Grumbling Fur – “Acid Ali Khan”

New music from the likes of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan would lead the drag of the needle to pick up something in the doom-folk territory, or perhaps burnt cater metal; but both halves of this duo push even further away from their legacieson their new record for Thrill Jockey. Under the name Grumbling Fur the pair are injecting a bit of their dour countenances into synth pop that’s heavy on the grey-skied vibes than most but still feeling like it has a pulse. They’ve collaborated under the name on a few releases but this is the most surefooted its ever sounded. They’ve certainly been pouring over their Cure catalog and elsewhere the lean into solo Eno is certainly apt and more than welcome. Tucker’s voice gives off a bit of his own brand of heartache though and it pairs nicely with the new change in direction. The track, the first taste of their new album Furfour is a slow grower that unfolds over time. The album is primed for September and features contributions Charles Bullen (This Heat) and Isobel Sollenberger (Bardo Pond).



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RSTB Best of 2016 (so far)

Ok, so deep down I know that the half-year best-of rundown is becoming an expected bit of mid-year clickbait listicle self-love. It’s a totem that’s somewhat unnecessary, seeing how at the end of the year votes get tallied and the same releases get pondered. But since I also have the nagging gnaw that a culture of collective consciousness music press will result in plenty of homogeneous diatribes about what’s been considered the cream of ’16, I figure that it’s worth it to shine some light on a few deserving entities that are gonna to be left out of the party.

Some outlets have gone so far as to tell the world that 2016 has been super stressful for them, what with all the surprise albums needing their immediate attention. Sleepless nights in the review mines, I’m sure. Caffeinated burns through the wee hours that are called upon because absorption of albums over time is heresy these days. No time to listen deep because those other sites are stealin’ your views, siphoning clicks, and by next week those cuts will be far too stale to talk about anyhow. RSTB’s always there to let you know that sometimes its OK to let an album fester under your skin a while. Review it late, review it early, but maybe listen long enough to learn how it impacts you—or at least how it sounds in the car vs. the speakers vs. the headphones.

I’m starting to think that sometimes best should be more relative and less quantitative, and maybe it might be fun if there were a few more outlets with a true voice. But, so went the airwaves, so go the reviews, eh? Ah, maybe I’m just old fashioned. Anyhow, here are the picks. Remember RSTB is never content (n.), and never content (adj.).

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Omni

Atlanta band Omni keep their love of the Verlaine/Quine guitar axis close to their heart and that heart even closer to their sleeve. The band is flipping through wiry, vein pulsed post-punk like they were brought up on little else in their formative years. All the songs on their debut, Deluxe are bent and battered into metal shapes, though its their vocals that betray their new wave nods under the veneer of true grit punk spirit. Frankie Broyles’ delivery has a bit of dreamy-eyed wistfulness that gives the album a less rough sheen and an aproachability. They also walk it further away from the source material near and dear to their heart, feeling less like trying on your punk Halloween costume and more like a fitting digestion of the intervening years of post-punk and new wave hangover.

The aesthetic choice to rough up the edges on this one seems a bit misplaced. I know that it was recorded in a practice space, and for that its actually pretty crisp, but there’s an underlying crackle and crunch that feels out of place for the sound that they’re going for. For all its DIY aspirations, this specific pocket of the punk canon never felt an affinity for low fidelity. If its a matter of budget, then so be it, but since they are nailing this kind of homage rather bitingly, its feels deserving of a clear bullhorn. There are plenty that are trying to take the run at post-punk authenticity and plenty more that will pick up the itch, but this is a pretty prime example of how to do it right.




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Wild Raccoon

Another release from the French underground, must be something in the water this week. Wild Raccoon is the nom de noise of Raton Sauvage, who performs as a one man unit, adopting the setup and actually quite a bit of the sound of early Ty Segall records. Sauvage bashes it out with stripped drums keeping time over ragged guitar that’s primed to peel the paint from any room. He augments things slightly on record and the sound winds up bigger than his man with mic and a plan ambitions in the live setting. There’s a bit of psych float oozing in on opener “Sasquatch Arms,” some acoustic tumble on “Half 01,” but in general think back to a young Segall bashing out the blood on his eponymous LP, Horn of the Unicorn and Lemons. In some ways its nice to roll down memory lane, even if that lane’s been well worn and left in the dust by most of the garage crew these days. What transpires is a release that’s fun but so familiar it leaves you checking the tags on the tracks and page on the calendar to see if you are indeed listening to something from ’08 or have perhaps slipped back in time altogether. And that’s probably giving a bit too much credit Ty’s way too. He didn’t invent the rickety bash of garage tracks, he just brought it to the world’s feet in a nice catchy package. In that regard, Sauvage is having fun and so too can you, as long as expectations are set and saddled and your lo-fi love is still in tact.





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Le Villejuif Underground

I must be slipping in my old age. How is it that the first time I wrote up Le Villejuif Underground’s single “Since Everything Changes,” I didn’t realize that despite a move of country, the Aussie expat in question, Nathan Roche, was from RSTB fave Camperdown and Out? I must have been too excited about the sounds, but its an egregious oversight nonetheless. Camperdown’s record is by far and away one of those nuggets of brilliance that surfaced and then just disappeared without a trace. They perfectly boiled ’90s influences into the kind of reclined and worn slacker pop that feels like its always just been a part of your life. In that respect, Roche, with his new band are still finding their way down the roads of no particular haste with the same detached slink. True to the city pun this time ’round there’s more of a slackadaisical lean on the Lou Reed river of cool, but not to worry Camperdown fans, the Pavement vein still runs thick. Its just that now Roche is tracing the the tributary from Malkmus to Reed in reverse.

This is the record that acts as a salve for your pent up hopes on Parquet Courts. Its your true north star of bummed out bodega cool, late summer saunter and ground down penniless amble. Everything on their eponymous LP feels like the oldest sweater in your drawer; comfortable, stained and putting on airs for no one. Roche is the only holdover from the Camperdown dates, but he’s trained his new recruits well, they inhabit the rumpled reins of his songwriting with a kind of grace that feels effortless, but never lazy. Its noisy, scarred and bruised but not broken. Its the only way to follow up Camperdown. Drop the mic on one act and pick up in a different town, at a different time with a different name. Its the aimless drift of pop that needs to be in your life. LVF aren’t going to insist on anything but they will help you avoid responsibility for a little while. And is that too much to ask?




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Les Halles – “Thresholds”

Not Not Fun has skewed more mutant disco in the last few years but its good to see there’s still some melted psych odysseys to be found among the band’s varied stable. French musician Baptiste Martin has been crafting psych landscapes for a few years in relative obscurity on labels like Constellation Tatsu and Noumenal Loom and now he’s bringing a double shot of languid washes to NNF. “Thresholds” melds drifting keys with Amerindian flute samples and views them through the undersea ripple of a Jacques Cousteau nature doc, bobbing and lolling in the waves and peering at the sun through the refracted surface above. For those looking to cool down summer days or just melt into the deep green of leaves against sky, this is probably a best bet for the next couple of months.



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Allah-Las – “Famous Phone Figure”

Well gotta be summer now because there’s a new Allah-Las on the rise and that means good things for record players everywhere. Temperate days and clear skies just are just begging for a soundtrack from the L.A. stalwarts. The new track marks a bit of a departure from their usual jangle and jump sound that’s been rooted in the garage aesthetics and ushers in a move towards a more lush, and dreamy sound that plays off of swooning 60’s touchstones like Pet Sounds, JK & Co. or Tomorrow. Fittingly they’ve brought in a whole host of new instrumentation for the album – viola, harpsichord, Mellotron and theremin – proving this to be Allah-Las embracing their 60’s experimentation in full. They’ve been studying their 60’s trajectories well, so expect some paisley Nehru jackets on this tour, because things have gone full psych (not that I’m complaining). They’ve also made a move to Mex Summer for the record which pushes them away from their cozy home at Innovative Leisure. Definitely interested to hear more on this one and the moody black and white visuals give the track a nice stately background to luxuriate in. Summer just got a bit breezier.

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Wireheads

Perennial favorite Wireheads are back on the scene with a third record, again for Aussie imprint Tenth Court, and its great to hear their caustic post-punk mature. The Adelaide band’s debut was ragged and unapologetic in its delivery, little wonder that I’d named it one of the great overlooked records of the last ten years. On their third record they ditch the alt pedigree of Calvin Johnson’s Dub Narcotic for homeland sessions that pull in just about everyone that they know. Driving force, Dom Trimboli sketched out the songs and invited friends into the sessions to help flesh them out, resulting in a roster of 20 musicians that includes members of Brisbane’s Bent, Sydney poppers Day Ravies, kindred spirits Bitch Prefect plus Fair Maiden, Men With Chips and The High Beamers. For the most part this ends up bleeding in a bit of beauty to Wireheads’ usual lemon in the wound attack. There’s a loose nature to the album, but strangely it results in some of the band’s most pop moments. The ravaged swagger of “Dedication”, the dark country shuffle of “Proserpina,” the psych pop warble of “Isabella Says” and the last-call balladry of “Banana Fish” all feel like leaps from their chewed wire beginnings.

As the album unfolds there are still a few moments of the band’s squall’s – sax skronk ripping like an inter tube in distress, violin howling at the wind – but for the most part the mixed company seems to have taken them in new directions and those chances pay off. For a lot of bands, tempering their sound usually means losing a bit of vitality, but there’s little anyone could do to sand down the edges of Trimboli’s vocal bite. When he’s singing, its a Wireheads song; doesn’t matter if there are strums or saw tooth licks, the impact hits you just the same. Three albums on the band is still one of the most interesting kicking around guitar rock these days and Arrive Alive stands to prove it.



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The Tweeds – I Need That Record: Anthology

Usually Numero reissues come with lengthy bios and myriad facts about careers gone astray, labels that were pockets of talent or early careers that were overlooked. This one seems a bit oddly rushed for Numero, in that its only available digitally and there don’t seem to be any notes with it. However, for those familiar with their Yellow Pills comp, the name Tweeds should be familiar. They showed up on both the early CD version of Prefill and Numero’s later issue of Buttons. The band was from Massachusetts and issued a small string of singles and EPs from 1977 – 1981, the most famous of which is probably 1980’s Perfect Fit which contains their most lasting tracks “I Need That Record” and “The Girl Who Said No”

Pretty much all of their output is included here, even including an alternate recording of “Underwater Girl” from its inclusion on an ’81 b-side that saw it rerecorded for the release and added an intro. The band apparently included Kenny Gorelick (aka Kenny G, the band of your elevator existence) on keys at one point but its unclear how much of the material he may have played on. In general the band has a lot of delightful, but not especially hard hitting power pop and its safe to say this may be the most definitive release of their music that you’d ever need. The aforementioned “Underwater Girl” might be the best surprise, as its not included on many compilations and its a solid runner of a power pop jam and gives the band a bit of a harder edge. The rest is probably for the true power pop diggers but I’ve always been a sucker for the fringes of the genre. Not holding my breath for a vinyl issue of this but it would be nice to have a bit more background from the label on this one. Barring that, I’ll just cross my fingers that the Buttons series might start back up (please, please, please), it was promising but I’m sure it sorely undersold those soul comps. One can only hope this might be an indication of turning their gaze back towards power pop.



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Glenn Donaldson on The Television Personalities – The Painted Word

Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. In the first installment I tapped Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Jewelled Antler Collective) to have his pick at a record that fits the bill. Glenn’s Twitter feed alone is full of enough overlooked classics to fill this feature ten times over, so needless to say I was intrigued. He’s picked Television Personalities’ fourth album, the darkly shaded, The Painted Word. I asked him how the record came into his life and how its affected him and his music.

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