Kelley Stoltz – “Turning Into You”

New burner on the line today from Kelley Stoltz. The San Francisco institution (20 years going with this release) continues his run of great solo LPs, while also serving as a go to engineer (Rays, The Mantles, Rat Columns) and sideman (Echo & The Bunnymen). His touring with the latter has definitely rubbed off a bit on his songwriting, but he’s spun the influence into some excellent New Wave-refracted pop tunes that crib the jangle and crunch of his early garage days and land his hooks with a softer blow. He’s back on Spanish outpost Banana & Louie, who also issued his 2018 record Natural Causes. Stoltz has a pretty heavy catalog to wade through, but this sounds like its shaping up to be one of his great ones. Check the first taste of My Regime below and look for it out next month.



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Bill MacKay – “Birds of May”

Bill MacKay has been a singular voice in folk for the better part of two decades and a staple of Chicago’s vibrant traditions, though he’s often sounded like he’s been dropped from the UK fresh off a Bert Jansch session. His latest LP, Fountain Fire is one of his strongest to date, a grey-skied folk journey into the heart of humanity. As he embarks on a run of dates, which include some key Hudson Valley hits for those of you’re in my area (Huichicha, Tubby’s, The Half Moon), he’s released a video for the standout track “Birds of May.” The visuals are understated but that lets the music shine through, humble and stately. If you get a chance hop on over to a show – he’s touring with fellow Drag City stabler Mike Donovan, so there’s just that much more incentive.

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Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears

Nashville’s a town of strata, and while the country royalty and Third Man a-teams might split the coverage, there’s a whole broiling underground full of indie country slingers that aren’t quite popping to the surface on a daily basis. Quite a few of these have been graced with the stringwork of Sean Thompson. He’s played alongside Teddy & The Rough Riders, Skyway Man, Ornament, and Promised Land Sound and since last fall he’s been striking out on his own for a series of EPs that capture his own songwriting. The first of these, Weird Ears Part 1 featured the members of Ornament backing up Thompson’s songs, mostly swimming through the indie-twang waters that snake through his former ouptposts. For the second offering under the Weird Ears banner, Thompson’s stretched for concept and struck gold in the process.

Still backed largely by the members of Ornament, but also adds in the vocals of fellow Nashville local Annie Williams and the Pedal Steel work of scene stalwart Spencer Cullum (Miranda Lambert, Lambchop). The album’s concept revolves around a resident who gets fed up with gentrification and heads to the country to live on a raspberry farm. Seems pretty much like the average resume of every third person I meet here in the Hudson Valley, but the results work out nicely. Thompson’s songwriting has solidified over the last year, and this second EP is vibrant, lush, and bittersweet – sliding easily between barstool blues, instrumental blushes, and a reprise that touches the more storm-torn psychedelia of Dire Wolves.

Williamson’s work on the title track(s) is perfectly hued and Cullum gives the record a great touch of shading. The concept never gets in the way of Thompson simply putting together a great run of songs that open deeper on each listen. Plus, the artist is donating half the sales from each purchase to the Nashville Food Project, so you can do a bit of good while listening. Hoping that this progression from Thompson only continues to shine brighter with each new offering.



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Ryley Walker Presents Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 9

When acoustic guitar haven Thompkins Square first came to the fore in 2005, they began with a series called Imaginational Anthem which sought to shed some light on overlooked entries to the fingerpicked oeuvre. They’ve cycled through a few (or 9 to be exact) and as of 2010 the series began to look into more contemporary players with one artist doing the curating. This time around its generational mouthpiece and all-around jack of all genres Ryley Walker doing the picking. He’s gone deep into his bench of contemporaries for a set that includes faves like Mosses, Fire-Toolz, and new BBiB signing Kendra Amelie, who shares the first track from the comp. Check out “Boat Ride,” a decidedly more acoustic affair than her upcoming longplayer, but no less captivating or technically astounding. The comp is out September 20th.





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Moon Duo – “Lost Heads”

Another gem drops from the new Moon Duo record and this time its a headier bit of ballast than the last time around. Where the title track to Stars Are The Light sparkled with enough shimmer to warrant its title, “Lost Heads” is a deeper dive into what Moon Duo do best. The track pulses with rhythm — hot, humid, palpable — but it also drips with the usual streaked condensation and liquid guitar intensity that the band’s been known for. While this album is pushing closer to the disco vein this time around, this is not the track for the floor, or at least the dancefloor. This is more of a lying on your back, staring at the ceiling, trying to come down affair. Moon Duo have built a legacy on splitting the veil between darkness and light and this is one of those tracks tottering on the knife edge they wield so well. Still very excited to have these guys playing the site’s upcoming 13th anniversary in November. Check back for a new announcement on that next week. Good news a’comin’.




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The Reds, Pinks and Purples

Pretty much as long as there’s been a Raven, there’s been music on the site in some form by Glenn Donaldson. From Skygreen Leopards to The Art Museums, Birdtree to Giant Skyflower Band and Flying Canon, there are plenty of hallmarks that have made their way into life around here. Quite a few years ago, when I was putting together a compilation for the site’s third year anniversary, I asked Glenn for something from Skygreen and he put forth a new band he was working on called The Reds, Pinks and Purples. Still jangly, but not as driven to the winds as Skygreeen. The sounds would share quite a bit of DNA with Glenn’s next project, the pastel-hued pop hymns of Art Museums but they wouldn’t fully surface until now.

Soaring above some similarly synthetic beats, The RP,&Ps take more of a sauntered pace to their pop paradigm. These are the fruits of an artist who’s spent years in the jangle-pop portfolios of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those colors don’t seem so arbitrary once the record gets spinning. The songs glow with rosy hues, beautifully bittersweet and hummably heartfelt. Like fellow West Coast jangler Business of Dreams, Glenn’s scratching n’ sniffing the discarded tears from the Creation and Sarah catalogs (with nods to Jasmine Minks, Sneetches, The Field Mice) but also leaning on South-Hemi heavies like the The Go-Betweens and The Bats. Glenn seems to ascribe no heavy debts to the songs. He mentions, “They are fiction and non-fiction. I recorded them in my kitchen, but we live in the future now, so some of them are coming out on vinyl in Spain. To me, they are straight pop songs with not much of a filter.”

Seems a bit modest to me. Glenn’s the filter and he’s caught all the filler and left an album that’s filled with charms, swoons, aches, and tears. We do live in the future, so people will probably break these into fodder for their personal playlists, but any track here would just as easily fill out the crucial crux of your crush’s mixtape or be heard between the crackled static of dorm radios late into the night on the campus station. The songs here are timeless reminders that pop can heal all wounds and bridge decades. Straight pop songs for sure, but remarkable ones to say the least.




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High Aura’d & Josh Mason

A new collaboration between High Aura’d and Josh Mason dips a bit of Florida burn into Ohio’s noise scene. Last found creeping around the RSTB pages with his psych-folk outfit Gemini Sisters, John Kolodij’s High Aura’d has remained a long-standing stain (in a great way) on the Midwest’s noise nooks and psych-folk circles. This time the he works with Mason to wind through the hushed corners of menacing silence — distant echoes, scrapes unseen, the mind playing constant tricks on the listener. Underneath the unsettling clatter, guitars seethe and kick at the amplifier, never bursting forth from their bounds, but pressing against the restraints with a physical presence. Opener “Rhododendron” howls — a trapped animal in full panic, hackles raised, poised to strike.

Further in the feelings are less feral and more fetal. “Silver” trims the fangs, and feels remorseful, shamed, not quite broken, but close. The arc of the record then follows to transcendence, coiling again into strength. The guitars on “Black” burn with a caustic tension that feels on par with Stephen R. Smith’s various convergences under the Ulaan banner. Here too there’s the sense of gnawing desperation and icy will that Smith has been able to imbue his works with all these years. The record draws to a close dug further into depths than before — alive but barely, breathing in spite of itself. There’d be a bit of relief in the final moments but the pair let just a glimmer of iris and a glint of fang show all the way to the end. Both artists are pushing their personal styles to the edges and coming out with a collaboration that’s riveting the whole way through.



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Wet Tuna – “Goin'”

Couldn’t be more excited to have a new Wet Tuna up for grabs this morning. The last one hit hard, or it least it should have if you had the right kinda ears last year. This time the pairing of Matt (MV) Valentine and Pat (P.G. Six) Gubler is back to track your midnight ride into the subconscious, sub-dermal subject matter. The vibes are heady already as “Goin’” wafts into the room — the kind of molasses-milked twilight track that can hit just right when the brain’s in balance and the air is still. This is the core of Tuna — a humid seep of sound, a breath on the air that realigns the vibrations in the ether. “Goin” gets into the pores and never leaves.

Matt gives a little insight into how the track rose to the surface, “WET TUNA is wild & fun place for me. Pat & I have a language that seems to be unique to us…we don’t really talk about it and i reckon in many ways that’s what makes it cool. Anyway, that’s how it went down, via the jam, and how most of our music flows, we turn on the tubes and the tapes roll. I distinctly remember doing 3 “takes” of “goin’” — all with John Moloney on drums — he and i have been preserving it for a long time and the couch is flambeau comfy. He brought a pretty skeletal kit to the session, which was at my “Green Extension Studio B” in Vermont, and we left a lotta space. It’s a tight room. We tracked guitars live with drums and kept everything. Pat used a synth wah effect, I plugged in a Vox repeat percussion and Mutron. we used Gibson & Fender amps, did the vocals together in one or two takes. The lyrics came to me in a semina vision. Pat dubbed mellotron. it was around 4:20 in the afternoon, seriously, but it coulda been round midnight. Sunshine winter warmer…we had some Guinness in cans outside the window in a hanging pot from the night before, code name “water the plant” to grab a round. Pretty sure there were two left and we poured ‘em slow.”

New LP, Water Weird hits the shelves October 11th from the incontrovertible crew at Three Lobed.

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Parsnip – “Rip It Off”

The anticipation on this upcoming debut from Parsnip marches on today with the release of the band’s latest video, an intricate, costume-heavy workup for “Rip It Off.” The Aussie foursome lays down an indie pop vision that skews pastoral – strums and plucks, swoons of organ and a gallop of bass. The video is no less a celebration of things less pedestrian. There’s an opulence to the visuals that stands in stark contrast to the folk sway of the song. The video is striking of its own accord, but paired with the band’s plaintive ode, its something of a wonderful contrast, a surreal dip into confusing dreams that beg meaning.

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Possible Humans’ Steve Hewitt on bZARK – The Welcome Storm

If you’ve spent any time haunting the halls of RSTB you’d probably notice that I have a soft spot for Australian indie. While most of their countrymates have been mining the offbeat jangles of The Clean or the scratched punk proddings of Toy Love, Possible Humans have taken a scrape through some American alternative highlights – Dinosaur Jr., Volcano Suns, R.E.M. – and come out with a sound that’s payed homage to the era without becoming a complete love letter. Their debut was issued in a scant run of 200 on the great Hobbies Galore and now gets its own US / worldwide issue on Trouble in Mind. Steve Hewitt from the band sent over a pick for the Gems series and it shines some light on an Aussie nugget from his youth.

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