Cold Showers

Cold Showers have been knocking singles through the cracked lens of 80’s post-punk for a few years now. They popped up, as so many do, for a short stint on Mexican Summer and they put a single out on Art Fag before moving onto a string of releases with Dais. Now they’ve taken their sun-shrouded sound and worked it into a sophomore album that acts as a love letter to the twin kingdoms of Factory and Creation; bending bare, but crisp beats to the whims of fuzz ballooned shoegaze guitars. They’ve got enough pop sensibility to keep it from going into the goth end of the pool, though I’d imagine that their Cure Fanclub dues are paid in full, and while they’re by no means are they creating summer anthems, there’s a sparkle of catchiness under the surface. The songs on Matter of Choice are clipped and ready for greyer skies and streaks of rain, so perhaps the timing is just perfect to steel yourself away with a copy of Matter of Choice after the swelter dies down and the darkness eats away at the tail end of summer.

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Tijuana Panthers – “Set Forth”

Ok admittedly this has been a quiet week around the Raven, and apologies for that. It’s been rather busy elsewhere, but when something great comes along, priorities must be given. Tijuana Panthers last album, Wayne Interest was a favorite around here and its great news that there’s a new one out today. Poster hits the shelves imminently but to herald it, the band have an awesome new video that’s inspired by 80s claymation classics like Penny Cartoons, California Raisins and Gumby. Being somewhat of a fan of the arduous task that is claymation, I can’t resist this combo. Check it out above.

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The Intelligence

Lars Finberg kicks out another release under The Intelligence umbrella, and suddenly it does seem like a while since his bracing brand of garage-punk hit the speakers. Three years to be exact, but the interim is washed away under the cutting sneers of The Intelligence’s caustic lyricism and skin crawling, panic laced guitar. Vintage Future may look like a dub session blowback from the cover art but inside the grooves its full bore Finberg, shaky and greased with the kind of nocturnal jitters he’s been adept at wrangling. And that’s not to say that in all that evil sway there aren’t some hooks, there are more than a few that clasp onto your brain and hold for dear life and in tow a few flashes of fang that produce some of their most gnarled and ravaged material yet. Finberg even throws in a few lighter moments but it always seems to return to the barbed attack that makes this one stick.

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Royal Headache

Well I’d be remiss to gloss over Royal Headache’s rise to prominence. Their last album came our way in 2011 via Aussie barometer R.I.P. Society. They’ve since gained prominence through US indie What’s Your Rupture? and with their follow-up they crank down some of the frantic energy that drove their eponymous breakthrough. But that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of heat coming off of High. It’s glossier and more restrained, if only in the production and perhaps the strain on Shogun’s vocal chords. The album still taps into that wellspring of garage-soul that’s equal parts lyrical testifying and hand shred strums. When Royal Headache hit, they hit like a defibrillator, a shock to the system that’s well deserved and well welcomed. The moments when they tend toward slower tempos could be goosed a bit with some simmer, some sense of Sam Cook gone garage vitality, but it here it sometimes lands flat. So it’s the burners that still fuel their fire. But if they begin to find the balance between burn and smolder they’ll get it right. For now High has some great moments when the band lights out for those sweaty moments under the stage lights.

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Herbcraft

Until now Herbcraft has floated in a bubble of serenity and drone float that was fitting of album titles that contained the words “ashram” and “astral.” They traded heady, nod-out jams like currency to a meditative student body, but on Wot Oz they’ve broken through the veil of astral float and plummeted headlong into psych churn like the rest of their catalog was just preamble for the oncoming storm of fuzz guitar and wah-shred to come. And it looks damn good on them. The opener “We’re Gonna Make It” lets on lightly, still tapping that well of ethereal smokescreen but by the time they hit “Fit Ür-Head” they’re running full bore into the torrent and letting the vibe lead the way. The record was born out of a taped warm-up session and its highly informed by an element of unrehearsed looseness but seemingly driven by hands that know just where to tread to divine the tortured pleas of the gods. The band has always been assembled of psychedelic travelers, but they’ve never quite hit the vein like this. Definitely their best look.

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Radio Stars – Songs For Swinging Lovers

Radio Stars formed in the wake of “supergroup” Jet. Not the middling Aussie band, but rather the 70’s project formed between members of Sparks and a gaggle of musicians who played with Marc Bolan, The Attack and Roxy Music. That record is worth tracking down in its own right, but a bit harder to find in proper reissue these days. After Jet split, Martin Gordon hooked up with Andy Ellison (from the Nuggets-era stompers John’s Children) and Ian Mcleod to form the backbone of Radio Stars.

Sparks’ influence is evident here in Gordon’s songwriting. There’s the same pageantry and huge sound amid cheeky subject matter and splashy glam overtones. Radio stars lean in closer to punk, making this akin to the chopped furor of Big Beat, which Sparks released the year prior. The idiosyncrasies give the record a longevity well beyond their era, making this feel like the oddball discovery it is but still letting it blare on the speakers in fine fashion. The follow-up, Holiday Album, didn’t chart as well and Gordon left the group, who disbanded shortly after. Though Ellison would attempt to use the name later in the 80’s, but that iteration never had the vitality of the original Radio Stars. For what its worth, though, Songs For Swinging Lovers cements them into the canon of punk and glam essentials.

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Phylums

A nice stab of garage goop out of Milwaukee, dubya eye. Phylums tackle the garage rock canon, launching through three chord wonders and doubling down on the Nuggets psych touches, swirling organs and some dark clashing guitars find their way into the mix n mire. They tend to brush aside the usual carefree fare of relationships and big dumb fun that often act as fodder for their respective genre, instead delving deeper into an alienation and desperation lyrical cycle that adds a measure of depth to their initially foamy churn. Though it doesn’t get dire by any means, no no, the band turn their dismay at monotony into fun for the whole family and Phylum Phyloid sits well among their Dirtnap peers as a bit of candy pop that crests well out of the speakers of the dodge on summer days. Hell there’s even a ditty about speech therapy. How can you say no to that? More down and dirty punk for the denim set.

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The Woolen Men

Woolen Men hew close to the DIY roots of the American Northwest. They wear a badge of unofficially zoned venue house band on their sleeve, and so it comes as no surprise that their latest rails against the homogenization and white washing of the scrappiness of their hometown of Portland. Though the themes are more than applicable to any number of great American cities these days, as the jagged edges that made them unique are sanded in favor of convenience for the flush class. The band pairs their battle cry with a brittle brand of post-punk dipped in a brew of Wipers’ bluntness and some Chris Knox circa Toy Love grit. They know how to punch urgency into a shape that sticks in your mind, clasped in with hooks that sneak their bleakness in under the radar. They’ve upped the fidelity for Temporary Monument as much as the former looseness fit their style, some clarity is a welcome addition to their canon. The more this one spins, the deeper ingrained it gets. Frankly you should probably be paying attention.



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The Barreracudas

If anyone’s taken up the true mantle of power pop these days, other than perhaps Warm Soda, its Barreracudas. Their debut hit like a wave of nostalgia for warm summer evenings, drive-ins, fast cars and aimless nights with nothing to do but get in trouble with a soundtrack that’s equally unrestrained. They pick up pretty much exactly where they left off on Nocturnal Missions, still bouncing along on taut springs and firing hooks into your life like swift kicks in the ass. Probably no surprise that there’s crossover membership from fellow Atlantans Gentleman Jesse & His Men among the ranks. They’ve got an equally ardent love of the candied pop of the crest of the ’80s but whereas Jesse usually rolls into buttery smooth territory, Barreracudas tend to reach for the outsized glam influences that took hold on the hangover of the ’70s. They were made for the bright lights glinting off of denim rivets and some platform booted stomping on your heart. This one comes via NYC bastion of punk’s bad impulses, OOPS Baby. Which seems like a perfect home for their brand of delinquent punk shenanigans.



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Dismal Light

Ryan Rousseau is probably better known for his fret work (Destruction Unit, The Reatards) than synthcapes, but as with his work in Gila Man, solo project Dismal Light explores the boundaries of electronics as medium, though Dismal Light pushes those boundaries well past his previous endeavor’s techno trappings. On Mindswap, Rousseau shifts from a feint of a melted blues sample into drone-droped synth, winding further into chugging soundtrack territory that belies his love of science fiction, perhaps picking up a touch of Carpenter in his crossings. He ramps in urgency by the mid-section, feeling like chase scene sweat and catatonic dance rolled into one. Truthfully its when there’s space and time to breathe deep cold fumes that Dismal Light really shines. Rousseau knows how to build suspense and when it holds steady it captures the listener. A fine first entry to new tape label Auasca out of NY. Limited like hell.

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