Category Archives: New Releases

SCHIZOPHONICS – Ooga Booga 10” EP

Album: Ooga Booga 10"

Artist: Schizophonics

Label: Pig Baby

Release Date: March 24, 2017

www.pigbabyrecords.com

Schiz 1

The Upshot: With a sound hearkening back to the MC5’s Motor City ramalama, the San Diego trio unapologetically kicks out da… you know.

BY FRED MILLS

Ooga booga, indeed. San Diego’s Schizophonics—the unholy spawn of Roky Erickson, Sky Saxon, and Rob Tyner—serve up a sonic scorched-earth policy guaranteed to singe even your nether hairs. I mean, seriously, folks, the music on this EP erupts from the grooves with such primal velocity, you can practically see a hologram of guitarist Pat Beers in full stage-leaping flight hovering over the turntable. (Check these photos at their website for confirmation.) The trio has been around since 2009, built around the nucleus of Pat and Lety Beers, plus bassist Brian Reilly, and has a couple of 7”ers to their credit, on Munster and Ugly Things, so you know that’s a TMOQ.  Ooga Booga seriously ups the ante, with nary a throwaway or B-side among the five tracks here.

From the outset they serve due notice: “Ooga Booga Boogalo” commences with a brace of klassic Kinks-style riffage and a Kick Out The Jams-esque arrangement (hence the aforementioned Rob Tyner namecheck). That’s followed by the riotous rumble of “Electric,” powered by sinewy, fuzzed out leads and Pat’s extemporaneous grunts and whoops. Flip the platter and get caught in the “Rat Trap,” another Nuggets-esque garage rockin’ gem of vintage Yardbirds aplomb. “Two Thousand Seventeen,” with its Keith Moon-worthy percussion and dark chordage, contemplates our contemporary era of reverse evolution to signpost the annum  in much the same way the Stooges marked the year of 1969.  The band wraps things up with “Venus Transit,” another slab of MC5 ramalama, all chaos and convulsion with a take-no-prisoners ethos.

Whew. Six successive spins of the rec, and I’m exhausted. Partially deaf as well. If this band tours anywhere near you, don’t miss it. But make sure you don your flame-proof pants before entering the club….

Consumer note: The EP is pressed on electric orange 10” vinyl, and each of the 1,000 copies pressed comes in a hand-numbered sleeve. It’s like getting Record Store Day early, so what are you waiting for, punters?

DOWNLOAD: Aw, c’mon, I already TOLD ya all five songs are indispensable.

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SOMERSET MEADOWS – We Will Rock 7” EP

Album: We Will Rock 7” EP

Artist: Somerset Meadows

Label: Self-released

Release Date: October 28, 2016

https://somersetmeadows.bandcamp.com

Somerset

The Upshot: The New Wave of the late ‘70s meets the alterna-nation of the early ‘90s.

BY FRED MILLS

Hey kids, nostalgic for the early/mid ‘90s? Me neither! The members of Portland’s Somerset Meadows clearly remember the era, but they’re smart enough not to emulate it despite having sonic overtones of Guided By Voices—which they preemptively state on their bio—as well as other indie/garage/lo-fi outfits such as the Grifters, Sebadoh, and the Mountain Goats. Like those avatars, SM have a knack for penning tuneful, hooky pop nuggets marked by careening guitars, riotous, Keith Moon-like drumming, and yowling vocals.

Lead track on this four-song EP (the follow-up to mini-album Time and Relative Dimensions in Sound) is “She Is Waiting,” a slice of revved-up British Invasion filtered through a Hold Steady lens, while the 1 ½-minute “Time to Shine” adds some surf-y riffage to the mix reminiscent of vintage Blondie. Hold that thought: this band wouldn’t have been out of place in new wave Manhattan, holding court in dives like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City and going for broke in front of a leather jacketed crowd night after night. All four songs here inhabit that rock ‘n’ roll fairytale universe, and luckily enough, for us the setting is 2017.

This limited-edition (250 copies), hand-numbered vinyl platter may or may not be sold out by now, but even if it is, you can preview it at the Somerset Meadows Bandcamp page and buy it digitally.

DOWNLOAD: All four tracks. C’mon, what are you waitin’ for?

JESCA HOOP – Memories Are Now

Album: Memories Are Now

Artist: Jesca Hoop

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: February 10, 2017

www.subpop.com

Jesca 2-10

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Granted, Jesca Hoop can be an acquired taste. That said, it takes little time for her atmospheric ambiance and percolating rhythms to grab hold and prove irresistibly addictive. Her melodies generally take second place to their treatments and arrangements, creating an overall effect that provides more than mere instant gratification. Hoop’s new album, the rather aptly titled Memories Are Now, is no exception, and while it offers several plucky tunes — the banjo-driven “Animal Kingdom Chaotic,” the easy glide of “Cut Connefction” and the loping “Simon Says” among them, it’s the subtle shadings that shroud songs like “Memories Are Now” and “The Lost Sky” that dominates the proceedings overall. Those hypnotic tones are difficult to ignore, and in the end — check out the chanting in “Songs of Old” and the Kate Bush-like bounce of “Unsaid” for ample evidence — there’s a spectral sensibility and otherworldly essence that coaxes the listener to lean in, resonating well after. Hoop’s experimental tack often requires repeated listens, but it’s creativity and not mere quirkiness that ultimately leaves  alingering afterglow. Hoop’s collaboration with Sam Beam, 2016’s Love Letter for Fire found both artists swerving towards the center, creating an effort that hinted at easier accessibility, but suffice it to say she’s leaning away from that here. Nevertheless, having created such an indelible impression, she remains all but impossible to ignore.

DOWNLOAD: “Unsaid,” “Simon Says,” “Animal Kingdom Chaotic”

GOLDFRAPP – Silver Eye

Album: Silver Eye

Artist: Goldfrapp

Label: Mute

Release Date: March 31, 2017

www.mute.com

goldfrapp-silver-eye-album

The Upshot: Silver Eye is pure gold.

BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

Robotic yet moving. Ethereal yet roaring. Angelic yet possessed. All of these words collectively describe the sonic world created on Silver Eye, Goldfrapp’s seventh album. Formed in 1999, the talented UK duo—Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory—have explored a range of dance sounds in their nearly 20 years of music making.

From their quiet, jazz infused pop debut, 2000s Felt Mountain to the dripping in loud, synth sexiness of 2005s Supernature Goldfrapp has proven to be a musical chameleon while maintaining their electronic core. Whereas in the past each album singularly explored a style of dance music—Tales of Us melded folk with electronica, Head First reveled in 80s style synth pop, Black Cherry launched Goldfrapp’s love of bass laden keys—Silver Eye has a touch of each.

First singles, “Anymore” and “Moon in Your Mouth” are possibly the most instantly appealing tracks while the songs sandwiched between these two grow on you. “Moon in Your Mouth” is a touching love song as Alison opens with the words “I’m alive/I feel your heartbeat/Moon in your mouth.” Adding Allison’s genteel vocals that cascade and float over the music, “Moon” proves quite moving.

First track “Anymore,” followed by “Systemagic,”may lead fans to believe Goldfrapp has returned to their hard hitting, rumbling bass days of Supernature, however Silver Eye is more calm in nature. “Tigerman,” “Zodiac Black,” and “Beast That Never Was” are gentle tracks with few instruments, just keys, percussion and low-key effects, that allow Alison’s versatile vocals take center stage. The whispery-speaking-vocals on “Become the One” prove reminiscent of Grace Jones’ seductive purrs and “Faux Suede Drifter” is a slow, beautiful track that excellently focuses on Alison’s effervescent soprano. She softly sings in her perfected high vocals before sliding into the lyric-less refrain of her vocalizing.

“Everything is Never Enough” is an upbeat, synth drenched, 80s-esque dance song complete with flanger, ocean swells. Closing track “Ocean” returns us to edgier sounds as the quiet song that begins with Alison’s vocals and revolving keys gives way to gritty effects that grind along with the hard hitting drums. Still as polished as ever, Goldfrapp continues to craft their signature sounds and creating albums that from beginning to end evokes a particular emotion.  Silver Eye is moving forward in that Goldfrapp did not resolve to focus solely on one style, they effortlessly melded several influences, leaving us with a fine album to introduce 2017.

DOWNLOAD: “Moon in Your Mouth,” “Faux Suede Drifter”

BRANDON KREBS – Refuge in Exile LP

Album: Refuge in Exile LP

Artist: Brandon Krebs

Label: self-released

Release Date: March 17, 2017

www.brandonkrebs.com

Krebs

The Upshot: Majestic and cinematic, eighties-esque but with a singular artistic focus.

BY FRED MILLS

Brandon Krebs is the latest in a long line of Northwest artists who confidently straddle the indie-rock and pop-centric worlds, crafting compelling, cinematic compositions that would be equally at home in a cavernous arena and the intimacy of a fan’s listening den. He previously recorded as Stranded Sullivan, and while he needn’t fret about receiving accolades under a nom du rawk instead of his given name, the talent on display here more than justifies taking full, proper credit.

Refuge in Exile—available on both digital and vinyl; trust me, you should spring for the latter, and as a bonus it arrives with a CD tucked into the sleeve should you need to transfer these nine tunes to a portable listening device—was recorded over a protracted period of time, the product of willing songcraft into being, and along the way tapping the talents of myriad musicians who clearly bought into Krebs’ sonic vision.

Highlights? “Western Medicine” has a thrumming, eighties-anthemic vibe, reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s work from that era. “Alarm Pheromones” also casts its vision back several decades, awash in majestic synth drones, heavily echoed drums, and ominous vocals. And on closing track “TS Eliot,” amid an undulating, twinned keyboard-guitar pattern, massed-chorus male/female vocals, and stately trumpet, Krebs and his ensemble wrap everything up in a sheen of optimism, cautiously prepared to move on to the next phase.

The album is subtly conceptual, with recurring chord progressions and a consistency of tone and texture (thematically, it’s an extended meditation on the pitfalls of doubt/paranoia and change enforced from the outside) that belies its two-year gestation. Ultimately, it’s the mark of an artist with an unerring ability to remain focused in order to serve the material—and the songcraft that goes into it—well.

Listen to tracks from the album at Krebs’ Bandcamp page.

DOWNLOAD: “Alarm Pheromo

BLACKFOOT GYPSIES – To the Top

Album: To the Top

Artist: Blackfoot Gypsies

Label: Plowboy

Release Date: April 14, 2017

http://plowboyrecords.com

blackfoot-gypsies-to-the-top

The Upshot: The Southern rockers not only discovered songcraft, they also realized it didn’t need get in the way of their natural energy.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Southern-fried rock & rollers Blackfoot Gypsies have made a big impression with their live shows, but have yet to make the same mark on record. That changes with the Nashville cats’ third LP To the Top. The band has never had trouble capturing its live lightning in the studio, but the high voltage has seemed to go to supporting songs that sounded cranked out only to ensure that the group had something to play onstage.

That’s not the case here. Frontman Matthew Paige and his cohorts instead craft tunes that would have staying power if performed on an acoustic guitar, then inject them with enough atomic blast to light up the power grid. “I Had a Vision,” “Lying Through Your Teeth” and “Promises to Keep” sound like Detroit power rock filtered through Nashville songwriting factories, with well-developed melodies and lyrics that don’t short-circuit the roar. The Gypsies also take more comfortable jaunts down more explicitly rootsy paths. “Potatoes and Whiskey” and “Velvet Low Down Blues” evoke the spirit of old-time C&W without sounding like pastiches, and “I’m So Blue” and the banjo-driven “I’ve Got the Blues” soak blue to the bone – the latter in particular could have come off a compilation of obscure ‘50s blues tracks. “Gypsy Queen” revives the Bo Diddley beat without smacking us over the head with it, and “Why Should I Try” gives Southern rock a soulful spin.

All of it’s done with the respect that should be afforded tradition, but not the reverence that might interfere with the band making these sounds their own. To the Top sounds like Blackfoot Gypsies not only discovered songcraft, but realized it didn’t need get in the way of their natural energy.

DOWNLOAD: “I Had a Vision,” “Velvet Low Down Blues,” “I’ve Got the Blues”

 

FATHER JOHN MISTY – Pure Comedy

Album: Pure Comedy

Artist: Father John Misty

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: April 07, 2017

www.subpop.com

FJM

The Upshot: Josh Tillman returns, all his idiosyncrasies intact.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Ever since he launched his career five years and three albums ago, Father John Misty, A.K.A. Josh Tillman, has remained an idiosyncratic character, one capable of producing breathtaking melodies with a clever tack that aims high but still stays well within reach of his listeners. He’s wowed the critics of course, sometimes simply because his overreach reflects ideals that are overly ambitious by the usual pop standard. You either get his abstract ideals or not, but even if not, it doesn’t detract from enjoyment overall.

With Pure Comedy, the good Father may have outdone himself in terms of sheer profundity. The songs stay on the quieter side — grand and overarched, but basically devoid of anything more resounding than the sounds guitars and keyboards are capable of delivering. The titles are telling — “Things It Would Have Been Good To Know Before the Revolution,” “Total Entertainment Forever,” “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay,” “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain,” et. al. — but they ultimately add a certain ambiguity to a theme that isn’t all that clear to begin with. It is, to quote the liner notes, “the story of a species born with a half-formed brain. The species’ only hope for survival, finding itself on a cruel, unpredictable rock surrounded by other species who seem far more adept at this whole thing (and to whom they are delicious), is the reliance on other, slightly older, half-formed brains.”

FJM2

Hmm. Tillman’s enigmatic image isn’t helped by such sheer profundity and/or bizarre conceits, but within this otherwise abstract concept, he also attempts to draw lessons on such noble topics as humanity, technology, fame, the environment, politics, ageing, social media, human nature, and ultimately, human connection. Or at least that’s what the press materials tell us. The inclusion of song lyrics and a lengthy discourse included in the album’s elaborate packaging give opportunity to decipher the meaning and analyze the subject matter accordingly. Or, to simply forget about any deeper discourse and simply enjoy the music in all its eccentricity. In the end, Pure Comedy isn’t anything close to the laugh fest the title implies, but it does provoke a deeper reaction regardless.

DOWNLOAD: “Things It Would Have Been Good To Know Before the Revolution,” “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay,” “Total Entertainment Forever”

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON… Brian Jonestown Massacre

BJM color

BJM may have set the controls for the heart of the sun, ultimate destination unknown, but nobody’s cruising on autopilot here on this psychedelic Krautrock/shoegaze epic—on gorgeous yellow vinyl, to boot.

By FRED MILLS

After Anton Newcombe, the mad genius behind Cali space rockers the Brian Jonestown Massacre, relocated (fled? teleported? dematerialized?) to Berlin, he set about assembling a recording complex. The resulting Cobra Studio soon yielded Revelation, followed by Third World Pyramid which, with its trippy mélange of fuzzed-out psych, West Coast-styled modal folk-rock, droney Krautrock, and even the occasional Beatlesque jangle-pop flourish, was one of 2016’s shining avatars of mind-expansion/-immersion music. That the LP’s die-cut sleeve mimicked the old Spacemen 3 numeral logo was certainly no accident, either, considering that Newcombe and erstwhile S3 guitarist Sonic Boom are musical birds of a feather. Raise your hand if you coveted the purplish-tinted vinyl the record was pressed on, too.

Now comes the follow-up, the group’s 16th studio full-length, released as usual on Newcombe’s own A Recordings label, distributed Stateside via Forced Exposure, which should be a TMOQ in any music fan’s book. While it’s almost inconceivable that BJM could top Third World Pyramid, that’s exactly what they’ve done, on all fronts—sonically, stylistically, even design-wise, with two slabs of almost fluorescent yellow 180gm. vinyl housed in a brilliantly-hued gatefold sleeve that depicts circuitry in extreme close-up on the outside and alien-green lyrics littering the inside to resemble code raining down a computer screen a la The Matrix. (Consumer note: download code not included, but the album’s on Spotify. Below, the new album and its predecessor.)

BJM colored vinyl

The 2LP set (or single CD) kicks off already in high gear with “Open Minds Now Close,” an eight-minute, motoric slice of propulsion rock awash in pulsing guitar drones and shimmering synth lines that, indeed, recalls Spacemen 3 at its Sonic Boom-Jason Pierce peak. A couple of tracks later we get the titled-too-perfect-for-its-time “Resist Much Obey Little,” a thrumming, Velvet Underground-esque number. Soon enough “Groove Is in the Heart”—not the early ‘90s Deee-Lite hit—cues up, darkly ominous with shuddery waves of tremolo and deep-space twang, plus Tess Parks’ languid call and response vocals with Shaun Rivers lending a decisively stoned edge to the proceedings.

Whew. Not even halfway through the album and you’ve already taken a series of interdimensional skips. Plenty more to come, from the minimalist, pastoral, mellotron/piano-powered “One Slow Breath” and the pounding, cavernous “Throbbing Gristle” (homage?), which features Parks on lead vocals this time; to the hypnotic, Joy Division/New Order-like “Fact 67” featuring the Charlatan’s Tim Burgess on vocals, and shoegazey instrumental “UFO Paycheck.” Nearly half of the tracks here top the five-minute mark, giving the players plenty of room to stretch out, almost in jamming fashion but typically utilizing repetition of riffs and grooves to lock the listener’s body onto the same wavelength. Here and there BJM also slip off onto odd stylistic tangents—a freeform, sax-led jazzy “Geldenes Herz Menz,” for example, a kind of Madchester rave anthem titled “Acid 2 Me Is No Worse than War,” and a droning final track sung entirely in German, “Ich Bin Klang.” These serve to reinforce the record’s take-a-trip-with-us vibe, because nothing about this band is random; they may have set the controls for the heart of the sun, ultimate destination unknown, but nobody’s cruising on autopilot here.

BJM

Newcombe and bandmates Ricky Maymi, Dann Allaire, Collin Hegna, and Ryan Van Kriedt are joined by TWP alumni Emil Nikolaisen (of Serena-Maneesh) and Parks (who, as before, brings a kind of Nico-meets-Hope Sandoval edge to the songs that she sings on), plus Pete Fraser (Pogues, New Young Pony Club) on sax, and both Rivers and Burgess on vocals. Tellingly, the sleeve also lists “Ghosts” in the personnel credits: There is indeed a ghost or two in this machine, a haunting, haunted probe of the inner eye in all its psychedelic glory.

Below: watch a complete BJM concert from the Caberet Vert festival in France last year – in HD, no less.

CRAIG FINN – We All Want the Same Things

Album: We All Want the Same Things

Artist: Craig Finn

Label: Partisan

Release Date: March 24, 2017

www.partisanrecords.com

 Craig Finn

The Upshot: Hold Steady mainman serves up verve, swagger, poignancy, and cool – not unlike the Hold Steady, in fact.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

With a steady solo career well underway, and a hiatus from the Hold Steady taken at ongoing intervals, Craig Finn continues to etch an identity that, while not all that far removed from his day job, still manages to show him to be an authority figure all on his own. Bearing a title that speaks as a mantra that ought to be well heeded, We All Want the Same Things is a bold statement, full of Everyman anthems, confidence and credence.

Songs like “Preludes,” “Tracking Shots,” “Tangletown” and “Rescue Blues” find his pliable vocals emitting that certain verve and swagger. Finn portrays himself as a kind of scrappy, street-savvy hipster, and it’s that irreverent attitude, combined with plenty of nuanced narratives, that win him comparisons to Springsteen with the early E Street Band in tow, as well as a certain similarity to Thin Lizzy’s late leader Phil Lynott. That’s particularly true of the casual saunter that underscores “Ninety Bucks” and “Birds Trapped in the Airport,” songs elevated by a percolating pulse and a boundless sense of determination. Spoken intros to “Jester & June” and “God In Chicago” add a certain poignancy, bolstering the impression that Finn’s lived all these tales he tells.

That combination of cool and cred serves him well yet again, and if the Hold Steady ever opt to give him his leave, Finn’s finesse will assure the fact he won’t miss a beat.

DOWNLOAD: “Tangletown,” “Birds Trapped in the Airport,” “God in Chicago”

THE MAVERICKS – Brand New Day

Album: Brand New Day

Artist: Mavericks

Label: Mono Mundo Recordings

Release Date: March 31, 2017

www.themavericksband.com

 Mavericks

The Upshot: No raucous barnburners, but plenty of beautiful summer chill out tunes.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The Mavericks have been serving up their country/Tejano/swing/funk gumbo for more than 26 years now and its just as fresh on this their ninth studio album, as it’s ever been. The fact that they have no contemporaries making similar music at the moment may be one of the reasons they feel free to make their own path again and again.

Brand New Day marks the band’s first studio album on their own independent label, Mono Mundo Recordings, and like just about most of their catalogue it’s refreshingly original, incorporating sax, accordion and organ into what would, on its own, still be a great collection of country and rock numbers. The added mix of instruments, along with Raul Malo’s distinctive, commanding vocals makes for an inspired listen. From mellow numbers like “I Think of You” and “Goodnight Waltz” to nuanced takes on smoking pot, “Rolling Along” (a deftly subtle love note to ganja that even Willie would approve) or the peppy, sweet love song “For the Ages,” the band yet again delivers another flawless album.

Unfortunately, there are no raucous barnburners on this album, but The Mavericks give us enough brilliant summer chill out songs on Brand New Day that they can be forgiven.

DOWNLOAD: “Easy As It Seems,” “I Think of You” and “For the Ages”