2024 Favorites (so far)

Six Months in, 2024 is already a world beater in terms of music. The slate is stacked with old favorites returning with new works, essential reissues, unlikely collaborations, tonal shifts, and killer riffs. The world looms in the the midway mire of 2024, but it’s hard to knock the record shelf this year. These are the records that have spent the most time on my speakers over the past six months. As usual, no rankings, just a list of my favorites as we sail into the second half of 2024.

Alan Braufman – Infinite Love Infinite Tears

Infinite Love Infinite Tears, finds the jazz luminary molding gorgeous melodies with an excellent new ensemble. The record finds him back in the studio with James Brandon Lewis, Ken Filiano, and Michael Wimberly, while adding new contributions from Chad Taylor and Patricia Brennan. “Brooklyn” gets a morning glow of vibraphone from Brennan and finds Braufman’s flute circulating through the spring air, a celebratory cut that’s vibrant and vernal. The record continues Brafuman’s latter day revival and cements his legacy alongside The Fire Still Burns.

Aluminum – Fully Beat

Aluminum slice through the shoegaze garden with well-prepared shears — nipping the topline luminaries like MBV and Ride, but slicing deeper into Chapterhouse, The Swirlies and Drop Nineteens. Unlike many nu-gaze contemporaries, the band doesn’t see fit to stop at the foam and fuzz. Rather than just create a smudged wonderland that’s beholden to their influences, the band embraces the baggy beat of Madchester, letting it litter a few of their singles. They flirt with Brit-pop’s love of rhythm, the influx of rave, and the verdant sweat of Mazzy Star.

Banned 37 – Banned 37

Local bands come and go, but rarely do the ones that burn out so quickly also burn this bright. The studio tracks here shine. They capture a welcome cross-section of ‘80s jangle and dB’s power pop, but also a bit of Southern charms that fold a slight flash of country into the mix. The band is at times as tumultuous as the Dü and as riddled with pop potency as Rain Parade or Permanent Green Light. There was certainly something supernatural in that well that fed the Athens faucets, and the band captures the same melting pot magic that found contemporaries turning disparate influences into something lasting.

Beings – There Is A Garden

The eponymous outing is a storm of color and a crush of angles and light. Like a funhouse hit by a bulldozer, there are moments when Beings reflect and refract their sound in all directions. On “Face of Silence,” the band hits a peak of ecstatic ambience, a whirlpool that pulls the listener into their maw. The band is at its best when in balance of the squirm and the soothe, though. Amba’s sax is a beacon on the record, catching the winds and pushing her bandmates towards needed serenity and steering them into the tempest unafraid.

Billy Tibbals – Nightlife Stories

Tibbals sticks to the short formats with a second EP for Silver Arrow this week. The record revels in the ‘70s pomp n’ primp — the crossover between glam’s grandeur and the soft pout of power pop that would follow. Tibbals knows how to pack a song full of the kind of rock-meets-pop maximalism that got swept away in the growl of the ‘90s, save for torchbearers like The Blondes and Redd Kross, both of which might feed into the fray here. Tibbals embraces the larger than life persona, but the stage life is backed and bonded by the songs. Not a dull moment in ‘em, and then he caps the collection with a tender Bowie burnout that flickers like a lone candle in the night.


Black Decelerant – Reflections Vol. 2

Another stunner out of RVNG Intl. The label’s roster of artists who straddle the line between ambient and jazz is already strong, and they now add Black Decelerant, prepping a second volume of reflections from the duo of Khari Lucas, aka Contour, and Omari Jazz. The album explores improvisational jazz themes and blends them with meditative textures, allowing space and reflection. The duo intend that the space to allow for “meditations on themes of Black being and nonbeing, life and mourning, expansion and limitation, and the individual and collective.” It carries a sense of trying to remember these themes across time, passed down through storied recounting that begins to muffle the details once its etched onto thrice dubbed tapes.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Nathan Salsburg, & Tyler Trotter – Hear The Children Sing & The Evidence

From Nathan Salsburg’s nighttime ritual comes an album that becomes more than just soothing sounds for wakeful children. Instead he, along with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Tyler Trotter have turned Daniel Higgs’ works into longform meditations — circular studies that roll his lyrics around and around, polishing them like choice pebbles picked up along life’s journey. Oldham gives both songs a the kind of weight that only his voice can imbue in a piece. His honey and hickory delivery elevates any material, but with Higgs’ poetic prowess as the base layer, these two pieces become something in tune with celestial vibrations.

Broadcast – Spell Blanket (Collected Demos 2006-2009)

The sprawling, crackling collection retains the dreamlike linger of Broadcast’s songs, albeit dusted with a bit more murk, looser lines around the edges. Naturally, its an unfinished album — bones, dust, and shadows that have been shaped by James in the wake of his bandmate’s passing. It gives an idea of what was to come, though. It provides one more glimpse into the music box wonderland that Broadcast inhabited, one last ride through the strange ether that Trish could conjure. Yet, even as you listen there’s a feeling of a photograph blowing out of reach, of a last piece of film catching fire on the projector, accompanied by the anxious need to catch it before it crumbles.

Cara Beth Satalino – Little Green

The songs on Little Green are tender, vulnerable, and absolutely engrossing. It’s hard to ignore Satalinio’s candlelight lilt, the kind of songs that are born of quiet moments, doubt, dreams, luck, memory, and melancholy. The songs, with their inherent quiver, are some of the strongest in Satalino’s catalog. A light lick of country does her songwriting good, and while the record revels in its subtle vision and austerity, it succeeds most on knowing just what to add and when. Little Green vaults to the top of Cara Beth’s catalog, a lovely release that’s a pleasure to return to again and again.

Daisy Rickman – Howl

Daisy Rickman’s works are imbued with a stillness, carried on picked strings and a voice that dips through melancholy on its way to the sublime. Her songs fill the marrow with wonder — oil slick reflections that shift through beauty weighted by a wanting darkness. Howl is, at its heart, an ode to the sun and starlight. It captures the light through the trees, a verdant veneer that turns afternoon into its own emotion. It harnesses the night air, far from the city’s prying eyes, the head encircled by ringlets of breath as the notes reach towards the beacons above. Dissonance and delight pull at the album, as Rickman’s sonorous voice is cocooned by strums and shaken by bouzouki, sitar, and accordion. The album is meditative, leaning on its Anglican folk forms, but stitching much further afield through circular movement and an undercurrent of rag. The year will no doubt produce an abundance of folk albums, but it’s doubtful that many will be as wondrously affecting as Howl.

Daniel Romano – Too Hot To Sleep

Where Romano often lodges in a hook and lets a sense of swagger hold court, on Too Hot To Sleep there’s more of a sense of breathless catharsis. Dotted with a few rock n’ soul swingers that find Romano volleying vocals Julianna Riolino and Carson McHone, the record also pushes tempos far into the red. In a lot of ways, this remains a tried n’ true bout of Romano rock, but it’s good to see him kick the tempos and ruffle his composure a bit on this collection. There are few genres that Daniel Romano can’t conquer, and here he proves that, if need be, the tiger in his tank is ready to rip into the jugular.

David Nance – Mock The Hours

Nance is known almost as much for his string of short-run covers albums as much as he is his own records, but what’s always been endearing about his solo works is how he seamlessly digests his influences and obsessions, leaving just a tip-of-the-tongue familiarity in his scuzz-sopped blues. From JJ to Burnside, there’s something boiling under the backseat of Nance’s songs and it all seems to come to a head on his latest with the assembled Mowed Sound. Even with a deep back catalog already brewing, this feels like the start of a new era for Nance.

Ducks Ltd – Harm’s Way

Harm’s Way, finds them stronger than ever and serving up a jangle-pop juggernaut that’s picking through the bejeweled bounties of the Kiwi-pop ‘80s, threading through acolytes on down through the CapTracks years. The band stands apart from other miners of the Antipodean aura, capturing the impellent spirit of the original bunch without getting caught up in the pastiche that often snags and snares the most well-intentioned imitators. There’s a building bloom of new janglers. Someday a new generation of crate diggers will have a field day sorting though it all, but rest assured that Harm’s Way will be among the gems that stands out.

Elijah McLaughlin & Caleb Willitz – Morning Improvisations Evening Abstractions

A cast of collaborators, all Chicago improv vets themselves, ably begin to etch their own intricacies on the works that McLaughlin and Willitz had shaped during their studio sit-in. The record becomes a living document, a festering, flowering organism that’s as much indebted to Chicago’s post-rock legacies as it is to the ebb and flow of free jazz fumes. It’s some of the most immediate work I’ve heard from both artists and the kind of record that changes shades over time, catching different hues with each listen.

Ellkhorn and Mike Gangloff – Shackamaxon Concert

Split into two long-form improvisations, the record turns down a bit of Elkhorn’s electric singe for an earthier glow. Elkhorn, however, remain masters of circular patterns, embroidering the air with intricate dips and swirls. Played against Gangloff’s fiddle, the songs wrap around American folk traditions, splashing themselves with mountain mud before stretching towards something a bit more exploratory — hinting at threads of Träd, Gräs, Düül, & Vuh.

Gerycz Powers Rolin – Activator

As a duo Powers and Rolin seem so in synch, knitting clouds out of sound, but with Jayson’s addition the trio adds an element of entropy that grabs hold of the listener by the synapses and pulls them in two directions at once. Again, the trio work like dancers fighting the choreographical urge of symbiosis and instead threading separate paths simultaneously. The record stipples the soul of the listener with a thousand tiny indentations. With Lamplighter the band established their rapport, but here they push beyond those boundaries, creating an album of shadow and shine, an ember that fuels the collective fire.

Ghost – Ghost (reissue)

In the early ‘90s (between ’90 and ’94) the first two albums from Ghost were issued by beloved Japanese label PSF, along with a live album that served to give more context to the band’s psychedelic sway. Those albums were then reissued by Drag city in 1997, giving US access to the band’s eponymous debut, Second Time Around, and Temple Stone. Those three albums have now entered hallowed ground, and have been pretty hard to track down on LP for years now. One of the originators of the new wave of psych-folk, the band’s catalog remains a pristine vault of lyrseric gems. Of the three landmark albums, the eponymous outing has always been a favorite – a fogged collection of psychedelic gems that cast a long shadow on the decades to follow. It’s great to see it back on the shelves this year and a total essential.

GospelbeacH – Wiggle Your Fingers

Confessional, cooled by the California breezes, but threaded with a gnawing worry, the album balances dread with a desire to appreciate the time we have. The record looks back at the past with a wrinkled smile and looks to the future with an even more furrowed brow, but knows that sometimes you just need to appreciate the minutia that makes even the worst moments worthwhile. The record folds in friends from near and far, finding members of The Hanging Stars sending in parts from across the Atlantic while Curation corral regulars like Alex Koford and Jake Dejongh round out the ranks. The sun may be setting on the Beach, but as anyone knows, sometimes the most beautiful hues slip out during that golden hour.

The Hanging Stars – On A Golden Shore

On A Golden Shore still finds the band inhabiting the later lineage, but they’ve let go of their grip on the darkness and desire of Hollow Heart. The band’s Richard Olsen has noted that the band were striving for something more ‘baggy and Balearic’ while still wading through the waters of Country. The album succeeds in its strive, carving out a sound that’s more homegrown, with nods towards the late ‘90s this time. The delightfully English spin that the band puts on the Cosmic American sound solidifies them as a true outpost in the East — the Starry Eyed and Laughing to Rose City’s Flying Burrito’s breeze. The last album built expectations, but On A Golden Shore has leaped over them with ease.

Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few – The Almighty

The album kicks off strong, making its case early with “Love” which features Dee Alexander (The AACM Great Black Music Ensemble) on vocals. Slaloming between gospel and jazz, the song rides the wave of rhythm, building to an exultant finish that explores its subject with an exuberance and bliss. The album follows with similar divinations of love, light, and beauty, including a glowing piece that features Ari Brown adding his sax to Collier’s and Isaiah taking the lead on vocals for “Perspective (Peace and Love),” a song that shimmers like light off of water. Two side-long suites round out the album in resplendent style. Collier has never been one to shy away from ambitious works, but The Almighty finds him at his best, brimming with love and sending it out in waves to the listener.

Jeffrey Alexander and the Heavy Lidders – Planet Lidders

While the record has technically only been released to subscribers of the band’s Bandcamp series, with a wider release scheduled for later in the year, the lucky few already have a heavy one on their hands. The record finds the band expanding, collaborating, and coalescing their sound. The opener features Isaiah Coller on sax, a collab that came to a head with a blistering performance at this year’s Milwaukee Psych Fest. Folk and fury play out over the rest of the album, with Drew bringing some Vibraphone action and the set capping off with a massive cover of “Almost Cut My Hair,” giving an elevated air to the CSNY classic.

Jeffrey Silverstein – Roseway

Roseway works as a perfect addendum to the last record, but it also speaks to Silverstein’s prowess with the self-imposed boundaries of an EP. His third in a series, the EPs have served as transitionary stages for his work and this EP finds Silverstein pushing himself on both poles of his sagebrush saunter. The palette remains split between instrumentals and vocal screeds, and he’s still a heavy hand with the former. Falling in heady company with Bobby Lee and Spencer Cullum, Silverstein has become one of the foremost merchants of motorik country. The band has screwed down their sound, and the balance of taut rhythms with breeze-blown guitar and steel comes through perfectly on Roseway.

Joe Ghatt – Caper

Ghatt continues to mine past sounds, though this time, with a little mixing help from John Lee (Bananagun, Sunfruits) the record’s ripped out of the transistor radio and thrown through the satellites for a cosmic psych-pop soirée. While there’s no longer a grainy veneer, there’s still an aura that sets Ghatt’s work apart — a cold, humidity that’s captured in flutes, funk strums, and lounged linguistics. Propelled by a polyrhythmic pulse, the record cribs from Joe’s preferences for Afro-Beat, Tropicalia, Bossa Nova, Peruvian and Latin music. The album is loose and lounged, the kind of record built to soundtrack a summer’s day. Sea breezes blow through the crevices of Caper, adding to its restorative nature. If it’s possible for an album to feel like condensation sliding down a glass, Joe’s done it. If you’re looking for the windows-down wonder of the upcoming heat wave season, this is the album to get on the dial, and quick.

LAIR – Ngélar

Songs on Ngélar quiver with a defiant energy, picking up celebratory tones at times, but often also riding a line between danger and darkness. The band digs into themes of economic hardship and the effects that industrialization has played on their town of Jatiwangi, once a great hub of clay and terracotta production. That tension plays into the band’s sound — a feeling of wanting to uphold tradition, but of being crushed by commerce. The band reflects their cultural history through their instruments themselves, fashioning them out of local clay. They turn rough hewn folk forms into a conduit for electric ache. The band’s sophomore album finds them carving out a modern gem of Eastern psych that should appeal as much to Sublime Frequencies heads as it will to fans of Khruangbin and Goat.

Lightheaded – Combustible Gems

The band bridges the ‘60s to Sarah divide like few others who’ve tried to pick up the bittersweet baton over the years. They bring to mind Veronica Falls’ adept balance and nesting doll harmonies, or label mates Kids on a Crime Spree in their ability to slip out of time completely. Alongside newcomers Parsnip, they’re leading the indie pop pool this year. The baroque pluck occasionally finds the band wandering through deeper pop wells populated by Boettcher and Brown, picking up ornamental touches from The Millennium and The Left Banke without turning towards garage revivalism. The album fills the room with a steady steam, a dry ice haze that comes on slow, but once it envelops the listener, it’s hard to escape from the band’s pillowy playland. I’d happily inhabit Combustible Gems all day long.

Love Child – Never Meant To Be (1988-1993)

For the ‘90s scourers and Homestead Heads, the name Love Child should already be familiar, but to the average scanners of ‘90s dials, the band was woefully missing from the limelight that shone on their peers. The band formed a Vassar College, bringing together Will Baum, Rebecca Odes, and Alan Licht, birthing a sound that was informed by Modern Lovers, Richard Hell, The Embarrassment, and The Heartbreakers. Like many bands of the ‘90s, Love Child were sometimes bandied about as the next to break but sadly it was not to be. That makes this collection all the better. It’s the spotlight they’ve long deserved. This comp stands as an excellent document of the band’s tenure — a living being that was constantly in motion, evolving rapidly and extinguishing far too soon.

Magic Fig – Magic Fig

the debut record from Magic Fig sounds like it catapulted out of the Canterbury collective mind in the late ‘60s. The band, featuring members of The Umbrellas, Whitney’s Playland, Almond Joy, and Healing Potpourri, shrug off their indie aspirations and turn their jangles towards prog and psych, though they keep it beating with a pop heart. Atop the liquid light of their prog-pop, the vocals of Inna Showalter (Blades of Joy, Whitney’s Playland) are as captivating as ever. File it lovingly next to copies of Stella Kola’s indispensable debut and a stack of Upupayāma records.

Magic Tuber Stringband – Needlefall

North Carolina’s Magic Tuber Stringband fills the room to the rafters, despite their sleight stature as a duo. Echoing local legends like Black Twig Pickers, but pushing well beyond the bounds of standard bluegrass fare, the band set out to redefine the work of a modern stringband. Unlikely touchstones rear their heads on Needlefall, with the band citing Don Cherry and Terry Riley as inspiration, especially within their realms of free improvisation. Free forms are applied to the album, but like fellow academic expansionists Modern Nature, the band directs the flow through prompts and musical roadmaps. Thus, the album becomes far more than a folk or bluegrass bounty.

Marcel Wave – Something Looming

If The Kinks wrote an elegy for the buttoned down boredom of pre-war Britain, Marcel Wave have come along to scrape the post-industrial nostalgia off the shoes of their sons ‘n daughters. The Village Green has fallen, but the Wave is here to prop up the Chalk Stream Runoff Preservation Society. Bringing together members of Sauna Youth and Cold Pumas, the band runs lingering feelings of restless angst against the nagging knowledge of societal collapse and planetary decline. Cracked concrete and shoddy housing, the chafe of the rural and the industrial, and a parlor of panic are on the dock for Something Looming. Loom it does, and the band gives that anxiety an aural outlet.

Meatbodies – Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom

From the very first strains Meatbodies’ new album, the band is awash in the foam and fumes of the ‘90s — muscular riffs lost in a haze of shoegaze and dry ice. The band chews on a few obvious touchstones, rifling through the glam flash of Smashing Pumpkins and the towering sonics of MBV, but it’s fun to see them also roll in a kind of Janes-ish delivery on songs like “Billow” and “Move” that lets the vocals swing from the rafters like Farrell in his prime. The rest of the shoegaze menagerie gets a good workout in the influence list as well, injecting rhythm like Ride, angst like Adorable, and the earnest heart of Drop Nineteens. The formula works, and it’s a ballsy move to go for the double gatefold dose these days, but Meatbodies soak up every inch, revealing in some room to move.

The Messthetics – The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis

The record moves away from the punk and post-rock roots that had tugged Messthetics away from embracing more than a few smoke curls of jazz on their last two records. The urge to bend into full jazz-rock was bubbling, but here they embrace it with extraordinary results. Both Lewis and Pirog move from fat, hammering riffs to ecstatic light beams with ease, pushing this one towards the edges of jazz-psych without tumbling over.

Motorists – Touched By The Stuff

Motorists have a way of skimming through the most elastic impulses from the era. The album finds them adhering the bass-heavy pop punch of Breeders or Elastica to “Call Control,” and leaning into the FM fuzz on “L.O.W.,” dialing down the energy and swapping it for a scrape of grunge’s hold on the decade’s dial. They do let slip a few deeper nods to the ‘80s power pop pulpit as well. “Barking At The Gates” is loose n’ running with the harmonic hues of Shoes. There’s a new wave shimmer that slips through the darkness on “Embers,” but the band weaves them all into an album wrought with displacement and hung on a gnawing hunger. Themes of scraping by, sticking out, and skirting stagnation abound. Motorists are getting lost and found again through life and the art that feeds ya, even when it won’t buy a meal.

Mountain Movers – Walking After Dark

If you’ve seen Mountain Movers live in the last year or so there’s also been a Kosmiche stretch slinking into the sets. Those longform impulses are back, but this time the fuzz has been doused and the tones have turned liquid and limber. The band’s new album, Walking After Dark, weaves some of the band’s more compact compositions with the cosmic climate they’ve cultivated. True to the album’s title, there’s a nocturnal spirit at play, something that only makes sense once the scorch of the sun has receded from the sky. The album opens into the sundown saunter of “Bodega On My Mind/The Sun Shines On The Moon” setting the tone for the coiled calm to come. They swap between a comfortable aural amble and the pulsing cosmic corners, bookending each disc with heavy, heady dives into the ether.

Myriam Gendron – Mayday

Gendron’s last record was a warm and tender collection that cushioned the blow of everyday life. Mayday leaps back into that mode, with “Long Way Home” bringing its cottony comforts to the speakers. The song exudes a sense of relief, the kind that can only come from finally returning to a place of safety after a long stint away. The album follows her first single’s beacon, lighting the traveler’s path with a soft glow and a breeze buffeted by ennui. It was great to see her get picked up by Thrill Jockey this year, giving a larger loudspeaker to her quiet works. Come fall this one is going to be indispensable on the headphones and it looks to be holding strong for the year end list too. Wrap up in this one.

Oisin Leech – Cold Sea

For his solo debut Leech connects with a compatriot from across the water, with Steve Gunn producing Cold Sea and appearing on every track in some capacity. Should you need more endorsement than Gunn’s involvement, the record also finds M. Ward and Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan Band) among a litany of Irish music’s best. The record is confessional, calm, the kind of album that taps into the golden hour glow and makes it manifest over nine tracks. Leech’s songs soothe as they swim through the mind — a modern day bard whose playwright’s spirit lends a sense of depth and shading to his craft and characters.

Parsnip – Behold

The band’s debut had a certain wobbliness to it, an off-kilter charm that focused on their love of ‘90s post-punk janglers like OH-OK, Confetti, and Tiger Trap. That whimsy remains, but as they dip into the blissful bindings of Behold, the band wades through some vocal harmonies that clip Wendy & Bonnie, The Free Design, and the Yellow Balloon. The organ swells, popcorn percussion, and bright, summery jangles brush against the layered harmonies. The band adds 12-string strums, stacking on Kinks and Byrds touches while they reach for grey-skied Mamas and Papas heartache. The melancholy meshes with the merriment and the album tugs and twists pop’s past into a bright future.

Psychic Temple – Doggie Paddlin’ Thru The Cosmic Consciousness

Between the bouts of spiritual jazz, psychedelic reinterpretations of stoner metal classics, and ambient institutions, the band has often returned to a more pastoral place. The sprawling jazz ensembles retreat and the album, hinted to be his last under the Temple’s name, winds its way through loose country funk, JJ nightshade shuffles, and rootsy moments that swing at the ‘70s in the best ways. Recorded in the Joshua Tree desert, the album has a rumpled swagger to it — organ cool downs, soaring background vocals, sweaty groovers greased to perfection, and denim-dusted AOR that slouches on the porches of the mind.

The Reds Pinks and Purples – Unwishing Well

What the world needs is a new dose of heavy-hearted indie pop from The Reds, Pinks and Purples. If the past five years have taught me anything, it’s that Glenn Donaldson may be the defining voice of what it feels like to hang resigned disappointment on a person in the 2020s. Where past albums may have dealt with heartbreak and hubris, this time Donaldson takes aim at working in music in the modern age. Fandom, frustration, and faith in the best intentions of the listening populace collide with strains of Felt, The Go-Betweens, and East River Pipe on Unwishing Well. Glenn’s got a few gentle axes to grind, and with good reason. Love leaves the deepest scars, but as the wolf of capitalism devours our darlings, there’s more than one way to break your heart.

Rich Ruth – Water Still Flows

This one’s not out until next week, but I’m sneaking it onto the list early. The new record takes a darker turn, embracing drone and metal cues. That darkness clouds the the album but it doesn’t blot out the band’s dynamic interplay. Ruth’s guitar growls, thunders, and looms like a tectonic force. The saw of strings, the scatter of vibes, and a deep sax burn are all on display. Spencer Cullum brings waves of steel to ride the storm, continuing the pair’s history of collaboration. The record is a monumental evolution of sound and its tempest is ably on view over the course of Water Still Flows.

Rosali – Bite Down

Nance and co. back Rosali with the tightness of Crazy Horse and the caress of Yo La Tengo. The last record, with Mowed Sound behind her, turned a corner for Rosali. Her sound progressed from solo singer-songwriter to something more visceral, something that sticks like a thorn in the palm of the listener. Her songs bring a drop of blood, a flash of pain, it’s a release that’s as necessary as it is cathartic. Middleman is at her best here, assured, acidic, a gleam in her eye that’s knowing and natural. The band burns through her songs, turning riffs and rumination into the kind of songs that scar the soul.

ROY – Spoons For The World

Where early albums were doused in government conspiracy concept pieces and JK & Co. clouds of pastel smoke, this time the sound has been grounded and gussied, lacquered to a mahogany sheen that’s more for the soft-hearted crooners than for the psych-splashed garage enthusiasts. Dump the tabs and pull up a brandy for this one because ROY’s gone deep into the woodwork for a stunningly honest take on Lee Hazelwood, Fred Neil, Tims — Buckley and Hardin, and Jackson C. Frank. Like many of his influences there comes a time, or perhaps an age, when tweed-elbowed ballads and deep sighs feel in order. As excellently as he captured the garage pop grist, Leffler seems to deeply understand the ‘70s singer-songwriter swerve as well.

Shane Parish – Repertoire

While he’s alone on his latest release, the record carries the spirit of collaboration in its cadre of covers. Interpreting everyone from Aphex Twin to Roland Kirk, Minutemen to John Cage and Mister Rogers, there’s certainly a wide breadth envisioned on Repertoire. The spirit of the originals flows through Parish’s interpretations weaving around and through their boundaries, pacing their performances while taking the time to run tributary from the source in delightful abundance. Repertoire proves that all music is indeed folk music — storied melodies that carry us, calm us, and caress us, no matter what corner the genre hounds have tried to put these pieces into originally. Parish is one of our most vibrant interpreters, and Repertoire finds him as near as ever to a definitive statement.

Six Organs of Admittance – Time Is Glass

With a tangle of acoustics wound around hazed landscapes, Time Is Glass is both blissful and bleak. The album starts streaked with afternoon sun, but quickly descends into the wordless womb of “Hephaestus.” The storm is brief as the album settles into an overcast resolve that feels like coming home.Scrubbed of some of the band’s early erosion the record sends Chasny’s psych-folk through the maze of mirrors — reflections of themes, circles on circles curling like smoke to the skies. The record is homesick even as it’s written from home. Is the body ever at rest? Is a place, familiar or foreign, ever truly ours? Is comfort the fight leaving or the fight won?

Steel Fringe – Steel Fringe

The Portland outfit, featuring RSTB fave Barry Walker Jr (Rose City Band, Mouth Painter), offers up a pretty perfect debut EP — four songs of cosmic country that wind through the mountains and lay down a cascade of green hues and sumptuous harmonies. Feeling like The Byrds and Burriotos are in their blood, the first single “Klickitat County” served as a nice entry point to what the Fringe are all about, but there are more expansive horizons embedded in their eponymous EP as well. The opener, “In My Head,” adds a bit of twang and ramble. It turns down the layered approach but lets pedal steel and a pump trolley pulse that pushes the song down the tracks, soaking in the sun.

Stewart Forgey – Nature of the Universe

Pacific Range captured the woodsmoke and salt that cures the best West Coast cosmic country, melding mercurial harmonies into a record that lives forever in the California canon. The band’s Stewart Forgey moves just past the peak of the ‘70s for Nature of the Universe. Save for the title track, on which the members of PR reunite for a last light into the layered harmonies, its a solo record in spirit. There’s a lonesome lilt, a raglan rumple that captures some of what Mapache have been working while feeling like a kindred spirit to label mate Eric Silverman. The album follows a tradition of solo albums cut in the shadows of celebrated pasts, and like the troubadours that carved the path before him, Forgey succeeds in slipping his own way into the sun.

Sunburned Hand of the Man – Nimbus

Their recent run for Three-Lobed has seen the band in fine form and they work to top themselves on Nimbus. The band is known for their expansive, malleable lineup, but as they settled into the house studio in Turner’s Falls, the band brought to the fold a formidable array of classic and new faces. What formed is an album that pushes the band forward while embracing all that exemplifies the Sunburned ethos. The record is threaded with readings from poet Peter Gizzi, lending the album its title and giving it an anchor in philosophical splendor. Phil Franklin’s hand is felt in particular on this record, as it balances between the kosimche pulses behind Gizzi’s aural amble, the scorched psychedelics, and a surprisingly strong amount of song-oriented material. The record winds around the listener, warped by woodsmoke, dampened by moldering pages stacked and re-stacked, and doused in a kind of wooded magic that can only be dredged from the mosses and murk of the Northeastern woods.

Trummors – 5

The band’s latest album, 5, finds the band deep into the traditions of the ‘70s brothers and sisters that came before them, kicking choruses like Gram and EmmyLou, or sparring swoons like a less traditional George and Tammy. There’s a familial feel to the record, and its easy to see that everyone here has locked into Trummors’ afternoon alchemy. The record is the band’s most lived in and loose. As much as Dropout City felt like a band bringing their vision to fruition, 5 feels like the duo comfortable at their peak. The cosmic country that began to brush the big sky reclines across the speakers. Songs like “Jalisco Kid” feel like they’ve always been a part of the Americana canon and the band takes to George Strait’s “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” like seasoned vets summoning the saunter-slung ghosts of their Taos environs. It’s that pacing that makes 5 such a stunner. There’s often an urge to crank out a dancefloor filler, something to run ravage on the jukebox, but all the songs here are made for the evening dip of the sun over the hills and a tumbler of whiskey.

The Umbrellas – Fairweather Friend

The debut was built on a love for ‘80s and ‘90s pop that played with candid songwriting, and the album’s home-recorded roots gave it the feeling of a lost curio. The band’s live shows, meanwhile, found them pushing for something bigger, and that sound comes crashing through on their follow-up. Still self-recorded, but hardly sounding like that’s the case, the band have pushed the volume and dynamics to the forefront on Fairweather Friend. Buzzing with a caffeinated smile that recalls The Primitives at their most effervescent, the record seems to wrap around the listener like a favorite scarf. They grab the fizz of the Coventry band and run with it, though their love for The Pastels still steers the record like a rudder, and quieter moments nod to BMX Bandits or The Aislers Set.

Uranium Club – Fairweather Friend

In the past the Club has found themselves as caustic as any tin foil chewers — evoking Pere Ubu and Mx-80 — pushing aside hooks for barbed wire windmills of sound that lacerate the listener. On their latest, like Wire, Magazine, or The Saints before them, the band excels in not holding tightly to their sound, but rather letting evolution tumble their turbulence into gems. The Saints in particular come into play as the band embraces an unlikely nest of brass on a few tracks, letting a bit of flash shine off of their tangled tin wonderland.

Vague Plot – Crying In 9

Vague Plot brings together perennial RSTB regular Zachary Cale with a stable of BK psych vets — Phil Jacob (Psychic Lines), Ben “Baby” Copperhead, Uriah Theriault (Woodsy Pride), and John Studer (Woodsy Pride) for a new outfit that’s pushing away from Cale’s folk pasts and towards a more insistent jazz rock ripple. The record loops around the room in muscular gallops, sparring singed guitars against one another, with Phil Jacob’s cosmic sax sluicing through the spaces between. The band’s already had a hell of a year, making a mark on Milwaukee and blurring the lines between jazz-psych and jam with excellent results.

Water Damage – In E

With four sides, four pieces, each around the twenty-minute mark, In E, cranks the turbine for twice the normal amount of tumult of their average album. The band doesn’t waste a minute of it, locking into three head-nod harbingers of doom and a capping the album with a cover of Shit & Shine’s “Ladybird” (off of their ‘05 Latitudes entry) that ropes in the band’s Craig Clouse for an extra dose of Damage. With so much drone gone to the ambient crowd these days, its nice to find a respite for those who’d like to enter stasis and still seethe. Sometimes you gotta say “screw serenity, I’m looking for something that cuts to the bone.”

Winged Wheel – Big Hotel

The band adds two members to their ranks, filling out a stacked deck that already contained members of Spray Paint, Tyvek, Powers/Rolin Duo, and Matchess with high profile members of Water Damage and Sonic Youth. With a deep bench of drummers, the heavy hammer of percussion becomes a focus on Big Hotel. The songs tack into the tempest, full of angry amplifiers, feedback, froth, and obfuscation, but the constant pound of the drums pulls the listener out of the fog track after track. The band’s first record wound through the mists, more akin to the murky works of Liz Harris, but on Big Hotel they’re ready to revel in the light, ready to turn turbulence into bliss. Shoegaze acolytes come and go, but rarely does a record feel like it may have something to teach the class of ’91.

Writhing Squares – Mythology

Mythology hits the listener like a battering ram, built on inertia and entropy, smashing the stasis that surrounds it. The record rings like an alarm bell set to strains of cosmic funk, synth-punk, and acid-dipped jazz. It’s a dystopian record for dystopian times. When we’re bartering water in the rubble of Wall Street and home brewing moonshine in the Lithium mines, these will be the anthems of the unsettled populace. When we rise from the ashes, Writhing Squares will be the house band at the end of the world. Get it on rotation now and beat the crowds.

Zachary Cale – Next Year’s Ghost

After the last strains of the bittersweet “Heart of Tin” fade from the speakers the gentle lope of keys continues and it becomes clear that this is a very different kind of record for Cale. Piano and Wurlitzer are the cornerstones of the album, written as a meditative respite in the pandemic. The album ponders loneliness, isolation, time and its tenure. It’s a new skin for Cale, but inside beats the same resilient heart that hums through his past works. With a cadre of collaborators —Shahzad Ismaily (Bob Dylan, Beings, Marc Ribot), Jeremy Gustin (Delicate Steve, Okkervil River), Uriah Theriault (Woodsy Pride), Jr Bohannon, and a trio of strings — the songs that Cale penned in purgatory came to life in the studio, a bittersweet collection that drapes the listener in the comforts of melancholy.

ににんがし [Niningashi] – Heavy Way

The record revels in American strains of country and folk, with a nice edge of fuzz creeping in on a few songs. Opener “Ameargari (After The Rain)” might feel a bit familiar to heads around these parts, serving as the title and flagship track for Torn & Frayed’s series of cassettes, After The Rain. The album balances bittersweet folk with slightly fried country as amiably as quite a few contemporaries, bringing to mind Dylan II, Makoto Kubota, or Yukimasa Takebe along with, of course, Happy End. Okubo would go on to more acclaim with later bands Neko and Kaze, but his early works with Ninigashi are contained on this sole album.

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