Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

Allah Las – “Polar Onion”

Allah Las give another peek behind their new LP with a video for “Polar Onion,” a darker, more solemn track than the previously released “In The Air.” Instead of their usual shaggy jangle and touch of surf, “Polar Onion” captures the other edge of jangle-pop, the bittersweet pang of The Go-Betweens, or the quiet anguish of R.E.M. The band’s definitely explored this side before, but never quite as effectively as they do here. The video is animated by longtime Las and Mexican Summer designer Bailey Elder and it works blocks of swirling color into California motifs, balancing the cloudy strum with a palette of hazy colors and hand drawn rough edges. The band’s latest is out October 11th, from Mexican Summer.

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Dommengang

On their third album Dommengang still navigate the causeway between psychedelic blues and the frayed edges of harder rock, but this time they’ve added a looseness to their sound that breaks the lash that held them to a more regimented past. While they used to bump into the bluster of metal, this time around they’re cooling their sound into something more cosmic, and it feels like the piece of the puzzle they’d long been missing. Tim Green, again at the boards, gives the album a spaciousness that floats on the air like steam n’ sweat in the crisp morning air. The album is perched in permanent golden hour hues, with the songs coming on like a third beer swagger that melts the weight of week away.

That cosmic crash doesn’t crest too early. The band opens with “Sunny Day Flooding,” which ties the knot between last year’s Love Jail and the new album’s woollier ways. Then they ease into the tangerine drip of guitars on the back end of “Earth Blues.” Just towards the last solo you can feel the band loosen. It’s a respite before they kick the crunch back on but there’s a collective sigh between the notes. Sig Wilson’s playing on this one is his best yet, burning ether and ozone, getting lost in the smoke curls for more than a moment. The last album evoked the West, and the band’s move towards L.A., but this one embraces the desert as well as the lusher confines of the coast. There’s a touch of Big Sur in the gnarled drags on “Kudzu.” It’s a relief that tumbles down in a gush of guitar, quenching the soul of the parched sounds of their past.

This, along with the Crazy Horse burn that permeates and pounds through the heart of “Jerusalem Cricket,” gives the band a wild-eyed, crooked grin gravitas that they embody with ease. As Dommengang crunch into the loose gravel groove of the latter half of No Keys they position themselves to embrace the crux between David Nance, Chris Forsyth, and Endless Boogie. It’s a welcomed shift and one I hope they continue to mine for more material. That said, even with No Keys acting as an album in transition, the moments that burn bright tend to light up the horizon with a most inviting glow.



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RVG – “Alexandra”

Skidding into a US tour, Aussies RVG are back with a new single that finds them comfortable in their velvet cushion of sound that wavers between Echo and the Bunnymen, The Church, and Love and Rockets. “Alexandra” retains the band’s emphasis on sweeping drama, mirroring Echo’s knack for riveting swells and invoking anguish as a genre unto itself. Amputated from a larger narrative of an album the song’s more of a primer for those who might have missed out on their excellent, and still underrated debut. If this one catches your ear, its recommended you go back to the crushed eyeliner and rain of that eponymous gem.

The b-side sees the band take on mid-period John Cale, giving a dose of urgency to his ’85 deep cut from Artificial Intelligence. Vager’s vocals do well for the song, perhaps taking a bit of license with the original’s more buttoned-down approach, but she’s does plenty to make it her own. The band pumps the song full of the same sense of urgency that they employ in their own works. With all due respect to Cale, its actually a great argument for covering your heroes, as they give the song quite a bit more gravity than the original ever had. Nab this double cut, definitely see the band if they swing through your area.




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Clinic

Has it really been seven years since Clinic was last seen creeping around the turntable? It appears so. After the band’s last outing, which saw them collaborating with Oneohtrix’ Daniel Lopatin, they return to a more familiar form, riding the raw snap of their familiar spooked psych-blues once more. The title of Wheeltappers and Shunters is likely lost on most US audiences, as it references a mid-70s British Variety series that hasn’t aged particularly well. The jocular program represents a time that, while often reminisced as the golden age of culture, actually rounds out to a cringing normalization of racial stereotype caught on tape and misogyny run rampant. The show is essentially the UK version of Hee-Haw (minus the country music) as far as I can tell, and as much as that’s likely a fond familial memory for some here, it’s as much a cultural black mark for everyone else.

The band works the album into a kind of inverse Village Green Preservation Society, holding up the sunny charms of the past to the magnifying lens of 2019 and looking for the dirt in the cracks. As much as both the UK and US have found sweeping waves of nostalgic nationalism in the wake of MAGA/Brexit culture, this is a necessary knock to the heads of the rally crowds looking to hearken back to some sort of perceived greatest generations. They pin their body politic to some progressive visions of the Clinic sound as well – stretching out to the ethereal embers on “Flying Fish,” and mining menacing prog on the fizzing closer “New Equations (at the Copacabana)”. The band’s bubbling through lava and lye on “Ferryboat of the Mind,” while they return to the classic pendulum swing swagger of their old days on “Congratulations.”

The record is indeed a dark depiction of nostalgia – panicked, preserved, and packaged for a future generation to find and ponder. They don’t look back on the transgressions of their predecessors lightly, just as our own heirs should not. While (somewhat ironically) fans nostalgic for classic Clinic will find something to love here, the band’s fusing much of the drive from their more experimental later years with the propulsive pop that locked ‘em on your college dial. It’s a new chapter in the history of the psych swamp and a rather welcomed return.



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Wayne Rogers

Outside of his work with Major Stars, Crystalized Movements and Magic Hour, Wayne Rogers has had a prolific run of records under his own name. These range from acoustic comedowns to toasted cone blues, psych burnouts, and downer rock wallows that feel particularly Northeastern in their approach to the Alt-rock ripple (think Fort Apache and Feeding Tube vibes). While the Stars will always overshadow these, to discount the Rogers’ solo records is to make a major misstep. The Air Below falls squarely into that East Coast downer detour I mentioned previously and comes swinging close to early inklings that Rogers laid down on Ego River and Seven Arms of the Sun, which were both later bound up in the easier to cop CD release Absent Sounds. There’s the same sundried scorch to the guitars with just a touch of wandering shuffle that melts into a jangled haze. The noise is still working its way around, but as a tool, rather than the focus here.

This is Roger’s first solo work since 2008’s Infinite For Now and while it, like most Twisted Village releases, appears out of thin air without its share of the deserved PR fanfare, the record is a great addition to his longstanding stable. His experimental releases are always foaming in the right ways, but these vocal strummers seem to scratch a particular itch. The blast of air from “Bad Idea” is among his best – high octane guitar burn coupled with Rogers’ amiably nasal croon make it feel like the perfect mix of ‘90s record labels reaching further into the underground than was advisable. It echoes the kind of noise-flecked burners that found their way to the airwaves despite themselves and we all wound up better for their hubris. Not so long ago Twisted Village folded without an expectant return date, but with this release, both Rogers and the label come bounding back, reminding us all why they were so vital in the first place.



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Rosey Dust – “Keep For Life”

Over two sides of his debut single, Kevin Klausen channels The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub and post-Big Star Chilton with the zeal of a tried and true acolyte. There’s ripped denim and sweat baked into “Keep For Life” – a roughed up track that feels most in debt to The Mats’ legacy of roadworn, dustbowl American rock n’ roll. The flip enters a bit of tenderness into the equation, softening the lights on the verses, but still laying into the guitar like an ‘80s kid enthralled with the long tail of the ’70s, yet ducking the FM strains that dominate the right of the dial. Klausen’s clearly waiting for the solos in each track, itching for his time to show off and, while it works well in these two tracks, its easy to see how two long sides of the same could begin to wear on the anticipation index. Its a nice first stride, albeit one that stands squarely on the shoulders of giants before him.



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Possible Humans

When the first crack listen off the debut LP from Aussies Possible Humans came rolling into the inbox it was marked by strums that brought to mind old guard South Hemi hitters like The Clean and The Go-Betweens – usual fare for the new crop of Aussie indies popping up all over the coasts. The band even contains a member of recent RSTB faves The Stroppies – and so it seemed all teed and set up for expectations of more of the same – but, this ain’t that record. Not by a long shot. While Possible Humans start their motor in jangle’s wide embrace, they don’t linger in its lot too long. They take a tub of roofing tar to The Clean’s fizz n’ strum dynamics and stick it onto a harder, knottier, more knuckled vision of indie that was spreading across the US. Shades of Dinosaur, before legalities gave them a youthful suffix, are at work here as well as patches that pull from Dino’s fellow Fort Apache alums Volcano Suns.

The band has a real reach, giving the record the kind of dynamic progression that often gets lost in bands who nail their niche with a great tune only to rinse and repeat over the rest of the record. There’s hardly a repeat feeling in the bunch save for a hangover of frustration, but it sticks together like a dingey bouquet picked out the puddle and pasted back together. The toughened skin of “Absent Swimmer” recalls R.E.M. at a time when you weren’t likely spot the whites of Stipe’s eyes on stage. Other places they’re muddying up Feelies riffs or flirting with the noisier nubs of the alternative nation, bending guitar growl through manic swings like a band who watched The Mats once and tried to memorize the stage moves.

The absolute highlight, though, is the lengthy second side workout “Born Stoned” which finds them at their gnarled best, threading repeated riffs through the woodshed and stuffing flannel in all the exits to hotbox their best grim grooves. It’s a hell of a debut, and like their fellow countrymen Mope City (who tackle Galaxie 500 glimmer) they’re branching out from the expectations built up among an underground that’s constantly intriguing, but has also cannibalized its influences a few times over. Though the LP was scant, this one’s worth it in any format. Recommended you get on that.



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Kevin Morby – “No Halo”

Excited to see a new offering up from Kevin Morby today. The songwriter’s post-Babies career has only seen him perfect his shaggy L.A. troubadour persona, and with “No Halo” he’s sliding into a refined space – adding a cascade of flutes, stabs of sax, and smoky background vocals to his palette. The song is both a long way from his debut Harlem River, in terms of production, and yet not so removed from the heavy-lidded, heavy-hearted delivery that’s made each new of his records essential. With the expansive approach, Morby also turns in a high-concept video directed by perennial collaborator Christopher Good, who’s been putting his imprint on artists like Mitski, Waxahatchee, Anna St. Louis, and Okkervil River. The new record’s out April 26th from Dead Oceans, which you can apparently pre-order with, a, uh 24-page hymnal and sheet music. I guess. Sure, why not?



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Wand – “Thin Air”

A second slip behind the curtain of Wand’s upcoming opus Laughing Matter lands today. “Thin Air” is a bit burlier than first single, “Scarecrow,” but it too is toeing into the skeletal indie prog left scattered by Radiohead, Mogwai and Godspeed around the turn of the millennium. Starting with the last album the band turned a corner from their garage moorings to push towards more ambitious rock pursuits with an eye towards stadium-sized epochs. However, the band is working decidedly in terms of alchemy rather than retread, picking sense memories from each of those sources and working them into something sinewy and barbed all at once. The track trickles in, only to roll into a ball of feedback by the second half – drawing the needle of their sound through shoegaze shimmers and psych bluster. Both of these pieces point to a bigger, leaner, and headier album from the band than before. I’m eager to see how these lock together and whether they can make the new album’s double length work in their favor or pose a challenge.





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Chronophage

Austin’s Chronophage are straddling genre lines with the hodgepodge confidence of the all-stars of late-night college radio circa ’86. Their latest LP, Prolog For Tomorrow swerves between the amphetamine growl of Pere Ubu, the aloof allure of Kim Gordon, and the clangin’ twang of Meat Puppets with an ease that seems uncanny. They charge through the loose knit niches of Swell Maps at their most maligned and take a dirt bath in the discarded tape trails of Television Personalities. The record is a beast of many mantles, but they pull it off with a collage-core spirit that works as long as you don’t bend your brain too much trying to pin them down.

The record embraces a wet-towel-stuffed-under-the-door fidelity, crackling with electric energy, but also just crackling. Yet, warts and all, sounding like Sebadoh tapes left out in the rain and respooled with a pencil, they can’t help but warm your heart a little too. Everything about this record is brittle and bruised. It is imperfection come to life in black plastic wonder. Yet that imperfection is what makes it stick in yer teeth – gnawing at the gums until you’re forced to pay attention. There’s a kernel of pop rolling around in their dirt bin all right, but like so many muck scrapers before them, they can’t help but let it take a backseat to the glory of the din. Behind the bracing attitude and wild swings, though, there’s a ton of charm and some genuine hooks that’ll keep you coming back for more.




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