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Woolen Men

Portland’s Woolen Men have already stung 2015 with a great LP released on Woodsist, but it seems they had more to give. Self-released as a cassette, Options gathers up six more cuts that lean on the band’s love of smashing 90’s grunge into propulsive post-punk. The tape is brief but from the outset the collection hits hard with the band finding a way to roll their sound in some gravel via opener, “Curtain,” then wiping down the speakers for a run through taut guitar territory. They cool for a bit on “Scarlet” before closing out the EP with a trio of muscular indie romps. The band is at home in the live setting, running through the Northwest’s DIY show scene in a regular rotation but with releases like this and the previous Temporary Monument they’re proving that their recorded output is just as enticing as the live experience.

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Cornered Yet Climbing feat. Kelly Jayne Jones

Whew, now comes that time of year when its time to scrabble through the missed connections on the review list and this one comes out pretty high near the top. A re-invigoration of Pascal Nichols and David McLean’s Cornered Yet Climbing collaboration, this time with the help of Nichols’ partner in Part Wild Horses Man on Both Sides. The output here is a broken daydream of free jazz, wandering from mournful howl to full bite in the space of mere minutes. Adding to the flashing fangs of McLean’s sax are Jones’ ephemeral field recordings and flute, which weave through the clattering sonic tapestry set down by her two collaborators expertly. Her flute especially treads between ceremonial tribalism and folk serenity without ever making either style feel worn. The expanded trio finds its footing easily and though the length of these pieces is pretty heavy, bordering on intensely lengthy, the whole record plays as such an engrossing backdrop that its hard not to get sucked into the players’ world rather than see it as a necessarily surmountable listen. The record is expertly anchored by Nichols’ craggy, fluid drumming and his skill at finding the inroads in these pieces to drive pace and add texture is fairly unmatched this year. This is one to beat in the noise/free category and along with that Heroin in Tahiti release, this is a good year for the edges.

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Sad Horse

Ah Mississippi, the avid archaeologists of our time, though they’re usually knee deep in gospel cassettes, African guitar debris or Dead Moon discographies, sometimes they’re also knocking a flashlight on the overlooked records of this current time as well. Swinging their gaze on their hometown’s own Sad Horse, they cobble together a collection of tracks from the band’s first couple of tapes and CD-rs for tiny labels like Eggy, Supermegacorporation and Water Wing. The retrospective bounces through a ton of material, but the relative length of a Sad Horse tune, combined with their intensity, makes it fly by pretty quick. The duo are no frills. As in none whatsoever. The songs are banged out in dry recorded spats that feel thick with the dust of warehouse floors and screamed from the Id. Complexity this ain’t and that’s a damn good thing, sometimes you need to bang the shit out of a kit, strangle the strings and lose control. The band have been a Portland secret for way to long and its a welcomed relief that Mississippi have chronicled their output.

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Odd Hope

Bay Area musician Tim Tinderholt serves up a debut single for Fruits & Flowers, currently one of our favorite destinations for band’s you should be checking into. The a-side is a chilled piece of folk, all grey skies and winter reserve. Then the flip takes a step out into the sunshine. The label’s assessment that this could have popped up on Creation is well deserved (though Sarah Records is an equal contender). Banging around through Razorcuts b-sides or Sneetches EPs, it seems likely that you might run aground on a copy of Odd Hope’s “I’ll Follow You Soon”. This is definitely a gem in an already stellar catalog for the SF label.

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Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet

First things first, that’s a hell of a handle. You go and name yourselves something that indebted to the ethos of space jazz and you better damn well cut close to the veins Bitches Brew or have a standing ticket on the Arkestra’s spaceship. For the most part, IAHRQ seem to be chasing that same chrysalis down a rabbit hole of groove and syrupy psych-funk that informs the stretched minds of those 70’s experimenters. Mind you they’re following in some deep footsteps and while maybe not widening the ruts too much from where their forbears may tread, they know how to play to their strengths and take listeners on the journey. They inject a certain amount of African funk to the mix as well, though they dull the edge away from some of the more jagged sounds of the Sahara with a bubble of lysergic energy that just taps at the glass of that continent’s influence but never opens the cage wide. 2 dips out of a heavy groove on the opener, “Praise One,” to lay back into some mellow, almost strummy vibes on “Praise Two” They hit on Blacksploitation funk and soundtrack skronk before laying way back into the ether groove to close it out. This is patently not what I’d expect out of Trouble In Mind, but that’s becoming a good thing about the garage homestead. They’ve begun to follow their passions and though its no longer a cohesive sound coming from their ranks, they seem to know that the best labels take you where you need to go and you just have to trust that they’ve got ears big enough to find it all.

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Pega Monstro

Pretty hard not to love this one, it’s a simple setup, just guitars and drums, two sisters throwing energy back and forth in a chaotic mix of distortion, sticks and sweat. The Portuguese duo play straight from the gnarled heart of punk and though there’s a real shine of pop trying to peek its head out from the clouds of dust and debris, the fury in Alfarroba reigns supreme. There’s a kind of running through the streets in summer, unfettered smash of the pit, fists in the air energy to Pega Monstro and that feeling becomes palpable over the course of this record. You want to have fun because they’re having fun, and records that spread smiles like colds in a kindergarten are few and far between, so I say grab one when you hear it. The band revolves around their own DIY scene in Lisbon, borne out of the sisters’ own Cafetra Records, from which they borrow some help in the form of friend and producer Leonardo Bindilatti of Cafetra’s Putas Bebadas. Though London’s Upset The Rhythm heralds the release here, long since purveyors of good taste. All in all, I can think of very few reasons this one shouldn’t be hitting your turntable as soon as possible.

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Mystic Braves

Mystic Braves return with another album and though they’re branching out into trappings of their aesthetic (sitars and mellotron, oh my) they’re still very much in tune with their inner 60’s nerds and make no allusions otherwise. Days of Yesteryear as a title doesn’t pussyfoot, that’s pretty much exactly what they’re going for and succeed at channeling a heady mash of Byrds, 13th Floor Elevators and ? and the Mysterians that feels like looking at a well stocked record shelf through a kaleidoscope. What the band lacks in fresh perspective, they make up for in fun, fuzz solos and exuberant hooks. There are plenty these days who see fit to keep the Joshua Light Show in work and this one will fit nicely on the shelf next to the Allah-las, Shivas and Paperhead records in your collection.

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Pleasers

Matthew Melton hops the rail from SF to Austin and in the process hooks up with locals Ben Tipton and Julian Young for a meatier take on his usual formula, born of garage grease and the most powerful of pop. Definitely beat into a shape more fitting of his legacy in Bare Wires than the dreamier cuts of Warm Soda, Pleasers are still and unmistakable product of Melton’s leather tough swoon. The A-side is, as I’ve mentioned, cut from a very similar cloth to Bare Wires and that’s never a bad thing. They were taken from us too soon. The flip is edging a bit closer to Soda territory but there’s still a bit more bite and snag in the guitar than would befit that band. Best not to think too deeply on it, that’s never the point here. Melton speaks in tongues of rock n’ roll and that’s what’s on deck here. Naturally, I’m hoping that this will branch out into a larger lifespan and a possible full length, but lets not look a gift single in the mouth.

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

King Gizz are keeping their two a year pace with a new full length to cap a pretty incredible year. Always ones to keep the audience wary and on their toes, they exit the jazz rock conceptual phase of Quarters and the dog-eared burnt psych of I’m In Your Mind Fuzz to take things down several notches… volume-wise, at least. The band self-imposed an “acoustic instruments only” policy on the record, roped together some sounds they’d previously never explored (clarinet, cello, double bass) and headed to a shipping container on Stu Mackenzie’s parents farm to record this sucker. The result is a pretty captivating and lilting collection of pop songs that embraces the pastoral background of its origins nicely. The darkness that’s billowed at the corners of their previous work is lifted somewhat and they get back to the weirdness and free spirit rambling of Oddments but still present some of their most easily accessible songs yet. The long winding jam is ever the band’s forte and while they may have turned the electricity off they haven’t exactly lost their ability to bend a song into a frantic bit of blues that explodes into 70’s tinged stadium-sized glory. The band was always meant for more ears and it seems this may be the final push they need. But, hell, who knows what comes from here, the fun seems to be in guessing where they’ll hop to next.

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Timmy’s Organism

All right, back on duty after a week’s vacation and its nice to find an old friend in the stacks. Timmy Vulgar, as permanent a Detroit fixture as corruption and hockey, returns to his gas leak garage project Timmy’s Organism for another grapple with reality. Long since my favorite incarnation of Vulgar’s cracked corner of the universe, the Organism is a bastion of fuzz crunch and pop debris, mangled and kitted out in tin foil hats before being flung out into the unwelcome world. On Heartless Heathen, Vulgar finds his way through the exhaust billows and clears the room with a few down and straightforward soul-jerkers. Perhaps its the inspiration of jumping onto Third Man’s Audio Social Dissent series of releases, perhaps its just always been in ‘im. But for the initiated, there’s also plenty of fry here to love as well; those sickening gasps of guitar that seem to scream out of the instrument against its will, the fifteen foot howl of Vulgar’s vocals building like a storm and the barbed wire beat stomping like a broken jackhammer. These are the hallmarks that I’ve come to anticipate from Timmy’s Organism and they’re all here in abundance. If Jack’s holdin’ up hometown heroes and garage punks these days then bless his pale visage for knocking this piece of sickness out onto the table.

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