Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

Lavender Flu – Follow The Flowers

One of this year’s sorely overlooked gems was the sophomore LP from Lavender Flu. The band tightened up their sound and delivered an album of excellently psych splattered garage pop. If perhaps this one got a way from you, then now’s the time to go back and right some wrongs. The band’s sparkling, soaring song “Follow The Flower” has been adorned with a suitably psychedelic video that pulses with light and color. Check in with the visual treat and then head over to In The Red for the full experience.

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The Holydrug Couple

Chilean psych-pop duo The Holydrug Couple have always taken a blissful approach to the idea of psychedelia. Their sound doesn’t embrace the attack of fuzz or anger of feedback so much as it seeks to strand listeners in a euphoric cocoon of dazzling light and sound. They’ve done so to great effect on their last couple of albums on a shoestring budget, turning bedroom sessions into gooey, sun-dappled psych-pop that begs the listener to get lost in its embrace. Now they’ve doubled down on the studio setup, looking to produce something of a ‘classic’ record with all the spoils of their Guitar Center sweep-up.

While they’re taking a nod at Beach Boys and Beatles in their reported intentions, in reality this is landing among the heather occupied by The Soft Bulletin and Heaven or Las Vegas. Everything on Hyper Super Mega shimmers, everything glows and turns to gauze rather than becoming concrete. There’s a pop center that might run on an engine of ‘60s and ‘70s giddiness, but once its processed through the band’s arsenal of augmentation its all dry ice and purple glows, like gaseous extraterrestrials trying to tune in Todd Rundgren on the console of a second-hand saucer.

It seems that 2018 is a year for bands to bring forth the best version of themselves and in that regard, Holydrug Couple can clearly be added to that list. Hyper Super Mega achieves the vision that they set out to bring to life when the Couple was formed, a vibrational orchestra rendered in absolute clarity. In a year that’s been tumultuous and feels awfully grounded this is a nice lift into the clouds of distraction and a salve for daily burns.



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Woolen Men

Portland’s constantly underrated Woolen Men are back with their fifth album and it’s the best incarnation of their ‘80s and ‘90s excavations yet. Built on a bedrock of knotty guitars and bone-dry vocals, the band finds a new arrow in its arsenal with the addition of sprightly, motorik-leaning rhythms. The combo gives the band’s sound a good shove in the direction of the sun and further towards indie pop than they’ve ever strayed. To be honest, indie pop wouldn’t have ever been a term I thought would apply to the veteran Northwesterners, but here we are. The band’s had a documented dedication to following their muse and rebuffing the trends towards the grunge legacy of their surroundings, but they’ve often strayed towards the dingier side of the past when trailing that muse.

They’ve powered through a period of angular post-punk, bouts of college rock that kicked at the doors of Pavement and Husker Du alike, but now they’re finding their groove stapling early Go-Betweens basslines to R.E.M. fallout and Feelies vibes. Its as upbeat an album as they’ve ever issued, and in a year when anger rules the racks that’s somewhat of a refreshing offer. The sound on Post (a winking nod of a title if there ever was one) is as crisp as they’ve ever sounded, on par with their previous high-water mark Temporary Monument. Though while the two albums may share a love of clarity, Post is the calm water coolout to Temp’s agitator itch.

Style and genre don’t seem to hold a place of permanence in their mindset, but a mark of quality always haunts any Woolen Men record. Post is no different, the band proves that they can jangle just as well as they can wrap their guitars around the rubbery wrath of The Fall. Woolen Men have now been knocking around Portland long enough to see waves of bands filter through fast fad life cycles, and while they themselves band may still be holding down day jobs, their dedication to doing what brings them joy has given them a longevity that contemporaries would likely envy. This may be the band’s finest hour, I’d advise paying close attention.



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The Molochs

Quintessentially Californian – breezy, but flecked with garage gristle, soft baked twang, and a touch of sunshine strum – The Molochs burst out with their debut, America’s Velvet Glory, last year. It was a record that picked at the bones of a dozen personal favorites, but it seemed like the template for something better. That it was, and the band issues Flowers in the Spring as the smoother sipping, buttered-soul culmination of that they were going for on that debut. The record embraces the pop proper in garage pop, turning their latent VU impulses towards lusher waters. While wrapping up their ‘60s jangles in a touch of country sparkle they’re finding the dividing line between Nikki Sudden, ‘70s Flying Burrito Bros and the sorely missed strains of the Strange Boys.

Lucas Fitzsimons attempts a swipe at swagger that tries hard to cover up the vulnerabilities in his voice, but that bluff is all part of the charm. He’s full of bluster one minute, but journaling about it later with a wash of heat in his cheeks for his transgressions. Some of the best moments on Flowers are couched in the tender resolve – “And She’s Sleeping Now,” “A Little Glimpse of Death,” “Too Lost in Love” – here the band doesn’t worry about rock clichés and spends some time working on the minor details that make pop shine.

Skirting wide on the idea of a sophomore slump, The Molochs are, it would seem, just getting started here. This record has found its footing and ditched the confines of American Garage that dogged their debut. In indulging their pop sweet tooth the band has made a lasting impression and in turn bumped themselves out of the rut of the standard garage band.



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School Damage – “Meeting Halfway”

School Damage swing in with their second single off of the upcoming A to X and it solidifies this as one of the top tier releases to get excited for this summer. The track’s a Jake-led ripper charging in high on a swell of keys and backup coos. It’s proof positive that the band has wrapped up post-punk and jangle into the perfect pop package for hot weather hi-jinks. Sweetening the pot is an excellent stop-motion video that’s an aesthetic match for the song’s off-kilter pounce. Much respect to the band’s Carolyn Hawkins for the time-intensive process it must have taken to get this together. If this record isn’t on your list of pre-Fall necessities then rectify that immediately. The LP’s out at the end of August on Chapter Music.

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Little Ugly Girls – “Jimmeh”

Chapter Music are doing the world a service and giving long simmering band Little Ugly Girls their due. The Tasmanian punks were a fan favorite and tore up the ‘90s around their homeland, but never issued a record until now. Given the quality of the material here, that seems almost criminal in retrospect. Along with the electric frontwoman Linda Johnston, the band included Mindy Mapp, from RSTB faves Fur (also desperately undersung, especially outside of the South Hemi). Fans of L7 take notice, you were definitely missing out without the strained stomp of the LUGs in your life. In advanve of the the album’s release this Friday take a first listen to “Jimmeh” – a heavily fuzzed assault, buttoned and bound to break by the time it gets to the final collapse. Johnston’s laryngitis growl gives the track urgency but the band holds their own in her wake with a simmering pot of noise that can barely keep from blowing its lid. For a band that shared stages with Bikini Kill, Fugazi and the White Stripes, it seems long past time that the world gets a proper intro to these vital cuts.

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Doe – “Heated”

UK trio Doe follow on their 2016 album, Some Things Last Longer Than You, with a sophomore record for Glasgow’s Big Scary Monsters (on Topshelf in the US). The album embraces themes of getting older, finding freedom in maturity and solace in death. While the subject matter is heavy, there’s still plenty of room for hooks. The first track, “Heated,” dredges up visions of ’90s crunch pop from Veruca Salt and they’re picking at a lot of the same alt bones that drove last year’s standout from Charley Bliss. The band aren’t content to be backed into a genre corner, though. The track pushes and pulls between quiet, grinning contempt and explosive fuzz riffs that push for the kind of catharsis that fits their aim of growing up without letting the anchor of youth weigh you down or tie you up. Gonna want to hear some more of this record, but this is a nice opening shot and a step up from their DIY past.

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Our Girl – “In My Head”

UK indie trio Our Girl have had some excellent run up singles in advance of their debut, Stranger Today. They pair their latest cut, “In My Head,” a dark, rumbling burner slashed by moody guitars, with a surreal cut n’ paste video that drops the second Michel Gondry reference of the day. The band cites The Science of Sleep as an inspiration and it’s easy to see how the collage work pulls from his melancholy love story. The track is a sobering tale of miscommunication with a cooldown hook and a frothing scratch of feedback that threatens menace from behind the somber vocals. The band’s record arrives next month and this video serves as a pretty strong argument in favor of putting in on the ol’ wishlist.

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Tony Molina

I continue to be floored by how much punch Tony Molina can pack into about fifteen full minutes of material. His albums are exercises in self-restraint, picking out heartbreaking hooks and using them once or twice before the man walks away leaving audiences wanting much, much more. His songs never sound half-finished though – despite their length – they simply breeze into all of our lives, soften our hearts and flutter on back home to Tony’s power pop soul. Call them indie pop jingles or compact-size singles, but Molina remains a master craftsman of the sort of digestible pop that can be absorbed in full over the course of a state mandated fifteen-minute retail break.

As has been well noted, here and elsewhere, the second album, like the EP that preceded it has softened the crunch from Molina’s Ocasek-era Weezer / early Fanclub leanings. He’s dug out the twelve-string here and has clearly been listening to the most tender-hearted moments of the Byrds catalog. He’s sopping up the tears shed by teens finding solace in Elliott Smith’s oeuvre and he’s still not done with the likes of Norman Blake and the boys in Fanclub’s van. He’s just moved on to their own softer side. On Kill The Lights Molina combines all these influences into a power pop pit stop that’s bittersweet, but blissful, and absolutely one of the most touching albums of the year.

More than a punk in folk’s clothing, Molina has grafted the economical length of punk’s attention span to lush arrangements that are anything but frugal when it comes to production. These are mini-epics of pop squeezed into snow globes and they dazzle with their ornate details. Every time this album comes to an end I find myself turning it back on all over again. The songs on Kill The Lights are stunners one and all and I’m pretty sure this could just be set on a loop and keep a room at attention for well past an hour. Tony might dole out his gifts in small packages, but he’s an argument in favor of quality over quantity to say the least.



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Bloods – Feeelings LP

Great news for stateside fans of Aussie poppers Bloods. The band has signed to Share It Music, a new imprint headed by Sub Pop’s Cayle Sharratt that doubles as non-profit, splitting the proceeds between the artists and a charity of their chosing. The label is, naturally, distro’d by Sub Pop over here, making their new record a hell of a lot easier to get hands on than their last. Per the band’s direction, half the proceeds of Feelings will go to the Australian-based Indigenous Literacy Foundation. The sophomore LP will make it to shelves on August 17th and based on the first couple of singles (including the already loved “Feelings“) its gonna be a sugar shock of garage punk with a fuzz pop chaser. The record boasts a bigger sound than they’ve delved into in the past and a bleeding pop edge exacerbated by the production of Liam Judson (Cloud Control, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever). If you’re unfamiliar with the band, there’s no time like the next month to hunker down and get familiar.



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