David Nance

November just keeps giving musically and the new release from David Nance is hard proof. The Omaha artist switched his setup towards full band and knocked the gears to heavy on his last LP, but he’s back to basics for Staunch Honey and while I miss the UV burn of Peaced and Slightly Pulverized I appreciate the unfettered and unfiltered version of Nance all the more this time around. A ragged county blues that’s ripped out of some alt-American version of a national songbook, the record is the sound of dust storms whipping through vacant cul-de-sacs abandoned after the housing crisis hollowed them out. It’s the sound of scarred lots in Detroit built with blight but hosting an outdoor noise show. Its the sound of catharsis, sweet and simple — the rumble of mufflers over the horizon harmonizing with the amplifiers to create a grit-ground vision of Americana if there were no longer pretensions attached to the term.

Nance has tapped down deep into something singular, secular, and universal. The dust in his veins is pure, and it’s beat down into every note of Staunch Honey. The shift between Peaced and this record is palpable. Everything has slowed to an amber glow that gives the titular substance weight on the record. The riffs are run through finest local batch, then countrified and clarified until they’re something ragged, raw, and unmistakable. If we were in need of a cleanse in 2020, Nance has stepped up to the challenge and brought the blacklight backbeat that douses the masses in a deluge of blues — enough to buff out the buildup from a half decade of bad vibes. Nance brings the lights low, lets the bar crowd die down and then lays out the 2AM shakes like an old aficionado. Make no mistake, Staunch Honey is rarefied air and you’d do well to breath it in deep.




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Kikagaku Moyo kick off Live at Levitation LP series

Levitation has long been a destination festival for excellent psych acts and it should have been no surprise that it served as one of the entry points for Kikagaku Moyo into American hearts. One of the band’s first shows was at the festival in 2014 and they returned again much higher up the bill in 2019. The band’s performances at both with grace the inaugural edition of the Live at Levitation series issued through the festival’s label arm, The Reverberation Appreciation Society. Both sides are heavy reminders of why the band is excellent in the studio, but also an animal on the stage. The energy that they bring to their first set helps cement them as heirs to the PSF legacy in the new age and the label’s got it up on ltd vinyl with a t-shirt in tow. Check out a video of the band performing “Smoke & Mirrors” at the fest in 2014. It’s been a good run on live albums of late and this official boot is a pretty essential extension of the current crop.

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Pearl Charles – “Imposter”

The new LP from Pearl Charles keeps giving with a third single out this week that’s splashed with just a touch more AM gold than on the past two. Still weathered with the California cool that permeates her new album, the new song bounces on a sunny beat but gets caught the heartsick swirl of keys, a vertigo tug of guitars, and Pearl’s sighed vocals that betray a lostness that’s easy to relate to. The song’s based in feeling like a fraud, sure to be found out at anytime by peers and friends at any moment. The harsh self-reflection and knowing doubt bump against the song’s seeming calm with a slight tension, though this still fits nicely into the album’s wood paneled wonderland.

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Real Numbers – “Brighter Then”

Been a couple of years since I’ve heard from Minneapolis’ Real Numbers, 2017’s “Frank Infatuation” single, if I’m not misatken, but I could have missed something in there. The new single precedes an EP for the band on Slumberland and its as tender as the band has ever sounded, sanding down their jangle with a soft breeze and dressing it up with a homemade video that’s quietly comforting when we need it the most. They’ve always had a bit of a DIY edge, but this is some straight Sarah Recs love here, dipping into Brighter and East River Pipe waters. The song is breezy and bittersweet, a ray of sunshine through the leaves built on strums and sighs and just a little swell of keys. The EP is out in January from Slumberland.

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Trees – Trees (50th Anniversary Edition)

Now there’s quite a subset of catalogers of the past that would relegate Trees to the cutout bin and 2nd or 3rd tier in their essential releases of the ‘70s. While the band filled a similar swath as Pentangle or, more closely Fairport Convention, to discount them as merely a photocopy is to do the band a grave disservice. Comparisons between Fairport and Trees often come at the expense of Celia Humphris, who may not have the range of Sandy Denny, but hers is a more wounded delivery and in turn gives Trees an imperfect veneer that’s to their advantage rather than their detriment. Where the band truly excels is in marrying the wan English past to (at the time) the acid-peaked present. Folding out of primrose paths, the band expands on traditional songs with a keen ear for when and how to let the psychedelic flame burn and when to let the troubadour impulse carry them further down the wooded path.

This is exactly where Humphris shines, between the knotted riffs and the hallucinogenic tension she’s the common villager to Denny’s noblewoman. The band lays beneath her a tapestry that’s alive with visceral wonder and heady twists and turns. The older tales spin out as they did among many of their peers burnt through with a Wiccan wink that pulls them from the past and into a fevered dream of medieval fantasia. The moves they practice on their debut, The Garden of Jane Delawney set the stage for the originals that would populate the follow-up On The Shore, a record that might be more familiar to some for its Hipgnosis cover than its content. The band creates an imagined trove of traditionals on the follow-up, creating a schism in history with an extended renaissance that’s feels pulled from pulp novels and opium dreams.

With this 50th anniversary collection, Earth rounds up a complete picture of the band, finally elevating them from psychedelic curio into something more deserving of a deep dive. In addition to the band’s two albums, restored and remastered, the set collects two new discs of alternate mixes, early demos, BBC session tracks and 2018 live recordings in London. No doubt there will still be plenty who will see them as only a footnote in the psych-Nuggets column, but I think this collection makes their case quite nicely.



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Henrik Appel – “Wake Me Up”

PNKSLM is always a solid bet for garage pop and psych sway and this new cut from Henrik Appel is no exception. Falling into the garage camp, the label starts out 2021 strong. The former Lions Den member, Appel, struck out solo on an LP in 2018 and his sophomore step expands on some of his whims from the LP that crept away from his former bandmates. There’s a low-slung quality to “Wake Me Up,” a simmering just below the surface that never quite explodes through but rocks back and forth with a quiet cool. The song saws on a gritted riff, but sweetens itself with some harmony vox and a skid of sax as the song slides to a close. The label’s been making a name for itself with sour-pop gems like Cherry Pickles and ShitKid and this one files in quite nicely alongside those others. The new LP arrives January 8th.




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Chronophage – “Any Junkyard Dreams”

A nice surprise out of Austin’s Chronophage springs up today. The band’s last LP Prolog For Tomorrow checked a lot of boxes in the scuffed indie bin a couple of years back and news of a follow-up LP heading out on November 23 reared its head today. The new LP sees the band scrub a bit of the crust off of their sound, but the fidelity bump doesn’t dimmish their acerbic bite. First cut, “Any Junkyard Dreams” is brittle with shards of post-punk guitar butting heads with quite a cushy chorus. The tension between the guitars that seem about ready to break and Sarah Beames’ vocals drive the song deep into the listener’s skull. If you missed out on the band last time around, this is a perfect time to jump onto the wagon before The Pig Kiss’d hits in a few weeks.





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Barry Walker Jr.

With his stamp already on one of the years best LPs (contributing to North Americans stunning new record) Portland pedal steel player Barry Walker Jr aims for ambient country infamy with Shoulda Zenith. While it occupies some of the same space as his work with Patrick McDermott, the air that Walker is treading here is something more spectral and dangerous than he’s found himself embroiled in previously. HIs last album was another gem, occupying space on Driftless just like North Americans’ previous LP as well. Yet here, he dives deeper into the notion of pedal steel as an instrument and what it can accomplish when torn from its tethers as merely a paintbrush of sadness and ennui in the country canon. On Shoulda Zenith Walker still lets his instrument cry the lonesome cry that can be expected from his steel, but he distorts the the picture over these nine tracks, pushing the instrument to the front of the stage and then letting it growl, pant, breakdown, and blossom.

Now I’m not usually one to quote out the official rhetoric, but Holy Mountain pulling in a cross-section from experimental psych Texans and Japanese Out Rock, is extraordinarily apt. Walker’s finding the friction in country but also the longstanding pain and relief, especially with songs like the title track, which finds the familiar tones of the pedal steel thrown into the froth of feedback, crashing against the urge for calm. Walker riles and relents. For as often as the record strives to chafe, to dismantle the notions of staid lament that the instrument and country provide, he provides just as many opportunities for lightness and tender resolve. “Trinity Payload” knocks the listener into the sea wall of noise, but Walker’s there to scoop up the wreckage of the soul and nurse it back to health with a mournful moment. To cap it, he winds the record down with an old-soul country number that proves how deep his understanding of what he’s dismantling goes — a classic take that lets the album slide into the sunset scarred but not broken.



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Bons – “Ready Reckoner”

Fruits & Flowers have served as an evergreen fount of warbled pop and jangled musings, but now they’re offering up something a bit more curdled than their catalog has harbored in the past. The debut single from Bons brings together a trio of UK players who’ve all found their niche in bands that buzz a bit more than they jangle. Here, as Bons, the trio, augmented with the addition of Aimée Henderson on the closer, land in a tussle between post-punk that’s been dented to remove the sharp corners and an almost pastoral sound that’s begs a bit of comparison to artists on Jewelled Anteler (not coincidentally a precursor to F&F as a label). The band opens the single with their noisiest bout — the crumpled and smeared “Steiner,” but things quickly calm from there. The rest of the EP hovers between the hypnogogic storybook psychedelia of Ghost Box releases and the unsettling ease of something like Blithe Sons. This isn’t pop by any stretch, but its just as fond of climbing under the skin. The record has a hard to pin endearing quality, warm like woolens but just as itchy in the same way.


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Matt Lajoie – “Kuchina’s Dance”

Matt Lajoie announces the third in a planned series of five records focusing on elemental forces, just a few months after the cooling force of Everlasting Spring. The focus this time shifts from water to fire, though in the true spirit of Lajoie, the focus here is on warmth and light rather than the destructive force of the lit flame. The first cut to reach the world’s ears is “Kuchina’s Dance,” a meditative, circular piece that dances through the speakers with the dazzling intimacy of a candle’s flame. Lajoie and Flower Room have proven indispensable over the last few months, offering up a cocoon of calm during times that are anything but. The record lands on shelves January 21st and as usual he’s got a handmade version as well that’s limited but lavish. While its always a rush to light up some of these Bandcamp releases, this one might help us all slow down a bit today and just live in its embrace for seven minutes or so.




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