The Telephone Numbers – “Pictures of Lee”

As I mentioned Friday was a hectic day with the feeds flying fast, but if you were looking in the right places there were plenty of gems to be had. This new single/digital EP from The Telephone Numbers is just such a gem, so let’s rewind and take a listen. The band’s popped up here before and its a new one from Glenn Donaldson (The Skygreen Leopards, The Reds Pinks and Purples) who’s hooked up with a few more SF janglers to create some pristine and perfect pop in this absolute shit year. Sometimes all you need is a crisp jangle, earnest harmonies, and a good dose of swoon and everything just melts away for 3 minutes or so. The title track off of the single garners this kind of appeal. Its a such a crystal clear moment in sound that everything relaxes for a moment and just soaks in the West Coast sun for a few suspended minutes. The rest of the tracks spar between the melancholy shuffle of “Curtains Close,” the late-afternoon sidle of “It’s Not All About Your Life,” and a cracking cover of Alec Bathgate’s “Run.” Just like their last single, there’s a lot to love here and the band’s poised to be one’s to keep tabs on as these singles sneak out.



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Kikagaku Moyo – “Ouchi Time”

Another sublime cut from this new Looking Glass series though MexSum and its from longtime faves Kikagaku Moyo. The band’s been working outside the album boundaries all year with a solid entry to the Sub Pop Singles Club and now this gem that’s playing to their psych-folk strengths, but bringing in the bob of rhythm that keeps this track bubbling right on into German Progressive waters. As the build crests, the band lets a the chug of drums get doused in stringwork, echo, and a disorienting cascade of ecstasy. Hoping that this track hints at the direction they might be headed, but the tracks included in this series seem to be particularly singular offerings, letting band’s play around with sounds, while all adhering to a sort of humid, earthen psychedelia and folk focus. Can’t wait to see what’s next.


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Melenas

Pair a new release Friday with the madness of these Bandcamp waiver days and things wind up getting lost among the flurry of tweets and shouted recommendations across the wires. In amongst the clamor Spain’s Melenas released their latest for Trouble in Mind and its worth sinking your teeth into now that some of the dust has settled. The Pamplona quartet picks up shades and shards of indie pop along the twisted trail from kiwi-pop (The Bats and Look Blue Go Purple) to UK favorites, digging into the prim charms of The Pastels, The Primitives, and The Clouds. They shake out all the sounds on the table and reassemble them primed for hooks, but somehow completely unfussed by the idea of pop. The record sounds so lived in and natural, like the band rolled out of bed each day and laid down a rumpled and ripped pop track then popped off for day shifts as if its no big deal.

Blending a mixed bag of jangles with the buzzing bliss of synths, they dip their toes on both sides of the indie pop line finding friends with the Sarah twee-tones and the Creation haze merchants alike. With hushed harmonies that don’t overplay their hand, the group turns pensive pining into a delicate artform. They catch more than a few ears with pastel-dipped hooks, yet the album’s sublimely balanced by songs that hang in the air buoyed by a soft grey fog. The group knows the value of not always being ‘on,’ and when they pull back into an ethereal slouch it ties the album’s more ecstatic tracks together into a patchwork pattern that’s pleasing as hell. If Melenas had dropped into the jangle jungle in the mid-80s there’d have definitely been some tug-o-war to get them into the ranks of Sha La La, Postcard, and 53rd & 3rd – if not one of the aforementioned outposts of pop. No reason not to be that excited now. Dias Raros feels like the kind of future collector’s fodder that you’d want to nab before everyone wakes up to it.



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Woolen Men – “Alley Cat”

Always good to hear a new one from those cats in Woolen Men and the start of a singles’ club coinciding with a revenue share day on Bandcamp seems like a damn good reason to get over and pick this one up. “Alley Cat” is a straightforward chugger with a lightly toasted twang that ought to get your head noddin’ and the grooves stuck squarely in your head. Northwest indie goodness filling up the speakers on a Friday afternoon. Can’t ask for too much more than that these days. Nab this one and keep an eye out for the rest of the series.





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Buck Curran

2018 saw the release of Curran’s last album, a quiet and contemplative affair that leaned heavily into his stringwork. The album, aptly titled Morning Haikus, Afternoon Ragas split its works between the Takoma school and the more eastern leanings of Basho and Bishop. This time Buck reinvigorates his focus on the lilting, fingerpicked works but also lets his mournful troubadour side shine as well. Curran cut his teeth in Arborea, whose fragile psych-folk feels as if it would be consumed among the grey skies that he creates here. The title track shakes with a clenched dread, but the feeling doesn’t dominate the album. Rather, there’s weariness here — sorrow and ache that seem overwhelming, melancholy that curls like ash on the air. Curran’s tapped into some of the same streams that fed Chasny’s work before he lit the fuse on the ragged wire electric burndowns. In place there’s no char on the album’s bones, just the winds whipping through the caverns of the heart, cold and lonesome but hopeful that home is on the horizon.

The singer-songwriter side looks good on Curran, and No Love Is Sorrow finds itself easing into a comfortable sway, even when there’s a lump in Curran’s throat. In trying years, its worthwhile to look at the love and let it overhwelm. The goodness can be just as daunting as the bad and the balance between ache of loss and ache of gain fights for control of No Love Is Sorrow. If your folk tendencies tend towards the doom-clouded or psych-folk fodder then there’s much to love here. Curran’s expanded his arsenal and let the strings stand on an even footing with his songcraft and furrowed sentiments. This one’s proving to burrow deeper with repeated listens.




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Matchess – “For Lise”

Last caught Matchess on Trouble in Mind a couple of years back and its great to see them pop up in the new Looking Glass series of digital singles from Mexican Summer. The singles are intended to fund charities that benefit musicians who might be affected by the pandemic and so far the series has been stacking up nicely with great names on the way. Conan Mockasin and Sessa have already contributed with promised cuts by Kikagaku Moyo, Ariel Pink and The Green Chile also in the works. On “For Lise” Matchess lingers in the ether, pairing rolling synths with a skeletal percussion and disembodied vocals. The song is mercurial and calm, a body in suspended animation bathed in lights and colors. There’s a feeling of water in and around the track, or maybe its just the suggestion of the gentle lap the shaker makes. Either way, this one is the comedown this week needs. Bonus, since today is a Bandcamp ‘no fees’ day the whole slice goes to the charity. Keep tabs on this series. They keep getting better.




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Sachet

The new LP from Aussies Sachet threads the needle of ‘90s nostalgia, but winds up pulling its thread through some of the more admirable moments along the way. The band’s sound is fuzzed, and lightly flecked with an angst that soaks up the discomfort of the decade, while lacing Nets with a head-nodding melodicism that burrows under the skin to stay. Interlaced guitars, a thick froth of feedback, make the record a formidable contender, but they push it past the threshold with the quiet cool of Lani Crooks’ delivery. Her vocals add a coiled approach to the record, steady but always ready to strike with a hook that hurts and heals. In the past I’ve brought up Kay Hanley and Anna Waronker as touchstones for her sound and aside from the flashpoint closer of “Arncliffe Babylon,” the comparison sticks to the whole LP as well. Crooks slots herself in as a sly striker whose hooks take a minute to manifest but latch on for keeps.

The band grew out of the soft slip-away of Day Ravies, which contained both Lani and the band’s Sam Wilkinson. Where’ their previous band was more caught into the coven of jangles that’s spread far and wide across their homeland, with Sachet they’re moving into a thicker porridge. There’s a slower tempo, like the jangles were caught in humidity and then shocked to live with the gnarl of fuzz and froth. Despite the dodgy name, Day Ravies had an infectious reach, but Sachet seems to be the realization of what they were reaching towards all along. Reverence to an older sound can sometimes sink a band, but their influences and how they digest ‘em seem to make Sachet soar, making Nets one of the low-key charmers of 2020 that deserves a sight more attention. Friday’s a Bandcamp support day, give ‘em some love eh?



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Rose City Band – “Real Long Gone”

Another shaker from the upcoming sophomore LP by Rose City Band. While the band’s debut slipped out quietly under the shadow of anonymity, leaving a few aural clues as to who was behind it, now Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips) has taken his rightful place in the sun for the follow-up. The band’s been blending down the private press folk loner linger with the faded country swagger of deep bench ‘70s presses and nowhere does it coalesce better than on “Real Long Gone.” The song’s got a sunburnt soul, beaten by road dust and winding down the same turns that Turnquist Remedy, Country Funk, and Mighty Baby tracked before them. In the past the heat-curl of psych has obscured the twang-tipped wrangle, but here the country careen is on full display and feeling like just the thing to ease into summer. Warmer days have a good companion in the grooves of Summerlong.


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The Stroppies

The Stroppies pulled themselves out of the home recording hunker and into the studio for their debut album, a shambolic yet homespun record that had hooks to spare. They wrote the follow-up with a less measured approach — forged on the road and then recorded quickly at home. Though unlike their pre-album EP, this one has hallmarks of the musicianship that developed throughout Whoosh!. With a melancholy streak threaded through the songwriting they trade pianos and jangles in tandem to create a record that’s built to close down the bar in your basement any night of the week. There’s an intimacy to their songs. The hours spent curled in the backseat of the van come gushing out, but there’s a comforting melodicism that can’t help but turn these indie snippets into eagworms that tug at the brain in an uncommon fashion.

The whole EP is built on a tug-o-war between the down and out dourness of much of their contemporaries and a giddy hook cavalcade that looks to The Clean for inspiration and comes out succeeding nicely. Look to standout track “Holes in Everything” and its easy to see how the band has picked up the same seasick sway that their predecessors hooked into and they seem comfortable in the buoyant bobble through pop’s unsteady waters. The band’s been building steam for some time, and last year’s full-length solidified them on the watchlist for good, but Look Alive! proves that the album was no fluke. This is a nice hinge piece, a transition that’s refined and rambunctious, bittersweet and blustery. Aussie fans get in on this now, it feels like they’ll only soar from here on out.




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Galore – “Lydia”

One of the standouts from the recent comp from SFs Rocks in Your Head, Galore packs up what works when things are just barely hanging on. The band dredges up visions of Kleenex’ early days, Olympia upstarts, and NY No Wave luminaries (from whom the song takes its name). Gnarled, unpolished, and unapologetic, “Lydia” is an untethered careen through post-punk, loose-linked jangle, and garage pop that feels like even duct tape couldn’t keep it together and yet it works. The song is infectious even when it tears itself apart at the seams. Grit never sounded so good and the band has a full length of more of the same on the way June 1st. Definitely worth a couple of spins through the speakers.



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