Posts Tagged ‘Garage Pop’

Kelley Stoltz

This one slipped out so silently I almost did’t catch it. News came out via Kelley’s seldom-used personal Bandcamp and it’s a crushingly scant run. Last year’s My Regime had quite a few nuggets of garage-psych goodness stashed away between the grooves, but this one comes along and swings the Stoltz agenda in a new direction with superb results. Apparently inspired by power pop with a heavy pub tab, a $75 dollar Japanese guitar, and the Jedediah Smith (Jeanines, My Teenage Stride) side-hustle curiosity Mick Trouble — this is not quite the usual fare from the always mercurial Stoltz. He’s never been less than a harbinger of hooks, but usually there’s a debt to Ray Davies-draped ‘60s pop or in the case of the Willie Weird saga, something skewing hard into the R. Stevie Moore cut-out bin. This time he’s lacquered it all down tight, laying out a record that doesn’t dip into his usual wells.

Here the focus is on the elastic snap of power pop that’s just slightly sanded off from the pure punk formula. Think Advertising, The Quick, The Phones, or The Undertones goofing with undeniable effect on Hypnotised. I can see where the Mick Trouble tie-in crops up. Though this is under his own name, it does feel like Stoltz is pulling a persona here. There’s a power chord crimped slacker swagger. Yet, like The Apples in Stereo before him, he can slide on a power-pop pullover but his songwriting can’t help but inject the form with a certain quirkiness that perfects the formula while breaking a few of its boundaries in delightful ways. Stoltz has long been a legend among those sifting the spit-upon ranks of deep cut, skewed pop fodder, but he hasn’t sounded this wholly energized and invigorated for a few records. Front to back this one is possessed with the ‘70s third-set swagger — crumpled like a crudely drawn flyer and stinking of stickered bar bathrooms with no lock. It doesn’t miss a beat and I’m having a hard time keeping it off the speakers.




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PAINT

The solo works of Pedrum Siadatian don’t fall too awful far from his day gig playing with Allah-Las —swiping at a kind of lived-in ‘70s aesthetic and feeling like his albums might soundtrack a lost weekend stumbling through the sands of a no account beach town out of season. Yet there’s a warbled color to his approach. The Allah-Las feel like they have a handle on modern motions. There’s a reverence for the past, sure, but still a crisp cut to their sound. Siadatian’s work with PAINT by turns comes across like a box full of waterlogged Polaroids. The colors are smudged, but the memories are still visible through the haze. That he started the band as an outlet for 4-track experiments certainly adds to the loner, private press quality that hangs over his songs like a macrame owl. Though in deference to his first outing, Pedrum has let his sequel progress past the bedroom ambiance that hangs over his debut.

The record sways on its feet, but it never falters. Siadatian saves his wooziest songs for PAINT, mixing slouched stringwork with chunky keys and crisp bass. While the private press tag felt right on target for the debut, here there’s more of a patchwork mixtape feeling. Faded cotton pop songs populate the bulk, touching on the edges of surf, but just as often he’s swaying into Middle Eastern pop, tax shelter one-off wonkiness, and a touch of packaged library music within the loose ends of the album. While the debut hit me squarely in a soft-spot for rough-edges, the quick spit-polish here actually endears this one all the more. The debut was excellent but felt like it needed just one last push. That push is wholly in force on Spiritual Vegas and it’s keeping this locked on the speakers more and more often. Las fans should flock to this, naturally, but any takers from Ariel, to Drugdealer, to The Bees should feel right at home.


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Kelley Stoltz – “Turning Into You”

New burner on the line today from Kelley Stoltz. The San Francisco institution (20 years going with this release) continues his run of great solo LPs, while also serving as a go to engineer (Rays, The Mantles, Rat Columns) and sideman (Echo & The Bunnymen). His touring with the latter has definitely rubbed off a bit on his songwriting, but he’s spun the influence into some excellent New Wave-refracted pop tunes that crib the jangle and crunch of his early garage days and land his hooks with a softer blow. He’s back on Spanish outpost Banana & Louie, who also issued his 2018 record Natural Causes. Stoltz has a pretty heavy catalog to wade through, but this sounds like its shaping up to be one of his great ones. Check the first taste of My Regime below and look for it out next month.



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Parsnip – “Feeling Small” b/w “Winter”

I was definitely a fan of Parsnip’s last 7” and they popped up with a sunny jangler on Anti-Fade’s last label showcase comp that spent some time on the speakers around here. Their latest short format ripper adds another couple of fun tracks to their blossoming catalog. The a-side is pleasantly prim – full of barroom piano and Small Faces-level revelry for gang vocals and peanut gallery chatter. The flip adds a nice edge, with a punk-picked guitar and heavier hitting chorus. “Winter” might well be one of the best things they’ve done yet – hung with organ swells and confident harmonies. Parsnip have been a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ addition to the Aussie indie scene, but with each new piece of the puzzle they get harder to cast aside. Here’s hoping that there’s an album in the works sometime in 2019, but for now I’m going to go back to putting “Winter” on repeat.






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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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Bloods

Aussie garage-pop upstarts Bloods have been raining down hits around RSTB for the past few years, though they’ve been flying under the radar of far too many stateside. Their last album proved hard to grip in The States, but thanks to some help from the Sub Pop affiliated Share It, the band’s latest is hitting Western Shores. Built off of some of their most effervescent singles – the roller rink crash of “Feelings,” the wide-skied ripper “Bug Eyes” – the band’s new album bounds into the room and makes a mess with the full force of a punk packed confetti canon. The band enlisted Liam Jacobson, who recently gave a jolt to fellow Aussies Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and his hand pushes their pop impulses to the front. The skinned-knees n’ grit that pocked their early EPs fades into the background without losing any of the elements that made the band fun in the first place.

Much like US counterparts Bleached, the band wraps up their fuzz-whipped hooks in swooning harmonies. They summon up songs that are meant to be yelled in unison out of dropped windows like future road trip classics to heal the heart and howl at the sun. There’s more than a touch of mid-‘90s fuzz toasters in the DNA of Feelings, from the “Better Than Me” bounce of The Muffs to the sweetly sung simmer of That Dog. They don’t linger too long in the Gen-X garden, though, they form fit their fuzz to a cleaner-lined indie that recalls The Ravonettes and later-period Dum Dum Girls. Associations aside, its great to hear the band come into their own and balance grit and gloss with grace.

Bonus points on the album and label come from Share It’s operating principle of giving half of their records’ proceeds to a charity of the band’s choosing. In this case half the bucks go to an Australian-based Indigenous Literacy Foundation. So you can feel good while this one takes a few turns around the table.



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Dentist

Well its pretty hard to give leeway to anyone trying to cop the term “Night Swimming” as an album and /or song title at this stage of the game. R.E.M. enshrined the term in their take on adolescent nerves and few could help to dissociate it from their heart wrenching weeper. That said, NJ trio Dentist kickshift the term in the opposite direction of that ‘90s classic. On Night Swimming the band spit-polish garage pop then muddy their footprints on the way out of hanger with a good dose of grunge crunch. The album’s blessed with a fizzy disposition and most of the songs drive hard through caffeinated bounce tempos that are only exacerbated by Emily Bornemann’s helium and heat vocals.

The band is primarily the work of Emily and partner Justin Bornemann and perhaps it’s a couple’s mind-meld gives the band their locked-in immediacy – though shouts to the drummer holding down a good bash while likely pulling the short straw power dynamic in this scenario. While, the album courses along on cotton candy hooks, there’s a hardened heart beating underneath all that sugared froth. There are moments that wink with knowing looks, but the band has a penchant for messy interpersonal tangles that more often than not end in heartache. Lets hope that the tales of betrayal that burrow under the bubblegum are buried in the past, at least for the Bornemanns’ sake.

The band is admittedly at their best when careening around the room in a power pop ping pong that’s infectious, if not laden with a certain nostalgia for the indomitable spirit of youth. Though the band is just as adept at peeling back the curtain on the inevitable hangover that spirit often leaves in its wake. The band proves they can bring down the lights for the hushed “All Is Well (In Hell)” and ominously titled “Owl Doom Pt.2,” each reveling in the murkier side of that coin. It’s a solid effort, that while not necessarily shaking the world’s tree, goes a long way to wrap up love’s bite in a sprightly package of garage glitter that’s pulls plenty of smiles along the way.





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BOYTOY

On their sophomore LP, Brooklyn’s BOYTOY evoke the West Coast far more often than they reference the streets of their current home. Part of that left coast feeling may lie in the album’s Topanga Canyon conception and its construction at the hands of producer Kyle Mullarky (The Allah-Las, The Growlers). The record is soaked in eternal sun and imbued with a laid-back attitude that’s picking at the bones of surf and garage, with plenty of affection saved on the side for sunshine pop and doo wop swoons. The band borrows bass talents from Lena Simon of La Luz and, like her mainstay, the band has a habit of straddling those genre lines with an effortless cool.

Much of that effortlessness must be credited to vocalist / guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner, however, who wraps her delivery in a permanently cocked smile that lets on just how much fun she’s having with these songs. The best garage pop can’t be taken too seriously (a lesson the aforementioned Growlers seemed to have unlearned on their last LP) and for the genre to stay afloat it’s necessary to impart some manner of carefree cool or irreverent recklessness. While BOYTOY aren’t going to blow down the doors of your surfshack or ruffle the sensibilities of your elders, they’re certainly helping the sun shine brighter and the beers go down easier. Night Leaf is tried and true to the formula of latter day garage – dipping its toes in girl group charms and lacing them with a touch of bite. Be that as it may, if you’re looking to soundtrack a day or two spent ditching summer school, then the band has your back.



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Beach Skulls – “Sacred Citrus”

Manchester garage slingers Beach Skulls have popped up here in the past with their low-slung, amp-fried pop nugs. They’re at it again with “Sacred Citrus” from their upcoming PNKSLM LP and it continues the tradition of swagger-addled garage-pop that they’ve made their bed in over the years. The track trades in hammock-swung vibes of calmly festering fuzz and rumbling toms then slides into a fiery chorus that’s tipping the sweat gauge a few notches harder. The push-pull makes for a nice dynamic positing this as a summer soother that’s more aloe and ice crush than high octane workout.



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The Buttertones

L..A. foursome Buttertones have been working their way through the chutes and ladders of indie garage for some time now, looking for their place in a sweatbox scene that’s crowded at best. Following up on Gravedigger, they look to the oil slick riffs and curled sneers of The Cramps, Gun Club, Hasil Adkins and maybe even a touch more Cramps (for good measure) as their inspiration. Rolling their hip-slung swagger in twang worthy of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and gripping an ace horn section to fatten things out, the band hangs a crisp white collar on typically dirty linen. Their clean lined delivery pines like Nashville looking down Memphis way. They’ve got the studio set up right, the moves practiced until they’re seamless but they need to scuff the tape and aim the dial towards the red to really push this sound into its comfort zone.

Like their labelmate Nick Waterhouse, they’re adept at emulating eras and tone and for what its worth they find purchase in some genuinely fun moments here – the Lux Interior grease stain hop of “Baby C4,” the lounge comedown of “Don’t Cry Alone” – but something in the margins feels like for all The Buttertones’ bravado they’d probably blanche at trying to bum a smoke off of Nick Cave. When you name a song “You and Your Knife” there needs to be a feeling that the danger is real, and even though the rumble on Midnight In a Moonless Dream is more Jets vs. Sharks than Warriors vs. Rogues, they give the danger enough spark to feel fun. The band clearly know which shelves in their collection hold favorite LPs and they’re making the stretch to try to hit the marks. Might just need a few more scraped knees to pull off the darker direction, but I appreciate the effort nonetheless.



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