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The Lemons

Stumbled across this while writing up labelmates ABC Gum and this is too fun not to dig into deeper. I’d heard a few things over the course of the last five years or so from The Lemons and lumped them in with the usual output from The Memories / Gnar Tapes fam, which is certainly apt. This is something a bit different though. The band’s usual foray into recording is light, childish (in a good way), but also very rough. They don’t strip away the first two qualities, but that roughness fades on At Home. The band gathered up their cadre of friends and recorded a house show of songs with, for and about friends and the vibes simmering off of this are perfect for melting the wintertime doldrum blues that start to settle into the bones and poison the soul in January.

Oddly, for being a live tape, this is as crisp, clear, and warm as The Lemons have ever sounded. Songs seem rehearsed, though the set still has an immediacy that glows off of it in radiant waves. Dogs bark, glasses clink, but the music swims to the front of the speakers like a beacon of hope. In six-part harmony the band works through inside jokes that don’t leave the listener feeling like a stranger and litter them among songs about The Ramones, Johnathan Richman, and childhood TV fixtures. The Richman shoutout feels particularly prescient and this whole set is very in line with his later works that attempted an all-inclusive feel. Split that sensibility with a few Aughts janglers like The Beets, Magic Kids, and, yeah, The Memories as well, and you’re getting the picture. Every song feels like the band would gladly welcome you in and give out a round of hugs, share a beer, and pass out a tambourine if you feel like it. Seems hokey? Maybe, but also in tense times, a little innocent cheer never hurt anyone.




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The Telephone Numbers – I Took A Walk

Been waiting for this one to land for some time, as rumblings and Instagram pics floated out of the Bay Area over the last year. The Telephone Numbers are a trio featuring Thomas Rubenstein, Charlie Ertola, and Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums) coming together for a classic jangle-pop tumble through the sunny streets. Akin to Donaldson’s latest work with The Reds Pinks and Purples, but cleaner, less solitary and somber. There’s still a bittersweet tinge to their first single and it shines through on the title track, bringing to mind The Field Mice and later-period Felt. “I Took A Walk” is yearning, wrestling with a heavy heart, and not always winning. The band caps the single nicely with the spare, but sweet “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” a cover by pre-Big Hat band The Keys. Very excited to have and hold something from these guys, though hoping something physical might be in the works somewhere further down the line. This was practically made for sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling and stilling oneself only to push the needle back to the beginning once more.




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Rosey Dust

While its unlikely that Kevin Klausen is a name rolling off your tongue, the sense of familiarity on Rosey Dust’s debut is palpable. You don’t know Rosey Dust, but you know Rosey Dust’s record collection. There’s a sewn-in feeling that’s threaded with the spirit of American indie rock, pounding out wistful strummers, power pop solos, and guitar-grained angst and ennui that would serve as a syllabus intro to the late 80s and early 90s. Recorded with veteran producer Tim Green behind the boards, the record laps at Dinosaur Jr.’s string-strangled bite and the Replacements’ hangdog charm. The album doesn’t shy away from the disillusion that permeated the times either, mulling the meaning in empty aches and lingering feelings of loneliness. Klausen keeps his influences on his sleeve, but he colors in the lines well.

The single that slipped out in April “Keep For Life” takes its place alongside a complete collection of left-of-the-dial dalliances that seem set on bringing the guitar back to the fore as a personal crusade. Klausen’s always waiting to hit those solos, but like Mascis he makes ‘em count. They feel like anchors rather than albatrosses around his weathered indie odes. The set slips away into the late night linger of low-end radio static with a Chris Bell-ish sigh into acoustic territory. Tape is out on Gulcher records. It’s a tight, 8-song sojourn through what is and what never was. Definitely one to keep an eye on.






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Mighty Baby – At A Point Between Fate and Destiny

I’ve talked about UK garage-soul band The Action and their fairly essential slab Rolled Gold here before, but up until now there haven’t been a lot of movements in the reissue of post-Action material by the always entrancing and sorely overlooked Mighty Baby. Sundazed has some fairly straight-forward issues of their two LPs and there have been a couple of live boots and unofficial runs here and there, but this attempt by Cherry Red to gather the complete recordings may well be the most ambitious yet, not in the least because it finally gives a fair look into the band’s scrapped third album Day of the Soup, which would see the band move even further from pop song structure and into the kind of live-driven, fluid psychedelia that loomed large on the American West Coast. They may be the most accomplished British band hooked into the style and they’ve long been overlooked by fans of the genre.

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ABC Gum

A power pop powerhouse emerges from Bloomington in the form of the debut from ABC Gum. Call it a supergroup if you must – the band contains members of Bloomington garage royalty from The Cowboys, The Dancing Cigarettes, Purple 7, and Sir Deja Doog – but the connections would crumble if they didn’t bring it all together with an effortless snap that’s catchy as hell and shaded in with a perfectly classic tint. At its heart, the record captures the best of classic power pop with a stripped down sound shaking soul and sweat out of its bones. While ABC Gum are tougher than The Quick or Milk n’ Cookies, they’re digging into the alluring naïveté of that rabble in the lyrical department. The band aims for the heartbroken swagger of Teenage Head, Speedies, or Hubble Bubble and hits it pretty hard on the head with just a touch more of blue-eyed soul seeping through the speakers as well. Maybe it’s the help from The Cowboys contingent, as the record does seem to have some of their same innate ability to feel like its dropped out of the sky and straight into the crate of classic platters that never leave the table when the house is buzzing. You’d be forgiven for double or triple checking the date stamp, that’s for sure.

The band laces the record with a perfect dose of tape hiss tailspin and then litters each song with a thick dose of riff riot propping up their candy floss tales. The stone truth is this will likely wind up just as much of a lost gem as the bands that they emulate, but maybe its all for the best anyway. The greatest power pop records seem like a secret, having long been a diggers dream for lonely souls looking for friends and lovers among the grooves. Should this become a sonic love letter that’s found at the bottom of the dollar bin bottle, then the finder is lucky indeed.


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Joseph Allred

The last outing from Joseph Allred, 2019’s O Meadowlark solidified Allred’s reputation as a consummate picker, one whose style moved with an effortless grace from slippery Fahey runs through the more buttoned up blisters of Kotke and the spiritual slants of Basho. Like the latter player in that triumvirate, Allred takes a swipe at vocal blues on his latest, Traveler. While the majority of the record still showcases his chameleonic stringwork, on the album opener and title track, he lends his voice to an emotionally fraught tale that proves out of the gate that he’s not just a master of the strings. Over the next few songs Allred works his way through brambles and rabbles of notes that, while certainly virtuosic, also serve to salve and calm. It’s a pastoral, primal record that’s knotted with tangled roots and torn soil. Allred wears the mantle of natural conduit well, lending Traveler a soiled grace that’s hard to shake.

When his blues pop through once more, they don’t break the spell, instead giving the earthen rambles an anchor of humanity that tills the topsoil of the instrumental odes. “The Crown” feels sung by moonlight – a barn song that rings through the rafters with a pang of sadness. Allred swaps between banjo and guitar with such admirable ease that the change in instruments doesn’t jar in the least, letting the two timbres weave together into a tapestry of sound, looping lustrous thread through the earth tones of his sonic fabric. He caps off the vocal offerings with “O Columbia” a song that snags a few loose Fahey ends (specifically “In Christ There Is No East or West,”) and ties them to a sighing track that slips beneath the horizon as the record lopes into the last lap. The record finally fads away with a touching tribute to Glen Jones that tips a hat to one of Allred’s more modern influences. This may very well be his finest, and hopefully opens the door for more vocal offerings from the songwriter.



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Itchy Bugger

Still some releases flying in under the radar of 2019 and this ramshackle roller from Itchy Bugger is hitting the crumpled pop spot pretty hard. The band is the solo excursion of Josh from Diät, Idiota Civilizzato, the Love Triangle, etc. Though, those other bands serve little in the way of reference points for what’s to come on Itchy Bugger’s sophomore LP. Far from the post-punk dreariness of Diät or the hardcore concerns of much of the others, this is a pop record at heart, but dressed in the chewed and glued aesthetics of Stray Trolleys, The Deep Freeze Mice, and Television Personalities, among other disassembled visions of perpendicular pop. There’s a homespun, kitchen-recorded quality to the songs that’s intimate despite its sometimes-hardscrabble humor keeping the listener at arm’s length.

I’d missed out on the debut, that one flew way under the radar, but that’s an even better reason not to let the second instalment from the band slip by. Itchy Bugger can sometimes feel like an indulgence in cheeky charms, but then he wipes away the winks and shaves down the smarm for some real touching and disarmed entries to the squirm-pop canon. Atop a teetering beat he gets solemn in “Have You Seen John?” and wistful on “An Adorable Graveyard” eschewing the album’s irreverent shrugs and giving the record a deeper dig than expected. This one’s also likely to disappear without a trace as well. No matter what radars he’s flying under Itchy Bugger doesn’t seem to be in the business of large runs. Leave the lotion behind, let your guard down and get into the Itch on this one.




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The Motorcycle Boy – Scarlet

Yet another UK release that I barely heard about here, but one well deserving of second life in the physical format. The Motorcycle Boy are most notable for their connection to The Shop Assistants, having been the band that Alex Taylor fronted following the dissolution of the Shops. The band grew out of the rather terribly/brilliantly named Meat Whiplash, which featured the same lineup minus Taylor. Meat Whiplash put out one single on Creation and one would have assumed that this would have led to an easy in for the band’s ascension. The answer is yes and no. With the addition of Taylor the band recorded “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” released on Rough Trade, which rose the ranks of the independent charts at the time. The band was scheduled to release a Flood-produced follow-up, but it was set aside in favor of focus on an album. That album was set to be Scarlet. The record was scheduled to be released on Chrysalis, but as usual setbacks and bad luck struck down another band in their prime.

Promo cassettes of the slated version of Scarlet exist, but finished copies were never produced. The band had issues with live shows prior to the album and eventually the discord broke them apart. Chrysalis issued singles of “Trying To Be Kind” and “You And Me Against The World” but without the band’s involvement the rest kinda fell apart. Thankfully this year, Forgotten Astronaut brings the full spectrum of Scarlet to pass and it just make the pain of having to wait this long harder. The album is packed with great songs and should have given the band a good foothold. Such is life and loss in music. The reissue is lovely and contains that aforementioned Flood single along with another bonus track. Definitely in need of a listen.


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The Pooh Sticks – Pooh Sticks 7″ Box Set

Even though I’ve run down my favorite reissues of the year that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some worthy contenders finding their way back out into the world. Sometimes the UK releases don’t get their due in the US and this 5×7” collection from The Pooh Sticks definitely falls into that category. Though its pricey, for the indie pop aligned this is a pretty nice pickup. The Pooh Sticks served as a sort of bubblegum vision of jangle-pop, and while their works were tightly wound, catchy as hell, and hard to ignore, the band probably wasn’t given their due in the pantheon poppers that cropped up around them. The whole affair was largely shepherded by their manager Steve Gregory who wrote the songs and mocked up their covers that featured Archies-styled cartoon visions of the band behind anonymous pseudonyms. Largely out of fashion at the time, this kind of setup seems at odds with the DIY aesthetics of jangle-pop and the carefully crafted images of Creation pop bands at the time. However, the whole thing ends as a nice mirror / sendup of the genre without coming off totally camp.

The songs stand up, even if they do take some liberties with lyrics, titles, and concept. The box set reissues a set of one-sided singles that were originally issued in 1988 on Fierce Recordings. The originals had etched b-sides, but here they’re each given a new flip that contains a previously unavailable song. The only exception is “Hard On Love,” which was on a super-hard to get flexi. While the set might be a bit of a shell-out for the uninitiated, the songs are worth checking into if you’re a power pop, jangle-pop, or indie-pop head. Pure sugar bliss in small format fineness. Its hard to snag in the US, but discogs should have you covered.




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Lux – New Day EP

A ferocious EP from Barcelona’s Lux hits like a giddy hammer to the head. Over these four tracks the band barely takes a breath, forging a formidable punk gauntlet that tears at the listener from all sides. Spain’s been having a pretty admirable punk resurgence and this fits right in alongside Moan or Rata Negra. The EP rumbles into view with the suburban assault of “Action,” the band’s riot underpinned by the sonic slap of vocals that never let the listener off of the hook. The whole thing’s over in six minutes but not an ounce of sweat is spared over the four tracks. It’s cold out there, so maybe this is the best way to melt the ice and march on through the rest of these sun-forsaken months. Lux know just what you’re looking for and bring int 4x harder and faster than the rest. Recommended on repeat.

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