Swiftumz – “Taste The Gray”

I’ve already professed some love for Swiftumz’ sophomore LP, Everybody Loves Chris, but there’s always room for a little more. In the casino set, blurred blackout of a clip Chris McVicker wanders through the underbelly of Reno set to the grunge blasted fuzz pop of album standout “Taste The Gray.” If you haven’t had a chance to check out the album yet, its highly recommended that you dive into the weird pop universe of McVicker’s Swiftumz.


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Thee Oh Sees

Am I perpetually in a state of reviewing Oh Sees albums? Sometimes it feels like it. Even with that “hiatus” the band has an intimidating output, that at this time is getting tough to crack for new listeners. As with most of the band’s albums Mutilator Defeated At Last is rife with John Dwyer’s signature reverb howl, blasting through the fog of guitars like a pink neon blast from a toy ray gun. And though, like this, many hallmarks of Thee Oh Sees sound hang heavy on the album, it expands on the formula nicely. There’s a heavy freakout quality to the album making it feel more substantial than its thirty-three odd minutes. Dwyer’s been at this long enough that he’s trimmed some of the fat and left room only for a suite that punches furiously out of the gate with a sweet dip of cool water in the form of “Sticky Hulks” on the back half bringing the comedown. It feels like a study in how to make psych succeed. While The Drop was a surprise return last year, it doesn’t list among my essential Oh Sees, but Mutilator has climbed higher on the list than I’d thought so far into their catalog. Its here and gone before you realize and in true fashion, leaves you wanting to knock that needle back to the start.

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Blood Warrior

Psych-folk has seen a decline in the past few years since its welcome back to the fold in the early aughts, but some souls are still holding strong to the dark twists that knot the acoustic landscape. Blood Warrior creak down the path of English folk that’s haunted by the specters of Bert Jansch and Fresh Maggots. They’ve got a handle on the brooding and the melancholy, rolling in primitive hoofbeat drumming under the circular pick of strings and wheeze of harmonium. Their second album, Letter Ghost, is shrouded in dusk, every note seems to hang in that space between the slip of sun from horizon to oblivion. The album never rushes, instead letting the vapor of breath curl in the air around the notes in a way that’s affecting and fragile. Greg Jamie (O’Death) and Joey Weiss (Super Monster, Lazy River) are no strangers to the mossy corners of folk, but here they step away from their past projects to create something a little more intimate, a little more rooted in the soil. And by all accounts they succeed in creating a hollow of folk that seeps to the core.

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Jean-Paul Sartre Experience – I Like Rain: The Story of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience

Fire Records have gone through the exhaustive work of compiling this retrospective of the JPSE and its well worth the time to wade through the band’s storied history. Their debut is a charming record that felt apart from the rest of the Flying Nun stable. There’s jangle, but more often there’s a subtle wash of grey-skied melancholy and an early indie pop simplicity that feels more akin to the outset of the Creation records stable than many of their contemporaries at home. Love Songs introduced the band with the hit that this collection takes its name from and its a pretty fitting entry point to the band’s catalog.

Size of Food has always overshadowed the debut in critical acclaim but at the time of its release it fell on many deaf ears. Delayed by two years due to some financial finagling on Flying Nun’s part, the album finally hit shelves without much in the way of fanfare. But hindsight being what it is, this one stands as a benchmark of fractured pop that would have lasting reverberations even if it didn’t shake scenes at the time of its issue. Their final album, Bleeding Star saw the band enter the studio, amp up the production (some critics would argue too much) and finally allow themselves some international acclaim. But where the album saws off a bit of their connection to jangle, it dives headlong into a buzzing sea of guitars that buoy that same melancholy they’d always let through with a stronger punch. This album also garnered support from Matador in the States and they finally made it over for some dates only to pull themselves apart in the process. This would prove their last effort. In addition to the albums themselves this collection ropes in bonus tracks, tracks from the alternate US/NZ pressings and singles. They might not top your list of essential bands of the late 80s/early 90s but spend a little time with the JPSE and let this collection wash over you. It will definitely surprise you.





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Warm Soda – “Can’t Erase This Feeling”

Said it before but I’ll say it again, Warm Soda have mastered power pop’s yearn and crunch and here they take all the high school crush touches from their song “Can’t Erase This Feeling” and give them a proper after school setting. Burgers seem to be the theme for this record and this shitty restaurant hangout is giving me high school PTSD. But in the end Matthew Melton fights for justice and the girl while making it feel like a way bigger deal. More tabletop burger dance parties should be on the menu. This one looks as fun as it sounds.

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Swiftumz

Chris McVicker’s gauzy power pop may have slipped under your radar in the last few years. His first album, the sorely underrated Don’t Trip came out via Holy Mountain, more known for stoner metal than clean lines and upbeat sparkle. In the interim he’s let slip a few singles that also can’t help but put a sly smile on your face, bouncing out of the speakers on springs and pushing the clouds aside every time. So its great news that a second album is finding its way into the world on Melters.

Everybody Loves Chris follows along the path he’s trodden previously, dotting the album with some effervescent pop hooks but never getting caught in making that the sole focus. For every bit of jangle and every candy coated chorus there’s a track that’s caked in thick froth, shrouding any trace of sunny pop and finding joy in the dark corners of his catalog. The album twists itself into knots that earworm straight to your brain and take root. McVicker’s pop vision seems like the kind of album that would have reviewers flocking, a fucked pop nugget that can’t be contained or pinned down. Hopefully this time it’ll push through the surface and find that audience that it deserves.



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Squadra Omega

Paring down to a trio for their latest, Italian combo Squadra Omega certainly take no decline in the size of their squall on Altri Occhi Ci Guardano. Starting with an untethered drift of noise that feigns from their true strength, the album flashes a few incisors as it barrels into “Sospesi nell’Oblio”. The threesome ties Krautrock into knots, utilizing its trademark thrust to add an insistent groove to the record, while gnarling the narrative above the churn of bass and drums. Spaced syths and impossibly coagulated guitars find a link between the open spaces of Morricone soundtracks, the restlessness of surf, the asymmetrical bite of jazz and the ambient drift of musique concrète.

That original feint of drift recurs throughout the album to cleanse the palette of frantic bop that otherwise threatens to tear a hole in your turntable but they always storm back to the fray and each new time it seems with more vicious results. The tracks push into the eleven and twelve minute territory but never feel like overwrought indulgences, instead they fill out a double LP with the kind of expansive instincts that pushed their German progressive forbears to the edges of space.



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