DENNIS – “Stiffs Parade”

A bare-bones punk scorcher from Melbourne punks DENNIS marks the second single off their upcoming Homeless LP, The Enthusiast. The band picks up first wave nods to The Saints, Germs, and raw and ragged tales of The Stooges, though perhaps the most modern connection seems to be from Timmy Vulgar’s camp. There’s more than a bit of his acid gargle in the vocals here. There’s a snottiness to the record that’s surely on par with The Dead Boys, though the approach is much harsher — DENNIS boasts less swagger than even those degenerates and proudly so. The band contains members of Bits of Shit and Chugga and The Fuckheads, both slime-sodden Aussie rounders that feed into the sound at play on “Stiffs Parade.” The record was laid to tape by punk impresario Billy Gardner, head of Anti-Fade and captain of the Living Eyes ship and mastered by none other than Mikey Young (who else?). The video places the band in the clean and healthy confines of a gym, but the contradiction remains evident. This is a scum dredged vision of punk, just as it should be, soaked and sodden and wrung dry over the tape machine until all the bile was documented and decoded.



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Woolen Men

Feels like I’m constantly making the point that Portland’s Woolen Men are viciously underrated, or maybe they’re constantly making that point for me. Either way, the band has been consistently kicking out taut n’ toned indie that plucks from the punk and post-punk piles with equal fervor. Their last album amped up the Feelies and Go-Betweens riffage while finding a new muse in rhythm, but this time around they’re toughening up the tincture and heading back to their high-school hangs with rough-nubbed workouts that gnaw at R.E.M., mid-period SST, late-period Dischord, The Fall, and as always, the Dü. The band’s prowess has always been the ability to throw these bits in the blender and not let one of them rise to the surface too heavily, letting the scent of past scenes float on the air while their frothy jams hold down substance of their own accord.

There’s not too many that do this with quite the same skill, but the addition of Possible Humans to the fold this year makes me wish for a double bill by the two bands as soon as possible. Like the Aussie upstarts, Portland’s finest seem to shift gears without any crunch on the clutch. The airy coolness of “Crash,” while worlds away, feels a kinship with the muscular pound of opener “Mexico City Blues” or the reckless rail of “Space Invader.” I’ve made the point in the past that its not style that defines Woolen Men, but an operating level that’s just a touch above the rest. While it would be hard to beat out the latter-day gem that is Post the band does a good job of giving it a companion in their current catalog and I’d highly recommend getting acquainted.



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Pedro Kastelijns – “Olhos da Raposa”

Got a brand-new cut today from Pedro Kastelijns, that captures the spirit of Tropicália and recasts it for a new age. The Brazilian songwriter melds ‘60s folk leanings with a deconstructed pop approach that’s broken and reformed. On “Olhos da Raposa” he lounges in the sway of his strings before they’re consumed by static and set adrift on a frequency of foam that disperses into the atmosphere. The songwriter lets his work be digested by the fray, glitching into cubits and twisting the tape into curls. It’s easy to see how he’s fallen in with the experijmental enclave around Boogarins, borrowing gear from the band to record his debut Som das Luzis over the last few years.

The song, inspired by an encounter with a native Brazilian fox called, “Raposinha do Cerrado” reminds me of a more refined version of reminds me of a more refined version of Columbian group Las Malas Amistates, though it seems an unlikely influence. Kastelijns pegs the origins of the track thusly, “I was really into ‘Dorival Caymmi’ eloquent voice and nylon guitar songs, ‘Claudinho e Bochecha’ sweet Baile Funk beats and some other weird sounds… I wanted to create a song that merged these two worlds. So I wrote these very different parts first only guitar and voice, then started building it up on Ableton, putting all these parts together and then making sure that I created bridges between them. It starts as a mess but then I go on figuring it out, cutting and pasting. I knew that the way I was playing the nylon would create some friction with the drum machine in a very pleasant way so I putted in the middle because I knew it would create a good momentum. It all goes with a lot of intuition, playfulness, experimentation and the confidence in some ideas that just sound right for you, and some friction also!” The album arrives December 6th from OAR.



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Eddy Current Suppression Ring – “Our Quiet Whisper”

There have been plenty of talks lately of the best of the last decade, dredging up a few names that I haven’t heard in years. One of the truly sad omissions, though, from the last ten years has been the punk sweat stain of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. The band helped define the end of the aughts with a vicious run from ’06 – ’09, but following that year’s Rush To Relax the band fell silent with only a few singles trickling out ending with 2011’s Captcha send-off Walking in Unison. Sure, Total Control helps heal the wound, and Mikey Young has built a cottage industry out of mastering every great Aussie release in the interim, but I’ve missed the Current. So, great news today comes with an announcement that the band is making their low-key return to the album format. They purportedly told Castle Face “not to make a big deal of it,” but they have a new album, All In Good Time, on the way shortly. I’d probably make a big deal of it.

“Our Quiet Whisper” sees the band return to their angular acumen, reminding listeners where the Aussie boom of the last few years really kicked off. The song is a slow-burn, full of the tempered tension the band employs so well and coupled with a new video scattered with geometric visuals that play well with the band’s prickled parlance. It feels like an ease into the album and I have a feeling there are a few burners on the way, but for now this is hitting the spot. No concrete date yet, but whenever this lands, its great to have ECSR back in the fold.



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Sore Eros – “Backseat Bop”

Long a favorite around here, Sore Eros is back with a sprawling new LP for Feeding Tube. The band has become a bit more spread out of late, which accounts for the five-year span between their last outing and this eponymous opus. Robert Robinson and co. start things off with the sunrise swells of “Backseat Bop,” a swooning, jubilant slice of pop that starts off slow and serene before exploding into a cascade of pop colors. Sore Eros has often captured a certain homespun psychedelic pop feel that warbles with a tender fragility, and that feeling is on prime display here. The song’s trepidation burns off, though, around the halfway mark, blowing out the walls of the bedroom in exchange for a widescreen, all-hands-on opener to their new album. The LP is out January 10th and features contributions from longtime compatriots Daniel Oxenberg (Supreme Dicks) and Kurt Vile. Good to have the band back in our arms again.




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Zachary Hay

Zachary Hay’s the latest to join up with the excellent Scissor Tail stable and his debut is a case study in American Primitive full of vulnerability, patience, and careful contemplation. Where some fingerpickers dash through runs and flash a virtuoso’s brand, Hay’s a more restrained player. His songs pick out a path through the forest that’s purposeful and meditative. He doesn’t ripple n’ run so much as saunter, eyes on the grey skies and a hint of rain already in the air. With the muted hiss of tape spooling in the background, Hay’s eponymous long player gives the feeling of having been recorded in the field, the soft wisp of wind bringing smells of autumn decay flooding to the senses. His dissonance gives a sense of unease, a quality of feeling lost that rings anxious through the records, perhaps feeding into that need to slow down and weigh the options lest doom befall the listener. There is joy too, but, again, Hay keeps the emotions close to his chest with each new offering as the needle winds its way around the plate.

There are plenty of touchstones that Hay hits upon with this record, his first fully under his name after years spent playing as Bronze Age and The Dove Azima. Hay maps out the same doomed terrain as Steven R. Smith (albeit more with a more barebones approach). There are touches of Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt, and Scott Tuma filtering through the stringwork. Hangovers from the Tacoma class, of course, but Hay seems to reflect them off of the more modern players’ continuations of its legacy. Hay finds footing in Roy Montgomery’s sense of wonder in the face of foreboding odds. Over the top of all of these touches there’s more than a slight shadow of Loren Connors’ tectonic pacing. More than any other, this seems to be Hay’s rudder, building atmospheres of ash and letting them slowly wind away on the wind. While this is certainly not Hay’s debut, it’s a great new chapter in his work and one that fits well among the vaunted stringwork at Scissor Tail.



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The Springfields – Singles 1986-1991

Its absolutely fitting that The Springfields compilation should come out on Slumberland. The label had long attempted to release a single from the band, but their tenure ended before the connection could ever come to fruition. With Slumberland as the epicenter of a sound that long looked to the indiepop wave across the sea, The Springfields would have proven their quintessential band. They were American indiepop rooted deep in English sounds — not a common commodity in the timeframe of 1987-1991 as documented here. he Springfields were the first U.S. act to snag a single on that hub of UK pop activity, Sarah Records, with 1988’s “Sunflower.” They’d follow it up with releases on short-lived US levels Picture Book and Seminal Twang, but despite reaching out to UK fans and even Australia with a Sumershine release, they didn’t become part of the Slumberland family until now. Essentially, its just nice to see two American conduits of jangled joy coming together after all these years.

To some the band is also the polar half of Choo Choo Train, which served as the training grounds for much of Matthew Sweet’s circle of collaborators. Choo Choo Train was home to songwriters Paul Chastain and Rick Menck, but most of the same band members in CCT would come to release music withThe Springfields. The idea was that in Choo Choo Train the songwriting fall mostly to Chastain (and occasionally Sweet) and the The Springfields would become Menck’s banner, chasing the same influences that drove his favorite UK pop bands. Sweet rears his head again in The Springfields, documented here on the b-side “Are We Gonna Be Alright?” Mostly, though, this is a celebration of Menck’s output before the core would crumble and he’d go on to work under Sweet and Chastain would form Velvet Crush. In that regard, this is the flashpoint for so many power pop and indie pop points of origin. That alone makes it absolutely amazing to have these singles back in print and collected for the masses that haven’t heard them (of which, there are undoubtedly many).

The collection also winds up as a bit of a love letter to quite a few other bands that didn’t get their due on the first pass in The States, with quite a few of the b-sides winding up covers of bands that Menck enjoyed. The collection here contains covers of an unreleased Primal Scream track, (“Tomorrow Ends Today”), The Clouds (“Tranquil”), and The Pastels (“Million Tears”). Menck does each one justice and hopefully send listeners scrambling into the arms of those bands as well. There’s a Hollies cover thrown in as well, but they didn’t necessarily need the push the others did. There are hundreds of reissues sliding down the belts these days, but this one’s ranking pretty high on the necessary scale. Any jangle pop fan should have pushed ‘purchase’ around that first paragraph.



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The Salad Boys – “This Issue”

New one outta New Zealand today sees The Salad Boys following up their excellent 2018 This is Glue LP from Trouble in Mind. This time the Boys are holding down in NZ’s excellent Melted Ice Cream stable and the a-side kicks in with all the squirm-punk niceties that I’ve come to expect from the band. The track cops a new wave kilter, slotted through with squeamish keys and clamps down the outbound filter with a good dose of crushed velvet fuzz on the vocals. The accompanying video codifies the same fuzzy feeling, running band footage through saturated colors, static, and lo-fidelity UHF freakouts. Good to have the band back after a year off.

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Dhidalah – “Jovian Sky”

Some late-year treasures have been floating out of the Guru Guru Brain house at the tail end of 2019 and I’d advise you not to sleep on them. Following up on their stunning debut EP, power trio Dhidalah is back with a new album of face-ripped space rock that pulls from the Ashra and AMT ends of the spectrum in equal doses. Tuck into the winding and thunder-scratched “Jovian Sky” for a taste of the band’s heft. The song rumbles and ravages, brings the low-end and then dips into the quasar-quench for a cool down that’s necessary before your speakers start to singe. If you missed out on their last platter, the GGB logo on the cover should be more than enough to sway ya, but let this crusher be the cincher. The record is releasing next week on a short-warning schedule. Highly Recommended!

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Lake Mary & Ranch Family Band

A hushed and tempered new record arrives from Chaz Prymek’s Lake Mary, this time adding in the “Ranch Family Band” to the fold. The record is sun-dappled and full of spring air — a verdant addition to his growing catalog of releases. Rooted in a rambling fingerpick that recalls contemporaries William Tyler and Nathan Salsburg, Sun Dogs‘ prowess lies in deploying buttered slides throughout the entire record that yearn for a perennial peace. The record seamlessly folds in psych-touches on the album’s title track, finding the common crannies between fingerpicked folk and Kosmiche float. The standout track engulfs Prymek’s strings in an early morning fog that bends the light in every direction before burning off into crisp golds and greens that flood the rest of the record. The songs are heavy with the scent of earth, humid in the way that mornings hold onto the last night’s rainfall before stretching into the perfect yawn of midday.

Pinned on the languorous and lingering title track and closer, “Blue Spruce,” which opts for more entrancing and classic vision of fingerpicked fodder, the album is almost gone too soon. It certainly leaves the listener wanting more, hoping to hang forever in between the vibrating air of Lake Mary’s strings. The album is a gorgeous, late 2019 addition, so don’t go tallying up the best of the year just yet. The album is easy to return to time and again as a respite, a rejuvenation, a true gem peeking out from the folk pile at the end of the decade. I’d definitely recommend letting this one sink in and grow roots.




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