Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Frankie and the Witch Fingers

Frankie and the Witch Fingers have long found a home here at Raven Sings the Blues. From the garage gutwrench of Heavy Rollers to last year’s psych-soul shakedown, Brain Telephone, the band has been burning more ozone than most and I can’t get enough. Impressively, after that synapse-singer from last year, they’re back and burning on a bigger scale with a double LP for new home Greenway Records. The band doesn’t take a break it seems, and that urgency finds its way into the work. In fact, ZAM’s entire ethos is breathless in nature, boiling their fuzz-dipped licks into a psychedelic steam that’s born to singe.

Taking a few cues from fellow lysergic warlocks Oh Sees, the band is melting down details from Krautrock, funk, soul, psych, and space then ladling them into the loving cup atop the alter of Hawkwind. They’re irradiating the populace with enough high-beam hijinks and amplifier fry to bring on bouts of fuzz-fed hysteria and truth be told; the band has rarely felt more in their element. Barreling down Main like a Tarkus tripped out with half-stacks, rippin’ cracks in the pavement, ZAM is the maelstrom made flesh and set to scorch. This LP certainly isn’t made for mediation, so it’s best to buckle in. ZAM is made for mayhem and motion – grinding out grey matter melters with deadly precision on every track.

While the bulk of the album sees the band in full-form freakout, they do take things down every now and then, just to air out the fallout and survey the damage. The all too brief respites roll the record in a sultry scent of electric sex, slipping into the husk of rock n’ roll’s promise and pulling the straps tight. Thing is, ever time the band turns down the burner, you know they’re only waiting to grab the electrodes, double-charge the groove and send it tearing into town like an acid-fried golem. After an hour or so of psychedelic chaos, they slip off into oblivion and never look back. This is a record built on excesses and its all the better for never reigning in its scope. If you’re prepared to unlock a third, fourth and fifth eye and huff in the fever sweat of the soul, then look no further.




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Frankie and the Witch Fingers – “Pleasure”

Making the jump from Permanent to Greenway, L.A.’s consummate psych-smelters Frankie and the Witch Fingers give the video treatment to their new single “Pleasure” today. The song’s drawing on the same toast-cone overdrive that serves as the beating heart of so many loved lumps from fellow psych crawlers (see: Ty Segall and Oh Sees), but the band gives it an extra layer of leather n’ sleaze. Coming off of the ecstatic sweat revival of Brain Telephone, the band set themselves up a hurdle that was hard to hop, but “Pleasure’s” seething freak fuzz more than does the trick. There’s enough molten mayhem in this track to liquefy your speakers and they up the ante with a xeroxed S&M zine treatment on the video. If this doesn’t get you revved and ready for a new LP from the band, I can’t imagine what would. Long one of L.A.’s most criminally undersung acts, if you’ve been missing on Frankie in the past, I’d recommend getting down this time around.



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Grave Flowers Bongo Band – “Birds”

Hoover III member Gabe Flores strips back the psych to a warm sunny burble on his own Grave Flowers Bongo Band. The L.A. band whips up a psych-folk froth that brings to mind Fresh Maggots a young Bolan’s T. Rex before he found moniker brevity and cocaine. There’s definitely a beard of stars at work here, and true to their promise, bongos. On “Birds” the band adopts the “faded demo from the hip” approach that’s worked well for their contemporaries in Paint this year. On the track, the band feels far from the pounded pavement of their L.A. locale. Perhaps they’ve pushed out to the Canyon and beyond for an off-kilter psych soup that’s built from the static transmissions of Gary Higgins, Sam Gopal, Trees, and John Peel favorites Tractor. Like the best psych-folk this one’s wobbled off its axis and sticks around to delight all the way through. The LP lands in full on Friday via the good folks at Permanent.



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Paint

L.A.’s Allah-Las trade in their fair amount of ‘60s shaded nostalgia, and while they’re usually brimming with a decent dose of homegrown appeal, the solo stint from ‘Las guitarist and songwriter Pedrum Siadatian makes his mainstay sound positively modern by comparison. The faded photo trappings are most certainly by design. Siadatian is reaching for the hidden bins that house the hometapers, the 4-track quiet geniuses and the unstable imps of the acid-blotted paisley past. Helmed at the production desk by the similarly inclined pastiche painter Frank Maston, he crafts an album that seeps up from the humble hovels of R. Stevie Moore and F.J. McMahon sounding like its never seen so much as the door to a proper studio. That’s not a complaint mind you, the pair are aiming for a record that could easily slip between the cracked covers of the private press gold rush and blend in seamlessly and they’re pulling it off swimmingly. Siadatian’s clearly done his research and delights in creating something of a crumpled homage.

Paint catches the same prism-bent dusty sunshine that revs up the cardboard kaleidoscopes of Kevin Ayers, Danny Graham and Billy Nicholls. Siadatian makes it seem effortless, but I get a sense that he and Maston have gone to lengths to meticulously craft an air of economical wonder to match these low-key touchstones. Maston doesn’t push the project too hard, or imprint himself as heavily as one might imagine given his own passions for the past. Instead of coifing this record in lush brushstrokes of the Library psych he’s so fond of, he’s let the backroom hiss and bedroom sleepiness linger. Just because the mics are bedroom bound doesn’t mean this thing is totally sparse, though. The songs are still adorned with brain tangling backwards guitars, satin organs and flute swells, but the sounds are stuffed into the spectrum like they were tracked in tandem, stuffed into a third-floor apartment.

Paint has the feeling of a one-off curio, which are oftentimes the best records. It remains unclear if this is to become a new avenue for Siadatian in the long run, or just a way to shake out some private press psych impulses. Either way he’s ticking a lot of boxes on the RSTB favorites list and the album elevates itself to be more than just style over substance. It’s a well-conceived diorama of psych that creeps under the skin time and again.



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Anna St. Louis

Last year Anna St. Louis released a tape of striking, hushed songs on Woodsist’s small Mare imprint. They hinted at an accomplished songwriting talent and showcased St. Louis’ honeyed drawl, but the tape’s warm emersion in hiss and sunny afternoon vibes didn’t mark it as the kind of release that wrestled for constant attention. So, when her debut proper showed up in the inbox a few months back, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sucker punch to the gut it had in store. If Only There Was A River unfolds like a seasoned country-folk record, feeling classic and eternal like the kind of release that’s canon before it ever hits the shelves. It has an ache in its bones that’s raw and real, but St. Louis has wrapped the record in a lush warmth of an heirloom sweater pulled tight against the chill rolling across the plains. She’s teamed up with Kevin Morby and King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas to work the record into a bittersweet brilliance, gathering grey skies and painted sunset hues to color the spare, yet effective ambience around her tales of heartbreak and woe.

Most of the songs on If Only There Was A River have the kind of deep mournfulness and effortless age that seem like they might underscore a key scene in a Cohen brothers film. Her songs feel universal, timeless and torn in the way the catalogs of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Wanda Jackson often do. She’s most like Van Zandt, though, in her use of simple country cool paired with a just enough orchestration that a song feels gilded, but not so much that it feels gaudy. Van Zandt often chafed in this context. The production hung on him a bit loose, like a borrowed suit, but St. Louis is able to work the same juxtaposition to her advantage. She’s the kind that can walk into any vintage store and not only find something that fits well, but make it her own, casting out the ghosts of previous owners on her way out the door.

The album lends itself to multiple listens, touching different heartstrings each time it winds its way around the turntable. St. Louis’ vocals move from whisper to wrench over the course of the record. She’s a master of producing the pang that grips the guts and chokes back tears for undeserving lost loves. While the touchstones of the past cling to the edges of the record, it doesn’t feel like its looking back. She’s earning a place among albums that transcend eras and in that regard she’s positioning herself to stand alongside fellow L.A. troubadour Jenny Lewis as the kind of songwriter who is comfortable in her heartbreak and carving out a sound that eventually belongs only to her. This release is a large step in that direction and a highlight among 2018’s already stellar showing for music. With the arrival of If Only There Was A River it feels like St. Louis has gained a longstanding place among the artists that scar our souls over time.



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Sextile – “Spun”

Now paired down to a duo, LA’s Sextile have stripped back more than just their stage plot. The new EP pushes post-disco and post-punk down the same staircase, winding up a skin-tight dancefloor freak that’s bound to get sweat in everyone’s drink. They’re searching the same future free bins that have given license to NY’s Future Punx, sharing in their tattered silver lamé take on the synthwave riot. For “Spun,” though, the band push the fader further toward their punk impulses, reveling in the grime of their basest gutter scraping impulses. The song’s swathed in the kind of broken futurist visions that welcomed John Carpenter fans and oozed out of the margins of Cronengerg’s world. While the whole EP tends towards the dancefloor, the band feels more comfortable in the shadows.



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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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Salt Lick – “Dirty Dream”

Another ripper out of the Permanent Records camp this week. Coming on like an MC5 fever dream, this b-side from Salt Lick’s debut 7” shakes the window panes until they beg for mercy. See-sawing on a monster riff, the track is muddied and murky but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t knock the wind out of you. Salt Lick rounds up members from the Permanent staff, but its more than just a bit of nepotism here – it seems that those curating the power of pummel can also deliver it just as well. This is scuzzy, crusted, exhaust huffing garage rock with no spit shine in sight. The band lets loose with the new single on Wednesday and precedes it with a hometown release show in LA, so if you’re West Coast centered you can experience the brutal beatdown in person.



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Massage

The debut LP from L.A.’s Massage ingests forty years of jangled history and reconfigures the pieces into hazy, radiant indie pop that touches the shores of England ’86 as often as Australia ’18. In fact, much like the current crop of upstart Aussies the band’s loose agenda found them gathering to create songs they love mostly to impress one another, rather than prop up the material for mass consumption. Without any initial pressures driving the songwriting, there’s a breezy joy that seems to inhabit the record, splashed with West Coast sun and sparkling with sea foam in is veins. The album’s humble roots should by no means discount the appeal of their debut, though. Despite playing on their personal pop indulgences Oh Boy is stuffed with hooks and coated in a lacquer of honeyed fuzz. The record reads like a case study in pop, stitched by studied hands and pressed crisp as linen.

The band finds songwriters Alex Naidus (The Pains of Being Pure At Heart) and Andrew Romano trading hooks, with a mix by Jason Quever (Papercuts) bringing the record to pastel fruition. While there might be room for comparisons with Naidus’ former band, there’s a shaggier quality to Massage that’s less labored over, but no less addictive. The band tumbles through the record, perched on the edge of bittersweet, but they shove the nostalgic sighs away with the collective smile that’s constantly breaking its way through the songwriting on Oh Boy. They scoop up nods to The Go-Betweens, Sarah Records and Flying Nun. They pour over Feelies’ riffs like they were scripture. It’s clear that the band were having fun with the idea of sketching out songs and their joy is damn infectious. They chew on every inch of Oh Boy with the zeal of artists who are sustained by the sparkle of their songs. Is it indulgent, sure? But we all stand to gain from their jangle-pop sweet tooth.

Speaking of Aussies, the record looks to be making its way to vinyl only via a small Aussie imprint, Tear Jerk out of Melbourne. Though don’t let the long distance dampen your smile, seems the US copies will ship direct from the band so you can still grab the wax and save on shipping.



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Massage – “Lydia”

Good news is afoot in L.A. with the notice that RSTB faves Massage are following up their excellent run of singles with an album due out in July. Oh Boy, produced by Jason Quever of Papercuts, doubles down on the band’s jangle obsession emulating heroes like The Go-Betweens, Razorcuts and Close Lobsters while placing them alongside the current Aussie set’s topliners like Twerps, The Stroppies or Rat Columns. The jangles on “Lydia” practically glint and they set sail a dreamy male / female chorus that’s hooked in heavy to the bittersweet sighs of a love crumbled. The song’s simplicity and mantra-like hook can’t help but crack a smile on the most withered husk, beaming with Left Coast vibes of shimmer and summer sun. Put this album on your list of expected stunners for the back half of 2018.



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