The Essex Green – “Sloane Ranger”

Love it when a band resurfaces that I didn’t even realize how badly I’d missed. I’ve never shied away from my overt love of The Elephant 6 around here, but it always cracks a smile when one of the alums keeps the train rolling. In the same respect that it was great to have Dressy Bessy back on the scene a few years back, its wonderful to see news that The Essex Green is back and still pumping out high quality sunset-hued psych pop that’s warmed by the sounds of the ‘60s and funneling the paisley pop revival right on into a new age.

The band shows no sign of dents or dings, picking up “Sloane Ranger” right where 2006’s The Cannibal Sea left off. Good to see them back on Merge and digging into their prime hooks. Gonna remain excited for the rest of this, but for now, I’ve got to keep this on repeat a few more spins.


Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Ganser

Up to this point, Chicago post-punks Ganser have been building up a reputation on the strength of a steady stream of short format singles and EPs. Now, with an album on the way from No Trend, they’re proving that it’s not just a scattershot bit of luck that’s pulled them through. Odd Talk is a caustic record wrapped tight in barbed and rusted guitars, driven hard by a rhythm section that knows how to turn anxious intent into breathless reality. Vocalist Nadia Garafolo whips hard between impassioned shouts, chopped spoken word and slinking coos that fill up the speakers with her lures and attacks in equal measure.

The record’s secret weapon lies in Charlie Landsman’s guitars though, scratching glass one minute, tearing through bone the next. Post-punk lives and dies by the rhythm, but it shines when there’s a guitarist that can draw a bit of blood. The record isn’t looking for pop purchases in any sense, but the brooding songs get under the skin just as easily as if they were bouncing on sing-a-long choruses. Churning anxiety into chewed tin, then polishing the shards to a bitter brilliance, the record stands to raise the band’s profile from Chicago stalwarts to national attention. For those still pulling the velvet curtains hung by Siouxsie or 13th Chime tight, this is a perfect companion to drown out the coming clarity of summer.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Minami Deutsch

It’s hard not to get sucked in by the tag of ‘Japanese psych pounders obsessed with Krautrock’ as a hook into Minami Deutsch, and the band certainly makes good on the promise, but with their second LP they move beyond that one-note sentiment. While their debut traded in the Krautrock concept wholesale, pushing a motorik and fuzz-crusted take on German Progressive patterns, on their sophomore album for Guruguru Brain the band softens the blunt impact to embrace the fragile beauty in their sound. There’s still a furious storm of rhythm and noise floating as the basis of With Dim Light, but now there’s a whole new appreciation for soft shading and glycerin guitars. The record’s far less of a love letter to Dusselforf, ‘71 than it is a balance between the propulsion of their heroes and the cracked sky shimmer of their contemporaries in present day Japan.

The band is enmeshed with Guruguru Brain’s main hive, having been housemates with banner act Kikagaku Moyo and sharing stages with Sundays & Cybele, and it seems that the subtleties of their pals couldn’t help but rub off on them as they grew their sound. Over the course of six winding songs on the new record, the band works through restrained build, cool-bliss shudders, and caustic fuzz all the while maintaining their dedication to the altar of repetition. This time, though, rather than hit the listener like an electrified brick, the repetition isn’t so upfront. As the throb slides down in the mix it’s allowed to creep up the listener’s spine in the way some of the most accomplished German Progressives practiced their hand at groove.

That groove becomes the heartbeat of the record rather than the impossible to ignore rattle in your face. This time, when explosions of fuzz crop up, as on the highlight “I’ve Seen A U.F.O.,” they tear a hole in the fabric of the album, feeling like a downpour of relief after a humid build up of pressure in the system. Just as often though the band are tamping down the lid and letting a song simmer through as on the cooldown stunner “Bitter Moon.” If they were looking to standout among a stable of great artists at Guruguru then With Dim Light goes a long way to make their case.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Sloan

Canada’s slighted sons Sloan have always had the rep of a band that never got its due, though that in itself is its own kind of due. Sure, they’ve never dominated the US airwaves (and stylistically that ship has likely sailed along with the turn of the century), but they’re constantly hanging on as the highest-ranking underdogs in the room. That said, I’m always thankful they’re keeping the power pop torch lit for generations to come, pining away with all of the double-stacked sincerity that befits jangle-pocked rockers holding up the train of Badfinger and The Raspberries while bumping elbows with Matthew Sweet and The Apples in Stereo. Like fellow pop-pushers Super Furry Animals, they always seemed to be doing the right thing at the wrong time, missing the zeitgeist but catching enough ardent fans for a sustained career.

After a slightly choppy experiment letting each of their four members pen a portion of their last album, the band returns to a cohesive sound, regaining a sense of brevity for an album that’s much more digestible. Not straying far from their wheelhouse, the record is doing a great job of “sounding like Sloan” while still crafting a few standout gems lacquered in the band’s hi-fi gloss and rose-colored swoon. Though they clearly seem to be running the well dry on lovesick subject matter, not to mention song titles (the set boasts their second use of a song with the title “If It Feels Good Do It”), they’re working up just what the door price promised.

If you came to hear Sloan triple-top harmonies over the crisp sunset hues of bittersweet pop then look no further, they haven’t lost a step. There’s always a double-edged sword with long running bands – change too much and they’ll hang ‘ya for betraying fans’ hopes, stay the course and be accused of stagnation. While the latter accusation might hold a bit of water, the band’s holding on so nicely to their corner of the musical landscape that it’s hard to complain. Twelve albums on most bands don’t whether so well. Sloan still won’t capture the zeitgeist, but 12 is still a pretty fun ride.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Honey Radar – Psychic Cruise

Chunklet and Honey Radar are always a winning combination and the release of yet another single by the lo-fi Philly pop unit is cause for celebration. Five tracks of shambolic Syd Barrett burial rites that exhume the shaggy spirit of clang-clobbered pop, echoplexed to perfection and smeared with enough hooks to keep ya diggin’ for the long haul. The lights are low, the smoke is high and the room is choked with sweat and stink and life when these songs are on. Jason Henn has a penchant for pop songs that feel like they jumped out of his guitar two minutes before the listener sat down, but they stick with the permanence of Guided by Voices deep cuts. Of course, the fidelity means that most Honey Radar songs sound like a scratch take, but I suppose overworking them might just take away the magic. It makes each one of their singles and EPs feel like a secret release slipped amongs friends at a house show. Recommended as usual.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Mope Grooves

Northwest ramshackle poppers Mope Grooves have hot-glued together a brittle but bright indie pop album that rests on the brink of falling apart but glows all the brighter for it’s resolve to keep things loose. Coming off slightly impenetrable at first blush, the album reveals itself to be more than just a noisy nugget of homespun clatter. The record is built on the angst, noise and innocence that fueled The Raincoats, Beat Happening or more contemporary enclaves like Nodzzz or Brilliant Colors. Centering around songwriter Stevie Pohlman’s battles with depression and the push-pull nature of dealing with mental illness, the record was bound to be bruised. The band is able, however, to smooth the wealth of crushed aluminum riffs into a semblance of pop that embraces the exit wound of depression’s lacerations rather than dwell on the glowing hurt at the heart of the matter.

Featuring members of Woolen Men, Patsy’s Rats and Honey Bucket, the band is a catch-all of similarly minded travelers all coming together to saw at the human condition with rubber band riffs and a cacophony that heals like an uncontrolled howl rather than raise the collective hackles of listeners. Pohlman’s grasp on the outsider jangle that populated the ‘80s and ‘90s gives this one a lost rarity quality, like stumbling on a Talulah Gosh demo in an old Goodwill box. It’s a quaint shot of pop that can’t help but charm time and again.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

NRP: The Orchids – Unholy Soul

Heading into another exploration of an album unfairly shuttled to the OOP shelf these days. This column seems particularly piercing in the looming shadow of yet another Record Store Day, with no doubt deserving gems from Disturbed and Jeff Beck’s – Truth (a record you can find easily for $5-7 in most used shops) preparing for their assent back to the shelves. Not that it’s all bad. On any other day I’d pop in for a copy of Burt Jansch’s L.A. Turnaround and oddball ‘90s poppers Chainsaw Kittens if I didn’t have them already. So here goes my continual wishlist to the gods of proper reissue, nominating the sophomore LP from Glaswegian janglers The Orchids.

Continue Reading
0 Comments

Mike Donovan – “Cold Shine”

Coming close on the heels of the last Sic Alps album, Mike Donovan is back this year with his second solo record for Drag City. His last album under his given name was a particular favorite for me, sanding down the noisy edges of Donovan’s work and embracing the somber folk that resides at his core. “Cold Shine” is certainly pulling for the same well, turning perhaps even a bit starker than his last affair. The accompanying video depicts the fallout from filmmaker Betty Nguyen’s lost home during the recent Thomas Fire disaster this winter. The video is a somber accompaniment to the track and actually fits it quite well tonally. Despite the crushing depression that’s coming hand and hand with both the song and video, this is still some of Donovan’s finest and a lovely song for staring into the abyss.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE

0 Comments

Cut Worms’ Max Clarke on Leonard Cohen’s – Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Sometimes an album can sucker punch you in the best ways. After hearing Cut Worms’ first EP I was prepared to know what to expect from a full length. It seemed like an extension of the folk pop from that short format would follow, but instead the band’s Max Clarke shines with an album of country pop that’s on par with Sonny Smith’s dry-wit and easy hooks. The record is a refined affair that shows an artist growing exponentially from his early works and it makes me excited for what’s to come from him down the line. Clarke makes a pick here for the site’s Hidden Gems series, singling out Leonard Cohen’s unlikely team-up with Phil Spector as a a diamond among the artist’s usually worked over and oft analyzed catalog.

Continue Reading
0 Comments

King Tuff

Everything on The Other sounds like Kyle Thomas wanted to break off from the King Tuff moniker and leave it behind – to fold up his old sun medallion and let it rest in the drawer for a spell. It has, in fact happened before, with Sub Pop signing King Tuff only to have him immediately flip the coin and work out the kinks as Happy Birthday. Still, after roaring back into the cracked leather of Tuff’s driver’s seat for another 8 years ‘round the bend following that diversion, there’s an understandable desire at this point to slip away into the shade. As much as Thomas’ 10-foot cartoon chassis is a beloved institution of power pop, it’s got to be exhausting to carry that towering persona around. In that light, this feels to my ear more like a Kyle Thomas solo record that someone in A&R begged him to keep under the Tuff moniker for categorical ease. Not that it tarnishes the Tuff brand, if it’s a Tuff record it’s actually one of my favorites, but I almost wish they would have let him rip the decal off and don the new hat.

The record still has an engine of power pop, though it’s pushed way beyond garage’s bubblegum snap and slid back the hi-fi party mask that found its way into King Tuff’s lyrics over the years. This is a world-weary record that’s pushing Thomas’s pop into lush production, still fairly larger than life, but now trying to duck that personality out of sight and ponder the preposterousness of life on this hunk of chipped granite. Thomas, largely alone, wrangles country’s grand vistas, glam crunch, glittering keys and jittery funk into the shape of one of 2018’s most delightful surprises.

The record follows a grand tradition of bands breaking stride and finding their bittersweet soul wrapped in high concept. This is KT’s Parachute, his Odyssey & Oracle, his Arthur. Like those albums it’s both over the top and a masterpiece of pomp, pathos and pop. The record has huge ambitions, sure, but I’ll be damned if Thomas doesn’t hit his marks every time. Are there lyrics that will date this to an exact moment in time, absolutely (“Circuits In The Sand”), but how is that any different from “Shangri-La’s” exploration of ‘60s idyllic suburb life? Does the record throttle his stylistic core? Yeah and that’s the point. That’s what makes it work and maybe, as much as this feels like a different animal dressed in a familiar sweater, maybe that’s what actually makes the case for keeping King Tuff on the hood ornament.

In the same way that those ambitious albums by the ’60s set pushed listeners out of rote garage territory and acted as portals to new sounds, this affords the past and future King Tuff fan a doorway through the shiny pop sneer and into a treasure of styles. There are hooks that will soar this into the infinite and a hugeness that tends to make pop albums treasures for generations of diggers to come. Even if the world doesn’t turn and take notice, this feels like a record with a long tail of influence down the road. If this is the beginning of a new chapter, or a complete new book, The Other stands to become a definitive moment for King Tuff.


Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments