Category Archives: New Releases

MATTHEW EDWARDS & THE UNFORTUNATES – Folklore

Album: Folklore

Artist: Matthew Edwards & the Unfortunates

Label: Gare dui Nord

Release Date: June 02, 2017

http://garedunordrecords.bandcamp.com

The Upshot: Creating empyrean beauty from personal emotions is as difficult a task as indulging in sonic experimentation while maintaining the traits people loved in the first place. But Edwards and the Unfortunates do it.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

The four previous platters by Matthew Edwards  – three with his former band The Music Lovers and one with his current group the Unfortunates – essayed a distinctive blend of British pop, French chanson and classic singer/songwriter craft that proved irresistibly beguiling to those lucky enough to come across them. For his fifth LP Folklore, Edwards keeps the faith with his proficient songsmithery, but gives his work a sonic makeover.

Rather than stick with his usual folky chamber pop – which would’ve worked well enough, as it always has – Edwards, the band and engineer John A. Rivers (who worked closely with Edwards’ pal Nikki Sudden throughout his career) open up the sound, taking the menacing “Ghost,” from the previous Unfortunates album The Fates, as a jumping-off point. The electric guitars are louder and grungier, the drums more insistent and polyrhythmic, the atmospheres murkier. Storm clouds haunt “Birmingham” and “I Can Move the Moon,” while an ill wind blows through “Song of Songs” and “When We Arrived at the Mountain.” “Lazy” simply rocks harder than anything Edwards has attempted before now. Guitarist Fred Frith and keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman – both veterans of The Fates – contribute heavily to the tone, imprinting their own distinctive personalities even as they serve Edwards’ vision. There’s mystery here, a sense that nothing is quite what it seems – even as, oddly enough, the emotions get more direct.

Inspired by his move from San Francisco back to his native Birmingham, England after twenty years, Edwards opens up as never before. The thrill and melancholy of moving from one home to another, interspersed with trips to the hospital to visit a sick relative, swirls through “Birmingham,” while the tenderness of love never wavers during “The Willow Girl.” Uncertainty flirts with confidence in “I Can Move the Moon,” while yearning for grace powers “Home.” The subject of “When We Arrive at the Mountain” remains secretive, but with lines like “I can’t believe I’m still bleeding” it can’t be good. “Young Man” takes a sardonic look at aging, acknowledging an increasing collection of flaws without even nodding toward self-pity. This isn’t solipsism, however – no matter how many times Edwards uses the word “I,” he really means “we.” Few artists are so adept at taking introspection and making it universal.

Creating empyrean beauty from personal emotions is as difficult a task as indulging in sonic experimentation while maintaining the traits people loved in the first place. But Edwards and the Unfortunates do it, spectacularly, making Folklore another piece of brilliance.

DOWNLOAD: “Birmingham,” “The Willow Girl,” “I Can Move the Moon”

 

TARA JANE O’NEIL—Tara Jane O’Neil

Album: Tara Jane O’Neil

Artist: Tara Jane O’Neil

Label: Gnomonsong

Release Date: April 21, 2017

http://www.tarajaneoneil.com/

The Upshot: Songs that brush up against you softly, swirl up around you like a sweet smelling breeze and leave you wistful for things you can’t quite put into words. 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

The songs on this self-titled album drift by like puffs of rainbow colored fog, soft, edgeless, hard to pin down and rather lovely. Just brushes on snare and plunks of acoustic bass set gorgeous “Sand” into motion, Tara Jane O’Neil’s voice drifting airily over slow moving melodies, a trumpet blows, just at the beginning, languidly and as if from a far off place. O’Neil has played in so many bands and in so many guises that it’s odd that this album, coming about a quarter century into her career as an artist, carries her name. Yet it does feel like a personal statement, lush and welcoming, yet fundamentally pared down. Her voice never lifts above a murmur, her songs waft by at the same medium pace, and yet they are wholly enveloping.

O’Neil recorded this self-titled album in two sessions – one in Chicago with Mark Greenberg at Jeff Tweedy’s Loft Studio, the other at home in California. James Elkington (who plays with Tweedy and Richard Thompson’s band, in duets with Nathan Salsburg and about 100 other projects) sits in on a couple of the Chicago tracks, alongside free jazz bassist Nick Macri (who once played with Elkington in Zincs) and Gerald Dowd, a Chicago drummer best known for his work with Robbie Fulks. In California, the cast of characters included bassist Devin Hoff, Wilder Zoby (who collaborates with Run the Jewels), string arranger Jim James and Walt McClements of the one-man Lonesome Leash. A four-person choir of soft pretty voices — Chris Cohen, Joan Shelley, Carolyn Pennypacker-Riggs and Gerald Dowd — fills out the sound in musing, dreamy ways.

And yet, despite an able and diverse group of collaborators who differ from track to track, there’s a strong continuity of mood of tone in this album; it is very much O’Neil’s voice and vision that drives the whole. For this reason, the album makes most sense when you play it end to end. It’s also hard to pick a favorite track, because they all blend together in a seamless, extremely pleasant whole that winds by while you’re staring out the window. Still, if pressed, I’d nominate “Cali” with its pure fluting vocal melody that reminds me a little of Linda Perhacs, or the late album smolder of “Purple,” with its plaintive blues guitar and shuffling late night beat. These are songs that brush up against you softly, swirl up around you like a sweet smelling breeze and leave you wistful for things you can’t quite put into words.

Download: “Cali” “Purple” “Sand”

NATHAN OLIVER – Head in the Sand EP

Album: Head in the Sand EP

Artist: Nathan Oliver

Label: Potluck Foundation

Release Date: June 09, 2017

www.potluckfoundation.com

The Upshot: A cause for celebration among fans of quirky, charming indie pop.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

In the span of just 20-minutes, Chapel Hill’s Nathan Oliver (aka Nathan White) manages to remind fans that his lo-frills solo project is still very much alive after a nearly decade-long hiatus.

His re-emergence is cause for celebration among fans of quirky, charming indie pop, but also a little puzzlement that he only pulled together six songs with this long-time-coming offering. Bringing to mind everyone from early Ben Folds to Pavement’s more mellower stuff, Head in the Sand is a welcome addition his two previous efforts.

Some are the songs here are downright great, like the EP opener “Marbles” and “The Exquisite Wait.” But the addition of the droning “Little Belle” drags the record down a bit.

It may not be a flawless comeback, but it’s a solid start.

DOWNLOAD: “Marbles” and “The Exquisite Wait”

RUSS TOLMAN – Compass & Map

Album: Compass & Map

Artist: Russ Tolman

Label: Lost

Release Date: May 26, 2017

www.russtolmanmusic.com

The Upshot: Erstwhile True West guitarist serves up a 20-song career overview that demonstrates stellar songwriting, singing, and playing.

BY FRED MILLS

Russ Tolman is part of an ‘80s collective of musicians, deejays, journalists, and just plain dedicated fans that continues to thrive over three decades later. We were the so-called College Rock Generation, caught between the ’70s stoners and ‘90s alt-rockers, and we valued community over commerce—not that the occasional ‘mersh breakthrough by a band wasn’t cheered, it’s just that it wouldn’t be until the post-Nirvana gold rush that artists could genuinely claim to having the proverbial “career” that might allow them to work, thrive, and provide for their families. Luckily, most of us were young enough in the ‘80s to also value the fact that we were having a whale of a lot of fun, too, even if we still often struggled to pay the rent.

Tolman, with his early ‘80s band True West, was one of yours truly’s faves, alongside other heroes like the Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, Long Ryders, Three O’Clock, Rain Parade et al, aka The Paisley Underground. (How big a fave? A 1984 North Carolina gig the band had graciously allowed me to tape got turned into a European bootleg LP without my knowledge, so a number of years later Tolman and I put our heads together and decided to beat the boots by releasing it in its entirety as The Big Boot CD. Things do come full circle sometimes.) Upon going solo in 1985, he would release seven solo albums, commencing with 1986’s Totem Poles and Glory Holes, and along the way he would collaborate with numerous other alumni of the aforementioned Generation. With Compass & Map, Tolman takes a look back at that solo career to date, and the songs collected here are more than just impressive—according to liner notes by fellow alumnus Pat Thomas (Absolute Grey and archivist/label dude supreme), it heralds Tolman’s newfound urge to recommence touring and recording after a lengthy hiatus from the spotlight.

Highlights? Early Totem Poles track “Looking For an Angel” has that telltale Paisley Underground vibe, part punk, part Nuggets, part Velvet Underground, and it nicely demonstrates that Tolman’s initial reluctance to be the vocalist was misguided. “Blame It On the Girl,” from 1988’s Goodbye Joe, reaffirms same, additionally benefiting from a heady, catharsis-inducing guitar/keyboards arrangement. “Monterey” was a standout track on 1998’s City Lights, a jovial, upbeat shuffle featuring harmony vocals by Wendy Bird. And the relatively recent “Los Angeles,” released as a single in 2013, is strummy, twangy Americana as sweet—and, lyrically speaking, perfectly lovelorn—as it comes.

There’s a lot more here to bask in, 20 songs to be exact, and not a bum note among ‘em. If this is a way of reintroducing Tolman to the music-loving public, and also of introducing him to a new audience, then it more than handles the task. Welcome back, Russ. For me, it’s just gratifying to know that after all these years, one of my gang is still going strong and making terrific music. We’ve lost a few folks along the way (R.I.P. Scott Miller and Gil Ray, from Game Theory), and it’s more important now than ever to come together and celebrate those we still have. As I wrote in my liner notes to that True West bootleg-of-a-bootleg, “there was a communal, us-against-the-mainstream-world feeling” back then. In many ways, that feeling persists. So it all comes down to supporting the home team, y’know?

DOWNLOAD: “Blame It On the Girl,” “Los Angeles,” “Dry Your Pretty Eyes,” “The Best Is Yet To Come”

COCK SPARRER – Forever LP

Album: Forever

Artist: Cock Sparrer

Label: Pirate Press

Release Date: June 09, 2017

www.PiratePressRecords.com

The Upshot: A testament the vitality of punk rock when done right. And rarely has it been done this well before.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Despite playing across London’s around the same time as the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash – even showing up on the radar of punk rock Svengali Malcolm McLaren –  Cock Sparrer never achieved the global recognition of their scene mates. In fact, their label at the time dumped their 1978 debut in Spain and quickly walked away from the band (the record finally saw a proper UK release 9 years later). As the Sex Pistols were busy imploding and The Clash and The Damned experimenting with new sounds, the guys in Cock Sparrer continued to plug away at their sound, perfecting a mix of punk, pub rock and R&B that would eventually be dubbed Oi’, or street punk.

More than four decades later, Cock Sparrer are still at it, surprisingly with only one non-original band member, and have managed to turn in possibly their best record yet, Forever. Finding a home in the U.S. on the punk and vinyl-friendly label Pirate Press, the album is an exercise in brilliance spread out across a dozen tracks.

The LP, only their sixth in 45 years, kicks off with the rallying cry, “One By One,” and doesn’t let up until the last gang vocal fades out on “Us Against the World,” a song that perfectly bookends the record. For a gruff crew, the lyrics here are downright optimistic, or at least encouraging; there’s an overall theme of “shit may be falling around us, but at least we got each other” (the bitter “Family of One” being the exception here). Brimming with sharp hooks, singalong choruses, gunfire drums and ringing power chords, Forever is a testament the vitality of punk rock when done right. And rarely has it been done this well before.

DOWNLOAD: “One By One,” “Every Step of the Way” and “Us Against the World”

 

DAVID CHILDERS – Run Skeleton Run

Album: Run Skeleton Run

Artist: David Childers

Label: Ramseur

Release Date: April 07, 2017

www.ramseurrecords.net

The Upshot: Childers is authentic and unaffected when it comes to his lack of pretense and posturing. Indeed, one can’t help but get the feeling that this guy is the real deal.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

It’s ironic that David Childers launched his career late in life, but given the fact that he cites some literary influences – Chaucer and Kerouac among them – he appears all the more seasoned even despite his relative obscurity. A son of the South, he resides in Mount Holly, North Carolina, a former high-school football hero with a humble demeanour befitting one with such humble origins. Yet it’s not that he isn’t accomplished; a poet and painter whose love of music extends to jazz, opera, and folk, he practiced law before turning his focus to following his muse.

Come to think if it, it’s actually too bad that Jimmy Stewart isn’t still with us. He’d be a natural if Hollywood ever chose to cast someone to star in Childers’ life story.

As it is, Run Skeleton Run finds Childers effectively holding his own, thanks to some star-studded assists from Don Dixon. Mitch Easter and Scott Avett of Avett Brothers fame. Even so, it’s Childers’ home brewed blend of rural wisdom and rambling rhythms that establishes his traditional country cred. Songs such “Manila,” “Bells,” “Collar and Bells,” “Goodbye to Growing Old,” and “Belmont Ford” cast him in the role of a wizened down home troubadour, ready to impart hard-learned lessons with a fiddle and frenzy. The dark narrative “Radio Moscow” and the snarling boogie of “Run Skeleton Run” mix things up to a certain extant, providing a cantankerous side to his otherwise good old boy mentality. But no matter. Childers is authentic and unaffected when it comes to his lack of pretense and posturing. Indeed, one can’t help but get the feeling that this guy is the real deal. Honest and authentic, Run Skeleton Run ought to put him on the fast track to some well-deserved recognition.

DOWNLOAD: “Manila,” “Bells,” “Collar and Bells”

JULIEN SAGOT – Bleu Jane

Album: Bleu Jane

Artist: Julien Sagot

Label: Simone

Release Date: April 07, 2017

http://simonerecords.net

The Upshot: Only French speakers will understand what Sagot sings about in his quietly sober baritone, but you don’t need to grok the language to appreciate the vibe.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Formerly the drummer for Quebec arena rock act Karkwa, singer/songwriter Julien Sagot veers far off his former band’s Coldplay-on-steroids path. Inhabiting similar territory on his third album to Australian fellow travelers Mick Harvey or Barry Adamson, the multi-instrumentalist and his pals paint pictures of bleary-eyed mornings, the sun coming up outside as the fog lifts inside and the room’s denizens ponder what they were up to the night before.

Serge Gainsbourg looms in the background, and not just because Sagot and the French music deity speak the same language. Melodies weave through an impressive wave of sounds, from electronica to chanson to twangy guitar pop, often within the same track. “Blue corail électrique,” “Les sentiers de terre” and “Les racines au ciel” conjure up dreams of smoky bars and chance encounters, the atmosphere conducive to unusual circumstances just this side of surreal. The title track adds a busy groove and jazzy violin and piano to the mix, letting the track breath heavily as if after sex. “Vacille,” “Autour des oeuvres de exing saông” and “Désordre et désordre” field a bit more of a rock sound than the other tracks, but never stay in one sonic place for long.

Only French speakers will understand what Sagot sings about in his quietly sober baritone, but you don’t need to grok the language to appreciate the vibe. The enigmatic, frequently gorgeous Bleu Jane enchants even without access to a Google translator.

DOWNLOAD: “Autour des oeuvres de exing saông ,” “Blue corail électrique,” “Bleu Jane”

 

 

STILL STUBBORN, STILL PERSISTENT: Do Make Say Think

Canadian post-rockers return after eight-year hiatus with memorable set of instrumentals.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

The title of the latest from Toronto-based post-rockers Do Make Say Think alludes to the Buddhist notion that all seemingly distinct thoughts and ideas are, in truth, connected to collective subconscious feelings. This may be the most open exploration of that conceit in the band’s 25-year tenure, but for fans it’s been Do Make Say Think’s defining trait—the connective tissue in their vastly diverse sonic explorations is what stocks their records with such emotional power.

Despite a gap of eight years between recordings, Stubborn Persistent Illusions (Constellation) upholds the band’s aesthetic without seeming to miss a two-drum-kits beat.  These nine tracks, ranging from glitchy four-minute piano-based lullabies to epic 10-minute guitar workouts, read like an anthology (of sorts) of the band’s holistic approach to instrumental rock.

By and large, Do Make Say Think steer clear of the predictable Mogwai/Explosions in the Sky post-rock theorem—Melody + Tempo over Crescendo, divided by Volume. They’ve also avoided disappearing down the electronic rabbit hole that the genre’s flag-bearers, Tortoise, seem determined to do.

Instead, the band’s multi-instrumentalist core—Ohad Benchetrit (guitar, keyboard, horns), Charles Spearin (bass, guitar, keys, horns), Justin Small (guitar, keys), and drummers Dave Mitchell and James Payment—build their pieces organically, never letting effects hijack melody.

Take the LP’s signature statement, the 10-plus minute “Horripilation.” In the beginning, guitar figures lazily circle each other like summer insects before the bass pulls the tempo forward and the drums began an urgent thrum. The song pares back to reveal two keyboard lines taking the place of the guitars, this time accompanied by subtle strings and later by horn skronks, all of it gelling together with synth squiggles, distortion and lurches of feedback. By the seventh minute the song is in cymbals-crashing high gallop, where DMST then peel back the instrumentation until only the guitar melody remains. It’s a deft reversal, and one that rewards multiple listens.

But memorable moments like that abound. On the “Her Eyes on the Horizon,” the quintet channel the controlled abandon familiar from their parent company, Broken Social Scene, into the collective’s all-for-one, one-for-all crescendos that seem to extol “team concept.” (If this were the NBA, DMST would be the Warriors, not the Raptors—sorry, guys.) A companion piece, “As Far as the Eye Can See,” follows, snare-rolls and trap replacing toms-thunder as guitar glissandos roll in and out of focus until a new melody emerges and spirals off into the distance.

“Murder of Thoughts” taps into a more overtly Western patina, recalling Spearin’s earlier project, Valley of the Giants. Timpani and pedal steel conjure the vast expanses, and by song’s end they drift organically into the sound of a rusty weathercock turning squeakily in the high plains wind.

Another set of companion tunes also highlight DMST’s diverse sonic palette. Oscillating between layered synth burbles and arena-sized riffs, the five minutes of “Bound” terminate in a violent mood swing, courtesy of air raid warning-sized synth blasts which overlap into “And Boundless.” There, roiling drums and horror flick keyboards gradually morph into an unexpected—and beautiful— glissando-rich melody.

At a shade under four minutes, the piano-based “Shlomo’s Son” clocks in as the LP’s most reflective moment, before DMST close things out by doubling back to the multiple-guitar attack on “Return, Return Again.” It opens with one guitarist looping quick-fingered arpeggios while another layers over that an elegant melody. The drums lash those riffs with increasing fervor, until waves of keyboards and a fluttering baritone sax manage to turn what should be cacophony into transcendence. As walk-offs go, it’s a doozy.

Just about the only misstep here is, oddly, the opener, “War on Torpor.” Not only is the title a bit on-the-nose, but the song never really modulates its aggressive guitar attack over its five minute-run. By the end of the assault it sounds like something that would be more at home with prog kings Yes, circa Relayer, than the rest of the LP.

It’s not even close to a deal breaker, though, and arguably enhances by contrast the rest of the LP’s compelling nuance, textures and power. But then not every collective subconscious feeling has to be a good one—it’s just better when the balance of our stubborn and persistent illusions comes out this far ahead in the musical equation.

Consumer Note: The Constellation label has gone the extra mile, packaging- and design-wise, for vinyl collectors. In addition to a credits insert, there’s also a fold-out poster that replicates the outer art on the gatefold sleeve, and both 180gm LPs are housed in deluxe, sleek-lined inner sleeves to minimize any potential scuffs incurred when sliding the records out. And most intriguingly, side D does not contain music, but a series of small nature etchings ringing the surface. This may all seem nominal when judging the music, but it’s indicative of both the label and the band’s desire to present a work of art—something that’s simply not possible when dealing with a digital stream or download. (And digital fans, never fear: A download card is included.)

BAND PHOTO CREDIT: Sandlin Gaither

***

Ed. note: DMST is performing tonight, June 10, in Toronto at the Danforth Music Hall. You’ll be able to watch the live stream via YouTube – click on the player below for details.

GARY WRONG GROUP – Gary Wrong Group

Album: Gary Wrong Group

Artist: Gary Wrong Group

Label: 12XU

Release Date: March 24, 2017

www.12xu.net

The Upshot: Dissonant, combative punk rock that’s so right it’s Wrong. You got that, right? Boogie!

BY FRED MILLS

As it is more than a little difficult to accurately (or even inaccurately) convey the, um, aesthetic at play with the Gary Wrong Group, perhaps I should simply list links to all their YouTube clips—among them, the NSFW “Setting Fire to Your Loft,” the cornea-frying “Dream Smasher,” and one called “Heroin Beach Serpents Attack” that may or may not have the NRA calling upon the band to be a featured guest at the next convention. There are also at least a couple of rip-roaring live sets, one from the Total Punk “Total Fuck Off II” fest in 2015 and the Gonerfest 12 performance from the same year, both of which give you at least a partial sense of these rock ‘n’ roll miscreants’ sonic viscosity and utter disregard for such niceties as finesse, audience pandering, and good grooming.

But that would be cheating. Particularly since there’s this little matter of a big-ass double-vinyl/gatefold-sleeve release (download code included, digital nerds) from Austin’s venerable 12XU label, which has seen fit to compile this Mobile, Alabama, musical gulf-spill’s previously unleashed output, typically in small quantities, via the group’s Jeth Row imprint and others willing to take a chance on the Wrong crew. (Go HERE to check out what appears to be an incomplete discography at Discogs.com.) 12XU has also seen fit to throw in three previously unreleased tracks, knowing that there are at least eight GWG completists out there. I suspect I’m about to become the ninth.

You would be right in assuming that Wrong is the prime mover and shaker behind the band, as the lineup as listed in the credits for Gary Wrong Group is nothing if not varied; players include the legendary Quintron (primarily on drums and not the expected organ; he also wrote the song “St. Theo” here) and members of Black Abbba and Vatican Dagger (who?). Duly marshaling the troops for his own sonic version of the Bataan Death March, Wrong serves up a skronkfest of estimable proportions, equal parts Wipers, early Pere Ubu and Electric Eels, Chrome, and Christian black metal. With maybe a touch of the Ramones’ sense of efficiency and style.

Let’s see… if we must single out individual tracks, for side A, there’s the synth-strafed “Setting Fire to Your Loft,” a slice of dissonant minimalism not unlike a young Eno still attempting to learn his instrument. Side B’s got both “Heroin Beach” (how can you resist a title like that?) and the aforementioned Quintron composition, which gets the nod, but just barely, thanks to the inclusion of an actual melodic “hook” and the way it shifts into a raveup midsong, although don’t think we’re talking “raveup” as in “Yardbirds,” “Kinks,” or “Freddie & the Dreamers.” Side C is where things really get cooking: “Floods of Fire” is sheer punk rock brilliance, with lead vocals from bassist Carly G doing her best “Warm Leatherette” (The Normal) impression and Wrong multitasking, instrument-wise, to conjure that Ubu vibe mentioned above. (A gent simply known as “Dylan” provides some quite efficient drumming for the track as well. Oh, and speaking of Ubu, if you go to the group’s Soundcloud page where there’s a slew of material to check out, you’ll encounter a song called “Reasons to Shive,” which is subtitled “Ode to Ubu.” So there. Check out “Streets of Iron” while you’re on the page.)

Let’s take a quick break to ponder the track via a brand new video recently uploaded by the band. Boogie:

Things come to a car-crash conclusion during side D, fully justifying the bio’s tidy band description of “apocalypse-level murky madness”—as epitomized by the chant-worthy stomp-fest “Loupgarou 2.” I could certainly submit more descriptions and impressions, but they would inevitably be ephemeral and subject to change with each fresh spin, if not downright wrong. But then, that’s the whole point, right? It’s Wrong, after all.

DOWNLOAD: “Floods of Fire,” “Post Natal Pre Death,” “Setting Fire To Your Loft”

WOODS – Love is Love

Album: Love is Love

Artist: Woods

Label: Woodsist

Release Date: April 21, 2017

www.woodsist.com

Upshot: San Francisco’s Woods wrestle with stages of grief in wake of Trump presidency.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Donald Trump’s bottomless vapidity and dictatorial view of governance has poisoned myriad wells in myriad ways. He’s divisive enough that even those in full agreement about the dangers he presents split—sometimes unpleasantly— over the best way to cope:  Do we keep our heads down (and sanity intact) for four years and hope there’s something left of democracy to salvage? Do we join the resistance and man the barricades? Is the act of making art and music resistance enough, or should the politics that make Trump possible be addressed as well?

You can hear the pysch-rock gang in Woods wrestle with these questions in real time with this six-track EP, recorded in the two months after the gut-punch of the November election. That the band sought solace in what they enjoy—the creative impulse of music-making—suggests their fallback answer, but Love Is Love isn’t clear cut, reading at times like the various stages of grief.

“It feels like a dream, but the trip gets worse,” Jeremy Earl sings over layers of descending keyboard runs on “Lost in a Crowd,” an elegant 3-minute gem that addresses the morning after-shock and denial many Americans experienced Nov. 9. Though nobody will confuse Earl with Johnny Lydon, even the acoustic guitars and Beatles-like horn lines of “Bleeding Blue” simmer with anger, acknowledging that “hate can’t lose” and, in this instance, didn’t.

Of course by the end of the track, “hate” has been bargained out of the equation; “I heard a voice inside my head/high on the wind/love’s not dead.” And it’s on that acknowledgement that the rest of the LP turns. The swirling 10-minute trip, “Spring Is in the Air,” contrasts middle-eastern melody and percussion—wind chimes, shakers, et al—with Ray Manzarek-like keys and dubby horn laments to cast its instrumental multi-culti spell. That song drifts into “I Hit That Drum,” the mini-album’s (ironically) drum-less statement of purpose, where “You can hang your head in shame/I won’t be hanging mine,” Early sings, “I hit that drum/It takes me away.”

The mini-LP bookends with two distinct versions of “Love Is Love,” where the band explores the old Hindu trick of repeating a mantra in the hopes of bringing it to fruition. The slinky opener rides a prominent bass groove, wah-wah guitar and Ethiopiques horns to broach the topic, while the closer tracks more as a funky call to arms built on organs and syncopated guitar. But befitting this fucked-up dysTrumpian horrorscape, Early and company know the mantra and drum-banging will require vigilance — “how can we laugh if this won’t go away?/How can we love with this kind of hate?”

DOWNLOAD: “Lost In a Crowd,” “Spring Is In the Air”