WEEED

On the sixth LP from Portland’s WEEED, the band is again wrangling longform jams and pristine fingerpicks into a record of psychedelic transcendence. Given the name they hung on themselves, that’s probably not too great a shocker, but they’re still finding room to maneuver in the genres without wearing the fabric thin. The record eases into view with the gorgeous, opalescent strains of “Opening,” which finds itself in the band’s instrumental bag. The song is a welcome pre-dawn crack into WEEED’s worry-free soundscape and they dive off the precipice into knotted whorls of guitar and percussion interplay that’s clearly built to stretch out in the live setting.

WEEED seems like they might tender some crossover with the current wave of Cosmic Americana, and in the sense that they’re indebted to the freeform ‘70s school of letting the groove dictate the terms, they have plenty in common with the winding cascades of Garcia Peoples, One Eleven Heavy and Howlin’ Rain. They embrace a similar sunny-skied, bliss-blistered shakedown but they’re not hitting the Dead/Little Feat/Mighty Baby triangulation that’s been so prevalent of late. In fact, they wander into some of the creeping dread of King Gizz’ motorik mayhem on the album’s hinge point, “Open Door.” And the track has the effect of feeling like the trip might just turn bad – the blissful skies from the first couple of tracks grow grey streaked and threatening.

Its almost enough to pull the listener out of the pocket, but they don’t let it dive down to the inky depths for long, swerving back to a golden luster on “Carmelized,” which acts as a true highlight of the album. On the back half they find their element in a couple of 10+ heavy-hitters that exemplify the band’s want to let the mind and meter wander while also toughening their sound just up to the edge of heavier Stoner-Rock territory. The band had sidled up to Important record for their last album, but this finds them again at their outpost of Seattle’s Halfshell, perhaps feeling free to wander as they choose on familiar grounds. This hadn’t gotten a whole lot of shouts this year, but if you’ve been locked into the Cosmic-core I’d mentioned previously, then there’s plenty of zone to float in here.



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Possible Humans – “The Thumps”

Another top-notch jangler out of Melbourne and the hotbed of Hobbies Galore. Possible Humans blend roiling twang with the crunch of fuzz and a quick-step beat pushing it headlong down the hill. “The Thumps” builds on their previous LP and a single on Strange Pursuits (home to Day Ravies, Sachet). Like Stroppies, they’ve also cleaned up their act a bit for the new long player and their sound has cohered into a mash of the Stropp’s organ-laced jangle-pop, Twerps loose shuffle, and the taut bass work of The Go-Betweens. The first single offers a lot to love, so its understandable that hopes are high for the full-length coming April 1st. The record was recorded by Alex MacFarlane with the usual Aussie shine-up by Mikey Young. Grab a listen below.






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Paint Thinner

Invariably when Detroit is thrown down as a geographical pinpoint, thoughts turn to soul, funk, proto-punk, and to the Aughts’ onslaught of garage. More recently, though, with an abundant availability of warehouse space and relatively lower living costs, noise and art-punk have hunkered down in the Motor City as well. Not such a stretch, considering the same has been true of anchor points just south in Columbus and Cleveland, and as a native of Michigan, I can’t think of any better forms to express the pent-up frustrations of six months of frigid climes pinned to the creeping permanence of strip mall sprawl. Its in this climate that Paint Thinner make their move. While the band isdefinitely not garage, they aren’t exactly punks by design either.

The group (which pulls members from Human Eye, Terrible Twos and Frustrations) hovers in the crevices between noise and punk, soaking in the acerbic juices that once fostered Wire’s transition away from streamlined punk strategies and towards something more sinister. There’s a lot of tension at play in the band’s songs – builds that don’t necessarily resolve, a chewing of strings, a twist of discordance that gives the album an overcast pallor. Like Sonic Youth, Royal Trux, and Television before them, though, the band tends to find their best moments in emerging from noise just slightly to play with catchier forms, before lurching back into the churn.

The bulk of The Sea of Pulp, however, raises its head above the noise barrier only to establish forms and then it tugs between the dirge draggin’ modes of the ‘90s and the more introverted dropouts of Slint and their ilk looking to find bliss between the pedals. There are some genuine moments that raise this up, but also a few that lose steam in the pot. In the end the album runs on the unexpected ninety-degree twist, as perhaps most articulated by their admitted influence in Syd Barrett. While Barrett might have been truly lost in his own musical non-sequiturs, Paint Thinner seem to always be eyeing the crowd with raised brows. This makes that unexpected twist, rather expected by the end of the record. Lots to love here, but perhaps it feels like we’ve been down these roads before.



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Chris Forsyth – “Tomorrow Might as Well Be Today” & “Mystic Mountain”

The last record from Chris Forsyth was a monster of guitar grit – his style is emotive, fire-ridden, and fluid, but not flashy or maddeningly technical. Dreaming in the Non-Dream felt like it barely fit into the one LP allowed, especially the namesake shaker. For the follow-up Forsyth has spread the fire onto four sides of wax, for an even heavier statement that begins with these two tracks. “Tomorrow Might As Well Be Today” is a pronouncement of what’s to come. It’s a gauntlet asserting Forsyth’s place in any imagined pantheon, but its quickly supplanted by the hearth-hammered rocker that follows it. “Mystic Mountain” is Forsyth and the Solar Motel band taking root and burning a circle of ash around them not only with the power of their performance but with the fire-throated growl of Chris’ vocals as well. The song-writer doesn’t always chime in with words, but “Mystic Mountain” makes its case for quality over quantity. Like that David Nance LP from last year, this has all the earmarks of an album ready to writhe. Make sure you’re paying attention.



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The World – “White Radish”

The 2017 debut from Oakland post-punks The World was a biting and bouncy delight, invested as much in groove as it was in lyrical invective. As such, the news that the band has a new mini-LP coming out on new label, Microminiature, comes with great anticipation. The first cut off of that release hits today and “White Radish” is just as infectious as anything the band has done. With sharp shards of guitar, loping bass, a kitchen sink’s worth of clattering percussion and the sax squawks of the band’s Stanley Martinez, this one’s a keeper. File it next to great latter-day post-punk from Lithics, Vital Idles, Uranium Club, and Primo for maximum rhythm damage and keep an eye out for the mini-LP to land on March 20th.



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Snapped Ankles

Taken out of the context of their stage gimmick (instruments built into logs, ritualistic forest costuming) the music from London’s Snapped Ankles has always stood on its own. The band’s sound glides the knife edge between Krautrock and post-punk in a satisfying way – marrying the motorik grooves of Neu and Can to the caustic accusations of The Fall and the brittle tension of Wire. On their previous album they used the combination to explore shades of paganism burrowing under the veil of modernity. Now they go one shade heavier and a few steps deeper with an album that’s built to blow out the prosperity gospel from the inside and topple the creep of gentrification with the power of art-punk. Or so it would seem.

The themes on Stunning Luxury send up the corporate culture and indulgent inclinations of the developers and agents of change that seek to gentrify the landscape of Snapped Ankles’ warehouse scene. Class War and art-politik have always had a place in post-punk and they continue the tradition quite nicely, welding the rumble-funk of Liquid Liquid to the smirking slash of Gang of Four. They’re taking on the creep of capitalism’s basest impulses with a beat battered mirror – sucking the helium out of mindfulness, microdosing, and money management with equal vigor.

All the subversive slapback doesn’t mean a thing, though, if its not digestible and that’s where Stunning Luxury finds its foothold. The band’s catchy enough to underscore the best promotional clip on the power of positive thinking. It could easily integrate into the culture that they’re seeking to shred. Whether that means they get co-opted or they make a few middle managers think twice remains to be seen. The transformative power of music vs. capital isn’t a winning ratio in 2019, but the album remains an enjoyable ride with well-deserved targets nonetheless.



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Minami Deutsch & Damo Suzuki release Roadburn Session

In a meeting of two waves of Japanese psych, famed Can frontman Damo Suzuki teamed up with Guruguru Brain’s motorik heavies Minami Deutsh for a performance at 2018’s Roadburn festival. The live recording – which sees the band working tight corners, with their locked-on grooves and slash n’ burn guitar letdowns – also features the singer in true-to-nature form. While the band’s performance is airtight and barbed, Suzuki does them one better in the opposite direction. Letting his lyrics wander around in his trademark free association, the artist is echoing many shades of his former life in Can. The whole set is comprised of three improvisations and is available from London’s Fuzz Club records today.



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The Snakes

While there’s definitely a shagginess that’s pervasive to the new wave of the Aussie underground, there has also long been drippings of post-punk smudging the sidewalks of OZ. Melbourne’s Snakes don’t quite embrace the bleak bludgeon of, say, NUN, Naked on The Vague, or Slug Guts, but they’re definitely hanging just around the other side of the dumpster from their more nihilistic takes. The band embraces a kind of chaotic sleaze that comes crawling through the speakers on their debut for Anti-Fade. Their ethos isn’t built on precision and puncture-perfect geometry like so many of their ‘70s forbears. Perfection isn’t The Snakes’ style. The Snakes are here to brood, break strings, chew noise and spit sand in the faces of the punks, goths, and the pop-preeners alike.

On their eponymous debut the band is channeling the chaotic careen of ‘70s new York – flailing against the walls in cheap ripped cotton like Richard Hell, but adding in some sour-stomach organ riffs as if they’d recruited Frank Rodriquez right out of The Mysterians, then traveled West and packed him down into Mabuhay Gardens to back members of The Germs and Pink Section. Before they can congeal in that mold, the band slides back East to pick up sneered seances from PiL, and Wire’s dalliances with pop and noise. The record is short and sharp, on the edge of genres, and never fully aligning itself with a sound for too long. It whips by so quickly that you could crane the neck trying to take it in, but the minute it clicks to a close the damage it divvies is sizeable. A lot about the record feels dashed off, but punk and its lineage into starker strains never promised a plan, only a reaction. That’s just what slithers out of the speakers with Snakes on the deck.






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Kevin Morby – “No Halo”

Excited to see a new offering up from Kevin Morby today. The songwriter’s post-Babies career has only seen him perfect his shaggy L.A. troubadour persona, and with “No Halo” he’s sliding into a refined space – adding a cascade of flutes, stabs of sax, and smoky background vocals to his palette. The song is both a long way from his debut Harlem River, in terms of production, and yet not so removed from the heavy-lidded, heavy-hearted delivery that’s made each new of his records essential. With the expansive approach, Morby also turns in a high-concept video directed by perennial collaborator Christopher Good, who’s been putting his imprint on artists like Mitski, Waxahatchee, Anna St. Louis, and Okkervil River. The new record’s out April 26th from Dead Oceans, which you can apparently pre-order with, a, uh 24-page hymnal and sheet music. I guess. Sure, why not?



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Wand – “Thin Air”

A second slip behind the curtain of Wand’s upcoming opus Laughing Matter lands today. “Thin Air” is a bit burlier than first single, “Scarecrow,” but it too is toeing into the skeletal indie prog left scattered by Radiohead, Mogwai and Godspeed around the turn of the millennium. Starting with the last album the band turned a corner from their garage moorings to push towards more ambitious rock pursuits with an eye towards stadium-sized epochs. However, the band is working decidedly in terms of alchemy rather than retread, picking sense memories from each of those sources and working them into something sinewy and barbed all at once. The track trickles in, only to roll into a ball of feedback by the second half – drawing the needle of their sound through shoegaze shimmers and psych bluster. Both of these pieces point to a bigger, leaner, and headier album from the band than before. I’m eager to see how these lock together and whether they can make the new album’s double length work in their favor or pose a challenge.





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