Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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Flasher

While they cherry pick from several eras (‘70s power pop, 80’s New Wave, 90’s indie pop) the way that Flasher assembles the pieces of their musical landscape feels swaddled in the arms of the early ‘00s. That time period in the band’s native DC was rife with bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, and Black Eyes who were knocking down genre walls like a pit-dizzy Kool Aid Man. Flasher, it appears, absorbed this era’s open source structure as the core of their being, creating a guitar record that’s blown through with sugar high hooks without clutching to the tatters of any genre too tightly. The album is punk in its beating heart, but dancing on the outside, much like guitarist Taylor Mulitz’ other band Priests, without the political posturing.

The record is an elastic shock of color erupting out of the speakers, bursting with a joy that’s sometimes lacking in modern guitar bands that have studied every nuance of a particular sound, only to inflict albums that read like carefully constructed dioramas – meticulous but missing that spark of life. Flasher’s sonic quilting approach by turns feels refreshing, with the band never loitering in any sonic nook long enough to grow mold. They’ll splash a track with keys shiny and bright, take a hazy stumble through shoegaze to block the sun, disjoint the rhythms until your feet can’t help but twitch and still the record feels as cohesive and complex as any of their contemporaries.

Its nice to step back to a time when indie pop found joy in riffling the whole toy box. Flasher have made a strong statement with Constant Image and the fact that it’s a debut only sweetens the pot. While they’ve had a few singles, the band has essentially come out of the box fully formed without second guessing their melting pot pop for one second. Gotta think if they start here, where they go can only solidify their enthusiastic blend.



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Shy Boys – “Take The Doggie”

Kansas City’s Shy Boys blend an affinity for bighearted pop of the ’60s variety with the knotted College Rock shot straight out of Athen’s ’88 for an instantly recognizable sound that’s always on the tip of your tongue and lapping at the backwaters of memory. Their short, but sweet, track “Take The Doggie” is a tale of dog-knapping with no ill intent and the video, well pretty much hits things on the nose with some crowd-sourced dog shots. Still, the song’s an earworm that can’t be beat and a standout on their upcoming Polyvinyl debut, Bell House.

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Loose Tooth – “Keep On”

Excited to hear that Melbourne’s Loose Tooth finally have an LP on the way. The trio’s last EP Saturn Returns was a taut indie popper built on the back of post-punk bass lines and a tangle of jangles. Good to hear from the first drops of Keep Up that the LP looks to be more of the same. “Keep On” unrolls with a stately grace, slow and creeping like the best widescreen ‘80s cuts. It maintains the build for the majority of its run until the song boils over with a rush of background vocals and colorful splash of keys, exploding like a shaken soda all over the speakers. The record is out on Milk! Records in August, so stay sharp and keep a lookout when it hits.



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Tony Molina – “Nothing I Can Say”

Damn right its time for a new Tony Molina jam and the word that a full length is on the way from California’s favorite punk turned soft shell power popper is well received around here. Molina’s sticking with brevity as his bread and butter and that means that this one clocks in just a touch over one minute long, but what a minute it is. Firmly dialed into his Teenage Fanclub adoration, the song doesn’t waste a minute, proving that while most bands would spin out into a couple more choruses to hang that nougaty verse TM can do in only one. I guess if you disagree you can always just lock this on repeat and hunker down into a “Nothing I Can Say” loop. Sounds pretty tempting to me actually.



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Michael Rault

Landing on Daptone’s rock imprint, Wick, begs more than a few comparisons to power pop’s favorite sons, Big Star. For his sake, let’s hope finding love in the arms of soul proprietors ends better for Rault than it did for the long-term prospects of his predecessors. However, in the short term its working out just fine. Produced by Wayne Gordon, chief engineer at Daptone, the album is lush and luxuriant – curling its toes into carpets of strings, pillowing in pink clouds of reverb and generally hunkering down into a Vaseline-lensed soft-focus that’s far removed from the pop of 2018.

If the record is displaced in time, that seems largely by design, though. Rault is pulling decidedly from the “pop” half of his genre’s namesake, favoring the radio-friendly forms of Badfinger, The Raspberries, Emitt Rhodes and Chris Bell’s solo work. Rault has slipped on the ‘70s like a butterfly collar and it looks good on him. Of course, he’s spent time in the decade before, fiddling with T. Rex boogie and glam crunch on his previous album for Burger. However, while that territory has been raided plentifully over the last few years with an easy entry through garage rock’s back door, the AOR sincerity of the time period is harder to emulate without sounding cheesy, a feat that Rault pulls off with seeming ease. He’s cherry picking through solo McCartney, Harrison and the aforementioned Apple acolytes while skirting the pitfalls of Frampton and Speedwagon for an album that’s all pleasure, no guilt.

Lyrically the album is preoccupied with sleeping and dreaming, subject matter that lends itself well to Rault’s sparkling pop diorama. Songs like “Sitting Still” and “Dream Song” (naturally) feel like they’re pumped in on ripples of dry ice and pastel light. The listening field is tipped back and staring at clouds pass by while Rault’s pop vision is projected above. At a scant 35 minutes, the dream is over almost too soon. Best to leave them wanting more I suppose and It’s A New Day Tonight certainly begs for a sequel and soon. Rault’s found his niche in this corner of the ‘70s. I’d say he should get comfortable their but he seems right at home.



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Ryley Walker

The curse of making an album that’s hailed as great is that it haunts your career, rearing its head wherever you go, always an accolade and an albatross at the same time. In the wake of Primrose Green Ryley Walker was lofted up as the heir to knotted folk’s throne, though it always seemed that he had no interest in resting there for any length of time. That album’s follow-up, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, was a looser bar-rock exploration that was summarily panned for not sounding enough like its predecessor, for not settling onto the throne. It was an unfair assessment met with some frustration by the artist, and rightfully so. With Deafman Glance Walker firmly asserts that genre is an exercise and not a defining characteristic of an artist. He shirks once and for all the shadow of Primrose and leaves us with his darkest, most complex and delicately shaded album yet.

There’s hardly a trace of folk proper on Deafman, though it perhaps shows up most prominently in Telluride Speed with its woven plucks and autumnal flute. As with the majority of Walker’s works on the album, though, the simple bliss is shot through with bent jazz markers and frustrated electric runs. As the album progresses, Walker pushes a notion of texture over melody and the album begins to color in like an abstract painting with dark, furious patches in one corner and gorgeous, light swipes on the opposite edge. Don’t let that imply that the record has an improvisational nature, far from it. Like the best abstracts the seemingly jarred elements are planned and structured to look haphazard, but without the forethought the juxtapositions would never land.

Walker recorded the album in Chicago and has referenced the city’s sounds as an influence, one that can indeed be felt in the margins of Deafman Glance – the soul of a poet squeezed through the equations of Tortoise or Gastr del Sol. Lyrically, Walker’s still sitting in the corner of the bar, though this time there’s more whiskey and solitude than good laughs and cheap beer. The album is certainly ruminating in its heart, absorbed in itself for better or worse. With Deafman Glance, however, Walker has knocked out an album that’s as visceral and tactile as his early works are ephemeral and airy. This is a true step forward, and while there are certainly no hooks that are going to keep nudging you back, the innate desire to stare at Walker’s void and discern the depths is rather addictive.




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Good Morning

Aussie duo Good Morning graduates from the EP to the LP but shows no signs of ditching the band’s ramshackle, disjointed style with a larger overarching container. Good on ‘em too, because their “life stuffed in a knapsack” aesthetic is largely the engine driving their charms. The band is of and beholden to the new wave of Aussie indie that embraces substance over sheen, often recorded in fits and starts in kitchens and basements around the country. It is music by and for friends that just happens to trickle out when the right label gets an ear on it. So, it is that Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons birthed this album alone, with the hum of tape as constant companion and the image of a lone bare bulb swinging above a Tascam as mascot to its creation. The record is sparse, as are their previous EPs, but without so much as a coat of paint the record is primed for its revelry in anxiety’s ouroboros, melancholy’s sway and sighed choruses that don’t rely on hooks so much as commiseration.

Despite a decidedly laid-back veneer the record doesn’t leave itself open to easy entry points. Guitars find themselves whittled down to second-tier status on Prize // Reward, replaced by a rec room piano that sounds like it might have two generations worth of drink rings to buff out. The pair swoons and shuffles through their songs with a brilliant disheveled approach, the very aural image of Nilsson’s robe-clad cover of Schmilsson – blank-eyed, bleary and perhaps privately destroyed by tiny catastrophes like running out of milk. They encapsulate a detached cool that’s almost a private joke between the songwriters, scoff if you must but they’re not out to win you over.

They hint at aspirations of elevating the record from its dehumidifier din – flutes peck at opener “Plant Matta” and a gang of vocal interlopers can be heard before they’re melted by the easy bake warble that takes the track to its resting place. There’s a running thread of sax that finds its way through the record, provided by Blair’s dad, though his debauched skronk colors the songs with a lounge-light hangover that’s not pulling the curtains any time soon. Now, despite the milieu that all of this isolation brings to mind, the record is actually a stunner of slack, feeling unfussed with the preening rabble outside of their creative bubble. Good Morning has slyly slipped out the best dip into the pill cabinet dressed up like a ‘70s private press depression session you’re likely to hear this year.



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The Love-Birds

In the wake of their Empty Cellar debut single, a sparkling tangle of jangles and clear-sky hooks, San Francisco’s Love-Birds wound up on the radar of a new generation thirsting for guitar’s pop prominence. They funnel the energy of that short-form stunner into an LP that proves they have a deft hold on jangle’s cross-generational evolution – tapping into The Byrds, 12-string history while echoing alt and indie pop hallmarks from R.E.M. to The Flaming Groovies and Teenage Fanclub. They even drag the rudder through the South Hemisphere, picking up nods to The Go-Betweens and The Chills then cold-press all this history down to a record that feels instantly familiar while still coming out fresh as a bay breeze in spring.

While they’re definitely pulling down a full set of sleeves, practically polka-dotted with hearts beating for the past, they swerve the stamp of college-town cover band looking to stun with their ability to belt out “End of the World As We Know It” sans crib-sheet. Instead they’ve bound up the control board glow of late night nineties college radio and, with the aid of San Francisco strummer and legend in his own right Glenn Donaldson, offered up a record that’s intangibly catchy, bittersweet and buoyant. The album captures that feeling when the airwaves were just right and the lo-watt station two towns over came in crystal clear at 12am, letting a few late-night discoveries blossom into lifelong obsessions.

On In The Lover’s Corner, the band feels comfortable picking at songs of love unrequited and scratching the itch of nostalgia that a good many likely have for an era with more to offer than the packaged in amber playlists built on hits rather than heart. The Love-Birds are helping helping further the left side of the dial even as the dial disappears from view.



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Unlikely Friends

Tacoma’s Unlikely Friends rope together members of BOAT and Math and Physics Club for a dose of power pop and shaggy indie that holds a candle for the ‘90s recipe: quirk times hooks equals solid gold. BOAT existed on the periphery of indie pop blogs for some time in the early aughts and this stands as a natural progression of their scruffy four-track pop aesthetic. Taking cues from latter day Apples in Stereo, mid-period New Pornographers and pretty much any point in Fountains of Wayne’s catalog while sprinkling in a dash of early Shins pacing on the slower cuts, the band’s sophomore tape inflates their humble pop pretense to towering proportions. It’s easy to lump the band into the box of slacker rock, hell the band even does it themselves at times, but there’s more drive here than that epithet would let on. There’s Pavement in their veins and a click track backing beat but when Unlikely Friends hit that hook sweet spot their pop feels like its bound for a bigger budget.

Leaning into the plurality of downer themes floated on buoyant hooks, the band never suffers from pushing their power pop formula into saccharine territory. Far from it, they wax poetic on stagnation, homesickness, love (naturally) and well, baseball, quite a bit of baseball actually. The album is a bold shot across the bow of 2018 and an antidote to an overabundance of garage-flecked power pop, giving the genre back its bittersweet core. This is likely to get lost between the cracks of 2018, it came out in January and I find it just now floating to the surface. That’s no reason to miss out though, there’s plenty to chew on here and like BOAT before them, there are too many gleaming moments hidden under the rough exterior to ignore.

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