Posts Tagged ‘Kelley Stoltz’

Kelley Stoltz

Just a quick jump after his last offering from Banana & Louie, SF one-man supergroup Kelley Stoltz returns with the even more enticing My Regime. The record is one of Stoltz’ most packed platters in a long time, absolutely awash in bittersweet New Wave touches and moments of pop perfection. He’s long since jettisoned the garage gears from his persona, but there were still some inklings on last years’ Natural Causes and 2015’s In Triangle Time. This one falls closer in spirit to the prismed perspective of 2017’s quiet gem Que Aura, his last for Castle Face. Crammed with strums, multi-part harmonies, and an ingrained melancholy that imprints these songs on the high registers of the listeners’ soul, this is exactly where Stoltz excels.

He’s been found cropping up behind the boards more often these days, with his name swirling about the inserts for Spiral Stairs, RAYS, The Love-Birds, and The Staches, but unless he’s in front of the mic, I always feel like he’s a bit underused. There’s been shades of his work as a sideman for Echo & The Bunnyman on the last album, but as his tenure ended with the band it seems he’s processed even more of the imprint the band had on his formative songwriting years. There’s a warmer aura about Stoltz than Ian McCulloch would often employ, but the insistent, and emotionally complex pop hallmarks line up quite nicely here – think more along the lines of Crocodiles rather than Porcupine. Speaking of ‘80s impressions, and (sadly) timely reminders, there’s also a pretty heavy Cars shadow on this one and, if anyone can make it work, Stoltz is up to the task. There’s a dense catalog of works when approaching Kelley’s work, but after a few spins through My Regime, I’d say this is as good a place to start as any. Among his very best, to be sure.



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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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Kelley Stoltz

San Francisco’s secret weapon is slipping out his tenth (!!) album on low key label Banana and Louie. Feels like Stoltz has been a part of this site for the better part if its duration and whether he’s behind the boards (The Love-Birds, Rays, Sandwitches) or working as a studio rat (Thee Oh Sees, Sonny & The Sunsets, The Fresh & Onlys) he’s a welcome name in the credits of any release. More important yet, his own mounting discography is packed full of jangled-nerve post-punk and paisley pools of pop that mark him as not only a conduit for others’ excellent visions, but as a purveyor of his own unique strain of pop psychosis. Natural Causes comes fresh off of last year’s Que Aura. a highlight in the songwriter’s late period catalog. While the short, but sweet, nine-cut album doesn’t quite dig in its heels as hard as last year, there are some moments of pure Stoltz on display here.

The record is valiantly attempting to balance Kelley’s love for light-touch jangles and sunshine shimmy with his weakness for a darker side of the ‘80s. “Decisions Decisions” packs up some of his most shimmering strums, while eschewing the darker threads of post-punk that work their way through his pieces. Similarly, he’s huffing a dose of verdant vapors throughout the handclap-infected shaker, “Are You An Optimist.” The album caps off with one of his most fun tunes in a while, the light-hearted jangler, “Rolling Tambourine” – a barrelhouse romp through 60s’ pop impulses. That’s not to say he’s shed the post-punk pound just yet. There’s a post-disco shiver that runs through “Static Electricity” and he adopts a spaced ominousness for the particularly on the nose “How Psychedelic Of You.” When Stoltz wants to bring on the preening intensity, he’s got you more than covered.

For an artist who has released albums everywhere from Sub Pop to Third Man to Castle Face, this seems to come with desperately little fanfare, which is a damn shame. While he’s got albums that outstrip it in scope and style, there’s a lot to love on Natural Causes and Stoltz never leaves listeners without a few hooks stuck in their heads. There’s some great polish on the album and its clear that Stoltz keeps enough of his studio tricks for his own albums. Don’t let this one slip away in the flood of 2018 albums. Kelley Stoltz remains a modern songwriting workhorse and this small collection does little to tarnish his reputation.



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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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Kelley Stoltz

Stoltz’ jump to Castle Face last year brought on a glut of creativity, with one of his most eccentric releases, In Triangle Time, and an extra helping of short form goodies for the hardcore heads. Que Arua shakes the erratic rabbit holes that made Triangle Time fun, but not necessarily consistent. Stoltz buttons down into a synth-pop/new wave enclave that’s shining frothy ’70s licks in a mirrored ball gloss and losing itself in a plume of fog machine echo. The record takes a deep dive into the aesthetic, finding him further from garage than he’s ever been before, but sounding confident in his stylistic tack all the same.

The songs are smudged in the main stage melancholy that churned the ’70s glam Argonauts into ’80s mixtape hereos – digesting post-Roxy comedowns into the kind of tear-streaked earworms that lead Echo, The Psychedelic Furs or The Chameleons to darkened bedrooms across the decade. Whether or not this has to do with Stoltz taking up sideman duties in a reformed Echo and The Bunnymen remains to be seen, but he’s proving to outpace any mere revivalists as far as capturing the spirit of a time and place. Each new listen on this record proves that the studio is truly Stoltz’ home and he remains an exemplary pupil of how his favorite records achieved infamy. This makes Que Aura a case study that won’t let itself out of your head for weeks.




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Kelley Stoltz – “Same Pattern”

San Francisco’s secret weapon, Kelley Stoltz, is back with a new album for Castle Face and he’s perfecting his brand of Neu-wave pop. Stoltz has lived a career on the periphery, often appearing behind the boards or in the guest musician credits of lauded releases, while his own never get the full acclaim they deserve. Even with label stints at Sub Pop and Third Man, Stoltz remains a secret handshake for those with discernible taste, but so be it, I guess. This hint of his newest is pulsating with life – motorik, hazy, blissful and buzzing. It’s a step into the ether for Stoltz, who’s often found his way along the garage-pop spectrum. “Same Pattern” is built on a throbbing vein of Krautrock that’s a step in a new direction, albeit fitting to the artist’s greater pop universe.

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Rays

It’s good to see some RSTB worlds colliding on the debut record from Oakland’s Rays. The band, which cribs members from local acts like Violent Change and Life Stinks, brings together the nervy, popped-vein Maplethorp dregs of ’70s art pop with the shaggy drive of the current crop of incestuous Aussie and New Zealand punks. Drawing on the twitching, uncomfortable vein of punk that spawned bands like Electric Eels, Television and The Fall the band instead imagines those souls coming together on a Brisbane budget, recorded with friends who’ve all found solace in their outsider status and lack of steady employment. It’s relentless in it’s pursuit of the ramshackle charms that drove Flying Nun back catalog and made heroes out of Dunedin’s scrappiest janglers.

That’s not to say that the band comes off as overly derivative. Rays just seem to know the sound they want and they’re taking it with measured strokes. They’re also making it seem effortless in the process. They’ve enlisted a double shot behind the boards, with Kelley Stoltz recording and Mikey Young spit shining it to a scotch taped gloss. Like fellow Trouble In Mind labelmates Omni, they’ve found a way to Polaroid the past with a touch of tape hiss, a bit of bookish devotion to their forebears and some good ol’ frenetic fretwork. The album rides the line between din and divine well, couching bouncy hooks inside gnarled amp fury and crushing paranoid pulses into oddly aloof classics. Something tells me this is going to be the kind of album that’s not loved enough in it’s time but regarded well with 20/20 hindsight.




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The Staches

Building up a presence in their hometown of Geneva, Switzerland while also picking up quite a bit of steam on jaunts through the EU and US, The Staches have followed on a steady run of singles with a twitchy new album. Recorded in San Francisco by madman auteur Kelley Stoltz, the LP belts together a chugging, writhing brand of post-punk that puts them in nice company with recent releases from Hierophants, Mind Spiders or Ausmuteants. The band excels when they lean on the synths, taking their garage hybrid more towards the sci-fi synth-punk of the late ’70s and early ’80s and elevating them out of any connections to mere fuzz punks. I’ve long had a lean towards the queasy wash of unease played out through this strain of punk and The Staches are finding themselves thrown clean into the churning, slashing, crumpled heart of an anxious fury they battle with to the very end.

The record ropes in standout single “Total Commitment,” a song that jumped out of the crowd earlier in the year on Six Tonnes De Chair Records, and it remains a highlight on the full length as well. Along with “I Don’t Bother” and “Plastic,” the track anchors the second half of the record in a psych drenched echo that, unlike many of their peers, eschews Oh Sees territory to find its own sweaty groove. Placid Faces tumbled out to little fanfare, and late in the year, which is always a tough climb. It is proving to be a tightly wound gem though, and well worth the time on the turntable.

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Cool Ghouls

Three albums deep, Cool Ghouls are hitting their stride nicely. They’ve always had a good handle on the germ of West Coast rock that’s practically embedded in the pavement of their native San Francisco, now they’re just working to perfect it. With Kelley Stoltz on board, they’re coming pretty close, that’s for sure. The veteran engineer and producer (Thee Oh Sees, The Mantles, Sonny & The Sunset) helps the band find that eternal sunset, tightening the tracks on Animal Races into the kind of album that breezes by effortlessly and feels like its always just been a part of the West Coast jangle-pop lexicon. Where their previous album, A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye found them playing up the Beatles/Kinks harmonies, now they’re leaning full-bore into their Dead/Byrds/Quicksilver Messenger Service motions and feeling like they’re nailing the amount of carefree composure and sunlit harmonies necessary to pick up that yoke some forty years on.

What really makes it feel right, is that they’re not pedaling sunshine and cheer. The Byrds knew how to make a 12-string sing and lift your heart, but they also knew that a bittersweet soul makes a catchy chorus stick with listeners long after that earworm fades. Animal Races has that lilting sadness running through its waters, evident in the forlorn sighs and yearning pedal steel of “When You Were Gone” and “(If I Can’t Be) The Man” or the world weary lyrics of “Days.” If you want to be the kind of person to nitpick, no there’s nothing revolutionary happening on Animal Races. The sound has been around and, as I mentioned, Cool Ghouls are merely perfecting their take on it, and honing a crisp version of their heroes’ headway. But no one says that the walls all need to crumble for a record to be great. Animal Races succeeds because it sets a tone and blooms as an album of skilled tradesmen finding sweetness in sadness.



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Kelley Stoltz

Double Exposure was a fuller sounding Stoltz, proof that his life as a producer seeped well into his life as a songwriter. It hinted at the influences nagging him awake at night and the widescreen he could put them on, but where that album showed how bright Stoltz could shine, In Triangle Time shows how dark his corners are. Built on a taut bed of post-punk throb and an oil slick shimmer of new wave’s sheen, the album kicks up some dirt that was always rubbing off on his prior catalog. As in the past, it’s the details that make In Triangle Time stand out, the rubbery rumble of bass under “Jona,” the back to back psych warbles on “Crossed Mind Blues” and “You’re Not Ice.” The album’s a headphone wonderland, it lives well on the speakers but it dances through headphones like it was made for close company. For years he’s been lauded as the secret weapon of indie rock and with this album following up Double Exposure he’s made damn sure that his own name is above the marquee and not buried in the booklet. There’s no way this one doesn’t let its hooks grow deeper the colder the air turns, so make sure that come November is on your list.

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