Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Thee Oh Sees

At this point in his career, Jon Dwyer has little to answer for or care about with regards to meeting anyone’s expectations other than his own. Still he goes for it hard each time, and with fairly few missteps Thee Oh Sees continue to be the dominant strain in garage-psych that all others seem to draw from. Though, in perhaps a student has become the master moment, Thee Oh Sees have augmented their setup to include a second drummer, equaling the psych-o-naut pummel of their one time stablemates King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. For A Weird Exits everything is bigger and run through with concurrent strains of mutant punk and placid psych that have always been bubbling under the surface of Dwyer’s warped vision. In a way, it seems that this might have been what he was striving for all along. Its not as consistently terse and frantic, but there’s still plenty of vein bulging, panic sweat moments. Its the moments that melt into the radiator, humid and hazy that give the album a new perspective.

Two instrumental breaks give the album texture, the first with a a motorik, squalling quality that’s beset with feedbacking fizz and synth splatter, the second with a lonesome mellowness that tempers the album’s fire. They move the records pace along, ushering in sonic reducers and building to the album’s epic finale double dose of “Crawl Out From the Fall Out” and “The Axis,” the latter of which may be garage-psych’s answer to “Tuesday’s Gone,” There’s a dark aura of psychedelic heaviness on this album, even in the album titles and though I’m sure it has more to do with the Monster Manual in its origins, there’s a part of me that wants “Gelatinous Cube” to stem from a night spent high watching Wayne’s World and riffing on Brian Doyle Murray’s explanation of Zoltar.

Pop refs aside though, this is a watershed moment for Thee Oh Sees. Get this long in the tooth and its bound to feel like you might just be filling in the template, but the band continues to expand on their garage hijinks to include well paced and shaded albums that aren’t just sticking singles together with filler and glue. A Weird Exits is more of a statement than the band have made yet, though its clear that Mutilator Defeated At Last was on the trajectory that’s delivered A Weird Exits. Its a double album worthy of the sleeve space, burning and fuming, smoldering and crumbling to ash. Though Thee Oh Sees section on my record shelf is heavy to bursting, somehow Dwyer and crew always make it worthwhile to wedge one more volume in for good measure.




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Frankie & The Witch Fingers – “Get Down”

I’ve already heaped praise on Frankie & The Witch Fingers’ sophomore LP, but anything worth saying is worth saying again. The clip for album standout “Get Down” mixes creepy laundromat antics, psychedelic substances and 80’s graffix for a mindblow video that’s fitted to melt your brain into goo. “Get Down” is probably one of the choicest cuts from the LP, drivin’ and sweatin’ and shot solid with a bass riff that’s primed to dance. If you haven’t picked it up, its gettin’ to be time. Its out today.

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Totally You – “One Step At A Time”

Izak Arida’s (of The Memories) new EP Smog City is full of scuzzy odes to L.A.’s grime and lo-fi rumples on hangovers, but underneath a bit of that scruffy exterior lies a solid strain of psych-pop that holds a lot of DNA in common with The Dandy Warhols, Primal Scream and Love and Rockets. Nowhere is this strain more evident than on standout track “One Step At A Time.” It breaks open with that kind of heard-it-before laid back riff that you can’t quite place, but can’t quite ignore either. Rather than feel like simply another plow through the ruts of drug laden pop froth, Arida gives the song a spark of life that catches hard, careening the riff like a teenage joyride through the speakers. Its bigger than most of the other tracks on Smog City, stacking vocals and harmonies into a creamy goodness that brings the West Coast sun and slacker pop saunter with just a dash of Brit-pop pomp. This track alone feels like the match that might touch off Totally You, given the right fuel.



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GØGGS

In hindsight there’s no shortage of “supergroups” that Ty Segall’s been involved in. The current version of the Muggers is stacked so high with garage talent that its a wonder there’s any brevity to Emotional Mugger. At the time of it’s release, a collaborative record with Tim Presley from White Fence wasn’t marked by the same stigma it would be now, given both artists’ elevated status, and same could be said for his freakout fuzz platter with Mikal Cronin. Suffice it to say that most of the people that the man gathers around himself could be considered for supergroup status and Fuzz is pretty much in the same category now anyhow. However, GØGGS is the first to really get the flag hoisted high over its head and one that lives up to the expectations that sticker supports. Its the hardest sound yet from a Segall orbiting body and that’s largely because while Ty is in the ring, its Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw who provides the driving force and evil-eyed core of the band’s sound.

Fans of Ex-Cult have plenty to chew on here but for my money GØGGS is the pure distillation of where Shaw was headed with that band. Thicker, grimier and flecked with freaked out forms that may have spilled over from Moothart and Segall’s work together earlier this year; GØGGS is a testament to shaking up your lineup from time to time and finding the friends who know how to kick out the shaggiest shit from your dirtbag soul. There’s no fear in GØGGS, its a howler monkey pinned to corner and eager to bring the fight. In a year that’s been packed with garage greats, this one’s the biggest trash can fire of the bunch; raging out of control, jagged and dangerous. Its peak Ty, peak Shaw and peak Mootheart. If Emotional Mugger is the punch to the throat of 2016, then this is the finishing kick.



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Allah-Las – “Famous Phone Figure”

Well gotta be summer now because there’s a new Allah-Las on the rise and that means good things for record players everywhere. Temperate days and clear skies just are just begging for a soundtrack from the L.A. stalwarts. The new track marks a bit of a departure from their usual jangle and jump sound that’s been rooted in the garage aesthetics and ushers in a move towards a more lush, and dreamy sound that plays off of swooning 60’s touchstones like Pet Sounds, JK & Co. or Tomorrow. Fittingly they’ve brought in a whole host of new instrumentation for the album – viola, harpsichord, Mellotron and theremin – proving this to be Allah-Las embracing their 60’s experimentation in full. They’ve been studying their 60’s trajectories well, so expect some paisley Nehru jackets on this tour, because things have gone full psych (not that I’m complaining). They’ve also made a move to Mex Summer for the record which pushes them away from their cozy home at Innovative Leisure. Definitely interested to hear more on this one and the moody black and white visuals give the track a nice stately background to luxuriate in. Summer just got a bit breezier.

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Elon Katz

Its been a while since Katz rolled around these parts, and he’s made huge strides since 2010’s Pylori Program cassette. Front and center on The Human Pet are vocals, which had not graced the washes of kosmiche synth that marked his earlier works. He moves away from the serene textures of the past and into a much more frantic, neon, fractured world. Futuristic to its core, the album flashes IDM teeth and bites them deep into a dark strain of synth-pop, though underneath it all is the pulse and poison of 90’s industrial and its bleak heat visions. On the album Katz blends those signifiers better than most hands these days, pushing him into a new echelon.

Katz first came to most people’s attention as part of White Car, and this record actually hews a little closer to that project than his previous solo incursions. He’s called it “critic pop” and I suppose that’s not too far off base here, its a deep record that’s beating a pop heart, swathed in clipped and fragmented beats that pump like glass shards through your veins. So, you know, catnip for nerds of all stripes. There’s plenty of noise slashing its way across every hook, and for that its certainly going to fall outside of the average person’s pop wheelhouse; unless you’re the type that’s packing playlists full of Minimal Wave cuts and the heatsick dance breaks of Fielded next to your early Prince funk, AFX instrumentals and NIN singles. And, why not, that sounds like a damn good time, and on The Humant Pet, it is. This is a big step forward for Katz and everytime I put it on, the well just gets deeper.



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Mind Meld – “Viper”

L.A.’s Mind Meld are digging in the same dirt as fellow West Coasters Ty, Feels and Wand. They’re mixing a thick froth of fuzz, riffs heavy as concrete and a desert heat waver of psychedelic slop. “Viper” is cut right out of the cloth of the Segall catalog, but its just as indebted to the heavy skull crushers of Blue Cheer, Sabbath and Hawkwind at their amp stacked best. The single is out on Permanent Records, who have also just moved themselves into cozy L.A. diggs, expanding on their lock on Chicago’s garage glory. If nothing else, I definitely want to hear more from these exhaust huffers in the future and something tells me there’s bound to be more smoke from this fire.




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The Flesh Eaters – Forever Came Today

The Flesh Eaters were the brainchild of Chris Desjardins, often known as much for his fanzine Slash as he is for his musical contributions. Though the zine gave him the cred and the connections to the L.A. punk scene, what he did with those tools speaks for itself. After the cracked skin flay of the band’s ’81 album, A Minute To Pray A Second To Die, he whittled down his lineup of heavy hitters and perfected the burn on the album’s follow-up, Forever Came Today. Its often a toss between which album is considered the band’s masterstroke, but they’re really two halves of the same fevered vision. Desjardins’ acetone handshake vocals are in full effect, blistering and sliding between dark fury and full on psychotic howl. The guitars are slightly less barbed than they are on AMTPASTD, but hit with a focused attack, rather than just rip at the mind. Personally it seems like this record only refines the brew that was cooking up to this point and tightens up the wild rabbit punch attack of the band’s potent punk pummel.

This album came right dab in the middle of a solid run of Flesh Eaters records that would end with 1983’s A Hard Road To Follow before Desjardins would take a tangent into the more acoustic oriented Divine Horsemen and their run of early albums for SST. He’d then get the band back together in the ’90s with a new crew and some swings in genre that circled the punk drain but never quite measured up to these early exploits. After nabbing a copy of Superior Viaduct’s reissue of the previous platter, I’m excited for this one to follow. The label’s remastered the album and the sound does the record justice, showcasing this ragged classic in a new light for a new generation who most likely missed out on its bite the first time around.

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Kevin Morby

It wasn’t a huge surprise when Kevin Morby made the move to Dead Oceans. He was due for a wider stage. His last album, Still Life was a leap forward from his debut both in musical depth and lyrical intensity and he doubles down on those qualities for Singing Saw. The album explores an even darker vein from Still Life, delving through explorations of life’s brief tenure. The biggest change, musically, comes from a new reliance on piano as a centerpiece. Before, Morby’s ballads were charged by his guitar and lonesome troubadour delivery, but the influence of Sam Cohen’s production brings the instrument into the forefront while also filling out Morby’s world with a gorgeous array of strings and brass, keys and percussion.

The album has a gravitas that places it on a shelf above Morby’s past work, solo or with The Babies. Its restless and strangely world weary for a person so young, but maybe that’s just an old soul peeking out through Morby’s songs. It feels like a soundtrack to a movie with little dialog and long pensive shots that carry menace in their bones; eyes in the rearview, deserted gas stations and looming mountains that never seem to get closer. The lyrical arcs evolve like the light coming over that stretched horizon. “Cut Me Down” is calm and even, but lyrically it seems like such a foreboding entry point, steeped in sadness and resolution, all qualities that continues on through “I Have Been To The Mountain” and “Singing Saw,” right up until “Drunk On A Star” sighs and lets some of the edge falter. By the closing strains of “Water,” somehow the dawn’s crept in and everything feels like it will be all right, even if deep down those feelings of bleak doubt remain. A gorgeous statement by Morby and a true 2016 highlight.



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Drinking Flowers – “Black Monday”

Creeping into the sheets of Britpop’s glam hangover and smudged with post-punk’s rhythmic charms, Drinking Flowers are finding a hazy medium between driving pop and smokey psychedelics. Their album on Manifesto is packed with a plethora of pop gems but standout single “Black Monday” ranks among the best. The band have an appropriately gauzy and disorienting video for the track, leaning on the song’s droning buzz and rumble of bass, the clip is a pretty apt summation of the track’s headspun approach. This one’s been a playlist staple for a while now and I’m remiss for only noticing now that this video’s been out for a couple of weeks, but worth a spin for sure.


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