Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn’

75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real

If you missed out on 2016’s highly underrated Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock from 75 Dollar Bill, then this seems like the perfect time to jump onto the band’s sound. Melding the current free-jam inclinations of improv live sets with a guitar sound that picks at the kind of Haino/Akiyama boogie blended with West African blues, the band has long been a singular entity on the scene. They’ve just announced a new ripper for Thin Wrists / Black Editions and prefaced it with a live recording of a portion of the album’s title track, “I Was Real”. This time around the duo of Che Chen and Rick Brown are joined by a larger ensemble that wrangles in eight additional players, adding to the desert blues vibes of communal playing for social spaces. Check the trance lockdown into burner blues vibes in the video below and look out for the new LP June 28th.



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Future Punx – “Want To Be Wanted”

Brooklyn’s Future Punx were a fun prospect, with their Gary Numan meets Medium Medium’s post-punk boogie bliss. Their album garnered some nice praise and put them on my year end list back in 2017. The band finally fires back with a few new tunes in for form of an EP for Modern Sky. The first cut, “Want to Be Wanted” clamps down hard on the Numan synth burble, hot gluing his disaffected futurism to the bounce of post-punk guitars and replacing his lonesome android isolationism with a note of hope as the members bounce the chorus back and forth between them. The track’s got a pretty heavy replay factor, digging further under the skin with each listen. Hoping the rest of the EP pans out in similar regard, but the band had more micro-influences working in their last album than average, so here’s hoping for some surprises as well.



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New Rose – “Plenty of Flowers”

For an East Coast band, bound to the NYC streets, there’s a remarkable amount California salt in New Rose’s veins. Their last album tucked into alt-country with the vigor of exiles trying on a new skin, but as is evident from the first taste of the upcoming Crying Eyes, they’re now quite comfortable in that Western skin and looking to make their mark on the legacy of country-psych and Cosmic Americana. Add another name to the list of 2018 bands joyously recapturing the tipping point of psychedelia’s innocence lost. “Plenty of Flowers,” which boasts the inclusion of session legend Al Perkins on pedal steel, evokes the kind of sighed Sunday resolve that looks back on the regrets, indulgences and mistakes of the past week with a narcotic detachment that’s warmed by the late afternoon sun and buffeted by the last few beers in the fridge.

Wagner and co. have gone to lengths to outfit the record with the right totems of a bygone era and they’re capturing the Canyon’s light just right. Aside from Perkins (who played on Gram Parsons and Rolling Stones’ records) the band’s pulled in players who worked with Linda Rondstat and Kacey Musgraves alongside vocals from Anna Fox of Quilt. “Plenty of Flowers” tips its hat to their raglan and linen vibes and sets a nice tone for an album of imaginary melancholic L.A. misadventures dreamed by those born just out of time’s reach.



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Forma

Brooklyn’s Forma follow their cosmic comedown album Physicalist from 2016 with the propulsive, glistening sounds of Semblance. On the last go ‘round the band split their impulses between sides. The opening half of the album embracing the skitter and propulsion of Krautrock given electronic tendrils. The back half, on the other hand, took a suite of songs down a much more Kosmiche road, spreading its attention between synth float, drone and free jazz. This time they’re not keeping the halves of their personality at arm’s length and in turn they create a layered retrofuturist pop album that’s just as likely to dazzle in plastic and glass refractions as it is to siphon the anxiety out of the room via meditative haze.

Its an extension of Physicalist to be honest, but the coherence here makes the last album seem like sketches for the more elaborate arc of Semblance. They weave the weapons of their psychedelic journey in a more articulate fashion this time. Ebbing and flowing in chapters, the album moves from synth scratched with sax through mechanical Zen, into a palpable play on technological anxiety and settles into lucid dreams that are almost too real. By the time the listener is entering “New City,” its hard to know if we can trust our own eyes or ears. The moment is refreshing, but also feels like one might be able to reach out and touch the elastic and static crinkle of VR film holding in this surreal serenity.

Somewhere there’s a film missing a solid score in this, and its definite highlight in the band’s catalog. There’s no lack of synth slingers who are aiming for the raised bar on Kosmiche clatter, but with Semblance Forma have come into their own. Even if you’ve tired of the dystopian drift and cosmic checkboxes that so many in this genre hit regularly, Forma have given these touchstones a new life and a reason to float out into the ether once more.





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Elkhorn – “Lion”

Psych duo Elkhorn likely takes the cake and perhaps the whole bakery with their backstory on the upcoming Lionfish tape prepped for Eiderdown Records. This is undoubtedly the best set of longform jams inspired by and created while using an extracted version of lionfish venom you’re gonna hear. That said the eighteen plus minute opener “Lion” has all the hallmarks of some of the best psych folk. The track builds in slow, reportedly peaking musically at the same time the venom’s effect reaches its zenith. The pair weaves acoustic and electric guitars through verdant passages, echoing wet reverb from the electrics like damp stalactites dripping into pools below.

Even without any lysergic venom coursing through your veins the track is a high order psych ramble that proves the band is onto something. The ebb and flow of “Lion” provides and engrossing rabbit hole of tangled strings, liquid pluck and just a touch of scorch on the back half. If the other half of this tape is even a quarter as heady as this then it begs to be snapped up.



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Bodega – “Jack In Titanic”

Brooklyn’s Bodega have captured the spirit of a generation raised on television and then dipped in the deep end of the internet. The band explores themes of stereotypical masculinity learned from hours watching celluloid heroes. Its hard not to sympathize with the notion of mixing memories with plotlines and the remote buttons as babysitter. The band ties the themes up in their typically austere, yet pervasively effective appropriation of art-punk poses. Along with much of the rest of their debut, Endless Scroll, the song puts the hammer to the nail on looking back with rosey rear view. This record gets more endearing with each listen. Catch the clip above.



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A. Savage

Here’s the thing, as a band Parquet Courts lost me a while back. I championed Light Up Gold because it captured a certain moment in the slide of Brooklyn from youthful intrusion to full on infestation of wealth. It was a feeling in time mimeographed and cut to groove, but as the band continued they became more wrapped up in their own lineage and legacy than seemed necessary. The deadpan dynamics and new wave plundering fell too antiseptic on my shores. That’s not to discount Andrew Savage as a songwriter, he’s proven he’s got an angle that sells and a poet’s heart that lends itself well to the Jonathan Richman patter that he’s able to slip into seamlessly.

So it winds up that he’s gone back home to his roots in Texas and a brand of lonesome country pining for his latest, and here he finds his second wind. The album boasts no shortage of talent, swapping out his usual backing band for a bevy of friends and compatriots from Woods, Ultimate Painting, PC Worship, EZTV, and Psychic TV. The assembled masses take his drip dry delivery on a tour of the Southwest, grasping hands with slide guitar and an amiable amble without ever affecting any hackneyed country croon. Instead he staples his best Calvin Johnson talking blues to the tumbleweeds of alt-country and, at times, a starker strain that boils the noise out of his boots and lets an acerbic twinge show through the relaxed demeanor of Thawing Dawn.

This is actually where the album shines brightest, when the noise overwhelms the swagger (see: “What Do I Do”). The moment that the veneer is broken and the brain starts to boil compliments the easy going country ambivalence. There are some choice ballads here that showcase Savage’s handle on being the lonesome foal among a herd that might not love him back, but when he lets fly a brand of noise-country I’m fully invested in what he’s selling. There are those that will brand this a solo outing unmoored from his Parquet work, adrift and looking for purchase, but for me that’s where Savage excels. By balancing ennui painted in sunset hues and itching uncertainty, he’s found an explanation of what drifting into your thirties in the city feels like.




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New Rose

Brooklyn’s New Rose sprang out of a history flirting with country-bent punk to embrace County (without the alt) proper on their LP for Broken Circles. Morning Haze paints portraits of bittersweet nuance that take quite a few lessons from the Gram Parsons / Guy Clark school. Aided in no small part by the veteran steel work of JayDee Maness (The Byrds, International Submarine Band, Eric Clapton) Daniel Wagner’s songs are steeped in the same heart-sunk delivery that drove “Brass Buttons” and “Streets of Baltimore”. It’s hangdog country that belies their city roots, the kind that screams “get these bright lights out of my eyes,” and feels much more comfortable in the back corner of the bar, channeling the beer-soak off of the bar rags.

To add another asset in the corner, the band hooked up with Rusty Santos to produce, and despite his indie rock heart, Santos slips on a pair of boots comfortably for the record. Fleshing out the sound with the aforementioned steel guitar secret weapon, among other hallmarks of twang, Morning Haze emulates its ’70s predecessors with a keen eye for detail. Wagner knows the marks he’s trying to hit, but more than just looking to divine the the aesthetics, he hits the tone and that makes all the difference. Flinging that heart on his sleeve, finding the sigh that heaves heavy at the heart of the best country, Wagner and New Rose are a nailing the fragile line between heartbreak and healing.


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EZTV

EZTV’s debut was one of those slow burn stunners that crept in quiet and once it took hold, it was hard to shake. The band’s versed in their power pop history, choosing to err towards the softer and subtler end of the genre’s spectrum. They have plenty of pop in their veins but they know that the right kind of jangle sweeps a track along like a cool breeze, rustling the soul with an effortless shudder. They’ve nailed down their grasp on this brand of pop, moving from their Shake Some Action leanings into full on Chris Bell solo territory here. They’ve elevated themselves beyond just the jangled masses and weekend imitators to find that niche that’s running pure and clean. All power pop is, in a sense, looking for that ripple of purity and earnestness, mixed with just the right amount of bittersweet blush, but few are able to touch the nerve without coming off maudlin and cheap. That’s where EZTV succeed where others crumble.

Personally the band’s lyrical battle – longing for space, while struggling to stay in the city – hits home pretty hard, and I’m well versed in the push/pull on a person’s priorities that can evolve into. I lost the battle and bolted for trees but its good to know that EZTV are out there fighting the good fight against rent, cultural erosion and the strip-malling of NYC. Their home turf afforded a few drop-ins from compatriots in Real Estate and Quilt, plus labelmates Nic Hessler and Chris Cohen and even indie queen/tour partner Jenny Lewis herself on the tracks of High In Place. In telling form, though, no song ever sounds like a platform for their guests, EZTV just add the others’ brush strokes into their canvas of honeyed harmonies, sunset strums and weary words. The album feels like a classic before its even hit the runnout, which is a feat these days. Album-oriented rock may be on the decline but there are still a few who know how to knock a collection together. My advice is to settle in for the long haul and let EZTV act as a salve for the day, week, or month that’s got you down.

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Forma

On Forma’s third album they’ve expanded their scope to embrace a looser approach through improvisation, though they don’t dive into the idea lightly. Physicalist is constructed in two halves, the first follows their setup of vintage synths and Terry Riley/Faust vibes with occasional flecks of Cluster strewn about the synthscape. The second, plunges the band into a broader vision populated with flute, acoustic instrumentation (a first for the band) and elements of free jazz. Since the LP version is setup as a double LP, essentially they act as companion records with each focusing on a different scope, tied together by the idea of repetition and improvisation with an emotional arc fusing the halves through what feels like a cycle of self-discovery.

The first side is bound by their usual setup, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken a few steps forward. Barring the more techno oriented Cool Haptics EP, the band worked in groove oriented Kosmiche on both their eponymous LP and its follow-up Off/On and both of those releases feel much more tightly wound than anything on this side of Physicalist. From the cover art by influential psych designer Robert Beatty, to the double LP sprawl, everything here seems oriented to be more expansive, more attuned to the informative qualities of electronic float. The band works through tension and turbulence on this first portion, slowly unhinging its hold on reality.

The second side takes the notion of the infinite and lets it free. There’s a distinct progression along the first half towards looser and looser ends and they continue the unraveling on the second half to great effect, each track seems less and less tied to the idea of rhythm. They work this system right up until the title track, which bursts out of the second half in a vibrant and celebratory blast. Its still built into their well of synth, but adds a layer of pop that the band hasn’t really embraced. Its as if the tension and serenity of the preceding tracks melt into the background for the band to break free into a hedonist dance, leaving the academia of the album behind. Then, as a sobering up of sorts, the final improvisation rises like the sun over the tresses of the bridge line along the river, a knowing sign that tomorrow’s here and that a sobering reality awaits. Though, for the moment, that track hits like the halting bliss of a night well lived, the calm before the comedown. Its a great step forward for the band and one that knocks them out of any danger of being accused of stasis. They’ve built an well-oiled arc that uses the album format in a way that fewer and fewer seem to relish these days.




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