Posts Tagged ‘Matador’

Stephen Malkmus – Xian Man

Not that this track needs my input (if you escaped it yesterday, you probably weren’t paying attention), but this wasn’t what I’d been expecting from a new Malkmus LP and it’s certainly a pleasant surprise. The last record seemed like exactly what someone of Stephen’s stature has (and should have) the freedom to make. It was a left turn that didn’t always lead down clear streets but the journey was scenic nonetheless. The first cut from the upcoming Traditional Techniques seems like another left, albeit this time right into my wheelhouse. Along with Matt Sweeney in tow and Chris Funk arranging, Malkmus burns through a set of dessert blues that feel like Matt and Steve have been spending some time picking through the Subliminal Frequencies catalog and attending a Tinariwen set or two. There’s a feeling of blues, but its smoke-smeared and winding down the paths that usually have Ben Chasny and Sir Richard Bishop lurking in the shadows at the end. Feels like a good mood on Malkmus, as there’s no need to perfect the untucked aleternatives he’s already helped foster. This too feels like a whim. They might not all stick, but take the chances, bring along a few ringers on guitar and I’ll be there waiting, that’s for sure.




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Chris Brokaw on Kevin Drumm – 1983 & Quiet Nights

If you traveled in certain circles in the ‘90s, in particular the kind that tipped towards the inward gaze of slowcore and the knotted tussle of indie then you’re likely already well versed in the works of Chris Brokaw. The artist spent years in the ranks of Codeine (drums) and Come (guitar), punching double on his indie-cred free coffee card with releases on Sub Pop and Matador in the same year. Throw in aughts favorite The New Year and a stint on Touch & Go and that indie rock bingo sheet is rapidly filling up. More recently Chris has been laying down down high quality solo spins that brush post-rock, jazz, and American Primitive, scoring for films, and occasionally flaying some brains in RSTB faves Charnel Ground alongside James McNew and Kid Millions. Just off the release of his excellent new LP for VDSQ Brokaw found time to kick in a pair of faves for the Hidden Gems series, giving the nod to experimental guitarist Kevin Drum’s run of CD-rs in 2013. Check Chris’ picks below.

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Steve Gunn

First time I heard Steve Gunn was back in 2007 on a small label called Onomoto, known for acts like Taiga Remains and Ghosting. Gunn was pulling down ragged fingerpicked odes that hung in the air like frost. The sound quality was scratchy but the talent was clear under the hiss. Its been years since those days and ever since the second phase of Gunn’s life rolled down with 2013’s Time Off he’s been marked for greatness, steadily straightening the rumpled blazer sound that he’s stepped into. Eyes On The Lines is Gunn fully formed, running at peak but still never feeling flashy about it. The man can play. If you need any proof, plunk down a copy of Seasonal Hire, his collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers. That ought to set you straight. But even with the talent in tow, it’s the way he wields that makes him unique. Most of his songs tend to capture the feeling of the highway stretching endlessly on the horizon; sauntering in a way that clips by like the steady pace of pines out the rolled window. In this respect his solos never blister, they feel like the pent up relief of a good stretch when the car stops. They’re air in the lungs and feet on the ground.

Eyes On The Lines deploys those moments of clarity in ample doses but the surrounding build and fade is hardly shabby either. Sure its a more accessible and, dare say, mature record from Steve, but he’s finding a way to show age in style. The country touches whisper in at the edges, a bend of twang here and a dusted dose of strum running its way under the chorus. He’s still got some of his ragged roots showing though, there’s certainly a warble of psych that curls in with the rest of the smoke filling up the rooms of this record. In the end though, its all those touches coming together to make a perfect montage of diner coffees, halogen lights flickering over gas pumps, center lines and steel girders; the air peppered with throat dust and the cold freshness of leaves on the air. That’s the heart of Eyes On The Lines, that and the itch of needing to get moving, even when it feels good to stretch.

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Steve Gunn – “Ancient Jules”

Steve Gunn’s made the amiable transition from his instrumental roots to road worn troubadour, and the video for his latest taste of Eyes on the Lines is steeped in that traveler’s ethos. The video sees him winding backroads and ending up in what looks to be quite a nice little night hanging with fellow guitar legend Michael Chapman. The song has a tarnished brass feel to it, driven by Gunn’s country flecked guitar sound and brought home with his weathered sigh of a croon. The album’s positioned to bring Gunn to a much bigger audience and frankly there aren’t more deserving. If this and that Kevin Morby album aren’t soundtracking your early summer nights, then you’re kinda missing the point.

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Steve Gunn – “Conditions Wild”

Its always nice to see longtime RSTB faves grow to the kind of widespread attention they deserve. Steve Gunn has been a fixture on the site for quite a while and his classic Golden Gunn album remains on constant rotation on my turntable. Way Out Weather broke him to a wide audience and signing to Matador probably won’t hurt either, huh? The first taste of his new album for the venerable label, Eyes On The Lines, takes a more accessible direction than ever, delving into the lushest bit of singer-songwriter territory Gunn’s ever explored. But with that unmistakable Gunn guitar snaking its way through the track and a crack team of players assembled for the album – Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, organ), Hans Chew (wurlitzer), James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro), Mary Lattimore (harp), Jason Meagher (bass, guitar, flute), Paul Sukeena (guitar), Justin Tripp (bass, keyboards), and John Truscinski (drums) – it would be hard to keep this one under wraps for long.

The video takes Steve on a stop-motion diorama trip through the woods that ends with Steve charming his would be threats with his guitar. Seems like a solid plan to me. This is looking to be an album worth keeping tabs on until its June release.

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Jean-Paul Sartre Experience – I Like Rain: The Story of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience

Fire Records have gone through the exhaustive work of compiling this retrospective of the JPSE and its well worth the time to wade through the band’s storied history. Their debut is a charming record that felt apart from the rest of the Flying Nun stable. There’s jangle, but more often there’s a subtle wash of grey-skied melancholy and an early indie pop simplicity that feels more akin to the outset of the Creation records stable than many of their contemporaries at home. Love Songs introduced the band with the hit that this collection takes its name from and its a pretty fitting entry point to the band’s catalog.

Size of Food has always overshadowed the debut in critical acclaim but at the time of its release it fell on many deaf ears. Delayed by two years due to some financial finagling on Flying Nun’s part, the album finally hit shelves without much in the way of fanfare. But hindsight being what it is, this one stands as a benchmark of fractured pop that would have lasting reverberations even if it didn’t shake scenes at the time of its issue. Their final album, Bleeding Star saw the band enter the studio, amp up the production (some critics would argue too much) and finally allow themselves some international acclaim. But where the album saws off a bit of their connection to jangle, it dives headlong into a buzzing sea of guitars that buoy that same melancholy they’d always let through with a stronger punch. This album also garnered support from Matador in the States and they finally made it over for some dates only to pull themselves apart in the process. This would prove their last effort. In addition to the albums themselves this collection ropes in bonus tracks, tracks from the alternate US/NZ pressings and singles. They might not top your list of essential bands of the late 80s/early 90s but spend a little time with the JPSE and let this collection wash over you. It will definitely surprise you.





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