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Olden Yolk – “Vital Sign”

New strummers Olden Yolk crack into their second single off of an upcoming eponymous debut for Trouble in Mind in February and it’s a sparkling slice of jangle pop. Shane Butler (of Quilt) and Caity Shaffer’s new LP is becoming a staple around here and “Vital Sign” is a highlight off of a record packed with charm, hooks and a good old fashioned dose of knife-twisted heartache. While the band certainly recalls Butler’s work with Quilt, they’re also filling a hole in my heart that was left vacant when Veronica Falls called it quits – blending indie pop and jangle in perfect proportions. The new self-directed video for the clip gives a splash of city color to this lilting pop gem and acts as a nice ballast to the song’s sparse yearning. Gonna want to watch out for that full length at the end of the month, it’s a killer. You’ve been warned.

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Ultimate Painting – “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore”

Few records in the past couple of years hold up to the the bittersweet pang of Ultimate Painting’s last album, Dusk. It was a study in melancholy wrapped in appropriately lush production and marked by the brushstrokes of two of indie’s great new voices. The band now makes a jump from their home at Trouble in Mind to Bella Union and while the songwriting and production remains intimate and confessional, the tone takes a tip upward towards the light, as the album’s title, Up! might attest. “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore” is haunted by all the familiar ghosts of Ultimate Painting’s sound – wistful delivery, gently knotted guitars and a somber swoon that’s tempered just a tad with Cooper’s slight smile on the vocals. It’s a promise to keep expectations in check and be a bit selfish for self-preservation’s sake. For two musicians with busy schedule’s its probably a hard pill to swallow but it comes together nicely on this first single.

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Amen Dunes – “Miki Dora”

This songs is so good it kinda makes me mad. No really, it has not place getting under the skin like this, but I’ll be damned if Damon McMahon isn’t on the precipice of laying down his shining moment. Good to see too, as he’s been riding out a long game career that’s crawled out of a fuzz-strewn psych foxhole, hammering his take on pop slowly but surely. Guess getting Chris Coady behind the boards doesn’t hurt and Nick Zinner sitting in on guitar work for the album seems like the kind of information that would have seemed inscrutable when his first album Dia landed all those years ago. Very excited for this one and for now keeping “Miki Dora” on repeat for as long as possible.

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Beautify Junkyards – “Aquarius”

Coming off a solid 7″ entry to Ghost Box’s Other Voices series, the Lisbon band is now embarking on a full length for the label. The first taste is this sparkling, polyrhythmic treat, “Aquarius,” along with a suibtably psyhchedelic companion video. The band melds chugging beats with a veil of sun-squinted haze for a track that’s sniffing at similar territory blazed by Broadcast and Stereolab before them. The band now counts Helena Espvall, formerly of RSTB fave Espers in the mix and that pushes the anticpation up quite a bit from their single. Espvall’s folk work was singularly entrancing and she casts a similar spell here. The track’s got repeat appeal for sure and serves to whet the appetite for a full platter of similarly minded psych-pop. At this point I’m always intrigued as to what’s coming down the Ghost Box pike and rarely have I been disappointed. Great way to start off the year!



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Hockey Dad – “Homely Feeling”

Aussie faves Hockey Dad return with a new one on Kanine that’s keeping the label’s penchant for skate culture alive and kicking. The band cranks out a terse burner, swollen with hooks and ready to blow, giving some good upfront feeling for their sophomore LP. They drain the pool for a full Dogtown-tipped video, culminating in a party that’s enviable in its raucous revelry. The vibes are a lot heavier on this track than they’ve hit in the past, feeling like a new tributary off of their indie-punk sound. Can’t wait to get the full rundown, but for now, this one remains on repeat.

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Swiftumz – Game Six

You’d be forgiven for having missed Swiftumz’ two LPs over the years. Despite crafting consecutive albums of homespun pop that shimmers brightly, Chris McVicker’s output has slipped all too quietly out into the world via the Holy Mountain and Melters labels. Its a shame though, because both records captured an artist who is at ease with his corner of the world – tumbling through a muted brand of power pop, glimmering jangle-pop and slicing through the bleary-eyed glories of American Indie with a rather precise knife. So, it’s with the release of McVicker’s latest single that SF’s Fruits & Flowers posts their second essential release of the year.

“Game Six” is pure jangled glory, spillin’ sunshine out of its pockets like quarters on laundry day. Like most of MicVicker’s songs it sounds so effortlessly intuitive you’d almost swear you’ve heard it before. He’s a student of the late ’80s and early ’90s and given a good time shift would most certainly have been pulling down some zine ink. This track alone is worth the price of admission, but he backs it up with a b-side that’s also tipping the gold standard. Shifting into melted-amber Indie-pop mode here and threading his way through Galaxie 500 and Yo La Tango vibes as felt through the soul of the late great Brightblack Morning Light, he’s letting things fade into a sherbet sunset – glowing an orange aura around the track to the very end. Both songs are on endless repeat around here and you’d do well to snag one too.

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John Maus

Maus has always been something other – an enigma bundled in unassuming strands of Oxford cloth, baiting your expectations and then blowing past them with an acerbic beauty. In the past he’s issued albums that cut to the bone, gnawing on the gleaming remains of your toughest sinews. His synthpop was spare and his shows even more-so – a man with a CD player publicly crumbling at the seams for the audience’s benefit. His songs were intense, but not altogether without a shining shard of pop lodged in their throats, a scratch that was never quite satisfied but always present. Now he’s crossed out of the catacombs of solitary, tortured synth and brought on a band, but his vision remains consistent as a bleak acid bath of sound.

He’s working his way out of a hiatus of sorts, Maus is back and while at heart he’s his same old self, he’s racheted up the production surrounding his dystopian stranglehold. As his recent gig at Basilica Soundscape proved, his addition of a full band has stoked the fire present in his songs full force. Where once he was an aching nerve, raw and scraping at the subconscious, now he’s taking the minimal wave vision of sinister synth to a new level. Screen Memories is Maus blown up into massive retro-futurist heights – throbbing with distended basslines, surreal synths and Maus’ own voice echoing around the sphere, equal parts dream-struck (“Decide Decide,” “Sensitive Recollections”) and perturbed (“The Combine,” “Pets”). Something tells me there’s a larger patchwork at play in the fact that the universe has delivered a new Blade Runner and John Maus record in the same slice of time, but we’re all probably best to stay out of whatever wormhole opened its maw to deliver tandem poles of glistening futurist melancholy anyhow.

The album arrives just as the idea of sinking back into an oil slick of anxious, seething irritation seems like the only option. If there were an artist for our times, it’s Maus. The album is twitching, roiling, and constantly assaulting the senses. It’s as much a reflection of daily life in a world where the news cycle one-ups itself with horrors for clicks and pain for pay as anything might claim to be. Maus’ brand of disembodied pop is a kind of salve, but only so much so in that you know that he’s feeling the slow, anxious burn run up the back of his spine as well. He’s a compatriot in anguish who can sometimes remind you that there are slight slivers of beauty in that polluted sky, but more often than not he punctuates the pain with a reminder that on top of your petty list of worries, your pets are going to die before you. Maus gets it. We’re all screwed, lets dance out some pain.




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Colleen – “Winter Dawn”

Perennial Thrill Jockey favorite Colleen is back and sinking deeper into the Kosmiche end of the pool. Ahead of her upcoming album A Flame My Love, A Frequency, she’s released a slow, mesmerizing video to the track “Winter Dawn”. Where before, Cécile Schott had worked through rippling compositions full of strings and built on an abundance of open atmospheres, now she takes as turn towards buzzing synths closing in her world with the rhythmic hum of a mechanical heartbeat. With her cave-echoed delivery, the song feels as vital as she’s ever been, taking a plunge toward analog psychedelics with a composer’s heart. The video, filled with gorgeously composed oil works by Connor R. Burke, is an absolutely engrossing watch that pairs perfectly with her new reliance on paced thrum.



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Premiere: Frankie & The Witch Fingers – “Sunshine Earthquake”

As they head out on tour L.A.’s Frankie & The Witch Fingers offer up a peek into the psych-soul revival that threads its way throughout their fizzing new album, Brain Telephone. The band has always had a knack for the video format, from the LSD Alice in Wonderland of “Get Down” to the psychedelic noir of “Merry Go Round” and the latest clip just piles on the exploded neon psych vibes that have kept them runnin’ all these years. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check the album, give it a spin and if they’re landing near you, be sure to go get a breath of the real thing. The stage is where they truly shine.

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Ecstatic Union – “Illuminator”

L.A. psych rockers Ecstatic Union slipped a solid release out on Lollipop recently and their single “Illuminator” encapsulates the feel good summer vibes that soak the entire record. Huge pop hooks are doused in the kind of glowing ’60s pop that permeated the Elephant Six catalog, taken even bigger by graduates like Beulah and The Sunshine Fix. The video has fun with a rapscallion beach rat character that brings a smile to any viewer. The rest of the record is worth a run as well. Get down with some sunshine vibes before they’re all gone.



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