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Will Johnson – “Cornelius”

Another one that’s slipped between the cracks this year, the latest album from Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel) is a weathered and worn take on country, folk, and Americana that shows the long-running songwriter in top form. Johnson’s been a part of the American songbook for years, playing alongside Jason Molina and Jay Farrar finding those moments of truth that lie between the dust of genres. Wire Mountain should find purchase with those who’ve been digging deep on that latest Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy LP and want another album to help heal the cracks and creases of age and shoulder the weight of heartache through the night. The video features Will in the studio alongside Britton Beisnherz (who also recorded the album at his studio Ramble Creek outside Austin), Jon Dee Graham, Thor Harris (of Shearwater and Swans), and Lindsey Verrill (of Little Mazarn) who all contributed to “Cornelius.” There’s an intimate vibe to the clip, a humble beginning to a heavy song. Johnson’s about to embark on a West Coast tour alongside the likes of Bob Mould and John Moreland. Definitely worth seeking this out in the live setting.

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Hollow Ship – “We Were Kings”

Swedish psych-pop unit Hollow Ship roll out the video for the A-side from their upcoming PNKSLM single “We Were Kings,” a kaleidoscopic collage animated by Freddy Wallin. “We Were Kings” sets the band into a the cradle of psych occupied by Goat, Flamingods, or Khruangbin, bands that find something new while rifling through the overlapping detritus of the past. The song is anchored by rhythm, owing to a studio suggestion to keep the drums high in the mix. The chugging beats keep a heartbeat bop that lays a bedrock for the swirling synths, flutes and funk-laced guitars. The video is as eclectic as the song itself – swirling with cut n’ past aesthetics that play well with the band’s all-inclusive approach.

They note of the Wallin’ led clip, ”In an animated reality, not to different from our own, we are invited to follow a vessel on it’s intergalactic trip through the universe. Along the way we experience colorful encounters with extraterrestrial beings and heavenly bodies. A journey into the unknown making it possible for the traveler to finally find itself” The 7” arrives this Friday from the Swedish outpost and speaks well to what’s on the horizon for the band as we enter 2020.



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Vacant Gardens – “Shorebirds”

Brand new music today from Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Reds, Pinks and Purples) and Jem Fanvu (Tune-Yards, Cavity Fang) under the banner of Vacant Gardens. Built on a cresting wave of static and gauzy fuzz, the song plunges Fanvu’s vocals in a soft-pink fog of sound that wafts in through ever opening. Shorebirds is a gorgeous, effusive song hovering on the edges of sleep and dream. The pair paint touches of Pale Saints and Curve alongside the usual shoegaze sightings of Slowdive. They embrace the lostness of sound, letting themselves slowly slide into dust over the course of the track. The record arrives in Spring 2020 on Tall Texan.

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Arbor Labor Union – “Flowerhead”

Arbor Labor Union are making a strong showing on the Cosmic Americana spectrum with their latest for Arrowhark. The band issued a low-key LP for Sub Pop a couple of years back, but even if that one’s knocking around your shelf, don’t try to lock ‘em down just yet. Where I Hear You was doused in the tough-skinned garb of alternative fallout, but the band is now embracing a looser sound that’s got a great deal of sand in its shoes and Autumn sunshine in its veins. “Flowerhead’ sees the band in full flights of choogle, hitting on some common notes with Garcia Peoples and One Eleven Heavy, but still finding room to squeeze out their own niche in the resurgence of the shaggy shores of jam. The song’s got a vibrant energy that threatens to spill the 1080p bounds of the collage-crammed video for the standout track. The record’s on the way February 7th from Arrowhawk.



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DENNIS – “Stiffs Parade”

A bare-bones punk scorcher from Melbourne punks DENNIS marks the second single off their upcoming Homeless LP, The Enthusiast. The band picks up first wave nods to The Saints, Germs, and raw and ragged tales of The Stooges, though perhaps the most modern connection seems to be from Timmy Vulgar’s camp. There’s more than a bit of his acid gargle in the vocals here. There’s a snottiness to the record that’s surely on par with The Dead Boys, though the approach is much harsher — DENNIS boasts less swagger than even those degenerates and proudly so. The band contains members of Bits of Shit and Chugga and The Fuckheads, both slime-sodden Aussie rounders that feed into the sound at play on “Stiffs Parade.” The record was laid to tape by punk impresario Billy Gardner, head of Anti-Fade and captain of the Living Eyes ship and mastered by none other than Mikey Young (who else?). The video places the band in the clean and healthy confines of a gym, but the contradiction remains evident. This is a scum dredged vision of punk, just as it should be, soaked and sodden and wrung dry over the tape machine until all the bile was documented and decoded.



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Eddy Current Suppression Ring – “Our Quiet Whisper”

There have been plenty of talks lately of the best of the last decade, dredging up a few names that I haven’t heard in years. One of the truly sad omissions, though, from the last ten years has been the punk sweat stain of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. The band helped define the end of the aughts with a vicious run from ’06 – ’09, but following that year’s Rush To Relax the band fell silent with only a few singles trickling out ending with 2011’s Captcha send-off Walking in Unison. Sure, Total Control helps heal the wound, and Mikey Young has built a cottage industry out of mastering every great Aussie release in the interim, but I’ve missed the Current. So, great news today comes with an announcement that the band is making their low-key return to the album format. They purportedly told Castle Face “not to make a big deal of it,” but they have a new album, All In Good Time, on the way shortly. I’d probably make a big deal of it.

“Our Quiet Whisper” sees the band return to their angular acumen, reminding listeners where the Aussie boom of the last few years really kicked off. The song is a slow-burn, full of the tempered tension the band employs so well and coupled with a new video scattered with geometric visuals that play well with the band’s prickled parlance. It feels like an ease into the album and I have a feeling there are a few burners on the way, but for now this is hitting the spot. No concrete date yet, but whenever this lands, its great to have ECSR back in the fold.



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The Salad Boys – “This Issue”

New one outta New Zealand today sees The Salad Boys following up their excellent 2018 This is Glue LP from Trouble in Mind. This time the Boys are holding down in NZ’s excellent Melted Ice Cream stable and the a-side kicks in with all the squirm-punk niceties that I’ve come to expect from the band. The track cops a new wave kilter, slotted through with squeamish keys and clamps down the outbound filter with a good dose of crushed velvet fuzz on the vocals. The accompanying video codifies the same fuzzy feeling, running band footage through saturated colors, static, and lo-fidelity UHF freakouts. Good to have the band back after a year off.

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Bill Fay – “Filled With Wonder Once Again”

Bill Fay announces an upcoming LP for Dead Oceans and its great to hear his voice again. Countless Branches is culled from forty years’ worth of material that the songwriter has been amassing, leaning on his years of growth and experience, and at the forefront is the spare, sweet “Filled With Wonder Once Again.” The song breezes in on gentle strums and the veteran artists’ voice sounds as strong as ever. The LP follows on his two previous outings for the label, again produced by Joshua Henry and arrives January 17th. Check out the soft touch of the Emily Scaife-directed video above.

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Others – “Geist”

An incredible, unsettling video from Solomon Burbridge and Joshua Cox accompanies an edit from Others’s debut Geist. The record fuses modern composition with close-proximity anxiety waves. The video plays on these well, turning the group’s buzzing drone, foreboding tones, and plucked strings into a bed for dissociative themes and antiseptic social settings. Where the video is awash in color the music drains away hues – a pallid and queasy bedrock for frustration and disquieting moments. The band is the concoction of Lesli Wood of Cobra Family Picnic and Daniel Martin Diaz of Trees Speak. The squeamish plucks come courtesy of violinist Vicki Brown, nailing the tension that runs through the album. The record is out on 11/22 from Cindedelic Records.



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The Catenary Wires – “Tie Me To The Rails”

UK duo Catenary Wires give their take on duets that pull at Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood comparisons. If the elder duo were considerably darker, infusing their swooning songs with a murder ballad meatiness they might wind up in the same territory as Til The Morning, Catenary’s sophomore LP. “Tie Me To The Rails” probably best embodies this dynamic, brooding along the verses and breaking open with a faded sun’s rays on the unshakeable chorus. Add in the ominous melodica lines and this track starts to really weld itself to your starker consciousness. Both members have rather illustrious pasts if you’re a devout indie pop fan, having done time in Heavenly, Talulah Gosh, Tender Trap, and Marine Research. Though, those touchpoints do little to prepare the listener for Catenary’s less than twee approach. I highly recommend a spin through the video above, which finds the band on their finest footing.

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