listener is sanded down and numb, giving everything around them a darkened hue and plastic finish.

While that might sound like an undesirable outcome, it’s not such a sour deal to put a layer of plexiglass between oneself and the greater world’s sinkhole slide of late. Brooks creates a set of sonic hackles that protect and repel an onslaught of overwhelming emotions too abundant to parse and too weighty to bear alone. That distance is abundantly welcome, at least around here. If you do need a shock back to life, then Brooks’ other release from this year, the gorgeously pastoral Autres Directions should pump some color back into your cheeks. The two act as a nice dichotomy on hope and hopelessness for the modern age.


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Major Leagues

Aussie quartet Major Leagues makes good on some solid EPs leading up to their Popfrenzy debut. The band has fully embraced their woozy, sun-streaked pop on Good Love, saturating every second with a humid giddiness that stretches far longer than the runnout on the last track. They edge delightfully into dream pop, pushed by a slight jangling undercurrent that sparkles so subtly and persistently that its hard not to squint at the glimmer. Harder still is resisting the impulse to inhale deeply the narcotic vocals of Anna Davidson, who anchors the album with her willful restraint.

When she does break out into a full on pop charger (“It Was Always You”) the rush is that much sweeter, knowing that the band could tumble headlong into indie-pop bounce at any moment, but they choose to polish their opalescent hooks to a gorgeous shimmer. They trade exuberance for a permanent holiday of cool and composed, an album full of textures that teases its way into your heart handily. This one’s an instant hit that only grows roots with repeated listens.

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Here Lies Man

The marquee hook on Here Lies Man is “Black Sabbath playing Afrobeat,” which sounds good in a pull quote, but is a fairly reductive take on what Here Lies Man are actually accomplishing. The band, which contains members of Afro-cuban luminaries Antibalas, lays down a base of African rhythms that pulse heavy as anything on the Nigeria Special comps. Its clear that they know how to hook into the funk laden rhythms that tumble under the plethora of ’70s cuts from the continent. They proceed to meld that percussive heartbeat to a syrup n’ smoke cocktail of fuzzed out guitars and transistor radio vocals beamed in from the AFVN across an expanse of time itself.

The fuzz recalls other African heavies like Amanaz or Witch (’75), with a particular slide into West Coat blues rumble a la Blue Cheer on more than one occasion. The overall vibe actually sways towards heavy ecstasy, rather than, say, the doom clouds of Sabbath’s occult vortex. The band winds up reaching some of the same vistas that Goat inhabits on a regular basis, but without the dollop of folk on top. Still, the band has an aesthetic and sticks to it, even if it gets a little samey over time, resulting in a whollop of psych that tends to move the feet more than most in the genre.






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X.Y.R.

Instrumental synth has enjoyed somewhat of a heyday of late and its usually fallen into an even split of Italo-horror and prog-dipped players. Though, to be fair, the genre’s been shot through with no small amount of new age hippie float as well. That’s where the aesthetics of X.Y.R. diverge a bit from the pack. While Vladimir Karpov certainly has some tether the the darkness that drives the Italians, and an appreciation for the anesthetic float of the New Agers, he doesn’t go full bore in either direction. Rather he taps into the creeping womb of unease that floats in an altered state of consciousness, calm on the surface but reflecting a deep sadness and even menace in the waters below.

Labryinth, the artist’s LP debut, floats in a drugged haze. The songs feel like they’re trying to push through to a clearer picture, but are constantly dragged back by the limitations of the mind, fumbling through a fog of chemicals and confusion. On one hand, it feels easy to succumb to the languid pull of enveloping darkness. On the other, “why hell is it so dark all of a sudden?” screams the last shred of rational brain. “Is this euphoria or death creeping in with narcotic fingers?” The resulting album is hard to quit. It fizzes at the edges of vision, a salve and singe all in one. Karpov is a budding talent to be sure, and if this is the door to his dimension, then its going to be a an interesting ride.




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Wet Lips

More greatness out of Australia’s feminist punk underground, fast becoming the vital vein in a scene rife with the kind of buoyant energy that makes us Yanks feel like slackers incarnate. The debut from Wet Lips, out on the band’s own perfectly named Hysterical Records, is as fierce an LP as you’re liable to encounter this year. In the same vein as bassist Jenny McKechnie’s Cable Ties, the band takes the boys club to task, flaying the Y chromosome contenders with their own double standards and bullshit regard. It’s not so much a rallying cry as it its a statement of purpose, a manifesto made flesh in electric current, laying the hot wire down in your own puddle of nervous flop-sweat and set to fry.

The band pins their detractors to the wall, nailing them all as “just another faker in a Bad Seeds t-shirt.” Lord knows there’s no way their targets don’t deserve a dressing down and then some, but Wet Lips aren’t just here to throw insults without a foil chomped punk pedigree to back it up. The trio pack their debut full of hardened, nail-bitten barrel-rolls that lock in and bare down to the bitter end.

Grace Kindellan’s vocals crack with just the right amount of seismic fervor, dredging up a lineage that brings to mind the impeccably named C86’ers We Have A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, doubled down with the entirety of Olympia’s feminist punk oeuvre. Sadly, Americans will balk because Wet Lips aren’t rolling through Iowa, and somehow we gotta see it to believe it. But be forewarned, hesitate and you’ll miss this seething slab of youth, a vital strain of punk that can’t be beaten, bowed or bent. If you’re reading this, it’s already to late, Wet Lips have cornered the market on raised hackles and grit-perfect riffs. No way you’re gonna get crush harder than this.




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New Rose

Brooklyn’s New Rose sprang out of a history flirting with country-bent punk to embrace County (without the alt) proper on their LP for Broken Circles. Morning Haze paints portraits of bittersweet nuance that take quite a few lessons from the Gram Parsons / Guy Clark school. Aided in no small part by the veteran steel work of JayDee Maness (The Byrds, International Submarine Band, Eric Clapton) Daniel Wagner’s songs are steeped in the same heart-sunk delivery that drove “Brass Buttons” and “Streets of Baltimore”. It’s hangdog country that belies their city roots, the kind that screams “get these bright lights out of my eyes,” and feels much more comfortable in the back corner of the bar, channeling the beer-soak off of the bar rags.

To add another asset in the corner, the band hooked up with Rusty Santos to produce, and despite his indie rock heart, Santos slips on a pair of boots comfortably for the record. Fleshing out the sound with the aforementioned steel guitar secret weapon, among other hallmarks of twang, Morning Haze emulates its ’70s predecessors with a keen eye for detail. Wagner knows the marks he’s trying to hit, but more than just looking to divine the the aesthetics, he hits the tone and that makes all the difference. Flinging that heart on his sleeve, finding the sigh that heaves heavy at the heart of the best country, Wagner and New Rose are a nailing the fragile line between heartbreak and healing.


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The Myrrors

What Tuscon’s Myrrors started on their last album, Entranced Earth, they seek to extend and embolden on Hasta La Victoria. The album dives deeper into the abyss of desert-rubbed drone, bone dry and aching for life. That thirst only serves to bring on hallucinations of flute, panicked visions of heat-stroked saxophone and the spectral wail of bouzouki, harmonium and viola. The album is the desert horizon incarnate, flickering in heatwaves of brown and lit up with the insistent throb of an orange sun that refuses to dip.

The band plays the album like a series of rites, odes to the forgotten gods of an Earth long since scorched by the ignorance of the many and occupied by the breath of the few. This feels like the national anthem of perseverance in the face of overwhelming defeat, a victory in name only. Victory, because not being gone is not being forgotten, at least not yet. For their part the band has embraced the austerity of want, having almost entirely abandoned electric playing on the album. They approach the apocalypse ready – an Earth in death throes, rebounding and healing, but for the moment unforgiving.

They say that this generation has lost its spirituality, but maybe that’s only in the traditional sense. Maybe where old temples crumble new ones spring out of the dirt and out of the mind. In a land without water, carry your sanctuary with you, a fane scraped out of bone and sinew. If that’s so, then The Myrrors are truly the sages of a new choir and the minstrels of a coming age of dust. They’re ready, and maybe when you are too, Hasta La Victoria will open its arms and let you in.




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James Elkington

There are certainly more than a few schools of fingerpicked guitar, but in the West, predominantly there’s the Fahey/Basho axis and there’s the English lope of the Jansch/Drake/Jones school. Elkington takes the latter for a turn and rolls his English folk like a stream peppered with stones and winding through eddies of life. The songwriter has found himself a bit of a jackknife of the studio, a sideman’s sideman who’s fleshed out albums from Jeff Tweedy, Wooden Wand, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn and Tortoise to name a few. He’s a kind of built in textural embellishment that seals a song with a strange magic.

As such, his own solo debut employs more than a bit of that magic, weaving it deep into the fabric of Wintres Woma. Like Drake (uh Nick that is) before him, he knows the value of melancholy as a driving force. Though, unlike his forebear, he also knows how to pump the breaks and enjoy a streak of sunshine on the meadow when it hits him. To that point, this album is going to feel like a constant companion come autumn. Few songs here aren’t built for the brisk inhalation of decaying fauna underpinned with the rustle of breeze acting like natural percussion.

Elkington is an almost preternatural songwriter, plucking songs from the air like they’d always existed. Winteres Woma is the kind of folk record that’s whispered about in collector’s circles and traded on fuzzy tape, uploaded to YouTube clips and hidden in second hand shops to be picked up on payday. At least that seems its fate in another life, were it to be released in the late ’70s and suffering the kind of tax scam release schedule that befell so many before him. While he might not have the fluffed up backstory of a lost classic, he has captured the same feeling here and now. Thankfully this doesn’t have to be dug out of Discogs at a premium or waited out on re-release. Elkington has crafted a time-shifted folk record that’s pristine and present. You’d be a fool to let fate get its hands on this one.




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