Category Archives: New Releases

THE WOGGLES – Tally Ho!

Album: Tally Ho!

Artist: Woggles

Label: Wicked Cool

Release Date: August 11, 2017

www.wickedcool.com

The Upshot: Like a treasured garage mixtape, but as blazingly fresh as any young band you’d care to mention.

BY FRED MILLS

The BLURT braintrust got together and wholeheartedly agreed: We want Georgia’s Woggles to be our official house band. I mean, they’ve already played multiple BLURT day parties in Austin during SXSW, so why not formalize the notion? Not a band to rest on such obvious laurels, however, the Woggles recently notched a major imprimatur in the form of signing with Little Steven’s Wicked Cool label (he’d already awarded them his storied “Coolest Song In the World” label), going on to snag veteran studio rat Jim Diamond to produce the platter. The resulting Tally Ho! is everything we’ve come to expect from the gang, and then some—which is saying a lot considering they’ve been doing this for 30 years.

Leading the pack, of course, is vocalist Mighty Manfred Jones—I still have a mental image of him dancing on a picnic table during his band’s day party set at SXSW 2013—who brings an outsized swagger and classic showman’s flair to the, uh, “table.” He’s joined by bassist Patrick O’Connor, drummer Dan Hall, and guitarist Jeff Walls (the newest member of the band, from the late, great Guadalcanal Diary and Hillbilly Frankenstein; he came into the fold following the death of guitarist George Holton). And straight outta the gate, everyone smokes: opener “Luminol Test” is a fuzztone-laced, stop/start stomper guaranteed to have you reaching for your Nuggets and Beyond the Grave compilations to see if this isn’t in fact a cover; nuh-huh, but it sure sounds like it already enjoyed “classic” status. That’s followed by “Hard Times,” an R&B-flavored ditto complete with call-and-response action between the singer and the chorus, who are all urged along by the omnipresent Farfisa. And when “What You Think We Are” cues up amid searing guitar riffs (more fuzz, natch) and a Paul Revere & The Raiders arrangement and vocal motif, only the most recalcitrant rock snob will be able to resist succumbing to the primal charms of the Woggles.

The hits, of course, keep a-comin’, from the modal twang-jangle of “Moritori Salutant” to the echo-laden jungle thump and B-movie tip that is “Mothra Hai” (you want “jungle”? check out the throbbing “Jungle Queen” and its chain-gang/tribal chanting) to the hectic, jet-powered, positively insane raveup of “Learn To Love Again.” Ultimately, Tally Ho! is not only everything we’ve come to expect from the Woggles, it’s everything and then some—reassuring familiar, like a treasured garage-rock mixtape you compiled years ago and only just recently unearthed in a box that was stashed in the back of your closet, yet as blazingly fresh and energizing as anything some young band of well-hyped upstarts might deliver in 2017.

It’s positively nowsville, Pops. Dear Woggles, let’s have a house party again, soon.

DOWNLOAD: “Hard Times,” “Learn to Love Again,” “What You Think We Are”

 

 

COMBUSTIBLE: The Flamin’ Groovies

On their new album Plastic Fantastic, Cyril, Chris, & Co. hit the ignition button and blast off in a spectacular return to form.

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

With the state of decay that rock ‘n’ roll has composted into over the last several years, it’s important to have a touchstone like the Flamin’ Groovies to reboot our brains and remind us what it’s really all about. Since the original lineup formed in ’66, their lineups over the years have seen more changes than Drumpf’s White Power House staff appointments, but, have remained pretty true to their original sound through it all. This point in time finds them still creatively brilliant in both writing and playing. Although ex-Charlatan/Groovie Michael Wilhelm and band co-founder Roy Loney weren’t involved in this latest resurrection, original bassist George Alexander makes the scene on most of the tunes, drummer Victor Penalosa and former member Chris Wilson co-writes about half the numbers with Cyril Jordan, after a 38-year separation.

This partnership is where the ignition hits the combustible and blast-off is achieved, and is pretty damned spectacular. Their touring lineup includes bassist Chris von Sneidern and Tony (grandson of Soupy) Sales on drums. After Jordan and Wilson rekindled their friendship in 2013, they started slowly recording tunes at a Sausalito studio, slowly piecing together an album over a 3-year period.

Having been a fan since Sneakers was released in ‘68, I was blown away from the first couple of tunes, and greatly impressed by this latest incarnation. Through the decades, their musical choices have always been a bit out of sync with the current time period, making them not exactly appealing to the hippies of the late ‘60’s, with songs that sounded like they were lifted from artists of the previous decade, in a period of folk-rock and psychedelia. Plastic Fantastic (Sonic Kick Records; no website listed) stays true to their vision, belting out tunes that cover ground remindful of British Invasion bands, classic rock, power-pop, Mod and Freakbeat. There’s even a tasty instrumental thrown in.

I can’t let the great cover by Jordan go by without a nod. Jordan drew Mickey Mouse comics at Disney in the ‘80’s, and had hoped to get famous Mad magazine Jack Davis draw a cover for some future project. Davis agreed, but passed away before it came to fruition. Putting rapidograph to paper, he came up with this very serviceable homage to Davis’s 1959 cover for Monster Rally.

The album kicks off with a ballsy, bluesy, Stones-flavored smack-down, “What The Hell’s Going On.” It’s a clear shot across the bow, letting you know that they aren’t screwing around. It also makes for a pretty good anthem for 2017.  “The End Of The World” couldn’t sound more Groovies-infused (think “Shake Some Action”) if they had a gun pointed at their head and were forced to clone their signature sound. They dig into the Beau Brummels’ catalog and juice up their classic Mod-ish number “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” really capturing the atmosphere of that time period. Their Flamingo-era flavored “Let Me Rock” shakes things up old-school style and belongs on juke boxes in soda shops everywhere. This is not the ’71 version, but a fresh update. Rock on, indeed!

“She Loves You” and “I Want You Bad” revisit the jangle of “Shake Some Action” and “You Tore Me Down” to lovely effect, making it not much of a stretch for them both to have come from that era. Early Beatles-sound shines through (ala “Long Tall Sally”/”Matchbox”/”Slow Down”) on “Crazy Macy,” thanks to a pounding Jerry Lee beat. This was a single released by the band about a year ago as a tasty appetizer for the upcoming album. “Lonely Hearts,” as the title evokes, is a broody ballad about separation, love lost and hope of reconciliation. “Just Like A Hurricane” rolls in a lot like Ferry’s “Let’s Stick Together” but with throbbing guitars and wah-wah instead of a horn section.

It sounds like all voices are joining in on “Fallen Star,” which locomotes and chugs right along like a freight train, with some fine guitar riffs, fading out with some Byrdsian guitar chimes. I’m endlessly disappointed that bands don’t do more instrumentals, but the band shines through here with “I’d Rather Spend My time With You,” which is about one step removed from a surf number, with a sprinkling of “ahhhs.” Drummer Prairie Prince joins in on drums, along with bass parts laid down by noted producer-archivist Alec Palao. A Byrdsy beginning kicks off “Cryin’ Shame,” a very ‘60’s sound, accompanied with nice harmonies on the chorus parts.

It has to be noted, that even with a pretty amazing catalog on the shelves from decades back, Fantastic Plastic might just be their finest effort. This is the music that stirs your loins and flies in your face like the sweet bird of youth come home to roost. Fingers crossed that this isn’t their Final Vinyl.

Photo via the Flamin’ Groovies Facebook page.

CHANNEL 3 – Put ‘Em Up LP

Album: Put 'Em Up

Artist: Channel 3

Label: TKO

Release Date: August 18, 2017

www.TKORecords.com

 

www.TKORecords.com

The Upshot: Punks Not Dead, okay!

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been more than 15 years since Channel 3 last put out a full record of new music and time has clearly been good to the band. The group’s sound has evolved immensely since their early ‘80s hardcore days and what they lack in ferocity, they now more than make up for in lyrical prowess and tight muscular riffs.

Though decidedly still a punk band on their latest, Put ‘Em Up (like on the politically-charged tune “The God You Deserve”), elsewhere the band trots out their varied influences, from power pop to straight ahead rock. Though I’m not certain this is necessarily a concept record, written and recorded after last year’s election, the political and social themes are all over this album.

Like many of their contemporaries both here (Bad Religion) and overseas (Stiff Little Fingers, Cock Sparrer), Channel 3 is putting out some of their best stuff in years: It certainly looks like punk really is a veteran’s game. The band is celebrating their reemergence with sets at a number of punk events this fall, including the aptly titled Punks Not Dead and Remember The Punks festivals.

Consumer note: Available on CD and digital, of course, but the BLURT-approved version is on blood-red vinyl. Hey, you can even get a 12” stencil of the cover art for your troubles

DOWNLOAD: “Water & Time,” “She Never Wanted It This Way” and “The God You Deserve”

 

HAPPY ABANDON – Facepaint LP

Album: Facepaint

Artist: Happy Abandon

Label: Schoolkids Records

Release Date: August 25, 2017

www.schoolkidsrecords.com/label

The Upshot: Ornate baroque pop one moment and huge anthemic soundscapes the next from a remarkably gifted and promising young NC band. Read our interview HERE.

BY FRED MILLS

In their short-but-fruitful existence to date, Chapel Hill’s Happy Abandon have garnered a reputation as a forceful act that weds dramatic performance to a nakedly emotional aesthetic. So much so, that the owner of the Schoolkids Records label – formerly Second Motion; home to Tommy Keene, The Veldt, and Bettie Serveert; and, full disclosure, sister business to BLURT – was soon convinced that the young trio would be the perfect flagship artist for the newly-christened label. It wasn’t a frivolous move, either, and if you caught their single “If I Stare” last year, you already have a sense of the group’s ornate, cinematic pop mastery (listen to it HERE at their Soundcloud page). By way of additional full disclosure, I fuckin’ loved ‘em the moment I heard ‘em, and this was well before Schoolkids’ Stephen Judge had signed them to the label.

On the resulting debut, lyrical introspection and high-energy extroversion (read: loud) get woven tightly together, with catharsis the objective. This is not to lump Happy Abandon among traditionally theatrical bands, many of whom confuse billboard-sized pronouncements with profundity, an aesthetic misstep that many prog, metal, and even emo groups also make. On the 10 songs that populate Facepaint, the group offers up grand, sweeping melodies, soaring/anthemic vocals, and manic explosions of energy offset by solitude-conjuring denouements, and the overall effect is utterly exhilarating. Opening track “Ivory Bound” unfurls via pirouetting acoustic guitar and piano, just a hint of percussion—then comes the swell of a string section, which crescendos lustily then swoops directly into “Beneath Our Feet,” a hectic rush of searing guitars, convulsive drums, and pounding ivories as vocalist Peter Vance—in a deliciously androgynous voice—croons, then sneers, then snarls, then pleads. On “Take Me,” this light/heavy strategy further showcases the players’ strengths as the song gradually rises in volume and tempo until, about four minutes in, the listener finds him- or herself cocooned in a glorious wash of sound, guitars, percussion, and keys, as the massed vocals strive for, and attain, full-choir status. (This band does love its vocal arrangements.)

Elsewhere, Happy Abandon demonstrate their versatility at ballads (the ornate baroque pop of “Choice”), showtunes (“Stop Taking Care of Me,” a dark-but-dramatic narrative chronicling a lover’s steadily-rising addiction: “I’ve watched you becoming the monster inside of you/ It has the same eyes as you/ But it can’t love the way that you do… You can’t kill what’s killing you/ If you’re feeding it too”), even orchestrally-inclined art pop (the aforementioned “If I Stare,” an extravagant waltz which boasts violins, cello, flute, and even Peter Bjorn and John-styled whistling).

To their credit, these three men (singer/guitarist Vance, drummer Jake Waits, bassist Justin Ellis; on most tracks they are joined by keyboardist Alex Thompson, who also conducts the strings) don’t deploy their dynamics in rote or template fashion. These are fully-formed rock songs with emotional interior lives that would also work stripped-down or with a full orchestra. Ultimately, Facepaint is a remarkable debut from an uncommonly gifted and promising young band.

Consumer note: The vinyl for Facepaint comes in either standard black or eye-popping multicolor splatter vinyl. And for colored wax, it’s a solid pressing; collectors frequently find themselves complaining about the audio quality of color vinyl, but they won’t have to this time out.

DOWNLOAD: “If I Stare,” “Beneath Our Feet”

JACK COOPER — Sandgrown

Album: Sandgrown

Artist: Jack Cooper

Label: Trouble In Mind

Release Date: August 25, 2017

http://www.troubleinmindrecs.com

The Upshot: Guitar virtuoso brings a sharp sense of loss and change to his glowing, spare arrangements.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

These shimmering songs are full of ellipses, the spaces between guitar notes clouded over with wistful nostalgia for Jack Cooper’s lost seaside childhood. Cooper has gotten a fair amount of ink lately for his quietly subversive, acoustic dueling guitar duo Ultimate Painting (with Veronica Falls’ James Hoare), also rather luminously introspective, but Sandgrown is more personal, with the smell of salt air, the sting of sea breezes, the sharp sense of loss and change running through every track.

Take “Gynn Square,” named for an old-fashioned commercial block near the beach in Blackpool, England, a resort gone slightly to seed. Cooper is up early, who knows why, watching the last vestiges of weekend hedonism fade, (“as the sea spray washed the weekend from the concrete”) and thinking about the ghost of a girl in a deck chair, by the melancholy of the song, lost forever. Cooper’s singing is quiet and natural, his arrangements glowing but spare. Guitar notes are left to hang in the air glittering. Space separates thoughts and images. Lyrics are put together artfully, with embedded rhymes and rhythms, but delivered casually and full of pauses, as if Cooper were just deciding what to say next.

Other songs are slightly more emphatic, like “Stranded Fleetwood Blues” with its shambolic shaken percussion, its backbeat knocking drum beat, its twisting, exploratory guitar lines, or “A Net” which drones in a directed, almost krautish way, though subdued and acoustic. There are a couple of jazz-scented intervals – Django-ish “Sandgrown Pt. 1, Rev. 1,” and also “Pt. 2” — which weave and bobble like gazebo concert band tunes remembered from long ago.

The disc finishes on a particularly pensive note, with the slow moving, hallucinatory “Memphis, Lancashire,” a memory palace song (whose memories Cooper is clearly too young to personally own) about Elvis and maybe also WWI. Guitar chords flutter down, settling, a bass rumbles up from underneath, and Cooper sings wistful, non-linear phrases about music and remembrance. (“And when the crowd goes quiet, I hear myself again.”) There is a gorgeous aching guitar duet near the end, one part arcing out in liquid runs of blue notes, the other flickering in tone-changing chords. It’s enough to make you miss people you never met and long for places you’ve never been. Just beautiful stuff.

Consumer Note: For you vinyl fans, the LP version comes pressed on tangerine-colored wax.

DOWNLOAD: “Memphis Lancashire,” “Gynn Square”

 

BEACHES — Second of Spring

Album: Second of Spring

Artist: Beaches

Label: Chapter Music

Release Date: September 08, 2017

www.chaptermusic.com

The Upshot: What would you say to a mashup of Krautrock, shoegaze, dronerock, and the like?

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Beaches, the five-woman garage-psych band out of Melbourne, plays a mesmerizing blend of clatter and drone, undercutting sun dappled melodies with shifting undercurrents of buzzing tone. This double album is their third, following two previous albums that earned fervent praise in Australia; the second, Beats, featured a like-minded artist on guitar – one Michael Rother from Neu!  This one relies solely on the home team, a seasoned group of musicians who include Antonia Seibach (ex- of Love of Diagrams), Alison Bolger (of Panel of Judges, Ali McCann, Gill Tucker (of Spider Vomit) and Karla Way.

That’s a guitar-heavy line-up with Seibach, Bolger and McCann all playing six-string, and indeed, the density and variety of guitar sounds is one of the first things you notice. After the wordless pound and exhilaration of “Turning,” the band turns to wide horizons drone in “Void,” with traded vocals and sweat-sheened overdrive evoking the much-loved Scottish band Prolapse or Austin’s Experimental Aircraft. “Contact,” later on, is even dreamier, riding a surf wave of swelling sound, its interlocking guitar and bass licks gamboling atop blissful surges of overtone. The singing is just fine, and will remind you of plenty of other bands in the Dum Dum Girls/Vivian Girls continuum, but it’s the heft and interplay of instruments that put these songs over.

Seventeen tracks makes for an extended listening experience, but there’s enough variety that you’re never bored. In fact, the second half seems to hit a little harder than the first, starting with “Arrow,” track ten, the most fuzzily pop of these tunes. The cut is upbeat to the point of euphoria, but slashed through with razory guitars, so that there’s a high but not a sugar high. “Walk Around” is more open-ended, but just as inviting, as sawing effects blister through radiant clouds of tone. Forget the girl group comparisons for Beaches – this stuff transcends gender – think instead of the great drone-heavy shoegaze bands, Bailter Space, Ride, Slowdive, and sure, why not, even Neu!

DOWNLOAD: “Arrow” “Contact” “Walk Around”

 

 

 

MARK BRYAN – Songs of the Fortnight LP

Album: Songs of the Fortnight LP

Artist: Mark Bryan

Label: Chucktown Music Group

Release Date: August 11, 2017

www.facebook.com/ctmgmusic

The Upshot: A slew of low-key gems and terrifically upbeat anthems from the erstwhile Hootie guitarist and songwriter.

BY FRED MILLS

Charleston’s Mark Bryan is not exactly an unknown quantity; for those of you who need a gentle prod, think “multi-platinum artist Hootie and The Blowfish.” Since that group’s ubiquitous alt-rock radio heyday, and subsequent, intermittent moments in the sun, Bryan hasn’t been exactly laurels-resting. Granted, his public profile isn’t quite as high as Hootie vocalist Darius Rucker’s ascent within the country music milieu, but maybe that’s because the so-called “public” pays more attention to chart placement and radio spins than behind-the-scenes activity—and, in Bryan’s case, good works.

Go to Bryan’s Wikipedia and you’ll get a sense of some of those musical good works, which include Carolina Studios, a nonprofit arts/music organization for kids, and the Chucktown Music Group, which works to connect local musicians with vital resources related to artistic guidance, promotion and marketing. Bryan has even teamed with Charleston venue the Charleston Music Hall to produce a regional music television show.

Meanwhile, as any good musician worth his salt would do, the songwriter has continued to, ahem, write songs, and Songs of the Fortnight represents his and is trio The Occasional Milkshakes (Bryan, bassist Hank Futch, drummer Gary Greene) performing material originally posted on Bryan’s “Songs of the Fortnight” blog, a three-year project for which, every couple of weeks, he posted new songs or those recorded by artists he had been working with.

The LP—a 180-gram vinyl release, complete with download card and all housed in an utterly gorgeous slick-laminate-stock outer sleeve plus full-lyric/credits inner sleeve (credit where credit is due, right fellow wax devotees?)—boasts a slew of low-key gems, among them the twangy, goodtime, neo-folkabilly “If You Saw Her” (“They say beauty’s from within/ And I guess it must’ve been/ Before it busted out of her and became free,” sings Bryan, in an utterly joyous moment), and the falsetto-flecked, fiddle-powered “The Great Beyond,” which neatly straddles the alt-country and bluegrass camps. There are some terrific upbeat moments as well, notably the riffy, Marshall Crenshaw-esque power pop anthem “Forgetting About Me,” and the delightfully hectic melody-and-rhythm rush that is “Mybabyshe’sallright” (it features BLURT hero and Hootie alumnus Peter Holsapple on correspondingly hectic harmonica).

Bottom line being that Songs of the Fortnight is designed to give listeners an 11-song musical vacation from what ails ‘em, ‘cos Bryan intuitively grasps how music, whether chronicling moments we want to revisit or need to recover from, is ultimately a healing and uplifting force. Believe it.

DOWNLOAD: “Forgetting About Me,” “If You Saw Her,” “The Great Beyond”

 

BASH & POP – Friday Night is Killing Me

Album: Friday Night is Killing Me

Artist: Bash & Pop

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: September 08, 2017

http://omnivorerecordings.com/

The Upshot: Erstwhile ‘mats bassist rapidly emerged from his bandleader’s shadow to display a remarkable sonic acuity, as this expanded reissue clearly reveals.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When the Replacements broke up in 1991, all eyes turned toward bandleader Paul Westerberg for the next move. Eager to move on from the ‘Mats’ reputation, Westerberg spent the first part of his solo career trying earnestly to become alt.rock’s James Taylor, before eventually settling into an eccentric and erratic series of one-man band LPs.

Fans looking for more of the ‘Mats’ rollicking bar band asskicking had their heads turned in the wrong direction. Had they shifted their gaze, they might have noticed Bash & Pop. On 1993’s Friday Night is Killing Me, its first (and, for over two decades, only) album, the band formed by bassist Tommy Stinson proved the ‘Mats’ co-founder to be not only the true soul of the beloved band, but the heir to its ramshackle rock & roll. Boasting more of a Faces/Stones vibe than anything his ex-bandleader ever recorded as a solo artist, Stinson, his bandmates, and the myriad sessioneers who helped create the record tap directly into the tight-but-loose vein of aspiring bar bands everywhere.

Singing in a classic soulful rasp, Stinson uses the prototypical model of two guitars, bass and drums to field a set of songs steeped in both brash attitude and winsome uncertainty. “Never Aim to Please,” “Hang Ups” and “Fast & Hard” (with an uncredited Westerberg on backing vocals) fulfill the first part of the band’s name nicely, insisting on the world rocking out with a joyful grin overtaking the sneer. The world-weariness of a life spent on the road starts to intrude in “Loose Ends” and “Tickled to Tears,” before finding full flower in the title track. Stinson strips back to near nudity on the ballads, imbuing “Nothing” and “First Steps” with wistful nervousness, but still displaying a determination to move past it. With it all coming together under the watchful eye of producer Don Smith, Friday Night is Killing Me calls attention to itself not with bombast or chest-puffery, but with smart songcraft and a time-tested take on old-fashioned rock & roll.

This new edition adds a second disc with some of Stinson’s home demos, alternate takes on most of the album’s tunes, and three non-album cuts. The power popping “Harboring a Fugitive” and hard rocking “Situation” were worked up in rehearsal but didn’t make the LP, while the punky “Making Me Sick,” featuring a different lineup of Bash & Poppers, ended up on the Clerks soundtrack. Nice treats for completists ultimately make an unheralded but great record even better.

DOWNLOAD: “Friday Night (is Killing Me),” “First Steps,” “Never Aim to Please”

 

CHANNEL 3 – Put ‘Em Up LP

Album: Put 'Em Up LP

Artist: Channel 3

Label: TKO

Release Date: August 18, 2017

www.TKORecords.com

 

The Upshot: Classic politically charged punk, for 2017. Any questions?

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been more than 15 years since Channel 3 last put out a full record of new music and time has clearly been good to the band. The group’s sound has evolved immensely since their early ‘80s hardcore days and what they lack in ferocity, they now more than make up for in lyrical prowess and tight muscular riffs.

Though decidedly still a punk band on their latest, Put ‘Em Up –  like on the politically-charged “The God You Deserve” –  elsewhere the band trots out their varied influences, from power pop to straight ahead rock. Though I’m not certain this is necessarily a concept record, written and recorded after last year’s election, the political and social themes are all over this album.

Like many of their contemporaries both here (Bad Religion) and overseas (Stiff Little Fingers, Cock Sparrer), Channel 3 is putting out some of their best stuff in years; Looks like punk really is a veteran’s game. The band is celebrating their reemergence with sets at a number of punk events this fall, including the aptly titled Punks Not Dead and Remember The Punks festivals.

DOWNLOAD: “Water & Time,” “She Never Wanted It This Way” and “The God You Deserve”

 

YES, IT IS EXQUISITE: Floating Action

On a remarkable new album one encounters all-over-the-map alchemical brilliance from the Black Mountain sonic savant.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Soul man. Funk fan. Dub star. Vintage rock ‘n’ roll master.

Seth Kauffman’s been fêted with all these sobriquets over the past decade in Floating Action, the one-man studio blender where the Black Mountain native conjures up his self-described “lo-fi North Carolina funk.” But is Is It Exquisite? really, well, exquisite? Though Kauffman is likely referring to a host of human experiences with that query (your music experience definitely being one of them), the answer here is a resounding and unimpeachable, hell, yes.

Rather than the rote nostalgia such sonic touchstones often yield, Kauffman’s songs hum with the vibrancy of both true believer and radical alchemist. Mile-wide grooves, catchy melodies and dubby textures are cannily crafted together to shade the vulnerable and occasionally spiritual subject matter in sunny fare — “I’m a soul lying naked and scared,” Kauffman confesses on “My Ticket Out of Here,” as fuzzy keys, a fat bottom end and boom-bap beats eventually flower into a blast of guitar distortion that’s more joyous release than check-out-these-chops solo.

Those traits should sound familiar to Floating Action devotees, and these 11 tracks don’t veer far from the sonic foundations that Kauffman finds so durable; by that yardstick change remains gradual in the Floating Action world. But to focus solely on the nuance is to miss the point almost entirely here. These solid structures allow Kauffman to graft pretty much anything he can think of onto these songs, and that’s something that he seems to somehow get better at with each passing LP. (As a rare twangy example of his songs’ malleability, check out the free download from 2008, Live at the Grey Eagle.)

And so it goes with Is It Exquisite? Vintage Tonto-like synths and chopped-up beats highlight the pleading opener “Don’t Desert Me,” the soulful “Seek Then I Found” seems to resurrect Teenie Hodges’ magic guitar fills, and Kauffman even throws some vintage scratching onto “The Silent One,” transforming it from lonely hymn to Sedgwick Avenue hoe-down. A subtle, swirling mellotron haze accompanies the catchy choruses of “My Blood Is Bright Red,” while disc-closer “Controlled Burn” offers a master class in dubby texturing (its 11-minute run-time might be the LP’s one overindulgence). Even a couple of finger-picked acoustic numbers—”Last of the Wild Cards” and “Won’t Be Long”—transform into something greater via chopped beats or subversive syncopation.

Kauffman would probably (and rightly) bridle at the “musician’s musician” tag—though accompanying the latest publicity are imprimaturs from past collaborators Jim James, Dan Auerbach and Angel Olsen, among others. After all, musicians shouldn’t be the only ones spellbound by Floating Action’s alchemical brilliance. These songs are, simply put, great songs, arguably the best Floating Action set yet, and their adaptability to Kauffman’s studio R&D testifies to their fundamental versatility.

Will a larger audience ever catch up? Who knows. For now, and again, the lucky ones are just floating along in Kauffman’s idyllic future past. Come, join us.

Consumer/collector note: For vinyl nuts, in addition to a standard black vinyl release, about 200 copies were pressed on colored vinyl, and colors were inserted randomly in sleeves so fans didn’t know what color they were getting until they opened the package. There is also a cassette edition via Baby Tooth. Those who preordered Exquisite from PIAPTK or Baby Gas Mask Records also received a bonus lathe cut 7” picture disc of Floating Action covering Pepi Ginsberg’s “The Waterline” and a 12×18″ poster.