Anna McClellan on Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely

The upcoming LP from Omaha songwriter Anna McClellan is a bare, honest portrayal of self-doubt, self-deprecation, love, loss, and the meandering moments between. Where others would seek to sand the edges of their songs to a smooth perfection, McClellan seems to enjoy the splinters and broken edges. Organs saw against the grain of hooks, her voice quakes, and woodwinds creak in nervous sways. Those splinters draw blood, though, and the record stays with you, popping into the subconscious throughout the day. Anna’s lyrics are there with a knowing smirk. As such I figured she’d be another great candidate for a dive below the surface of the record collection for a Gems piece. Check out her take on the recently unearthed collection by Connie Converse below.

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Population II – “Ce n’est rêve”

The recently released LP from French-Canadian psych unit Population II balances creeping tension with explosive guitar and the band packs ever bit of the beauty of their CastleFace debut into “Ce n’est rêve” and the accompanying video. The song creeps into view with dry ice ambiance before bass and organ begin to gnaw at the edges. As the song reaches its culmination, the speakers are on fire with fuzz and rhythm and the band pairs it well with a ’60s light show inspired video that’s every bit as haunting as the song in its simplicity. The new LP is out now and highly recommended.



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Trevor Beld Jimenez

Country-psych veteran Trevor Beld Jimenez has been a name kicking around rosters for years — popping up on Fruit Bats, Kacey Johansing, and DIOS recordings. He was found hunkering down with Neal Casal and Brent Rademaker in GospelbeacH, and with his songwriting partner Tim Ramsey in Parting Lines and Tall Tales & The Silver Lining. For his solo debut on Rademaker’s Curation Records, the songwriter digs deeper into the tie that seems to bind them all – the salt-flecked sundown shimmer of California calm. Rooted in ‘70s songwriter hallmarks, the songs here are swinging from wounded Petty and Nilsson to the AM gold of Bread and America. The album shares a lot of ground with the musical foxholes of his past, feeling like many of the songs wouldn’t be out of place in any of the bands that bear his name, though it might hew closest to the feeling of Parting Lines. Like the songs on the Lines’ debut, there’s a porch-at-dusk feeling to I Like It Here and its hard not to give in to the familiarity.

More AOR than cosmic country, though, Jimenez is steeped in the well-shined pop that’s hovering a bit above the usual twang-flecked purveyors that populate Raven of late. That he’s been around the Fruit Bats crew isn’t surprising, Jimenez shares a lot of pop impulses with Eric, D. Johnson, and its not unexpected that the Bats songwriter lends a hand to the record. Also finding their way into the mix are contemporaries and cohorts, Clay Finch (Mapache) and Pearl Charles along with studio heavy players like Nelson Bragg and Bob Glaub. While Jimenez can sometimes kick up a bit of dust, the record’s speed is often found sinking into the horizon, heavy with a sigh of the past and a drink at half mast. It’s not always a bad place to be. It’s certainly comfortable while it lasts and when the alcohol wears off, the head swim of melancholy lingers for the night.



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Mixtape: Frank Infatuation – Jangle Pop Heirs to the ’80s Underground

It seems only fitting that this latest mixtape should grace the site on the same day that the Strum & Thrum review posts. The compilation and its focus on overlooked jangle-pop provided a seed of inspiration, alongside other notables like Sarah roundups Shadow Factory and Temple Road, Take The Subway To The Suburbs and, naturally, the C86 comp. I figured if we’re going to round some of the gems of our current era up later on, might as well have a good starting point. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this does not have the geographic specificity inherent in some of those. While it rounds up a particular sound of jangle / indie pop, the bands here swing from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand, with stops in the UK. Though someday, someone will have a wealth of opportunity rounding up the sounds of San Francisco in the Aughts/Teens and it will be well worth a listen. For now, this one should find a bit of a crack in the clouds and give you an hour’s worth of bittersweet sunshine.

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Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987

As a fan of jangle pop and exploratory compilations in general this deep dive into the less celebrated janglers from the American ‘80s underground is decidedly up my alley. The comp starts off a new series, Excavations, that explores some of the American impulses behind the sounds that built the basis foundation for the Captured Tracks roster. The label and Mike Sniper cite Pebbles, Soul Jazz, and Numero comps as an inspiration, and given that Mike’s history includes the compact, but excellent catalog of Radio Heartbeat, I’ve got a feeling he might someday expand this series to pick up where that short-lived, but still appreciated Numero spotlight on power pop might have gone. Though I’m just as happy to have them both run concurrent findings if the soul coffers run dry. That hope aside, this first compilation is packed with some great overlooked material that falls under the college rock tag that eventually gave way to Alternative with a bit more bravado over time.

A whole host of the bands on the tracklist here fit the bill for something like a Nuggets spotlight, though perhaps there’s a bit higher ratio skewed towards albums that pan out past the singles that Cap Tracks has pulled out to spotlight. Nicer price points too — a lot of the originals can be picked up in that magical and rapidly shrinking Discogs niche that’ll run you $8-15 for a gem. When I first found comps like Yellow Pills and Nuggets they acted as Rosetta stones for a world of niche sounds that expanded way past the stale radio fodder I found lumbering around the Midwest, and this comp has the potential to open up a whole new era to the kind of listeners like myself who were always looking for more. The comp threads its interest through vaunted labels (Homestead, Enigma) and more fringe players alike, but the sounds all tie together an ‘80s that, like Sarah and Postcard abroad, were acting in direct opposition to the more jocular zeitgeist that rose up all around them.

Packaged with a huge book of background on the artists, archival pictures and liner notes that dig into what makes each track such a worthy addition, the set is certainly worthy of the Excavations aspirations that they’re going for. If you’ve got a soft spot for the less punk strains that swam through the ‘80s underbelly then it’s hard not to be charmed by the round up here.



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Spencer Cullum

It’s always nice to see the sidemen get their due and 2020 has been a year of session players stepping up, especially within the realm of pedal steel — from Barry Walker to Luke Schneider, and now we can add Spencer Cullum to the list as well. Though unlike the others, Cullum isn’t bringing pedal steel to the forefront, rather he’s gathered his circle of Nashville players for an album that’s shot through with ‘70s Canyon AOR, UK prog, psych folk, and even a surprising touch of German Progressive coursing through its veins. Cullum slips from behind the bandstand to wind up an amiable, if subdued leader. Where others have tucked into Cosmic Americana and UK prog-folk with a flash, he’s ever the master of balance and shading, letting tracks simmer in their ambitions.

The impulses here swing from simple folk strains into lush works buoyed by strings, clarinet, sax and mellotron and pencer taps quite a few friends to add those touches. Sean Thompson, Luke Reynolds, Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Annie Williams and James “Skyway Man” Wallace all pop up among the credits and their contributions help give the record definition. While he’s aiming for Matching Mole, Roy Harper, Caravan, and early Soft Machine, with so many local friends on board, the native Englishman can’t help inject just a touch of Nashville’s honeyed charms to the record as well. As the LP progresses he wanders further afield from the wooded confines of folk, letting a motorik murmur enter into view on “Dieterich Buxtehude,” and a soft jazz gauze fall over “Tombre En Morceaux.” The record does its best to embrace an out-of-time feeling, evoking an era of experimental folk that’s still reverberating today while bearing a few teethmarks of the kind of players who are pulled in for their perfectionism. It’s high concept prog from the best hired guns and while that means none of the ends are particularly frayed, I certainly enjoy its grand design.




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Jen Powers on Jan Dukes de Grey – Sorcerers

Over the last couple of years Jen, along with her partner Matthew Rolin, have garnered acclaim for their live sets, issued to cassettes, culminating in an excellent album for Feeding Tube earlier in the year. The pair have also issued a limited run cassette as a trio with Jason Gerycz (Cloud Nothings) that expands into a noisier nook than they hang in on their own. With another tape just released in Trouble In Mind’s new experimental series, its shaping up to be quite a year for the duo. Jen’s hammered dulcimer adds a touch of crystalline beauty to their works and she’s long been a self-professed folk nerd on social media, giving me every reason to reach out and see what gems she has hiding in her collection. Jen’s picked a record that’s long found its way into the hands of obsessive collectors, but has been finally getting a bit of its own due this year. Find out how the debut from Jan Dukes de Grey made its way into her collection.

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Farmer Dave & The Wizards of West – “Right Vibration”

After some years laying low in the lineup, Farmer Dave Scher finds himself at the crest of two records of late. Already letting an EP out under his own name he follows swiftly with the new unit Farmer Dave & The Wizards of West. The first single from the album is the organ-riddled chug of “Right Vibration.” The band sees Scher reunite with The Tyde’s Ben Knight and the pair immediately sink into a lush brand of psychedelia that’s floating through the froth with a bit more rhythmic heft than their past projects, but just as much nebulous ease. Both songwriters have been known for their prowess as session players with credits on albums from Beachwood Sparks, Mystic Chords of Memory, Vetiver, Jenny Lewis, and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Bill between them, but here they both lock into the kind of dosed, yet delightful take that has been pervasive in their catalogs. The eponymous record is out January 22nd from Curation.

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Tambourinen

Earlier in the year The Myrrors Grant Beyschau issued a tape on Avant-Unity Music and it finds its way back into the world via a vinyl issue through Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube this month. While the set shares a sense of exploration and cosmic consciousness with The Myrrors, the Tambourinen nods into a much more German Progressive zone than the ragged folk harmonics of his mainstay. The title track pushes the release into the heavy waters that are tread throughout, letting a nodding rhythm take control and with fuzz leads peeling the paint from the walls while a dousing of flutes cool the temperature somewhat. By the time the track lands in the clearing its left the turbulent sway for a life in the ethers, kicking cosmic dust back and forth between the speakers. The feeling stays on for the following track, “Wollensak,” an iced sluice through the quasars for that cleans up the rhythmic fray nicely.

Beyschau isn’t done with the tumult, though, the album’s other extended cut “Power To” returns right back to the fuzz-ravaged dirge of “Wooden Flower” and carves out a bit more space to let the album burrow into hypnotic headspace. The flutes are supplanted with sax hers and their burn permeates the consciousness deeper into a copper stained vision of drop-out meditation. The album caps off on a folk note that’s slightly incongruous with the deep-core jams that precede it but its a nice, slight nod back to The Myrrors and their frayed ends. This was a nice pickup by the labels and deserving of a vinyl press — a tape seems a bit under serving of the scope of flay that Beyschau can lay down.




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RSTB Radio WGXC: October

November brings a new monthly roundup on WGCX here in Hudson, but not to worry because you can stream it far and wide. The show’s packed with new music from David Nance, Sean Thompson, The Silence, Fuzz, Kelley Stoltz, Pearl Charles, Kevin Morby and many more. Of course I’ve snuck in a few older faves in there as well. Full tracklist is down below and you can check the show out over at WGXC if you missed it.

::Playlist::

Barry Walker Jr. – Easy, as the Phainopepla /// Allah-Las – Star /// Howlin’ Rain – Collage /// GARO – 暗い部屋 /// Joe Wong – Nite Creatures /// Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears – Sun’s Hiding /// The Left Outsides – November on my Mind /// The End – Don’t Take Me /// East River Pipe – Silhouette Town /// David Nance – My Love, The Dark and I /// The Silence – Butterfly Blues /// Fuzz – Nothing People /// Kelley Stoltz – She Likes Noise /// The Cowboys – The Bell Rings Less /// The Weather Station – Robber /// The Reds, Pinks & Purples – Half-a-Shadow /// Razorcuts – Jade /// Woolen Men – Hollow World /// Windbreakers – All That Stuff /// Smokescreens – Pick The Cat’s Eyes Out /// Choo Choo Train – Catch Another Breath /// Sleeper & Snake – Lock Up The Loose /// Jason Henn – A Straighter Line (Ballad of JPHS) /// Heavenly – Trophy Girlfriend /// Jennifer Castle – I’ll Never Walk Alone /// Beachwood Sparks – Windows ’65 /// Pearl Charles – Take Your Time /// Skyway Man – Sometimes Darkness / Railroad / Sometimes Darkness Reprise /// Kevin Morby – Brother, Sister /// Mike Wexler with Synthetic Love Dream – After /// The Chills – Ocean Ocean /// Roland Blinn – Young Man’s Clothes /// Tall Dwarfs – Carpetgrabber /// North Americans – Break Maiden

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