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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Scott & Charlene’s Wedding

Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, and more directly songwriter Craig Dermody, has been touted as being the voice of a generation. That’s a hard nut to swallow and quite a lot of pressure for someone who seems more likely than anyone to scoff at such assumptions. Dermody has a deft ear for melody though and a shaggy countenance that does makes his day-in-the-life stories seem a bit more profound than they are at base level. The songs on Mid Thirties Singles Scene are slightly refined from their past efforts, but never self-serious. Its the kind of album that can make a song about eggs and shit jobs feel like a shoulder to lean on and a light teasing at the same time.

2013’s Any Port In A Storm had a loose hopefulness to it. Craig Dermody had decamped to New York, setup with a new band and found a kindred spirit in the city’s ability to absorb newcomers, deflect responsibility and crash from couch to couch. As Dermody readied Mid Thirties Singles Scene, he returned to Melbourne and has rather amiably captured the current wave of youth that’s tied to jobs that pay enough rent, nights at rehearsal and the smaller comforts of a few friends, pints and football. The past years’ hopefulness has slid into a crooked grin and a laugh punctuated with sigh. In that light, maybe he’s not the voice of a generation, but he’s certainly got his particular demographic well pegged.

Dermody has a perfect knack for imperfection. He’s found a home in the shaggy squall of Pavement’s shambling delivery paired with pop-freckled noise. The general relaxed exterior can sometimes let down the listener’s guard, leading to a wry smile when Dermody drops sparkling pop nuggets in the mix like “Distracted” or “Don’t Bother Me.” There aren’t many that can find enlightenment in repetitive stress careers, delivered weed and a few beers and wrap it up without cliche but Dermody finds a way to make it seem enviable. The rest of the world isn’t immune to its own packs of directionless youth, but somehow the Aussies have been nailing the finder shading on the class portrait. Dermody’s pulled it all off with an air of wearied charm that’s pushing him to the top of the heap. Maybe he’s not the voice, but he’s getting pretty damn close.



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Savoy Motel – “Sorry People”

Good news for all the moonbabies out there, the psych/soul/glam/funk barrage of Savoy Motel has found a home at What’s Your Rupture?, spinning their once obscure single into an upcoming album’s worth of sparkle sodden mutant handclap boogie that feels lived in and crinkly as a Twinkeyz single run through the woodchipper and neck-stomped by Slade. This new taste of the LP is a heavy hitter that sneers and holds our Angel of No Mercy, Jay Reatard as its inspiration. There’s less melted sun splatter than on that breakout “Hot One” but still plenty to love about the platform heel stomp, disco click ‘n shuffle and paint peeler of a solo that adorn “Sorry People.” Definitely psyched on Jeffery Novak and co. fleshing this project out into a true weirdo run backwards through the television tube memory of our childhoods.

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The Holydrug Couple – “Whatever You Want”

Chilean psych’s premiere dreampop export are back in action, this time creating a very real soundtrack to a very imaginary film. The track “Whatever You Want” finds the band still in the blissful wake of their last album, Moonlust and reaching further for that moment when the sun blinds your eyes and warms the soul. The track is swept along by a pounding beat that’s easily tempered by the dreamy vocal chants and twisted nicely with the addition of some vintage synth stabs. Paired with fellow first taste, the instrumental “Vase of Flowers,” its hard not to feel a debt to Air and in particular the Virgin Suidices Soundtrack. There’s a similar feeling of vintage yet timeless to the track, employing a light touch with a heavy shadow. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing, as I imagine both of these are just puzzle pieces in the world of Soundtrack for Pantanal.



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Bruce Haack – The Electric Lucifer

Bruce Haack has long been a fascinating figure in the musical landscape. A composer who entered the world of recordings through theater and dance scores, moved on to children’s music, commercials and eventually to the rock influenced sound as displayed on his masterpiece The Electric Lucifer. All of his output, from commercial work to children’s music employed homemade electronics and helped to usher in an acclimation of them to music throughout the ’60s and ’70s. The Electric Lucifer was conceived shortly after friend and business manager Chris Kachulis introduced Haack to his collection of psychedelic rock records. Haack thought that the sound would fit well with his boundary pushing use of electronic instruments and he began work on an album that depicted Earth in the middle of a struggle between Heaven and Hell. In his telling there is a concept, “Powerlove,” that is so strong that and pure that it could not only save the Earth, but Lucifer from himself.

Haack marries the rhythms of rock to a fizzing, creaking and buzzing world of electronics that give Lucifer a sound that must have, at the time, seemed bent from the sci-fi brains of Asimov and Wells, shot through with the religious darkness of Dante. At times, in hindsight the effects can seem quaint and even humorous, but taken in context its easy to see how Haack became an influential figure; with his distorted vocalizations, chugging electronic rhythms and psychedelic infusion of religion. At times it sounds like a man locked alone in a garage, given copies of Jesus Christ Superstar and A Child’s Guide to Good And Evil and tasked with finding the middle ground given only homemade electronics and a few mics to work it out. Haack would go on for years to influence and create, even hooking up with Russell Simmons in 1982 on the single “Party Machine,” but The Electric Lucifer still stands as a calling card for many musicians looking for that bridge between the scientific and the psychedelic. Its Haack’s longest reaching legacy outside of his children’s classic Dance, Sing and Listen and certainly an essential listen for those with a foot in either the psych or electronic camps.



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Ultimate Painting – “Song For Brian Jones”

Ultimate Painting have steadily smoothed their sound, found their footing and arrived at the autumnal opus that is Dusk. Standout elegy for troubled Rolling Stones member Brian Jones is pretty indicative of where the band have taken their sound for this album ironing out their VU love and wandering closer to the sunset psych of aughts mainstays like Dios (Dios Malos if you want to get litigious) or the less cavernous moments of Beachwood Sparks. The song is a fitting tear shed for Jones and as strong and argument as you could ever make for getting James Hoare and Jack Cooper together. The clip is appropriately swimming in double imagery and softly psychedelic shots of Hoare’s studio and a verdant landscape. Its not the most groundbreaking visual but its a nice accompaniment to the band’s pop flutter. Between this and the Pete Astor album, it seems that James Hoare is making himself responsible for some of my favorite moments of gentle pop hum this year. Here’s hoping he keeps it up.



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Tomorrow The Rain Will Fall Upwards

Finding a hole to pin the sound of Tomorrow The Rain Will Fall Upwards is almost as difficult as trying to track down information on its creator. The purposely elusive project on Blackest Ever Black came to light with a similarly stunning but hard to categorize EP from 2014. Now with a full album’s length to play with they (he/she/?) take the dub inclinations from the EP and work a smear all over the map of experimental electronic, dub housed soul, Tropicalia, synth, and noise. Each song shifts gears entirely from the one before, held together most tellingly by an atmosphere of bass, echo, and foreboding yet billowy synth. The tone is overtly political; couched within those dub valleys and darkened corners are references to women fighting oppression through history, The Spanish Civil War, the UK miners’ strike and the final track plays out with a portion of the Socialist anthem The Internationale.

That inclusion speaks well to the shadowy nature of T.T.R.W.F.U., as the original writer of music for the anthem also concealed himself to save his job from scrutiny. Wreck His Days comes as a bold statement in a time of shifting political realities, both in the band’s native UK, with the fallout from Brexit and an uncertain future of unification, and here in The States with our own twinge of political upheaval and two very divergent but outspoken populist takes on candidacy. Something like this feels like it nails the anxiety, the hope, the fear and the uncertainty of politics in 2016 (or more precisely the 2015 ramp up to it that surrounded the album’s making). The album ends on a hopeful note of Socialism, The Internationale has a theme that can’t help but resonate through leftist politics of any country, but T.T.R.W.F.U. raises more questions than answers. The album alludes to a new shift in the winds, but only hints that the people will see it through. Though I suppose if you’re looking to music to provide all the answers then you’re maybe expecting a bit too much. Its a grand statement that sharpens focus the further you back away from it.



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Bloods – “Bring My Walls Down”

Syndey’s Bloods return for a sophomore album and the first track blows in like a sweet breeze across the ocean. They soften the attack but keep their chewy ’90s center strong, transitioning from garage pop into a gnarled bit of Alt rock that mines The Muffs, Letters To Cleo and Veruca Salt. There’s been a steady turn towards the ’90s in the past couple of years but its always great when bands fight the right touchstones, and this is definitely a welcomed refinement for Bloods. The song finds the band and singer MC ruminating on a crush that lowers all defenses, the kind of overwhelming infatuation that leaves you vulnerable because you can’t help but sputter out the first things that pop into your head. I noticed that the band had DJ’d a night of teen movie soundtrack classics last year, and that alone makes perfect sense, since “Bring My Walls Down” feels like it might find itself right at home sandwiched between cuts on the Clueless Soundtrack or fueling 10 Things I Hate About You‘s femme pop heavy sound. If they were still making the kind of teen comedies that leaned heavily on turning Shakespeare and Jane Austen into parables for the mall set, some music supervisor would be losing their shit over this one.




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Sam Coomes

Sam Coomes is tied to a lot of lush and rather put together pop music, from his heyday in Quasi (though they had some cracks in the sheen to be sure) to Heatmiser’s alt-pedestal ascension and Built To Spill’s major label moments. So its fun to see Sam just let loose. There’s a manifesto behind the sonic stripdown and it has to do with too much access to home recording technology and creating art rather than artifice, but truthfully the more telling bit has to do with liking practical effects in old movies. Coomes is right, there’s a certain grace to seeing the cracks in the surface and watching the animatronics move under the creepy robotic animals’ faces. Think the Rock-Afire Explosion playing on through a horrendous restaurant fire and you’re getting there. In that regard, Bugger Me is Coomes slapstiched version of a Suicide dreamscape, full of haunted organ and junkyard beats from a castaway rhythm box. It feels like a DIY puppet show might spring up at anytime with tiny marionettes banging out wheezy organ lines and a few stings getting tangled in the process.

It’s not the glowing pop orb of Quasi’s sound that he brings but rather his own hangdog sadness that’s always seemed a great part of his own songs. Coomes could always play the part of the downtrodden drinking buddy, but here he’s gone full junkyard Tom Waits to prove his commitment. The album’s got charms like a late night stumble on an lost b-movie; MST3K without the commentary, just bad effects and endearing moments that make you want to laugh through the pain.




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