Mac Blackout Band – “Rise Up”

Mac Blackout’s been kicking around these parts since lo-fi was king and the tape hiss grew tall and wild. Now scrubbed up, glammed and rocking things in heavy psych boots, the man and his band are releasing Burning Alive next month and preceding the album is the bulldozer of a single, “Rise Up”. The track is ostensibly a call to arms, laid into the fold of a garage-psych juggernaut, and spraying fire at the very seams. Blackout’s outfit is hardly the same band that was sketching scratchy tales in the wake of Blank Dogs all those years ago and in fact this hews much closer to his run fronting Mickey. Now they’re finding their bearings somewhere between the codpiece bravado of Kiss and the iron gauntlet of Wolfmother circa 2004/2005. I mean that in the absolute most complimentary sense. Revolution rock could use a twenty foot tower of fire to stomp out the storm and Blackout’s making it fun to riot in the streets again.

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Tim Cohen

Tim Cohen is a prolific voice in the American lexicon of indie rock. Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll slap you twice. Between his output in Fresh & Onlys, solo, and as Magic Trick he’s pretty much always got something dropping on your doormat and the stark reality is that its rarely not worth a tug at your ear. On his latest under his own name, the first time he’s operating as such since 2010, he’s side-stepping his usual pop hangouts once again. The last time he donned his own name and threw it on the marquee of an album cover was for Captured Tracks’ Laugh Tracks, an album that became a springboard into his output as Magic Trick. As that band has taken on its own humid life, it seems that his given name is the preferred moniker for tonal temerity.

On Luck Man he doesn’t take on his usual pop pastures of love, fate, and loss, instead enacting a series of character sketches that take on odd diorama lives of their own. Its a move that could seem like it might invite a discordant album, but Cohen, being Cohen isn’t a typical pop purveyor and his idiosyncrasies have always been the heart of his songwriting. He’s able to lasso the three a.m. anxieties and empty belly feelings and grind them into the kind of satisfying sonic sausage that other songwriters would fumble with self-importance. The songs inhabit lives of their own, still imbued with Cohen’s moody musical sea changes, but hanging their through line on the gnawing raw nerve of bruised confidence amid stark surroundings. Cohen proves that whichever name he puts at the top, the listener is in for a dose of darkness served with just the right ripple of earworm vibes.


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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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The Proper Ornaments

There has been quite a shift in sound on The Proper Ornaments second album for Slumberland. They’ve wiped away much of the thick, bilious clouds that previously wafted into their jangle pop, giving them a bite of shoegaze among the bittersweet strums. On Foxhole, constrained by a necessary move to a home studio and and 8-track setup, they pare down their sound finding a core cleanness that’s drawing off of classic melancholy pop records, with flecks of everything from late period Big Star to Elliot Smith’s piano purr circa Figure 8.

The piano actually plays a key role in the shift made by songwriters James Hoare and Max Oscarnold, as both acquired new instruments prior to the recording of the album and let the keys lead them into a more serene headspace on Foxhole. As such, the album tends to have a more contemplative mood than their previous outing. Though that’s not to say that they’ve chucked their guitars in the bin, they still know how to weave a softly gnarled jangle around a melody and both artists’ penchant for the rosy hues of ’60s pop still colors the album. Its hard to imagine a band named after a shared love of soft psych band The Free Design wouldn’t hew a bit close to the jangles that built Britain’s stronghold on guitar pop. Though its evident here that they’re not really mining the poptimism of the ’60s beat set as they are the dour, more reserved notions of say Nick Garrie or the soft shimmer of Food.

The album winds up as a rather nice counterpoint to Hoare’s darker undertones on last year’s Ultimate Painting highlight, Dusk. Its a mature and misty album that’s finding solace in ennui and a comfortability in contemplation. The mood suits Hoare and Oscarnold well, and while it doesn’t always have the fuzzy bite of their debut, its an undeniably well-crafted album of drizzle-coated jangle.


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The Moving Pictures – “Black Car”

Olympia’s Moving Pictues cull together some luminaries of the Northwest scene; Hayes Waring of Perennial Records, Lillian Maring (Grass Widow), and Charles Waring (Milk Music). Their recently released album on Perennial jumps styles from Wire-taut punk, to sparse experimental pop and chugging electro hobble. On the album standout, “Black Car” Maring takes the the wheel over a propulsive beat and midnight streaks of guitar. Its a dour anthem, but one that’s streaked with a pre-dawn coolness that can’t be shaken. The track’s infectious slink drops out just a bit too soon, with the band pulling it out from underneath the listener just when it seems to get pulsing. The accompanying video is appropriately off-putting and and queasy. This one seems to have been a bit slept on last year. No time like the present to get acquainted.

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – “Sweet Relief”

UK psych beheomoths Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs grew out of the desire for band members to create a heavy, but less overly serious headspace from their other projects Ommadon, Blown Out and Khunnt. They garnered some acclaim opening for Goat on their second show ever, winding up a whispered name among psych enthusiasts ever since. The band is finally on the cusp of their debut for Rocket Recordings, Feed The Rats, out 1/20. Caked in about six layers of psychedelic fallout, the video for “Sweet Relief” (created by Kevin Craig) is a pretty great encapsulation of the band’s equilibrium-stripped sonic assault. Sporting a throaty wail like Lemmy on a bender, Matthew Baty drops lyics like a wartime shaman while the band mashes the underlying storm into a haze of post-Sabbath squall with flecks of Monster Magnet and Corrosion of Conformity swirling in the mix. Not a bad way to end a Friday.

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The Intended

Still mopping up the great untouched leftovers from 2016. It was a crowded field, but that’s no excuse for leaving a good one on the table. The Intended was born out of members from Tyvek and fellow Detroiters Odd Clouds, simmering over years of practice space knockarounds and well-intentioned promises. Captured to four track in a basement space, the record is raw, like a nerve exposed and picked at til its sore. Long past lo-fi’s swan song the band aren’t looking to create an aesthetic, merely finding a means to an end and the end is a record that’s wielding noise cradled garage like perfectly muddied sketchbook rendering. The songs aren’t polished, but they’d be neutered if they were.

The power in The Intended’s arsenal is their dirty, sweat stained charm. The band are pulling this record off like a recovered demo session from the best of the Nuggets generation. Like a Remains session, a Nazz demo or John’s Children practice room cut, they’re finding the nerve of garage as it’s rarely still presented. Sure, there’s a scuzzed up sensibility to many garage bands, but they still don’t feel like you were maybe a fly on the wall for the best take. That’s where Time Will Tell finds its strenth. Each one feels like the band let the listener in on their unguarded moments and everyone won in the process.

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Cable Ties – “Difficult”

Still can’t get enough of Melbourne trio Cable Ties. Details on the upcoming album are sadly scant, but they keep dropping gems along the way, so the wait’s not so bad. Following on their debut single and a split with Wet Lips, they have a new track featured on LISTEN Records compilation Listen 2. The comp sends 50% of the benefits to WAR (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance) and the label itself seeks to promote female and LGBTQ artists in Australia. Good will and great vibes aside on the project, the track is another killer from the Aussie band, still hitting the boiling point energy that seems to make the walls sweat and the room spin. While vocalist Jenny McKechnie, as usual, draws the lion’s share of attention on the track, the underlying instrumental is a gnashed ball of fury and noisy bounce that’s proof that as the band evolves, they’re simply proving that the early excitement wasn’t misplaced in the least.



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Quicksails

Ben Billington’s Quicksails has hovered on the periphery of my consciousness for a while, but he’s never hit home quite like he has on Mortal. In albums spread across labels like NNA, Captcha, Spectrum Spools and Digitalis, he crafted well-natured electronic burble that seemed like an outlet for ideas outside his work in ADT, ONO and Tiger Hatchery. With his latest, though, he’s packing a lot more emotional fallout into the skittering squelch than he’s let on in most of his past releases. He returns to Chicago’s Hausu Mountain for Mortal, an album wrung heavy with the hangover of Bililngton’s personal conflicts and upheavals.

The album straddles, blurs and stretches the lines between Kosmiche, IDM and free jazz; finding comfort in buzzing synths, conflict in stuttering beats and a means of outburst through the sax and trumpet wails of ADT members Carlos Chavarria and Jake Acosta. The album’s tones shift like mood ring phases, guarded and sullen one moment, tense and manic the next. Like its creator, the record can’t be pinned into a corner, it is flux and fluid and all the better for its temperament. There was an era of electronic meets jazz records that became somewhat of a cliche, especially in the late ’90s, but Quicksails manages to easily sidestep falling into a NuJazz pothole. Billington doles out a fizzing emotional balm that’s met with welcome arms.




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Rata Negra

The amount of quality albums streaming out of Madrid these days has been impressive, from Biznaga’s pop thrash to the ramshackle indie of The Parrots and Hinds, the city seems to have a nerve of indie and punk thriving within its walls. Add to that roster, Rata Negra, who fall closer to Biznaga’s frantic energy than the slop-pop of the other two. Oído Absoluto, out on London’s La Vida Es Un Mus Discos, is a Spanish language, full throttle affair that reminds me rather fondly of Monterrey punks XYX. In the same vein, the band straddles a line between chunky punk power chords and a bit more nimble brand of post-punk that hints at something more than straight bashers in the band’s veins. Though, admittedly they lean much heavier on the former and they seem to have a damn good time doing so.

It’s hard to fault them, the sneers can practically be felt seeping through the speakers on this one, flashed with abandon and backed up perfectly by the eight-cylinder chug of the music pushing below. Singer Violeta has her pipes wrapped in an urgency that soaks the entire record, making each track seem more vital than the last. Behind her, the rest of the band knocks around the kind of early ’90s skate punk that feels like they’ve got the California wind at their backs. Surely the band grew up with a stack of heroes that stretched along the Cali Coast, but despite the shirtsleeve deep influences, the band makes the most of the sound and digs deep with their own stamp, sounding like the heirs to the skate punk crown in their own right.

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