Moon Duo

As Moon Duo continues to refine and coalesce their sound, they find themselves achieving a shimmering balance of malice and sweetness. Burrowing deep into an uneasy cocoon of Kosmiche and synth (provided by the band’s master texturist Sanae Yamada); the album buzzes, twitches and festers at times with an uncomfortable darkness that gets its hooks in you. It’s a quality that rears its head most prominently on standout single “Cold Fear” and the sinister “Will Of The Devil.” There’s a feeling of cold sweat, clammy palms and permanently bloodshot anxiety at work here and perhaps these are the feelings that serve this album as the dark-toned Yin in the two part album cycle that the band has embarked on. But if it were that simple, that cut and dry, then it would just grind the listener down under a boot heel of panic.

The album does play with fear and fever, but it breaks the sweat-soaked chaos into a neon lit blitz of speed and freedom. As much as any album of synth lapping Vangelis freaks want so badly to become the soundtrack to your dystopian thrill ride, I feel that Moon Duo might be hitting the vibe more accurately than any of those Korg temple acolytes ever could. The band is splitting the dark corners of Blade Runner with the dazzling imagery onslaught of The 5th Element here. It’s future pop as divined by stark realists with a smirking penchant for leaking optimism and excitement into their formula.

While Yamada is the world builder here, the extravagant paint splashes belong clearly to Ripley Johnson’s guitar work. His playing has always added the psychedelic spring in their motorik grind, but here he’s finding a fluidity that’s like liquid mercury turned to sound waves. Every time Johnson’s guitar surfaces from the frothing deep, it cuts in heated, glowing flashes that turn the world to steam in their wake. The combination of the two forces spins like tumblers in a lock, unleashing the band at an undoubtable peak. Now, one can only hope and wait for what the second piece of this puzzle holds.




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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Its shaping up to be a heavy, sludge encrusted week around here, so naturally I’ve set sights on the debut from UK space juggarnaut Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs or Pigs x7 as they are, mercifully, better known. The album is only three tracks long, but much like that heavy slab by Dhidalah yesterday, they’ve got no affinity for brevity and little remorse for unleashing a half ton torrent of noise upon the listener. The album opens with “Psychopomp,” clocking in just a tad over fifteen minutes of sludge, a suite of grit, blood and bile that feels like there may be no hope of ever seeing light again. Usually on a track pushing the stopwatch toward the quarter hour there’s an eye of the storm, or some sign of relent, but Pigs x7 open hot and pretty much clear cut any ounce of hope you had living in your system before the needle pop out of the groove.

The second cut is dubbed “Sweet Relief,” but that may only apply to the length here, shortening their bite to a standard four minute mile and cranking up the Sabbath via Monster Magnet vibes to a rolling boil. The song shows no sign of letting in any light, and its a damned good thing. This, right here, is the seething, twitching, festering raw nerve burn that we need right now. It’s a catalyst call to harness the dark and spit it back with a heart beating diesel and a clear mind. The last cut is, almost improbably, running long on the opener, and for a split second they trawl in with a bass knot that’s peaceably inviting before shredding any solace with the full assault of everything that’s come before. Feed The Rats is in the running for my favorites in the metal department this year. I know its damned early, but this one feels like its going to be the one to beat.



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Bleached – “Can You Deal?”

Bleached are back and frankly I’m ready! Although its been less than a year since the release of Welcome The Worms, that album provided so much earworm-Summer-mixtape fodder that its nice to have even a short form offering on the table. The EP coincides with the band touring with punk legends The Damned and in addition to the digital version the band has put together a zine with contributions from Liz Phair, Jane Wiedlin of The Go Go’s, Mish Way of White Lung, Tegan Quin, Hinds, the band members themselves and more. The proceeds of the zine will all go to Planned Parenthood. As for the first track, it’s the band giving their towering vision of alt-rock a little dreaminess in a lyrical ode to letting someone love you for who you are and never compromising. Its definitely full of fun but the “fuck off and let me be me” attitude exemplifies the project’s mission. A good one for a good cause. What’s not to love?




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Cakefight – Cakefight 7″

Melbourne duo Cakefight let out a fun garage pop yelp on their debut EP. The single was recorded by Matthew Melton in Austin and it captures a certain economical, yet catchy aesthetic that’s not too far off from Melton’s own works, but without the quite-so-creamy center that permeates something like Warm Soda. The band knows their way around a catchy hook and a summertime chorus that feels like boardwalk nights spent sweating it out in leather jackets in July. Just a four shot pumper of fun tracks, not breaking down the walls, but good garage is never about refining the riff, just harnessing it to let the hijinx flow freely. In that respect, this is doing the job perfectly. Of the fiver of tracks offered up on this short-order platter, the best are the the gnarled beach party of “Sucks Under This Sun” and the pop punk fist shaker, “Who You Are.” Though, the rest of the batch is certainly not without merit. A nice debut from these Aussies, under the watchful eye of one of American power pop’s best.



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Dhidalah

Japanese power trio Dhidalah makes use of greater expanses on their new album; each side contains a side-long stare into the mouth of the volcano, and each track in turn burns away the worrisome flesh and then cools the wound with the cosmic rays of the space’s empty void. The band has studied their heavy-psych playbook, found the flay and cut fast and precise for the major arteries in any listener. They’ve spent some time honing up on space rock’s gravitational pull too. Though they understand that the eight ton hammer is effective and blistering riffs are key, they know that running the stew through a strainer of effects and sonic swirl can have a very pleasing effect on the output.

The first side is the seismic crack in the crater, a whallop of Thor’s hammer to the surface and the fallout of destruction that ripples in it’s wake. The title track, on the flip, is where they really begin to find the nuance in those cold, lonely ripples of space. The build in the first few minutes is tranquil, languid, a peaceful respite acting as somewhat of an eye in the hurricane of No Water. Then comes the second wave of destruction, heavier than the first wave, less furious, but with a much more menacing crush. The band covers a lot of ground in just two tracks, but for doom a single monolithic track has always presented an opportunity to stretch out. Dhidalah are proving here that they’re just as much a part of the dark pantheon as Earthless, Sleep or High On Fire.

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Wooden Wand – “Mexican Coke” + Carlos The Second

Good news today out of the Wooden Wand camp, there’s a new album on the way from Three-Lobed, Clipper Ship. The album arrives in May and is preceded by the gorgeous new single “Mexican Coke,” a sighed country ode to having to supplement income with side hustles. The album marks a shift away from Toth’s last few, stripping back to more of the sing-songwriter countenance that permeated his lone album for Rykodisc under his given name. The album boasts an impressive supporting cast of players ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to session stars like Darin Gray, Ryan Norris, Jim Becker, Luke Schneider, Zak Riles and Jim Elkington. All the players have contributed to accomplished visions of folk and country over the past few years and they bring that drive and finesse to Clipper Ship. Its been a touch since Toth had a Wooden Wand album out and it feels good to have one on the way for sure.


The announcement makes the news doubly good today because while we were all wrapped up in the tail end tail spin of 2017, James and a few friends slipped an album out under the name Carlos The Second. It features some nuanced instrumentals from Ryan Norris (who also appears on the new album) and sets Toth’s honeyed croon agaist some starker than usual settings, and even a smattering of beat driven tracks. Its new territory for sure, but fits well into a catalog that never shies away from collaboration. As an added bonus, Langhorne Slim swings by for a flat-out wonderful country rocker that has both singers at their best. Check out “Hall Of Mirrors” below:

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Easy Love – “I’ll Be Fine”

New one here from Easy Love, the solo project from Justine Brown of Summer Twins. The song doesn’t stray too far from the Twins’ breezy ’60s pop overtones and general swooning appeal, but with a thickened sound and a grind of fuzz guitar backing her up, Brown’s new venture is hitting ticking all the right boxes around here. The song is drenched in longing, an ode to lost souls everywhere finding their way back to solid footing. The track is off of her upcoming album on Lollipop / Burger, which seems like a fitting home for her, given an already rosy track record with Burger. The track is probably one of the best I’ve heard out of Summer Twins or Brown’s previous solo work and it begs some attention when the full album drops in Feb.

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The Telescopes – The Telescopes

Straddling a few blurred lines between shoegaze and Britpop, The Telescopes’ second and, arguably, definitive record finds some distinct subtleties in both genres. Their debut went in heavy for the distortion obsessed brand of shoegaze that beget Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and their disciples on down. They certainly had all the hallmarks, from a debut split single with fellow noise sculptors Loop, to the blurred and obscured cover art on their debut. However, they broke with the sound leading into their second album, starting with a string of EPs that saw them signed on to Alan McGee’s growing powerhouse at Creation. Following the “Celeste” EP, which found their sound balancing between the spacey acoustic shuffle of Spacemen 3 and the yearning plateaus of Ride, they issued their Eponymous LP, which sold them into the hearts of shoegaze collector’s wholesale.

The record would, sadly, also prove to be their undoing. Shortly after they recorded and released it, the band also contributed to a tribute compilation dedicated to The Who and that would be the last recording they’d issue, citing creative differences, with members going their separate ways. The band would resurface years later mostly under the direction of singer/guitarist Stephen Lawrie, with some original members popping in and out, though mostly he’d gather a new group of players each time the name was resurrected. In as much, this remains the last true Telescopes album and an essential piece of psych, shoegaze and British rock in general. The first American issues to pop up on Bomp in the early ’00s used an alternate cover workup, that traded in the joyously messy, and to be honest tellingly ’90s, cover artwork for a more austere setup. Thankfully this new issue on Radiation rights those wrongs and brings back the original art alongside the stellar sound. If this one isn’t in your collection, the time is now.

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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

Too good not to post on this one. Moon Duo have a new video out for their song “Cold Fear,” which appears on the upcoming Occult Architecture Vol. 1. The clip, animated by Micah Buzan, premiered on Adult Swim last night, which seems rather fitting given the video’s hyper-saturated animation. Buzan captures the paranoid vibes of “Cold Fear” in a short that melts your face off like an Akira sweat lodge, pulsating with darkness and paranoia. The video also has echoes of recent blurred nightmare nighttime favorites like Ugly Americans and Rick and Morty, doubling back on their own EC Comics debts. The upcoming album is one of the band’s best, so its great to see them going all in on this one – from the visuals to the high-end packaging for the proposed two albums they’re releasing this year. If, for some reason, you’ve missed out on the band to date, start here.

Also be sure to check out RSTB’s Hidden Gems interview with the band’s Ripley Johnson.

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Vices

Chicago’s Vices lean hard into their love of a brand of distorted, shag thick rock that could have only been served up under the Alternative banner were it being made in the shadow of Y2K. They’ve found a way to take the signifiers of grunge’s fallout and make them fun for a new generation just finding their flannel. The album, recorded by the band’s own Shawn Wilson sounds like they studied up on everything from guitar tones and favored pedals to the era’s thick walled assault of sound that shot singles like cannonballs of cathartic youth. The best bits of American Consciousness feel so familiar that there’s almost a tendency to double check the name scrolling across the screen, confirming that indeed this isn’t a b-side dropped out of Interscope’s late ’90s library.

That’s not to say they lean completely into the “radio ready” pile, the band have a professed love for Shellac and the indie legends’ sinewy strand of riff finds its way in among the fuzz-pummeled hooks. I guess that’s what’s so endearing about the record, it got grunge-metal’s stomp and math rock’s self-serious technical twists, but the boys in Vices also seem like they had a collection that toppled into pop-punk, despite themselves. They know when to sound like playing in a band is a good time, and more importantly, how to convey it to the listener. There is a definite groundswell of grunge revival happening lately, and the younger generation is glomming onto my high school memories like, I suppose, we pillaged our own parents’ perception of the ’70s. Any revival bears hallmarks of retread, but when bands start cherry picking the best bits, it feels fun regardless of how much you’ve heard it all before.



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