Woods “Sun City Creeps”

With each successive record, Woods find themselves closer to the threshold of crystalline. “Sun City Creeps” despite the flagrant reference to legends Sun City Girls, doesn’t scotch tape together street market psych and noise as that trio might have, but it does tap into their worldly sense of rhythm and adds a slinking brass element to Woods’ sound that elevates them even above the sunshine sways of their previous LP. The song finds the band chugging through guitar wahs and dark corner choruses before treading into a couple of psych breakdowns, that were this Woods circa 2009-10, would have unfolded into a minute plus of fuzz and tape distortion. Here though, they’ve caught hold of those impulses, perhaps leaving the jamming for the stage. Instead they’ve found themselves perfecting a bit of psychedelic lounge that’s stepping into deeper puddles than ever before, maturing Woods into a new age.

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The track appears on Woods’ upcoming album City Sun Eater In The River Of Light out April 8th. Support the Artist. Pre-Order Here.

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The Lavender Flu

Chris Gunn shared time in two undeniably great, though never celebrated enough bands, The Hunches and Hospitals. His new endeavor, Lavender Flu isn’t as noisy as the latter or as shambledown cathartic as the former, but he and the band are jumping in both feet first with widescope ambitions on Heavy Air. The double LP debut swims through psychedelic bogs that are shaggy and caked with fallout fuzz in places and burst out with bold pop statements in the next instant. Stitched together with a ragged twine of thought, the album could prove exhausting to the uninitiated, but those who’ve found room for Gunn’s brand of veiled pop bombast will find Easter Eggs aplenty throughout this release. Out of the clamor and clash rise some beautiful moments of folk pop like “Those That Bend” or “My Time,” both cuts that wouldn’t seem out of place cozying up to some Elephant 6 disciples. Hell, the whole record would fit in with the Collective’s vibe of sun-streaked psych mixed with “Green Typewriters” style experimentation and for the cadre of listeners out there looking for that heady stew, look no further, Lavender Flu’s world is a dense rabbit hole worth exploring and re-exploring. Plenty of psychic fallout to tide you ’til Springtime.

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Support the artist. Buy it: HERE on MEDS Records.

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Tina & The Total Babes – She’s So Tuff

Sometimes you have to kick your own ass for missing out on something in its original time. 2001 who knows where my head was at, but it wasn’t picking up a copy of Tina & The Total babes’ undersung record on Sympathy for the Record Industry, but thankfully digital love allows us some time for our transgressions. Tina Lucchesi pulls down heavy points for her involvement in two legends, The Trashwomen and The Bobbyteens, and following the demise of the latter, she hooked up with power pop producer Travis Ramin to create The Total Babes. Her other records never really had the kind of recorded clarity on display here and it was always the raw charm of both bands that pulled them through, but its nice to hear Lucchesi’s voice in the context of pure turn of 80’s power pop perfection.

The album has all the snottiness and hip-check dance pit fun of anything involving Tina, and I came to fine it as this new wave of power pop appreciation came to rear its head a few years back. For the record anyone from the current roster of power pop altar worshippers should pay some respects to The Total Babes (who themselves are channeling quite a bit of Nikki and the Corvettes.) If, by chance this one is not in your collection, then by all means please course correct. However, it remains that the vinyl is sadly out of print and far too pricey on the secondary market, so perhaps if we all ask nicely Sympathy will put this one back on the shelf for the good of mankind everywhere.

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EZTV

Said it before and I’ll say it again, January always acts as a cleanup of what was so sorely forgotten in the crush of year-end nonsense and in that mindset its with sorrow that I’m just now getting a chance to delver further into this EZTV album. With nods down the line of 70’s radio rock that spans from Todd Rundgren to the softer shadows of Cheap Trick, the band more often channels those playing in the wake of those pop princes. They mold the earnestness of Shoes with the instant likability of Chris Wilson-era Flamin’ Groovies to instantly arrive formed as successors to their brand of crystalline pop. The band went into the studio with 30 tracks and shaped and shaved them with the help of Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere and while each and every song doesn’t jump out of the speakers and into your nagging subconscious, collectively the album feels fully realized and perfectly nuanced. Each and every listen brings a new favorite to the fore and its plain to see that the band is more interested in making a lasting impression than fleeting infatuation. Calling Out isn’t fancy, it isn’t pushing the paradigm of pop forward. It is however an excellent study in keeping things simple and knowing exactly who you are and where you come from. It’s a love letter to classic American pop albums and one that hits all the right points to put you in its sway.

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Lame Drivers

Another scoop up from the detritus of last year. New York’s Lame Drivers are cracking into the power pop canon with the fortitude of seasoned vets, boiling down Phil Seymour riffs, Paul Collins’ workingman charm and the incessant fizz of The Shoes. Though, to say that the band is tumbling completely down the Yellow Pills path would be a bit remiss. They fracture the seeds of power pop through the eras that followed, finding their way through fuzz-caked 90’s stacks and some complex psych-pop touches that seem primed for Elephant 6 sycophants. The album finds its balance while keeping that kernel of fun squarely at the center of attention. Chosen Era barrels out of the garage, cylinders primed and with those 70’s touchstones hanging from the mirror, but they cool down to some nice shaggy 90’s-isms by the mid section, just to shake out the limbs, and before long they’re back on track to set your pulse racing. With a mixed team laying this one down (primarily Matt Tong of Bloc Party fame and Travis Harrison along with some self recording in the mix) it works out to be rather cohesive in its final run. There were some pretty heavy power pop contenders in 2015 and while this may not touch Barreracuda’s plastic snap n’ crackle, its a worthy contender for time on your speakers.

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Donato Dozzy

Sometimes context is everything. In most contexts the mouth harp is a bygone piece of a quainter time, an ancient ritual or simply a toy that hasn’t passed a thought since childhood. Dozzy too picked up the inspiration from a childhood fascination with the instrument and revisited it as an extension of his own lean towards trance an an electronic outcropping. Here he finds the ties of ancient, ritual trance with those of newer artists seeking to open the same sonic chasm through hardwired drones and pulses. The mouth-harp is a more visceral experience, though simple in construction, it tends to throb through the player and add a layer of physicality to achieving trance through repetitious drone. Dozzy records the instrument in locales both indoors and out and drops the thrum into hallways of echo, expanses of calm and beds of analogous hum. As with his previous album Sintetizzatrice which used only voice laid into a context of dub experimentation, here he plays a bit of dub wizard to the instrument, letting the repetition of reverberation lull the listener into a cozy state of meditation. By the time the needle skids to a close its almost easy to forget that the bulk of the weight her is on the tines of the tiny instrument and not on much heavier means of drone deployment, and perhaps that trick is DD’s best. The old is new again and primed for open minds.

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Tarquin Manek

Coming late to F ingers release, but thoroughly enjoying it, makes one think I’d be more on the ball with tangential offshoots as well but this solo release by Tarquin Manek slipped a listen until recently. Its a tightly wound ball of tension and an amicable mash of dub overtones laid through valleys of broken bone techno, noise experiments and a hauntological hall of mirrors. The tone on most of Tarquin Magnet is of menace lost beneath the floorboards and pounding like something from a Poe tome scratching at your temples to get out. Sounds bubble up from under six tons of murk and sea water, beaming alien beacons hoping to reach home but pinging endlessly into the blackness. Hauling out whatever instrumentation, or simply sound source, could fit – clarinet, keyboard, Dictaphone, mobile phone – Manek succeeds in crafting an album that is wholly not of this world, and barely a blip on the idea of music as means of seeking out joy. If there was ever an artist that embodied the ideal of Blackest Ever Black, this is the one. Pulling the needle is like breaking through the surface for some much needed air, leaving the rest of the album to feel like swimming for the light while the heft of water drags you down and the burning in your lungs only grows.

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Uther Pendragon – San Francisco Earthquake

No matter how many years separate the 60’s from the present, it seems that the mines run deep for finding more fallout from the explosion of bands that permeated the time. Its getting rarer though to find one that’s had virtually no exposure or reissues to date, but Guerssen has unearthed a band from the outer rim of the San Francisco sound. Existing under the names Blue Fever, Timne, Hodological Mandala, Mandala, Kodiac, Justus, Pendragon and then finally Uther Pendragon, the band lived as a family for years; making music from ’66 until ’78 and growing with the sweeping change of sounds from that time. Guerssen’s reissue follows the band from their teen years, just discovering teen centers and fuzz pedals, to a more sweeping and much heavier territory; you know, the kind of band that could prop up a name like Uther Pendragon. This one seems to be a pure discovery of the internet age, the band wasn’t out that much in the the pages of SF rock lore and the label found them floating around in fan posts. They’re not totally without status, they opened once for Country Joe and the Fish, recorded at Pacific Sounds before building their own studio and had some ties to management that overlapped a few other outer rim psych acts, but in general they were off most radars, probably because they had no released material. Some of the songs are rough, kids finding their way, but for the most part they make good examples of the West Coast psych and proto metal sounds, feeling their way through the era on the fringes of cool.

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Mammatus

Long an RSTB favorite, Mammatus returns with an album that showcases their ability to swerve from tranquil space-outs to crushing guitar heft in the course of a song. Though in this case, those songs have plenty of space to work with, with all of Sparkling Waters edging past the fifteen minute mark per track, the band aren’t exactly churning out pop ditties. But what they are doing is stretching towards the horizon line with gentle cosmic thrust on the opener. Yawning like the seascape that adorns the cover, it opens into a mix of syths, flute and the far off rumble of percussion that whips into a tempest by the time the track closes. As the track builds they bend the formless eddies into craggy bits of Krautrock fed metal squall still underpinned with windswept keys but now churning like waterspout off the Bermuda coast. The take another turn through Kosmiche and crunch on Part 2 before they turn up the heat. The second LP brings more bite than the first, re-centering the band’s roots in heaviness and giving the guitar gluttons something to chew on, but they never give in to riff fully, bending and shaping both sides into movement based epics with an appreciation for Prog’s footprint. The album is an ambitious step forward for the band but it never turns into a sprawling excuse to just jam over four sides of wax, rather it winds up just the kind of album that gatefolds were made to hold, a space opera that glows and growls through four sides with a pure sense of ebb and flow.

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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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