Major Stars – “Out In The Light”

Oh man, the fount of Wayne Rogers is overflowing this year. After a finely formed solo LP on Twisted Village earlier in the year, Rogers is back with Major Stars for their tenth full length. The first sounds seeping out of Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy are as potent as ever. Towering riffs, a rumble of fuzz, and an elegiac croon from new vocalist Noell Dorsey (Avoidance, Ricochet) give the new material some serious heft. “Out in the Light” embodies as much of the classic burn of the Stars as one could hope for with a newfound melodicism from Dorsey that elevates her from the usual haze the band employs. Check the cover art from RSTB fave Robert Beatty as well, giving the record a complete package. LP lands August 16th.



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J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – “Your Torturer”

Earlier this year Julia McFarlane (Twerps) slipped out her delightfully dented pop gem TA DA under the name J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest. Like many platters issued on Hobbies Galore, it came and went quickly with a small pressing. Like some of her other labelmates though (Possible Humans) another label is coming to the rescue with a wide release. London’s Night School Records brings a 500 press to her debut and in anticipation they’ve got a disjointed new vid for her track “Your Torturer” that echoes the song’s pop wobble. Check the video above, and if you slept on this earlier in the year, now’s your chance to catch up.



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Seablite

If, perhaps the blurred photo and serif font on the cover didn’t send your shoegaze-sense a-tingling, it’s fair to say San Francisco’s Seablite are doused in the fuzzy familiars of the genre, though they’re splicing it with just the right amount of jangle to make yer heart flutter. Occasionally they attempt to balance the poles of their sound but, more often than not, they get tangled up. They send the buoyant bounce of sunshine strum crashing headlong into the seafoam crush of fuzz that creeps through the wires with a giddying rush. They pick at the faded memory of schoolbook stickers – tracing hearts over the sighs of The Softies and the headrush haze of Pale Saints. They frame their soft-focus stories in shade of bittersweet swoon that’s half infatuation, half gut-punch heartwrench.

While I’m probably a touch biased, I find the band succeeds most when they’re leaning towards the janglier material. I’m all for Shoegaze’s wallow, but drop a song too far into the fuzzcut k-hole and I start to drift off. When they kick a just a twinge of Talulah Gosh into the mix I feel like they hit the sweet spot – chasing the shimmer on tracks “Lollipop Crush,” “Pillbox,” and “House of Papercuts.” Its always nice to see that there are a few bands still raised and rendered on Creation and early 4AD. The DNA of these songs certainly hangs in the air like a specter, but the band pulls off the moves like more than just an homage blown to full size. They imbue Grass Stains & Novocaine with an airy ache that lingers long after the last note dissipates into the atmosphere.



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Kendra Amalie – “Breathe Underwater”

After a year spent summoning the psychedelic spirts with an enviable roster of regulars (Prana Crafter, Dire Wolves, L’éclair, Garcia Peoples) Beyond Beyond is Beyond add to their stable of new blood with the addition of Kendra Amalie. The first cut from her upcoming Intuition is dense and methodical, looping round and around a mantra of “May I breathe underwater? It wouldn’t take much more than a heart.” Amalie’s guitars scratch at the listener, snarling and prodding them out of the murky echo that lies beneath “Breathe Underwater”s.” core. The song’s a study in contradictions – gauzy to the point that it becomes slick with condensation, yet tactile, tense, and ready to burst out of the drowning pull at any moment. Amalie plays with contradictions all over her upcoming LP, but this acts as a nice intro to her formidable skill set.

She’s given a little insight into what makes “Breathe Underwater” tick, noting that, “Making a song like this was a shift from what I’d been doing. In 2016 I started playing with Sam Cook (bass), influenced by punk and funk. Until we met, I’d been more focused on space and texture. Over the last few years he’s encouraged the exploration of speed and structural variation. Other prevailing influences are concepts in consciousness, human potential, and spiritual empowerment personified as stories of human relationships, and how those relationships are a macrocosm of systems in the body, and a microcosm of the systems of earth and the universe. Breathe Underwater is kind of a return home, a connection to close the loop. Plus, a dash of polyrhythmic synth playing to the beat ala prog art rock.”

Check out the video above and look for the LP out September 5th.



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Jeanines

There are a few variations, but the true Slumberland sound is instantly evident when it comes floating in on the breeze. It marks a release like a stain (in the best ways). The debut from Brooklyn’s Jeanines is so stuffed full of Slumberland hallmarks and it’s hard to envision it any other place, unless Sarah Records is planning a revival I don’t know about. With production cut to the bone, the album bounces jangles off of every surface in the room, filling the listener’s ears with a delightfully sprightly sound. Alicia Jeanine has a voice that tugs at the memory, bringing visions of Marine Girls, Black Tambourine, Veronica Falls, and Dolly Mixture swimming to the surface. Along with Jed Smith, she’s built a debut that’s unassuming but completely consuming. Soaked in bittersweet bliss, the album is a DIY gem that seamlessly slots itself into the famed roster.

There are songs that pine for lost love and likewise rebuff unsuitable suitors. There are rough cut diamonds, buffed to a sheen through sheer force of janglin’ strings. Jeanine layers her voice, giving her three-part harmonies with a spectral band of selves and it works like a four-track Carter Family supplanting their country roots with DIY DNA – pinning a few new badges on their bittersweet swoon. Smith fills out each track amiably with just the barest amount of backing that packs on the basement practice space charms. They emulate the limited options of ‘80s and ‘90s stalwarts, despite the home recorded revolution. Fans of anything Slumberland, Postcard, Sarah, Cloudberry should be right at home here. The band is studied and serious about keeping their influences tattooed on for all to see. You could be a grump and call ‘em derivative, If it weren’t all so delightfully spot-on, so sincere, and so damnably catchy.



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Badge Époque Ensemble

Like fellow Canadian jazz-bent psych troupe The Cosmic Range, Badge Époque Ensemble also dovetails into the Venn diagram sweet-spot that snags members from the backup band for U.S. Girls — the engine that drove her electric last tour. Instead of delving into the quaalude-jazz quadrant that the Range does, however, Badge Époque Ensemble are seeking higher ground with respect to the psychedelic fringe of funk and the lysergic lilt of soul. The band’s stacked with talent, and taking the lead here from Maximillian “Slim Twig” Turnbull. He and the ensemble attempt to embrace the acid-funk backbeat that blew through Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, meld that with the detritus Stevie left littered through the ‘70s, and melt it down in a mold made in the image of Alain Goraguer.

In fact the last one hits especially hard, while there are grooves — tons of grooves, in fact — the album swims through an abstract narrative that feels right at home with Goraguer’s masterpiece La Planete Sauvage. Their eponymous platter is swung through with flutes, hollowed-tree organ ambience, and the stomach-punch crunch of fuzz hungry guitars. When they light into the almost eleven-minute centerpiece “Undressed in Solitude,” everything within earshot melts to sweet creamery coolness — even the molecules in the air seem to move just a touch slower until the song finally evaporates on a cloud of steam.

As a genre exercise this would make a great anonymous entry to the library music archives of the ‘70s slotting alongside admitted influences like Daniela Casa, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Piero Umiliani. For the casual traveler, this might be a bit too heady, but for the funk freak already scratching through the psychedelic tributaries jutting out of the Library canon’s core, this is a perfect fit. Late nite vibes abound here. Dim the lights, light a candle, and let the polyester polyrhythms pour over you.

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Honey Radar – “Kite Balloons”

Honey Radar is back at it again and things are sounding shaggier and shakier than ever. The first cut off the Philly band’s upcoming Ruby Puff of Dust is a fuzz-soaked swinger, hiding a jangled gem underneath a mountain of corrugated guitar shavings and echoplexed sweat. Though clearly pulling from the Nuggets bench, the band also gives this one a nice late-nineties psych-pop punch, feeling like this might have been a more forceful vision of an Olivia Tremor Control b-side. The record is out June 28th from the Radar’s usual home at What’s Your Rupture. Check out those fuzz licks below.



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Steven R. Smith

The new LP from Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Passerine, Ulaan Khol, Ulaan Markhor, Hala Strana) is another darkened, weather-worn take on instrumental guitar. The artist has an enviable catalog among his many monikers and each comes with its own shading — where Ulaan Markhor sweats cinders from the strings, and Ulaan Passerine is laid back in the heather of psych-folk, Smith’s works under his own name tend to nip at darkness and light. A Sketchbook of Endings, while packaging his songs in a more digestible short format, retains the sense of deep furrowed psychedelia, burnt through with sage and soot. There’s a familiar fuzzed growl on the guitar, a desert air of doom in places, and the tentative hope of relief in others.

Smith’s works have long evoked a sense of loss and that sense comes striding through in the bleakest parts of Sketchbook. When Smith plays, the walls crumble into dust, but patterns of hope a scattered through that dust like apocalyptic tea leaves. Its up to us, the listener, to parse and parcel the bittersweet flecks that are strewn among the parched fuzz and solar scorched landscapes of his work. When his guitars build to a boil, the body is burnt, exfoliated, shed like a second skin. Spend enough time around the Celsius squelch of Smith’s output and its impossible not to emerge changed. That transformation definitely applies to Sketchbook. Fans of any of Smith’s output will find lots to love here, but any guitar disciple looking to find enlightenment should take some time with Smith’s catalog. This isn’t such a bad place to start either.



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Jake Xerxes Fussell

In some circles there are cover artists creating cheap imitations of originals, plastic pieces of history shellacked with camp, cliche, and winking charms that fade soon after the last note disputes on the air. Then, there are the artists who ingest songs and transmute them from barbed metal into spun gold. Jake Xerxes Fussell is one such artist. Long a purveyor of traditional folk songs, he’s picked from sources that run far and wide, but largely root deep in history, away from the moors of modern mentalities. What makes Fussell such a magician is how he shapes folk songs that hang heavy with factory foremen, deckhands, fieldhands, murderers, and spiritual seekers into the song you need to get through the end of the night. He’s found the through line from history and used it to string his guitar, playing a honeyed harmony for those whose wounds run too deep for these times.

For some a Lomax archive is balm for the soul, but others can’t get past the scratched exterior and rusted ruts time’s left cursed on the spools. Fussell bridges the parched fields and cracked eaves of the church meeting room with a sense of modern woe, fleshing out his versions full of lush guitars, pert keys, weeping fiddle, and tamble of drums. He finds the DNA of traditional songs and brings them springing to life in the modern world, making ramble down blues turn to verdant country saunters and plaintive folk meditations. The material he combs is, more often than not, full of misfortune, depression, hardship, and pain but he makes each song feel like the break of a storm. The bad times are behind and the earthen smell of fresh growth is on the breeze. Even without words, he’s massaging the heart to break easy, like fellow alchemist William Tyler.

There were a few singles floated before this release hit the shelves, but I couldn’t bring myself to parcel praise. Its a songbook, like all of Jake’s albums. Somehow Fussell’s bound the songs on Out of Sight together for all time as a collection of small tragedies and bittersweet sighs, rubbed with the sent of rusted soil, factory grease, wildflowers, and reclaimed wood. The songs are as at home cascading over a small mountain town porch as they are whispering out of headphones on a morning commute. Fussell gives us all some strength to face the day, knowing that our sadness is universal and that with time all wounds will heal. Its hard not to fall under Fussell’s charms, I say why fight it.



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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – “Joy”

Another haunting track from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma tips off his third release with Mexican Summer. After contributing interstitial magic to their upcoming surf compilation, the artist goes deep into aching drones after his brush with shoegaze on On Echoing Green. The fuzz is wiped away, replaced by a crispness that can’t be shaken. Several of “Joy’s” tones tiptoe in the background, with the main melody sighing heavy with an unseen tragic turn. Cant-Ledesma has long been a frontrunner for ambient ache, but this is him at his least obfuscated, his most present vision of rippling melancholy that’s hard to shake. The track prefaces his upcoming LP Tracing Back The Radience, out July 12th.



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