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The Goon Sax

Chapter Music pull in the youth vote with a trio of younguns from Brisbane’s The Goon Sax. The band’s ages average around 17-18 and though they seem to have absorbed en masse the jangle-pop paradigm, they still know how to keep things juvenile, in the best ways, of course. The songs on Up To Anything capture the raw nerve and jittery emotions of teenage life like a quickly snapped cell phone photo that’s candid and revelatory at the same time. The kinds of pictures that find one person staring at another longingly and a second person persistently distracted by the distance or dissonance. They pin the modern onto the universal, passing tales of anxiety, shame, annoyance and home haircuts off with a style that’s eyeing the past but nevertheless a fairly easily digestible pop for the new class. Given that they’re capturing the emotions of the day through the perpetually doomed lens of teenage life, they know how to parlay to moping when the need arises, but the jangles keep those sentiments from grinding the listener down. This one’s got legs for sure and each new spin cracks a new grin or two from their humble but honest take. Chalk up another win for Chapter music and the South Hemi pop sound.





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Flowers

There are plenty who have embraced 80’s jangle as if it were the dominant paradigm of popular rock, with a zest that’s bordered on mission statement in some corners of Brooklyn and London. Flying Nun is held high. C86 is a bible. But to do it well, it can’t all just sound like a retread of greatest hits, and London’s Flowers have found that sweet spot between sounding like they could have lived alongside their influences and pushing the sounds of those legends a bit further. The band’s certainly versed, setup with the prerequisite totems of their 80’s education, but they’ve taken swooning pop, light ‘n sweet jangles and the fuzz-bitten layers of guitar and stacked them into the shape of a future classic.

I wrote about a Flowers lathe way back in 2012 and its hard to believe this could be the same band. They hit all the right marks to make a record that feels like its been sitting, just waiting to be found all along. Everybody’s Dying To Meet You sounds like its soundtracked a thousand heartaches before it ever reached my ears and now its here to wrap a comforting arm around the speakers and nod comfortingly. There’s an art to making a timeless record, and after finding myself playing this almost unconsciously day after day, it really feels like its got the hallmarks. Something about Rachel Kennedy’s vocals just hit home like a pang of nostalgia cramped into the pit of the stomach that aches sweetly, like having a crush on the past. They put the extra scoop of authenticity on the record by enlisting Brian O’Shaughnessey (The Clientele, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine) on production duties. He’s pushed the band into the mold they seemed destined to inhabit all these years. This one is topping out my list of 2016 obsessions.





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Anna Homler and Steve Moshier – Breadwoman & Other Tales

Strange origins and stranger sounds come from the grooves of Breadwoman. Homler was a student of performance art and while on a trip through California the artist conceived of the character of Breadwoman, concocting a language of chants that seem so close to real tongues its hard not to believe Homler’s tales of divining an ancient language and acting as a vessel for the spirit of Breadwoman, a woman so old she’s turned to bread. Homler recorded her chants to handheld cassette and eventually found a musical patner in Steve Moshier, a fellow experimental traveler and member of avant-garde chamber ensemble Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra.

Moshier took the transcriptions of Homler’s chants and composed a musical landscape for them that fit their loose cosmic nature. The results of these two halves of Breadwoman & Other Tales is a light source beamed in from space, sounding unearthed from an ancient civilization that’s left these recordings as a track record of their time here. For her part, Homler succeeds wildly in making Breadwoman feel like a real spirit, and with the help of Moshier’s analog inventiveness, her story crawls into the realm of psychedelic classics that have to be experience to be believed.



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Chicos de Nazca

Chilean Psych is becoming a real genre these days, not quite on par with their Japanese or Swedish counterparts, but coming on pretty strong indeed with bands like Holydrug Couple, Föllakzoid and La Hell Gang acting as chief exports for their country’s psychedelic set. Chicos de Nazca have spun off from members’ previous outfit Cindy Sisters to form a heavier, headier brand of clouded and shrouded psych warfare. The record lays down a huge offering at the altar of Spacemen 3 and perhaps a few tithings at the table of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but they seem to find space to take that sound and make it their own. It doesn’t hurt that the riffs are as thick as truck exhaust and almost as poisonous, powering through with a storming wall of sound that buries most everything in its path. The record comes on quick and flashes its blade pretty much from the outset, tumbling into a fight to fit as much sound as possible into the bounds of its fat black plastic cage. Definitely a record that’s seemed to get lost in the last couple of months of releases but one worth taking some time to head back in for a few more listens.

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Burnt Palms

San Francisco’s Burnt Palms power through fuzz blasted bits of summer fun and surf-freckled fizz on their third album. Embracing the full scope of indie pop via the C86 meets Elephant 6 model, the band take it one step further by enlisting actual Elephant 6 member Gary Olson of Ladybug Transistor on mastering duties. That’s what I call commitment to concept and a pretty good endorsement of the band’s breakneck fuzzpop prowess. They’re not wrong to call out All Girl Summer Fun Band as a touchstone for where they were aiming. They hit pretty square on that target. The record is a candied blast of energy in every minute, bouncing with the vigor of a hopped up 10-year old through sunny songs that often have a sour heart, crafting that sweet n’ sad brew that’s never an unwelcome formula. In general this is just a top down bit of fun that’s easy on the ears and meant to be loud on the speakers; girl group veneer over a flame of punk coals.




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Jozef Van Wissem

For a lutenist, Van Wissem has made a pretty sizeable dent into experimental and indie circles. Maybe its because he pals around with Jim Jarmusch and Zola Jesus. The former he’s collaborated with plenty in the past, even winning a Cannes film award for his work on the score to Only Lovers Left Alive. The latter appears here, fleshing out his sparse compositions with her own spectral haunt. But maybe its because Van Wissem’s work holds a lonesome power that draws collaborators like these in. His past works have painted with solemn, yet slightly intricate strokes, classical in feeling but not stuffy. He’s felt like the art history buff trying to open up his classmates to the wonders of 15th century without getting overly condescending about it.

On When Shall This Bright Day Begin he definitely clips a few notes from his work with Jarmusch. The pair’s collaborative albums draw in a lot of noise elements and drink from a well of experimentation. For this outing thoug, Van Wissem keeps the noise at bay but dips into some borrowed cinematic scope; Zola Jesus opening the album with a disembodied, ambient float over his plucks, vocal samples crackling against sepia toned stringwork and his own vocal arrangements pounding like mantras. Its when he lets the lute sing alone though that the album’s at its strongest. The recording is unencumbered, each note smacking into that pang of regret in your stomach like a steadied blow. Though to be fair, the second collaboration here with Zola Jesus is as hair raising as anything either have done, finding both parties reaching towards their inner goth hearts to make a track that’s infinitely absorbing. This album sounds like Van Wissem has finally found his stride and is so comfortable with his instrument that he makes his pangs our pangs and its easy to thank him for it.





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Sun City Girls – Torch of the Mystics

There’s hardly a better argument to the sterling reputation of Sun City Girls than 1990’s Torch of the Mystics. They were rarely as coherent, crisp, or as cutting as they were right here, divining the spirit of a transistor radio bouncing signals off the ionosphere and picking up lost transmissions that seem to come from other worlds entirely, then hammering them into some odd pop fashion. The Bishops are in full form here, guitar and bass clashing and gnashing as ever they would and the late, great Charlie Gocher crashes through like a man possessed. At this point the band has become something of a totemic touchstone for psychedelic intensity, unhinged world music as shot through the prism of psych-folk and neo-African garage, but this album is the physical proof of why so many bands will tell you that Sun City was an eye opener for them. This is the record that gave Richard Bishop his knighthood. Its the record that’s pulling all the punches, because they’re laser focused and not on the verge of flying into oblivion at every corner here. Here they’re finding that spark that fed the beast and letting it fan to flame.

The original cut was always known for its tinny sound and this was rectified a bit on the ’93 CD version but here its back on vinyl and feeling as full as it ever could. For the heads in hte audience, this is an essential piece of the puzzle. And its good to have a reason to point a few people in its direction.

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Pete Astor

The concept of this record is kind of an inter-generational mindblow. Pete Astor’s already lived a dozen lives and for his work in The Loft alone, I’ll remain forever grateful; seriously, “Up The Hill and Down The Slope” should be on every 80’s playlist. Also a member of fellow Creation stablers The Weather Prophets, the man’s got credentials to spare, so on name alone you should be hooked. Somehow though, he’s connected with one of our generation’s own jangle-pop savants, James Hoare (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting) and together they’ve mashed their minds to create an album that sounds reverently ripped out of time. The songs on Spilt Milk are cut from the cloth of the best of the class of ’86, but given modern twist of the knife.

For the most part the two are just keeping everything reclined and refined until the very last notes skip to the runout. By the time you get around to standout “Perfect Life” you’re absolutely hooked on this album, its the kind of song that feels like its always just been. Those songs that feel like they’re bound to end up in a Wes Anderson movie at some point. Hoare and Astor make perfect foils, and this album doesn’t feel like a hero worship so much as two janglers just recognizing the badges on their jackets across a crowded room and finding common ground once the tape starts rolling. Its just a slow breaking smile the whole way through.




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Rangda

Three albums in and Rangda is still a dream trio of players, so wholly versed in their instruments that it seems hard to believe that they coalesce so rightfully. For fans of Sir Richard Bishop, his fingers are all over this one, quite literally, and a lot of the melodies on The Heretic’s Bargain play like Bishop solo tracks on steroids. The fluidity and frantic pace of strings is there, but electrified and given chase by Chasney’s guitar and Corsano’s expert beat. Songs are built on the rapid heart-skip of fingerpicks, but as proven on “The Sin Eaters” and the epic closer “Mondays Are Free At The Hermetic Museum” the group is built for the psychedelic breakdown, devolving those sprightly melodies into a blur of sticks and picks and squalls of feedback that threaten to consume time itself. There’s always been a quality to Bishop’s melodies that I think would lend itself to soundtrack work, as if he’s always composing scenes in his head, with the the guitar quickening footsteps down a hallway or poking its head around the corner trepedatiously. Here he invokes that same cinematic quality, only to add a more urgent sense of catastrophe in the corrosive breakdowns. The characters here might quicken their steps, but its likely in a chase away from unseen demons that win out in the end. Rangda is and has always been a behemoth and on their latest they prove that they’ll keep banging ’til they bring it all down around them.

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Death By Unga Bunga

DBUB have been cracking at the skull of the European garage scene since 2010, but its just now that they’re crawling into the US consciousness and its damn good timing, because Pineapple Pizza is their crispest set yet. The EU never went in for that whole lo-fi buzz bin. They’ve kept garage above board and crystal clear for years and this album reminds me in the best ways of the pure fun of the 2002 garage revival that put everyone back into the pit as a herald of rock’s return. The record has a pop heart that beats loud and clear, with hooks the size of Subarus locking down its nucleus and a relentless bounce of cheerfulness that makes this album border on pop punk in the fun department. Its at least a close cousin of the genre at heart, even if the band sees themselves as more of a garage band.

Don’t know who’s choosing the singles on this one, but despite the initial punch of “Tell Me Why” the best bits here are being overlooked. “Best Friends” casts its hooks in early on and “Make Up Your Mind” is a nodder as well and “Strangers From the Sky” is as big as they come. Catchy though it is, “Young Girls,” which did make the singles cut, makes me cringe in that way that Bad Sports’ “Teenage Girls” did a few years back. Its hard to sing along to a song that’s predatory at heart. No matter how “celebratory” you think your anthem of youth is, its creeping us all out. But that trip aside, this one’s a keeper and one of the most fun records to come onto the speakers in a long long time.

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