Posts Tagged ‘Trouble in Mind’

The Love-Birds

In the wake of their Empty Cellar debut single, a sparkling tangle of jangles and clear-sky hooks, San Francisco’s Love-Birds wound up on the radar of a new generation thirsting for guitar’s pop prominence. They funnel the energy of that short-form stunner into an LP that proves they have a deft hold on jangle’s cross-generational evolution – tapping into The Byrds, 12-string history while echoing alt and indie pop hallmarks from R.E.M. to The Flaming Groovies and Teenage Fanclub. They even drag the rudder through the South Hemisphere, picking up nods to The Go-Betweens and The Chills then cold-press all this history down to a record that feels instantly familiar while still coming out fresh as a bay breeze in spring.

While they’re definitely pulling down a full set of sleeves, practically polka-dotted with hearts beating for the past, they swerve the stamp of college-town cover band looking to stun with their ability to belt out “End of the World As We Know It” sans crib-sheet. Instead they’ve bound up the control board glow of late night nineties college radio and, with the aid of San Francisco strummer and legend in his own right Glenn Donaldson, offered up a record that’s intangibly catchy, bittersweet and buoyant. The album captures that feeling when the airwaves were just right and the lo-watt station two towns over came in crystal clear at 12am, letting a few late-night discoveries blossom into lifelong obsessions.

On In The Lover’s Corner, the band feels comfortable picking at songs of love unrequited and scratching the itch of nostalgia that a good many likely have for an era with more to offer than the packaged in amber playlists built on hits rather than heart. The Love-Birds are helping helping further the left side of the dial even as the dial disappears from view.



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Matchess – “Of Freedom”

Whitney Johnson has been carving out niche for Matchess over the last few years with stints on Trouble in Mind, Digitalis and Monofonous Press. Her works are dark, meditative, and shielded from the outside world with a protective barrier of noise and a haunted hum. As might befit her collaborative work on albums for Circuit des Yeux, Bitchin Bajas and Plastic Crimewave Sound she’s not afraid to push herself to the edges of accessibility for sounds that reverberate through the mind and body on a tuning frequency set to shudder. Though Grouper comparisons might come fast and easy with Johnson’s work – the two artists both share a delicate core surrounded by an intricate storm of sound – on “Of Freedom” there’s more than just haze and haunt. The song clips along on a compressed air beat buoyed the sighs of strings, leaving Johnson’s voice to ricochet around the speakers in a delicately disorienting fashion. The track closes out her engrossing new album Sacracorpa which is due out July 27th on her old stomping ground at Trouble in Mind. If you’ve been missing Matchess up to this point then this might be a good time to start paying attention.



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The Love-Birds – “Hit My Head”

SF’s Love Birds have been taking a trajectory conducive to my own heart here at RSTB. Following up a stellar first EP for Empty Cellar the band hooks up with longtime favorite Glenn Donaldson to mix their upcoming LP for Trouble in Mind. The first single from the upcoming In The Lover’s Corner jumps off of the jangle-pop springboard, built around curlicues of song that dredge up The Go-Betweens and The Chills, but ultimately it finds its own embrace of power pop as well. The song has DNA from early adopters like The Flaming Groovies and a tougher strain that brings to mind Matthew Sweet during his Bob Quine years. So, if you were to lob a dart squarely at the chart of influences that hook me in, Love Birds are smacking the center every time. Throw in a mastering job from Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and a cover shod in block cut pastels and I’m pretty much sold. Gonna want to watch out for this one in May.



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Olden Yolk

Tying up an early year trifecta of solid releases from Trouble in Mind (along with Salad Boys and Sunwatchers) Olden Yolk sees Quilt’s Shane Butler branch out from his longtime band, though not too awful far. Like Quilt, Olden Yolk deals in a hazy, sun-squinted brand of folk that’s dotted with more than a touch of melancholy, though the record winds up a bit more whimsical than the bulk of Butler’s catalog. Along with his collaborator Caity Shaffer, and a solid rhythm swing behind them, the pair crawl through ‘60s psych-folk caverns and ‘80s UK indie to find their own place in the sun. I’ve likened the band’s first single to Veronica Falls, and over the course of the rest of the album that comparison seems to stand true. Like their UK counterparts they trend towards layered vocals that squeeze a drop of sweetness into the mix, pillowing the harmonies and letting the listener lay back into their gauzy folk with a mix of infatuation and heartache.

VF’s James Hoare would go on to work bittersweet miracles with Ultimate Painting (RIP) and the Butler led tracks here find the two songwriters on similar ground. Though some of the strongest moments on Olden Yolk’s eponymous LP see Shaffer at the helm, her strident vocals finding purchase in the band’s swooning folk like a soft-touch Nico rendered in raspberry shades. The pair have pinned psych swirls and jangle-pop to a post-Velvets rock approach with no lack of charm, then shaded it all in with a heavy brush of country ramble that peeks its head on tracks like “Hen’s Teeth.”

The further down the rabbit hole I tumble with Olden Yolk, the less inclined to want to see the light I become. Each listen unfolds this as one of the strongest debuts from a band in quite some time – crackling with life, crinkled with emotion and littered with pinprick hooks that linger long after the needle clicks to a close. It’s a record that feels lived in, sounding every bit like a band that’s just now finding their stride rather than an opening shot from newcomers. If this is where they start, then one has to wonder where they go from here.




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Sunwatchers

New York’s Sunwatchers straddle the line between psych and jazz with expert precision, but that’s not to say that they’re keeping the line neat between the two. The band’s latest record, II, flows with the air of free jazz, picking up on the skronk of Ayler and the eclectic mayhem of later, electric Miles. The first couple of tracks on the album pin themselves to the genre rather well, but as they progress into the groove and distortion laden “Silent Boogie” it becomes clear that this record is also a top tier face-melter that’s itching to topple into the psychedelic pit. They wander between their two poles quickly and seamlessly so that the listener never quite knows where a song will take them. It makes for an album that’s as dizzying as it is freeing.

Despite being a purely instrumental endeavor, its impossible to mention Sunwatchers without bringing up politics. The band has long been advocates for social change, equality and tolerance – going so far as to donate their album sales to charity. This time around they’ve taken their band crest/mission statement, long included in some form in their artwork, and put it on the cover, front and center. It cements their standing as a musical force for change and, while some might see it as trending towards a year of public statements said for applause with little backup, the donation of the proceeds to prison abolitionist charities seems like the public is just catching up to them.

Besides, if this year needs a sound it might be the furious skronk and bent metal n’ feedback wail of Sunwatchers. Sometimes a good scream into the void and a knotted riff comedown is the only recourse to feeling powerless on a daily basis. If that kind of catharsis sounds appealing then I’d wholeheartedly recommend a few spins ‘round with Sunwatches on the speakers. II only crystallizes the band’s hurricane in a bottle sound and repurposes it for the common good.



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Olden Yolk – “Vital Sign”

New strummers Olden Yolk crack into their second single off of an upcoming eponymous debut for Trouble in Mind in February and it’s a sparkling slice of jangle pop. Shane Butler (of Quilt) and Caity Shaffer’s new LP is becoming a staple around here and “Vital Sign” is a highlight off of a record packed with charm, hooks and a good old fashioned dose of knife-twisted heartache. While the band certainly recalls Butler’s work with Quilt, they’re also filling a hole in my heart that was left vacant when Veronica Falls called it quits – blending indie pop and jangle in perfect proportions. The new self-directed video for the clip gives a splash of city color to this lilting pop gem and acts as a nice ballast to the song’s sparse yearning. Gonna want to watch out for that full length at the end of the month, it’s a killer. You’ve been warned.

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Salad Boys

Christchurh, New Zealand has a long standing indie history and Salad Boys seems to take plenty of inspiration from their Kiwipop heritage. There’s a bit of The Bats in the mix, sure, though that probably just becomes DNA for anyone from the town. They dose in a bit of fellow NZ heroes The Chills as well, but the updated sound on This Is Glue is tougher, thicker and more roughed up than either. They come closest to the erratic yet ebullient pop of The Clean. The guitars speak to a love of grunge and garage, driving with a force that’s reckless and rallying in equal measures. They don’t stop at mere gnarled bombast though and that’s what makes this a record worth spinning more than once on the old table.

Peppering in some lush keys and swooning strums, the record is the most accomplished work I’ve heard from the band. They’ve always been kicking in the circles of records that float my way and peak my interest but up until now they’ve always seemed to be lacking that glue to hold their shambolic pop together. I suppose then that the title speaks volumes to their newfound footing and to a confidence in knowing they’ve finally found that spark. The record fizzes with hooks that can’t help but dredge up visions of nineties indie heroes baiting the breath of major A&Rs with money to burn.

They draw on the queasy notions of The Feelies and the heatworn pop of Fountains of Wayne and The Lemonheads. This record pulls them out of the scrappy indie gutter and has them reaching for some rock permanence. This isn’t a record that’s instant in its embrace, but rather a grower that seems to sow fondness with each new listen. While this might not be the one that cements their status its a damn fine start that should pull a few ears their way.




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Sunwatchers – “Silent Boogie”

Brooklyn’s Sunwatchers follow up their chaotic record for Castle Face with a new slab for perennial favorite Trouble in Mind. The first cut off of Sunwatchers II is a searing skin-melter with Jeff Tobias’ sax splitting hairs between the fult-tilt simmer of ’60s garage-punk and the unrestrained reaches of free jazz. They come down hard with a rhythm tumble that’s unstoppable and a sway over skronk that’s formidable and menacing. They remind me of the psych-jazz tumble of Cato Salsa/The Thing/Joe McPhee’s Two Bands and a Legend in a very good way. Gonna want to get into this when February rolls around, it’ll brighten up a the dark days and warm the cold nights.




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Headroom

New Haven psych institution Mountain Movers are driven by the restrained fury of guitarist Kryssi Battalene, but whatever impossible dynamics she’s laid down in the past for her mainstay, she’s doubled down on for her own solo work as Headroom. The band’s debut, Head In The Clouds opens with “How To Grow Evil Flowers, a track which certifiably burns down the farm and walks away with a serial killer stare. The guitars are charred, carcinogenic, and aching for more at each and every turn – but what really cements Headroom is that slash n’ burn psych isn’t what defines them.

As the record sidles into the second track there are overt notes of shoegaze that crop up. Battalene’s voice is lost inside a squall, but it’s calm and crouching, a stark contrast to the opener’s napalm glow of guitar fire. The remainder of the album balances these two forces, struggling to see which one wins out. There’s always a notion that Battalene will catch fire like a human torch of bottled emotion and burn the whole track down but the tension that drives that question is the heart and backbone of the entire endeavor. She’s a master of dialed in dynamics, surfing the wave of feedback like a seasoned vet. Where others might easily go in for excess and opulence in the realm of psychedelic fury, Battalne is as nuanced as they come.

This year also saw a record from Mountain Movers, and I must say that it was a captivating release, one that caught my ear and revealed how much the homegrown New Haven band had to offer. She’s saved the best work for her self, though, waiting out her tenure to begin bleeding a feedback whirlwind all over two sides of flat black plastic. This is the eye and the storm, the flame and the fuel. The record winds up both the calm you need and the spark to set it all ablaze, and for that Battalene has bested a good swath of her peers who’d falter in the same challenge.




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Omni

Omni’s sophomore album is upon us and it’s a perfect update of the influences they chewed on their 2016 debut. They’re still chomping wire nervously in the corners of the room, and I can’t help but love it – with an overture of itchy guitar lines emanating from Broyles’ fingers like broken clockwork puzzles. This is agit-pop proper, full of the introverted excitement that bands like The Embarrassment or Girls (the ’86 version) embraced in their horn-rimmed glory. Multi-task is a record for the deep divers that dance alone to a pincushion pop that matches their disjointed sensibilities. Broyles and Frobos understand why The Voidoids felt the need to run a trickle of sulfuric acid over their love songs – pure pop is far too sincere for a cracked consciousness run rampant with insomnia and idle time.

They don’t just shackle themselves to bent metal licks alone though, the band has a self-professed love for the Postcard records sound and the jittery pop preen of those esteemed ’70s agitators comes through atop the band’s serrated songcraft. Though they pair again with Nathaniel Higgins on recording duties, this time they sound a bit more present than on Deluxe. Where that album felt like a faded demo found and re-salvaged from the discard pile of some asshole A&R with too little scope, this sounds like a true workup – one ready for mass production, post-punk infamy, and modern rediscovery.

There are a whole host of bands that want to pull on post-punk like a $5.00 last minute Halloween costume and the baggy seams show easily on their accomplishments. Omni are a different sort of band, one that’s clearly spent their spare time riffling the same racks a lot of us inhabit, creeping YouTube in the wee hours looking for one more step beyond the normal essentials lists. Multi-task feels like a band making the album members have been reaching for in their other bands. It feels like finding that elusive sound that’s been nagging at the back of your brain, nailing it and sharing it with all the other freaks looking for a salve to the same itch.



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