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Bad Moves

DCs Bad Moves are sitting square on the Venn diagram between power pop, punk and New Wave. While their songs pogo with abandon, they snag the candy-coated harmonies that stuck The Go-Gos and The Bangles to the airwaves like glue. They round out the mix by adding a 10-foot-tall tower of confidence that picks up the vibes of 20/20, Phil Seymour and The Beat. They never tip the needle too far in the direction of any of their poles, which makes for a record that’s floating in the pop ether, enjoying its own company more than any of its touchstones. As such, Tell No One careens through the speakers with a wide-eyed glee that’s infectious, barely contained and potently palpable.

That glee is central to Bad Moves’ appeal. Their songs, lyrically, are often not celebratory affairs. They center on overcoming anxieties, feeling out a sense of self, weathering family hardships, and dealing with hypocrisy. These songs are often the literal embodiment of butterflies in the stomach. Yet they alchemize the electric tinge in the nerves into a gush of glee to burst through the bubble of doubt. They galvanize an entire audience into overcoming their worry with them. The stakes seem high in Bad Moves’ world, but like the young adulthood they crystallize, the payoff seems just as high.

There’s no rush like being in your teens and twenties and feeling seen by a band. It seems like Bad Moves have the potential to hook a whole generation looking to collectively hurdle the constant lump in their throats. Its freeing to just peel a few layers of paint with pent-up amplifier power, an irrepressible bounce and lyrics about the politics of love. This year there may be no better band to drive the heartswell of hooks n harmonies that crack the shell of youth than Bad Moves.



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Alien Nosejob

Never one deterred by the constraints of time, Jake Robertson’s packing another band into his repertoire. On top of the already great LP from School Damage this year, not to mention current stints in Hierophants, Ausmuteants, and Drug Sweat, Robertson’s taking the solo approach under the name Alien Nosejob. With a couple of seven-inches under the name already, he’s been honing the sound on the sly, but with Various Fads & Technological Achievements he’s ready to take it wide. The album skews away from his normal niche of wobbly post-punk and nervy flop sweat jitter-punk ala Pere Ubu and MX-80. This time he’s taking a softer approach, or at least a slightly less caustic approach.

Weaving folk – albeit not the campfire coolout variety, think Carl Simmons’ Honeysuckle Tendrils – with new wave notions and synth-pop propulsion, the LP is gulping a little less lightning than usual for Robertson. That’s not to say this is a tame affair, it’s clear that Alien Nosejob’s MO includes dragging the same strange vein of pop that produced R. Stevie Moore, most of the Dark Entries catalog, and the less commercial output of Game Theory. Throw in a dash of the shoestring ‘Zappa with a rhythm box’ sounds of Geza X and you’re starting to get close to what’s at play here. Now while that’s all a lot of discordant pop to throw in the ol’ blender, the outcome winds up rather smooth. Alien Nosejob goes down straight, but the tics around the eyes give away its twinge of madness.

The other outcome here is that with so much stuffed into the sausage skin of Alien Nosejob, there’s sometimes a bit of whiplash between the neon reflections of “Runaway” and the pastoral peace of “Exothermic Reaction.” It all fits together in its reaching for the pop “other,” but there’s a feeling that this album’s catching up on the odds and sods of what’s been hammering at Jake’s skull outside of his last few records. It’s a great match strike, and it seems like Alien Nosejob’s got a freakish concept album in its future (if its meant to have a future). Taken as singular parts, however, there’s quite enough new wave jitter here to pack yer speakers for weeks.



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The Oilies – “Anywhere With You”

More jangled goodness out of the Bay Area comes arrives with the first single from The Oilies, the new band from Carly Putnam (The Mantles, Art Museums, Reds, Pinks & Purples). The two-shot of understated pop displays Putnam’s knack for intimate, bittersweet melodies. “Anywhere With You” snakes through the psyche with nods to The Verlaines and early Chills. The song’s a darker shade of jangle-pop, with spiky stabs of guitar that displays the other side of love’s embrace. Putnam turns her back on her object of affection, asserting that she’s “better off nowhere, than anywhere with you.” It’s a great intro to the band that picks up several SF players and nabs a production credit from Skygreen Leopards’ Glenn Donaldson.

On the flip she’ gets a bit spritelier, cutting back some of the dark shading that elevates “Anywhere,” but still holding down court on some great jangle-pop. Seems the members of The Mantles are a busy bunch this Fall, with Michael O. also on the verge of a new album. Hopefully Carly’s got more in the works as well, as this is a great start.


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Hoover III

While the “Guillotine” single gave some indication of what Hoover III had in store, it was hardly a proper warning for the Space Rock wormhole that unfolds on their eponymous debut. Along with members of Babylon, Numb.Er and Jesus Sons, the full band sonic assault is a beaut to behold. The band is huffing the fumes of Hawkwind and Amon Duul and likewise crawling through synth wires alongside Eloy and Sensations Fix. They digest a decade’s worth of prog, Krautrock and psych then work it into a modern monster of Echoplexed infatuation. I use the word debut sparingly, though, because this has been an album working in the wings for years. Many of the songs are found in their infancy on Bert Hoover’s lo-fi tape Destroya from 2015, but those versions sound like transmissions across a vast and unflinching galaxy once the entirely of Hoover III is let loose its atomic wail.

While many of their contemporaries sluicing through the same skies tend to lean into the clutch on their approach, belching fuzz and ozone explosions that deaden the senses, Hoover III are going for a more elegant approach. There’s still the necessary deluge of fuzz from time to time, but for the most part the band plays to the audiophile sensibilities of a ‘70s prog shut-in. They’re going for complex mind expansion on the ol’ Quadrophonic and the clean burnin’ blasts feel good on them. In that regard, they’re running through the same grooves that gave Meatbodies’ Alice such appeal last year. Being in the Permanent family this is coming from the same soil stained by Ty, Purling Hiss, Mind Meld and The Witch Fingers, but there’s a tendency to push into the pristine plastic prog of early aughts bands like Soundtrack of our Lives and Secret Machines. At the very least they’ve landed on the same planets visited by Black Mountain in their years in the cosmos.

There’s lots to unpack in listening to Hoover III and it’s a damn fun ride with some truly glowing moments. There’s a lot of crossover when bands sidle up to Space Rock, but as psychedelic, progressive and propellant as this album is, it’s never simply a prog, psych or Krautrock album. The correct combination of those particular forces gives the album that lift off of the terrestrial plain. Plenty reach out for the handhold on the genre, but it takes a bit of skill to land the grip. Hoover III nails the launch and lives to burn through the weightless decadence of a true Space Rock treasure.



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Velvet Crush – In The Presence of Greatness

There just aren’t that many classic power pop tales that begin with, “straight outta Rhode Island,” but the clam neck state offered up Velvet Crush in 1989 and they’d work their way into one of the decade’s oft overlooked gems. To be fair the band actually got it together in Southern Illinois college towns, where the band’s Paul Chastain was helping care out a sound running the Picture Book label. The band picked up roots and headed to Providence, but nabbed some help from friend and fellow power-pop impresario Matthew Sweet. Sweet would record In The Presence of Greatness as well as play guitar on the LP. The band share’s a considerable crossover with his love of The Raspberries and Big Star, showcasing a similar love for the jangled, classic version of the genre on their debut.

The album gained some traction in college rock circles but wound up making the most impression oversees, where the band would wind up distributed by Creation. Problem there was in 1989 Creation was moving from jangles to shoegaze and while the band might have fit in with a longview of the label, at the time they were passé for a lot of British fans. Be that as it may, the record is a solid sender of jangle-pop, power pop and college rock. Its incredibly indebted to the old guard of power pop that preceded it by a decade, but they’re pulling it off as good as most.

The band would go on to get further attention around their sophomore LP, Teenage Symphonies To God, produced by ‘90s studio savant Mitch Easter (R.E.M., The dB’s), but the band would wind up stretching a bit outside of their comfort zone. The debut is a great genre dig for those who love the crossover of power pop and Creation. While maybe not the most essential of either of those camps, it’s a great curio from the era that was left to linger for far too long.



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The Shifters

Melbourne’s Shifters embody the shaky, shaggy core of the current crop of Aussie indie. Over short format offerings they’ve been cranking out scrappy, striped-down songs that dip into the same wells as Terry, School Damage, The Stroppies, and Boomgates. Not to stay content with merely snagging influence from Terry and the ‘Gates though, when it came time to lay down a debut the band connected with the hardest working man in OZ, Al Montfort, to record the LP. They convened at his home studio to bang Have A Cunning Plan into its ragtag shape. Seems they picked up a few tricks from Al beyond just sticking this to tape. There’s a loose twang, hung on the same squeamish nail of post-punk that holds up Terry’s tattered charms and they’re proving to be just as efficient at working out maximum impact from an economical setup.

That’s not to say they wind up b-team turnouts or boy wonders to Al’s considerable talents, though. The band’s taking that shaggy, low-key sound and sneaking digs on corporate standards, mundanity, colonialism and toxic politics. Singer/lyricist Miles Jansen’s got the nasal nuance to duck down in the pit with the best of the new class rising up the ranks in Melbourne. Songs like “Straight Lines” work anxiety into tumultuous earworms- jittered by unpredictable jangles and stumbling through keyboard lines intoxicated with irreverent glee. While surface appearances leave the album looking off the cuff and trading in casual clamor, the truth is it takes some planning to feel this effortless.

By layering their loose-knit clatter, the band weaves songs that reveal great overlapping details when run through the speakers multiple times. They’re all about the little details, just not about buffing them to shine for the listener. Pick through the grit the band reveals a bright talent for knotty melodies like fellow 2018 standouts The Goon Sax. They’re proving that they’ve got a great handle on the aimlessness, restlessness, and anxiousness of youth and can pin it to a memorable jangle better than most. Have a Cunning Plan leaves the band in a great position to hook ‘em in for the long haul with a debut that’s rewarding listen after listen.



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Blades of Joy

San Francisco’s Melter’s doesn’t embrace the kind of breakneck scheduling that some of their indie contemporaries keep. They’ve rounded up a tight roster of musicians who embody the spirit of their city and keep its pulse clicking, but the trickle of releases is capped at one or two a year. The austerity breeds quality, though, and from Tony Molina to Marbled Eye to Swiftumz, the ranks are filled with the match strike moments from some of the city’s best. The debut from Blades of Joy picks up this tradition amiably, with their eponymous album bleeding noise-pop from its pores, dredging up washes of Felt, and sense memory flashbacks of Galaxie 500 and Chapterhouse if they were further smudged by the sun.

The band swaddles their sound in a soft foam of feedback that won’t break, a fuzz that hesitates just near the edge of oblivion but never quite lets go of its last finger hold on composure. The anticipation of emotional spillover keeps the listener perched and percolating, giving the album a lush and luxuriant tension. They succeed in dipping the kind of jangle-pop that would find itself right at home on Slumberland into the shoegaze deep end of Creation and 4AD.

While they’re working with tried and true brushes, Blades of Joy reinvigorate the bliss that comes from melting their indipop in the sun. The album’s short but sure seven tracks evoke a lost, endless summer. Its the kind that exists without the heavy yoke of responsibility, lived without consequence in a blur of heat and haze and nights that stretch on forever. There’s a feeling that the record exists as either a fleeting moment never to be captured again as the band evaporates as quickly as they coalesced, or it winds up like so many Melters releases as the beacon to guide the faithful to Blades’ doorstep. Either way, burn or build, its a shining debut.



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One Eleven Heavy

As I’ve certainly mentioned previously, One Eleven Heavy comes stacked with a considerable cache of talent – roping in members of Wooden Wand, Endless Boogie, Royal Trux, Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, and Ryley Walker’s touring band. While the players personal geographies run the span on the Hubeadian Map, drawing in both Coasts and dipping into the UK with Nick Mitchell Maiato, the band shares a unmistakable thread of Cosmic Americana between them. That particular strain of jam-seeded classic rock seems to have sprung up from the ground again in thick ripples over the last few years, reaching full maturity in this year of our lord 2018 and One Eleven Heavy arrive baptized in its blood and spreading the gospel well.

Like the crews of their cosmic brethren (Howlin’ Rain, Garcia Peoples, Wet Tuna), they’re hitting full stride with heady jams that hearken back to the years occupying the comedown close of the Summer of Love, with the ideals of the psychedelic era already starting to fade in the rearview and the amphetamine sweat of ’72 just starting to coalesce. The band strips back the stigma of extended time stamps while they work their way through a set that feeds on Levon’s legacy and elevates Little Feat from the sidelines of drive time radio. They channel the Burritos in their unjustly ignored post-Parsons years, while scraping just a touch of Gene Clark’s breakdown brilliance from No Other.

The record tangles the subtle twang of those raised on a diet of jukebox country crooners with the salt scrub of Western air, laying songs back into a pocket that exists somewhere between chooglin’ and juggin’ depending on how deep you want to dive into your own psychedelic pockets. For a debut, the record feels remarkably lived in. Fresh out of the shrink it already assumes frays and stains that belie its vintage, as if it can’t help but come from the plant with ring wear and a hint of basement musk. The band taps the telepathy of players that have shared stages far longer than their brief tenure – a testament to the individuals assembled – and one can only assume that each of the album’s songs is given a new life on the stage. On record, though, it shines bright as Orange Sunshine, an instant classic that should hook the heads who walked the lot and open up a new era for those who only soaked in the sun through Dick’s picks and regret.

While the record’s up on Bandcamp as of last Friday, and you damn well should have bought it already, its highly likely the rest of you are hitting the three spin cap, leaving you ostensibly out of luck until the record hits Spotify this upcoming weekend. However, for the next week, before the record hits streaming proper, you can get the full view from Soundcloud below. Don’t say we never did anything for ya.




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Warm Drag

In The Red trades in half a ton of garage that’s streaked by exhaust and choking on fuzz, but with Warm Drag they’re adding some dirt caked dance to the stable. Paul Quattrone and Vashti Windish roll the vamped and Cramped sleaze of garage’s past into a writhing record of mud-splattered garage-electronic. Samplers in tow, Quattrone is backing Windish’s snaking vocals with a hypnotic approach that coaxes some evil desert psych out of the wires. He’s talking up the Bomb Squad as a touchstone, and while there’s some of that unit’s high-octane collage work in the DNA, this is something grittier. Windish makes the most of the spaces between Quattrone’s apocalyptic-Western drags. She peeks from behind crumbling corridors of echo n’ hiss to coax the listener toward each song’s punji pit of ill will.

When the formula works, it’s a potent pill to swallow – dark and dirgey, the kind of tracks music supervisors looking to add a bit of edge drool over. The highs here hit the solar plexus with a delightful ‘thump,’ and the slinking sensuality of the record is hard to deny. Though, sometimes the sauntered pacing can weigh the record down. Its great to saunter, but when they do it too often the dust they’ve been kicking starts to stick. While the record could use a few more of those high huffers to balance out the creeping dread, it’s a nice shift from the guitar grind of ITR and a good mood setter for the dark corners of Autumn ahead.

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The Chills

Second winds for bands can always come with a flinch. Will the band capture any of the magic that drew us to them the first time around? Will time twist your favorite songwriter out of view? Age has a funny way of changing the equation, just ask Smiths fans. So, with that idea in mind, when legendary Kiwi-pop forefathers The Chills returned with Silver Bullets after a 19-year hiatus, it was a rush to hear Martin Phillips still walking the lines between heaven and hope. The band was still braiding their jangles into biting hooks, still making lit-pop for the hopeless devotees of earnest intent. They proved that post-punks could grow up without wearing their past like a costume.

Not looking to lose more time, The Chills are back with another addition to their second coming and it’s continuing the quality streak they picked up a couple years back. Stuffed with new wave nods – neon cooled keys, a jumble of jangles and galloping rhythms – the record is a fine companion to Submarine Bells’ massive pop footprint. While age hasn’t pushed the pop scope of The Chills too far off of their original pedestal, there’s a lyrical lash at work here that might not have always been present in the past. Phillips looks back, not in anger, but with a skepticism, ennui and strained sadness. Snow Bound is coming to terms with the hope that a young band held and how short the world fell from those expectations.

The band has often existed as a South-Hemi counterpart to R.E.M. and Echo, albeit with a much more condensed catalog. Along with countrymen The Bats and Aussies the Go-Betweens, they guarded a pop vision that remained timeless while nailing the best hallmarks of the decade in which they surfaced. After decades of leading young bands to the right roads, The Chills are still building new avenues of their own. With Snow Bound, its clear that their legacy is on solid ground.



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