Pony Time

Pony Time are creating a pretty danceable racket with just bass and drums, knocking the garage-pop formula askew and finding their solace in a quick wit that’s underscored by chunky as hell hooks. The Seattle duo has kicked out four releases since 2011 and they’re only now finding a true stride with Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True. The band called out Wounded Lion, which caught my eye and its a damn fine point of reference for the their half cocked smile and thick low-end celebrating fare. There’s a toasted ember element in the grumble and rumble of Rumours that comes off as duct tape biker glam, feeling like a band reaching for the bright lights with what they have on hand. I’ve always loved a non-trad lineup and though the bass n’ drums combo has been around plenty (DFA 1979, COCO, Lightning Bolt) that fat bass sound combined with Luke Beetham’s yelp lets Pony Time keep the tradition alive without immediately pegging them into a hole dug by others traveling down similar aesthetic paths. The band brings the party and not a whiff of self-seriousness and that’s the charm of Rumours 2 they’re just hanging out like the Spuds McKenzie of garage you were always looking for.




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Drinking Flowers – “Black Monday”

Creeping into the sheets of Britpop’s glam hangover and smudged with post-punk’s rhythmic charms, Drinking Flowers are finding a hazy medium between driving pop and smokey psychedelics. Their album on Manifesto is packed with a plethora of pop gems but standout single “Black Monday” ranks among the best. The band have an appropriately gauzy and disorienting video for the track, leaning on the song’s droning buzz and rumble of bass, the clip is a pretty apt summation of the track’s headspun approach. This one’s been a playlist staple for a while now and I’m remiss for only noticing now that this video’s been out for a couple of weeks, but worth a spin for sure.


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Woods

Phew, are Woods already on their ninth album? Did I read that right? Its a little hard to believe, but back when this site began a few downloaded tracks and a CD from the old Fusetron Sound distro opened up the world of Woods to me and it hardly seemed like those sketches of guitar would wind up as the contender that the band is today. On City Sun Eater Eater In The River of Light the band take their second trip to a studio that’s not a portion of their house and in turn their sound expands in both scope and execution. They’ve shaved down the ecstatic freakout portion of their attack, perhaps relegating it to the stage versions of these songs, but they’ve embraced a whole cadre of elements not seen creeping up before.

There are shades of African funk and jazz, but not to worry they don’t take any sanctimonious mid-aughts or Graceland approaches to it, the sounds just fold in adding ominous layers to the band’s psychedelic folk. There are also stabs of horns that whisper of cantina nights, hazy and menacing and filling out their sound nicely. That menace is an element that seems to color this record differently than any of Woods’ albums past. There are still plenty of moments that yoke in the sun, but there are an equal if not greater number that let in the dark, feeling a chilly pessimism resonate in Jeremy Earl’s lyrics and adding a gravitas and grounding that feels like an omen of these strange times. As these elements coalesce, what surfaces is Woods’ heaviest and most resonant album yet. Its an album that digests anxiety, uncertainty and acceptance in ways we’ll all need to learn to get through tomorrow.




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Marc Kate

The crux of Marc Kate’s Despairer is, not so surprisingly, despair. His self-proclaimed “Ambient Materialism” structures fill the air around the listener but never blend into the woodwork, never seep into the pavement. They suck the air out of the room and replace it with their sullen moods – derived from the negativeness that Kate finds in his surrounding SF home, drawing on the materialism, greed and hollow nature of the tech industry. The tones are shimmering, but possibly only from the stream of tears that they evoke. Much in the same vein as Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Tim Hecker or Lawrence English (who jumps in on mastering duties here), the weight of Kate’s creations is shouldered on sustained tones and crackled ozone drones that hit the listener squarely in solar plexus, and for Kate even more so, in the lump in the back of one’s throat. Strapping into his world is to be thrown headlong into the chasm of sadness and face it down like a physical torment.

All of this possibly sounds like an unenviable listen, but not so. Filling the room with manifests of regret, remorse and lament acts like a soul scrub. After the glittering crush of Kate’s tones washes over, exiting the other side feels like a new day. The pressure and ache are lifted and everything seems just a touch rosier when the air’s let back in the room. It’s hardly felt this good to feel so bad.




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Steve Gunn – “Conditions Wild”

Its always nice to see longtime RSTB faves grow to the kind of widespread attention they deserve. Steve Gunn has been a fixture on the site for quite a while and his classic Golden Gunn album remains on constant rotation on my turntable. Way Out Weather broke him to a wide audience and signing to Matador probably won’t hurt either, huh? The first taste of his new album for the venerable label, Eyes On The Lines, takes a more accessible direction than ever, delving into the lushest bit of singer-songwriter territory Gunn’s ever explored. But with that unmistakable Gunn guitar snaking its way through the track and a crack team of players assembled for the album – Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, organ), Hans Chew (wurlitzer), James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro), Mary Lattimore (harp), Jason Meagher (bass, guitar, flute), Paul Sukeena (guitar), Justin Tripp (bass, keyboards), and John Truscinski (drums) – it would be hard to keep this one under wraps for long.

The video takes Steve on a stop-motion diorama trip through the woods that ends with Steve charming his would be threats with his guitar. Seems like a solid plan to me. This is looking to be an album worth keeping tabs on until its June release.

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CFM

Its a little hard to divorce Charles Mootheart’s work from that of his longtime collaborator and often bandmate Ty Segall. There are a lot of the same influences, styles and obsessions at work in both men’s work and such close collaboration naturally brings up a few comparisons. CFM’s sound seems to be springing from a well of garage, psych and thick billows of 70’s glam stomped classic rock fodder. So yeah, check boxes all around as far as crossover appeal, but if the guitar strap fits, fuck it. The sound’s thick cut and meaty and it’s sometimes hard to believe that this was laid down on 1/4 inch tape, it feels like a much bigger studio record and it’s impressive what Mootheart’s done left to his own devices.

Though he’s been a member of Epsilons, Fuzz, The Moonhearts and Ty’s band for some years, there hasn’t really been a front and center avenue for Mootheart’s work until this solo LP. He’s definitely playing in the same leagues as Chad Ubovich, Kyle Thomas and the rest of the crew of pop miscreants that orbit the L.A. hub of creation that’s now making up the bulk of weirdo garage-psych these days. Its not a broken mold that’s at play here but Mootheart knows what to do with the form he’s working in and the record’s got some pretty shiny moments amongst its crust of amplifier fuzz.




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Spectres – “Strange Weather”

Moving into a lusher headpsace than on previous LPs, Vancouver’s Spectres are nailing a classic post-punk sound that seems slotted nicely between The Sound’s “Heyday” and early Cure singles. “Strange Weather” is built around on the urgent beat set down by drummer Mitch Allen and carves its way from there. Cavern echoed vocals bounce like hazy dreams and the band nails the crunch of guitar that’s pulled from the tail end of glam and crushed like glass until it gets that panic and pomp that defined the early ’80s post-punk elite. Spectres are definitely echoing a time long gone, but as hordes of bands have proven, never forgotten; and while it seems that at times they’re parading in another era’s eyeliner, they’re making it look damn good and sound even better. Seems this LP has been in the works for a while and hit a few snags but its finally making its way to the world in May.



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Träd, Gräs och Stenar – Box Set

Springing from the remains of International Harvester and Persson Sound, both groups worth peeking into in their own right, Träd, Gräs och Stenar (Trees, Grass & Stones) was at the forefront of the psychedelic movement in Sweden in the late ’60s. The band was built around the live experience, setting up shows on their own that heavily pulled in audience interaction. At the core of the group was Bo Anders Persson, who’d already done time with his earlier band Persson Sound. Persson began leaning into rock after a career that started off working with Terry Reilly, but finding rock to be much more inclusive he found his home marrying experimental impulses to rock’s medium. His emphasis on exploratory forms and DIY setup with Persson only grew stronger as he added musicians and went on to transition to what would become Träd, Gräs och Stenar.

The band recorded two studio albums, Rock För Kropp Och Själ and an eponymous LP, but the studio is not the focus here. As the band was rightfully a live band first and foremost, they recorded several live albums including their two most well known, Djungelns Lag and Mors, Mors. Anthology have rounded up a set that includes these two albums from ’71 and ’72 respectively along with a new set, culled from recordings the label sourced from member Jakob Sjöholm. The new set, Kom Tillsammans, features recordings that have never seen light to this point.

That’s a hell of a lot of backstory, as for the music, TGoS don’t lean too heavily any crazy psychedelic effects, but instead delve into a territory that blends Swedish folk with The Dead’s style of longform jams as an exploratory conduit, feeding off of the audience and pushing their songs well past their originally written bounds. Though, don’t let the folk tag fool ya, the band definitely get heavy and its easy to see that they had a love of groove and the blues germ that fed into many of their British and American counterparts. There’s a proto-Krautrock kick here and they share some of the same impulses, if not necessarily the precision that their German peers would latch onto in the same period of time.

Its a hefty set, but for those with the right kind of ears, highlights like the 26+ minute jam “Sommarlåten” and 23+ minute “Ofullständiga rättigheter” provide a glimpse into their prowess. This one is a gem, as is pretty standard for Anthology’s in depth releases and at 6xLPs, its a bit of an investment as well, but a worthwhile one. This is a key piece of history that deserves this new light.




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Bleached

By now you should need very little reason to queue up to listen to Bleached, but Welcome the Worms is certainly another strong argument in their favor. Doubling down on the pop aspects of Ride The Heart, the band teamed up with producer/engineer Joe Chiccarelli to take their sound from big to huge. The songs on WtW are stung with post-relationship crumble, the beautiful chaos of youth and a welcome kind of self-assured bravado that knows that sometimes everything can be solved with the ozone crunch of guitars and a hook that snags hard and twists deep. In a way there’s a part of me that laments the state of modern radio here, because its a damn shame that “Sour Candy” will never get to be the kind of ubiquitous pop hit it deserves to be. Its one of the strongest moments on an album full of strong moments and has that feeling of endless summer in its veins mixed with a pang of ennui for every night that passes.

The tone of WtW is shifted to a heavier place, not only emotionally but musically. There was still an element that could be construed as girl group or surf in Ride The Heart, but here they’ve embraced the heart of punk-pop and deepened their roots in a 70’s and 80’s radio ready sheen that explodes these songs across the panorama of your speakers. A love letter to their city of Los Angeles, the album is crammed with photo booth vignettes that wiz by in a blur but leave their mark on you much longer than the needle runs the groove. They’ve wiped clear any doubts that Bleached aren’t sitting at the adult table, even if they’re still telling a few YA tales.



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The Myrrors – “Entranced Earth”

The Myrrors upcoming album on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond has a couple of tracks out there now but the epic sprawl of the album’s title track is by far the most intriguing. Laden with overlapping waves of squall, a motorik chug and a haze of saxophone and flute; the track descends into the swamp of psychedelic miasma in a disorienting plunge. The song finds its groove quickly and locks in for a complete and total nod out. The band aren’t looking for a hook, far from it, the hook is that they reach further for the edges of space and stir up the dust clouds that echo the quarks in the back of your mind. But every time that pummel of drums hits the groove is grounded back to an organic rhythmic chug that keeps things from getting completely untethered.



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