Posts Tagged ‘Trouble in Mind’

Matchess

With Sacracorpa Whitney Johnson brings to a close her trilogy exploring perspectives on perception. The final album nudges her sound out into the open, augmenting her windswept noisescapes with a twinge of pop via skittering beats and mournful synths. The album, even more than her previous two, envelops the listener, blotting out the periphery with a blinding dazzle of light obscuring the eyes until through the squint only hazed shapes and dizzying sparkles remain. The album winds up kindred spirits with fellow static surfers Grouper and Circuit des Yeux, shrouded in mystery and pulled through the darkness by longing, but Johnson’s brought her own take to the gauze-bound brand of dreampop that’s been tied to her peers. The record has a quiet hope rather than a sandblasted desperation. Her songs glow like a beacon in the whiteout whirling all around, gasping in the depleted oxygen, but fighting for something beautiful in the crushing din.

While the trilogy’s albums function together as a larger take, Sarcracorpa can easily be divorced into a standalone that stands atop her discography. The strangled throes of pop on display here are Johnson’s best and they constantly wage an environmental battle to break out of their respirator cage and shimmer free in an unpolluted air. Trouble in Mind has been on a bit of a popular tear lately, but with Matchess they’re proving that complexity isn’t lost in on a label that’s constantly looking to the fringes of pop rather than dragging the net down the middle of the road. The album is a hushed gem working hard to shake the curse of outsider status. As the heatwave summer bears down on the world with little empathy, you’d do well to embrace the sweat with Matchess’ beautiful plea for serenity.




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The Shifters – “Work, Life, Gym, Etc.”

Excellent crossover between my love of Aussie pop and my love of Trouble in Mind today. The label announces the release of the debut from Melbourne’s The Shifters. The LP was recorded by Total Control/Dick Diver/Terry shambolic pop treasure Al Montfort and it bears a bit of resemblance to the shaggy pop of recent work with Terry with spillover appeal for fans of the shaggy shake of The Stroppies or the discomforting burn of Wireheads and Vintage Crop. Definitely in line with the newer school players of South Hemi slacker pop, but the single also boasts a nice fidelity bump from their previous 7″s via Montfort’s production. All in all, bodes well for an album of similarly shaded jangle nuggets when this one lands in September.

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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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