Shy Mirrors – “Cements”

Swedish export Mike Downey has found a similar muse in the short form pop-punk that drives Tony Molina to bash out jingle-sized nuggets of fuzz pop that are steeped in their love of Guided by Voices and, well, slightly less Weezer than Mr. Molina seems to favor. However, the same power pop elements and ’90s overtones are in place, just slimmed down to the hook and fed bite-sized to the listener. “Cements” doesn’t last long but it gets its claws in quick and feeds on a cocktail of nostalgia and a hunger for the hook.

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Pye Corner Audio

Lately the syth soundtrack has become a pretty commonplace boilerplate for an album; with the creeping influence of John Carter and Vangelis reaching their icy fingers out to the masses. While S U R V I V E might be getting the lion’s share of attention lately, there are plenty of others who’ve been winding their way down the darkened alleyways that Carter and co. built by hand (see: Umberto, Steve Moore, Ensemble Economique). Martin Jenkins has been in the game longer than quite a few and Stasis acts as a sequel of sorts to 2012’s LP Sleep Games, which was also well steeped in Italian horror movie tropes and the creeping dread of their American counterparts.

The album builds, as any score might, from ambient nods to a driving center. Jenkins wastes little time jumping into the abyss of stressful strains, ramping up the fight or flight instincts by the time he hits third track, ‘Autonomization.” Its not entirely panic packed, but even when Jenkins takes it easy on the arpeggios he’s creating an atmosphere that’s less easy rollin’ than eye-of-the-hurricane calm before the second wave hits. I tend to find his hazier entries more intriguing than some of the pounding pulse runners and it would be interesting to see him flesh these moments out to a full album in their own right, though he did explore a bit of delicate territory on his split with Dalhous, Run For The Shadows. In a game that’s becoming increasingly crowded and almost bewilderingly so (how many Italo-horror fans are out there buying vintage synths), Pye Corner Audio still stands as a name others have to watch for cues on how to run the imaginary soundtrack right. There’s often little fumble on any Ghost Box associated project and Stasis is no exception. Jenkins nails the dark ambience, pinpoint tension and vintage feel that makes this genre still worth delving into.



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Jack Rose – VHF Reissues

There are fewer catalogs that are in dire need of a proper reissue than the work of Jack Rose. The celebrated guitarists’ untimely death left a hole in modern folk that’s been difficult to fill, but compounding the loss has been the fact that his early records, Raag Manifestos, Opium Musick and Red Horse, White Mule, have languished out of print for years. Now VHF, in collaboration with Three Lobed and Jack’s estate have worked to get these three masterworks back on vinyl. The collection is out September 23rd and each is an essential piece of his rise to prominence. There are a lot of useless reissues that clutter up the landscape these days, adorned in chromatic colors and begging for your cash, but Rose’s work, presented here simply is the kind of release that slips out quietly and is swept away by those with the clarity to pick them up.



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Allah-Las

Allah-Las enter a new phase that’s leaving a bit of the bright jangled swagger behind in favor of a more reticent and melancholy mood. Calico Review sees the band temper their sun-soaked views, a hallmark of their catalog, and dive down a shadier path of ’60s-indebted trappings. They’ve always had just a twinge of sadness under their skin, but its usually balanced by a bouncier beat, a tangle of jangles and a sunny chorus. On their third album the band tends to embrace those sighs that were always eking out of their previous albums. Maybe you truly know that that clouds have gathered when a track called “High & Dry” is followed immediately by another called “Mausoleum.”

Despite its grey-skied mentality the record comes off as one of the band’s most enjoyable. The more introspective tone has been augmented with a wider musical palette, stepping away from the simple guitar combo to rope in mellotron, violin and harpsichord; reaching for that ’60s bittersweetness that befitted The Pretty Things on their slide into depression via rock opera on S.F. Sorrow or later period Zombies. Truthfully, the band had to take a turn, three albums of sun and strum can only feel like you’ve trucked into a rut. So its good to see them bumming in the sun and finding a use for rainy beach days. The year could use a good bit of sad swagger and I’m glad that The Allah-Lahs are here to provide. The album also comes with a move to Mexican Summer, expanding the label’s catalog of stalwart indie names.

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Ryley Walker

Emerging from the accolades of a beloved album is no easy feat. Walker’s previous album Primrose Green nailed the stylistic marks of the wave that crested out of the ’60’s folk boom and into the jazz inflections and more experimental lengths that would fleck landmarks like Astral Weeks, Goodbye and Hello or Roy Harper’s Flat, Baroque and Berserk. So where do you go from there? Walker follows his Tim Buckley muse down the line and reaches for the more sprawling and ambling shores of Blue Afternoon. He pines for the expansive reach of Gene Clark’s No Other. One would think maybe he was pushing for Harper’s Stormcock too, with talks of the suited record he originally envisioned. In that regard, he pushes the track lengths here past the scope of typical pop.

Occasionally this works and Walker winds up untethered and spinning into a kind of poetic grace. Other times he’s letting himself stretch a bit longer than the song calls for, allowing some live instincts to drape onto the studio for a track that feels like the session was likely fun that day, with precision players feeling their way to a resolution, but at the expense of the listener’s attention (see: “Sullen Mind”). But when he’s on, he’s on and that’s more often than not. Walker allows his indulgences, as did plenty of those tumbling out of the ’60s and into a more progressive ’70s, but his troubadour’s soul saves him from an experimenter’s curiosity.

It’s taken me a little while to let this one settle because its been too damn hot to even let it into my consciousness. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is an autumnal record for sure. Its the kind of record that’s comfortable with its collar braced against the wind. Some records are, quite frankly, whiskey records and this is one of them. Its not an all night bender, mind you, its the kind of record that finds the sweet harmony between the joy of day drinking in good company and that warm ball of contended sadness that forms about four or five drinks in. Maybe that’s why it meanders a bit, in that state everything seems like a better story and there’s a tendency to become a bit maudlin; to ponder mistakes and religion and fate. The record stretches out and wraps its arms around the listener like a bar buddy it’s never known sober and one whom it hopes will listen to its woes a little while and nod sympathetically. There’s a charm to that kind of person and in turn that kind of record. Walker’s an accomplished musician and Golden Sings showcases his ambition, even when it gets the better of him.




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Kandodo / McBain – Lost Chants / Last Chance

Kandodo, which is comprised of three members of UK psych unit and veritable force of nature The Heads, have teamed up with John McBain from Monster Magnet for a dose of heavy space rock that’s speaking to both parties strengths. First taste “Holy Syke” starts off lost in the ether before building to a monumental wall of heaviness and ground splitting guitar fury. The album was mastered by McBain to play either at 45 or to be slowed down to dirgey goodness at 33. They’ve even doubled up the CD so digital dabblers can have the same fun with speeds. Check out the accompanying video above that matches the song’s psych slide with abstract visuals that rise up like a hot burning sun. The album’s out at the end of the month and highly recommended for fans of either party’s previous bands.

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Dow Jones and the Industrials – Can’t Stand The Midwest 1979-1981

2016 is a great year for reissues and it continues to get better, finding more and more pocket scenes and overlooked gems coming to light. The music on Can’t Stand The Midwest brings to light severely overlooked band Dow Jones and the Industrials’ catalog, one that should fit right in with a wealth of celebrated nervy punk – from Pere Ubu to The Germs and The Embarrassment to The Units. Family Vineyard is finally documenting this band’s impact, which largely spread in and around the area of Northwestern Indiana that they occupied. Having grown up not too awful far from West Laffayette, Indiana (about 3 hrs north) I get the feeling of aimlessness, the revulsion of complacency and the airtight stranglehold that that particular area of the Midwest can have on a person. The band taps into the ferocity of many of their punk peers but as with other Midwestern twitchers like Ubu or unnerved West Coasters like The Screamers or The Weirdos they seem to have found a weirder vein that embraces tension, focusing on a battles with technology and conformity that seemed prescient for their time period.

The band issued few physical artifacts but it adds up, a rare split with fellow Midwesterners The Gizmos on the excellent Gulcher Records, an eponymous 7″, and an appearance on Gulcher’s Red Snerts compilation that would also see member Brad Garton appear solo as Mr. Science. The label has issued the Mr. Science material as a separate bonus with the album. The output is frantic and anxious, with a distinct disdain and sneer for several comforts of their late ’70s early ’80s surroundings. They come on like the delinquents at the back of the bus, but more likely were kind of kids that know how to cause a well-timed explosion in Chemistry class.

Armed with guitars they had the means to sneer at social norms, eviscerating their coeds interested in school pride or those locked into the “birth, school, work, death” mentality of raising families and marrying off. They puncture Nationalism at a time when their home in the Midwest was rife with the kind of American Dream that probably seemed overwhelming in the face of Cold War rallying. These anti-conformity themes seem to be the most prevalent pop-ups in the band’s lyrical ourvre aside from their tech war rants, railing against the Midwest’s button down, work-a-day life. The band broke up in the early ’80s and member Greg Horn went on to form the bands Tone Set and Pointless as well as produce some music for Nickelodeon programming. Here they shine as the coulda-beens that should be filling out your punk playlists. If nothing else, this excellent collection should hit the turntable and park there ’til the leaves crinkle.


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Ausmuteants

Ausmuteants third record of mind-flayed punk finds the band just as bracing as they’ve always been, tearing through blistered tempos, mutant squalls and the same blend of new wave weirdness and tenacious bite that’s borne them into RSTB’s hearts time and again. There are plenty who seek to pick up the yoke that was once held high by a nascent DEVO and chewed like glass in the mouths of Chrome, The Screamers or Magazine, but Ausmuteants have rightfully nailed the squirming eye of sci-fi infected punk. Practically every inch of Ausmuteants sounds like its inhabiting the world of Otto Maddox from Repo Man, Crabs from Dead End Drive-in or Rebeca Buck in Tank Girl. They’ve got the pent-up fury and the punch to the throat that gets things started, but what Ausmuteants have really going for them is that syth strain of sci-fi flash that feels like they’d have understood the weirdness and rolled with it.

The band smoothed a bit for Order of Operation but they seem to have gotten their blood boiling again on Band of the Future. The angles are sharper, the synths squirm at the touch and vocalist Jake Robertson is lyrically eviscerating any subject he chooses to lay into. Sure there are some that might scoff at the title Band of the Future, given that the ’70s influences that drive them are so open and apparent. But here’s the thing, when bands like Devo or The Screamers or Chrome brought their apocalyptic punk to the masses, there was genuine worry for a nuclear winter. There was a very real threat of wasteland politics on the rise. I’m not so certain the music of the future isn’t still rooted in this kind of fanged blast of charged punk, ready to bolster unhinged courage in the face of societal breakdown. Seems like there’s an air of apocalypse gathering in the public consciousness once again. If we’re getting closer to that Thunderdome each year, there’s not much else I want blasting from the speakers of my own scrapyard conveyance than a bit of Ausmuteants.



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Premiere: Proud Parents – “Take My Hand”

Wisconsin’s Proud Parents have their hearts wrapped around a bright pop jangle and their new video for standout track “Take My Hand” from last year’s Sharen Is Karen cassette is uplifted even more by the band frolicking in a dog park with enough glee to warm every inch of your curmudgeonly soul. The band features Heather Sawyer from fellow RSTB faves The Hussy and the band shares their love of bright splashes of pop, but supplants the punk for a sunnier brand of bounce-addled jangle. Just what the week called for. The band is off on a US tour (dates below) and you can check out their Eva Marley directed video above.

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Mozes and the Firstborn

Tightening up their focus from their eponymous debut, Dutch band Mozes and the Firstborn mine a wealth of alternative rock and ’90s/’00s power pop on Great Pile of Nothing. Produced by the band’s drummer, Raven Aartsen, they’ve nailed the hi-fi hum and grunge flecks that dominated the airwaves, teen movies and mall speakers in the ’90s, but they’ve taken the lyrics on a more introspective bent this time around. In that respect they take a nice chunk from the Fountains of Wayne/Matthew Sweet camp. Its a sweet and frothy album on surface inspection but its crawling with anxiety, depression and self-doubt under the skin. The band knows that a song depicting the housebound lifestyle of an obsessive-compulsive goes down sweeter with a chunky guitar riff, that a tale of cringing self-sabotage needs a hundred foot hook and that there’s nothing wrong with embracing the bittersweet.

The production and songwriting are certainly more consistent on Great Pile of Nothing, its more about building an album through subtleties, which means there seem to be a few less obvious standout earworms this time around aside from the kicker of a title track. But while they often fall into a flatter tone, they buoy the album back with the winsome emotion and enough pop shading to make this one the kind of comedown album that’s welcome on the right kind of rainy day. Great Pile of Nothing winds up less of a world shaker than a friend to lean on, its introspective nature shifts it more towards a comforting blanket adorned in brightly colored patterns. But that’s no slight, there’s a market for comfort. Everyone needs a bit of sympathy these days.




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