Category Archives: Vinyl records

Record Store Day Black Friday 2017 Releases Announced

 

That would be November 24, vinyl hounds… And yes, before you ask, BLURT’s sister business Schoolkids Records will be participating, as usual, so break out those sleeping bags.

By Uncle Blurt

Mark your calendars for the above date and start saving up you allowance, kids—Black Friday looms once again, and the good folks at Record Store Day are rolling out the exclusives as usual. This time around there will be about 64 exclusives, 30 limited regional run titles, and 56 “RSD First” releases , according to the RSD list posted at its website.

Tori Amos’ long out of print (and often bootlegged) hair metal album from 1988, Y Kant Tori Read is among the RSD First titles, and she also has a 12” orange vinyl EP, Native Invader Russia, while everyone from Neil Young (Harvest Moon) to Steve Earle (El Corazon) to Son Volt (Straightaways) to Sublime (40oz to Freedom ) will have classic ‘90s albums finally arriving on vinyl.

Other gems that are making the BLURT office gang salivate like a pack of Pavlov’s dogs:

*Danger Mouse/Run the Jewels/Big Boi – “Chase Me” (from Baby Driver) 12”

*Fleshtones – Budget Buster red/yellow vinyl LP (a comp of B-sides and rarities)

*Tangerine Dream – Electronic Meditation LP reissue

*Big Star’s Third Live 2LP

*Bernie Worrell – All the Wood in the World LP reissue

*Autumn Defense – Circles LP reissue

*Latyrix – The Album: 20th Anniversary red/white and blue/white vinyl 2LP reissue

*Lure, Burke, Stinson & Kramer – L.A.M.F. Live at the Bowery blue vinyl LP

*Black Lips – This Sick Beat! 10” EP

*Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels – Live 1973 LP reissue

 

FLAT DUO JETS – Wild Wild Love

Album: Wild Wild Love

Artist: Flat Duo Jets

Label: Daniel 13

Release Date: October 20, 2017

www.daniel13.com

The Upshot: Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification via an exhaustive exploration of the Jets’ earliest recordings.

BY FRED MILLS

For North Carolina indie music devotees—particularly the Chapel Hill contingent—it was an electrifying affirmation: the MTV Cutting Edge broadcast of a segment the video channel had filmed in February of 1985, featuring one Dexter Romweber, attired in cop hat and rebel-with-a-definite-cause leather jacket and slurping noisily (booze? tea? Diet Pepsi?) from a tin cup tethered to his jacket with a chain, giving the film crew a tour of his digs, at most a 10’ by 10’ storage shed located in the back yard of his mother’s Carrboro abode, but crammed with enough reclaimed furniture and record albums to qualify as a “pad.” That Romweber called it The Mausoleum wasn’t ironic. If, say, a homeless person stumbled in there after too much antifreeze, crawled under the makeshift bed, and expired, it wasn’t altogether inconceivable that the corpse wouldn’t be discovered until Dex or one of the pot-smoking pals who gathered there to spin obscure ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly late into the night happened to be casting about for an errant platter or pillow.

Feel free to revisit the MTV segment at the YouTube link above; there are also plenty of live clips of Romweber’s Flat Duo Jets combo (both as a duo and as a three-piece) to seek out. Meanwhile, sonic origins arrive via Wild Wild Love, a two-CD version of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love limited edition Flat Duo Jets vinyl box set (two LPs and a 10”) released for Record Store Day 2017. Included is the entire Mark Bingham-produced Flat Duo Jets LP that the Athens-based Dog Gone label originally released in 1989—Dog Gone was overseen by one Jefferson Holt, who now helms Daniel 13, a much-respected North Carolina books/music/film outfit—along with that album’s cassette EP precursor, Flat Duo Jets In Stereo (1985, Dolphin Records, recorded by Josh Grier and Steve Gronback), plus no less than a bakers-dozen outtakes from the ’89 LP.

Whattaya get? Well, of course there is “Wild, Wild Lover,” which they would also perform during a potentially career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman, with FDJ fan Paul Shaffer happily sitting in. Moody tiki-surf twanger instrumental, “Madagasgar,” one of only two Dex originals on the Dog Gone album, is another obvious highlight, as is a revved-up instro take of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing,” wherein drummer Crow lays down a jungle beat as throbbin’ as any Saturday afternoon Tarzan flick soundtrack you’d care to mention. Plus, all six tracks from that In Stereo cassette are represented, from the riotous Lieber & Stoller classic “Riot In Cell Block #9” to a sunny (and, for Romweber, remarkably restrained) cover of Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” to an early Romweber original, “Theme For Dick Fontaine,” a twangy instro thumper not unlike the above-mentioned Prima track (and a tune often used to warm up the crowd at gigs back in the day). Listening to these now, over three decades later, the visceral-to-the-point-of-unhinged FDJ energy remains palpable; if you close your eyes, it’s not hard to imagine being at one of the band’s still-legendary early shows.

All those, plus the Mark Bingham-selected outtakes—among them, surf raveup “Penetration 1,” so electrifying here it’s hard to understand why it didn’t make the final cut for the original LP; “Harlem Nocturne,” which Dex and Crow would revive for the second Jets album, 1991’s Go Go Harlem Baby; and another version of “Wild, Wild Lover”—make for more than just an early DexRom musical snapshot. Wild Wild Love is also a history lesson, one boasting key performances that influenced everyone from the White Stripes to the Black Keys, and many, many more.

Now, before all you wannabe speculators make a mad dash to eBay or Discogs to unload your RSD 2017 FDJ WWL, be alerted that the box set is, in the parlance, a package too cool to dump. Note that as an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF color booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier, and music critic David Menconi (whose exhaustive history of the band would be, if eventually expanded to include Dexter’s entire colorful/ongoing history, as book-worthy as Menconi’s earlier biography of lapsed Tar Heel Ryan Adams). But said booklet was also originally a gorgeous 12” x 12” centerpiece of the vinyl box that really deserves to be held and admired. Yours truly was actually present at several of the shows visually represented in the booklet, Dex ‘n’ Crow caught in full flight at Charlotte’s Milestone Club by ace photographer Kent Thompson. (BLURT contributor Marty Perez also has shots in the booklet.) So I can attest to the, um, for lack of a better term, candid nature of these FDJ gigs, which might include, on any given occasion, Romweber bull-dozing into the crowd, stripping down to his skivvies, or simply stretching his shirt around the top of his head to stanch the flow of sweat.

Think of both iterations of Wild Wild Love as loving testimonials and crucial documents; the 2CD also boasts impressionistic art by Phil Plank, exclusive to that version, further indication of the Daniel 13 team’s intention to present the Flat Duo Jets as one of North Carolina’s more unique musical origin stories. Something tells me that more than a couple of heads are already nodding at the notion of adding a special Romweber wing to the Tar Heel State’s official music archives…

DOWNLOAD: “Penetration 1” and “Bring It On Home” (outtakes); “Theme for Dick Fontaine” (In Stereo); “Sing Sing Sing,” “Wild, Wild Lover,” “Madagascar” (Flat Duo Jets)

NC’s 6 String Drag w/PledgeMusic Campaign for Reissue & New Album

North Carolina twangers prepping vinyl reissue of classic album while planning out a new studio record as well for a spring ’18 re;ease/ Above photo by Michael Traister.

By Fred Mills

Cutting to the chase: Raleigh, NC, combo 6 String Drag has long been a favorite throughout the BLURT diaspora, dating back to the hard-twanging Americana combo’s ‘90s heyday, which included a Steve Earle-produced gem from 1997, High Hat. Much more recently, the group resumed operations following a lengthy hiatus, resulting in a wave of terrific live notices as well as considerable praise for 2015 comeback album Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll (Royal Potato Family), which was stuffed to the gills with choice power pop, rockabilly, ‘50s-ish rock, and stately blues.

The group is soldiering on with a twinned campaign to get High Hat re-released for the first time on vinyl (a 20th anniversary, limited edition white wax at that) and to release a brand new studio effort in March. Over at the 6 String Drag PledgeMusic page you can view the specifics along with the various tiers of involvement for pledgers, ranging from springing from digital, CD, and vinyl versions of High Hat, to all manner of rare memorabilia and house concerts fans can avail themselves of.

Do yourself a favor and check out these guys—our friends—and consider jumping in. By way of full disclosure, the High Hat reissue will be appearing under the label name of our sister business, Schoolkids Records (formerly Second Motion). Hopefully that gives you a sense of what a kickass band we think 6 String Drag has always been, and continues to be. It’s clobberin’ time, kids.

Riot In Cell Block NC: 1st Flat Duo Jets Recordings Reissued

 

Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification.

Finally arriving on the heels this week (Oct. 20), of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love vinyl box set from NC’s legendary Flat Duo Jets, released by Daniel 13 for Record Store Day 2017,  is the 2CD version for the, er, less obsessive Dex Romweber fan. But no less discriminating—this ‘un  has all 13 original Flat Duo Jets tracks, including “Wild Wild Love,” which they played in a career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman; plus all six tracks from the 1984 cassette-only mini-album (In Stereo). CD Two adds a baker’s-dozen outtakes from recording sessions hand picked by the band’s original producer, Mark Bingham.

As an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD package also includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier and music critic David Menconi. The booklet was originally a centerpiece of the aforementioned limited edition vinyl box, which of course went out of print pretty much original.

WOOLLY BUSHMEN – Arduino (LP – orange vinyl)

Album: Arduino

Artist: Woolly Bushmen

Label: Pig Baby

Release Date: October 06, 2017

www.pigbabyrecords.com

The Upshot: Guaranteed to make you put down your battered copy of Nuggets and get the house party started anew.

BY FRED MILLS

Thump. Thump again. Twang. Thump some more. Twang again. Yeah baby.

The Woolly Bushmen kick things off by kicking out the jams, “Something New” being a primordial rawk stew of troglodyte drums, surf guitars, and snarled/sneered/shouted vox; think an unholy offspring of “Wipe Out,” “All Right Now,” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” And we’re off: “Hangin’ Blue,” which sounds like Roky fronting Southern Culture On The Skids (hold that thought—six of the 11 songs here were produced by SCOTS’ Rick Miller at his Kudzu Ranch studio); “Don’t Let Him In,” with its fuzzed out axes and psych organ, is a contemporary out-nuggetsization of the Nuggets aesthetic much like the Cynics were updating same three decades ago; and “If It’s All Right With You” brings a kind of Fifties vibe to a Velvets-like choogle arrangement, along with some subtle R&B inflections.

Clearly this trio—comprising Cleveland’s Simon and Julian Palombi and West Virginia’s Jacob Miller—has been soaking in more than just a hot tub down at the RV park. (What’s that title Arduino all about? You’ll have to ask them, as our web search only unearths a company by that name: “Open-source electronic prototyping platform enabling users to create interactive electronic objects.” That said, Miller and the Palombis have a rep as quite the in-your-face live outfit—I’d call that “interactive.”) Arduino comes on the heels of 2012’s self-titled LP and 2015’s Sky Bosses and it is indeed the best batch yet, Pressed up on shockingly orange translucent wax (180-gm at that) and including a digital download card, it is an instant house party starter. Plan on purchasing supplemental homeowners or renters insurance should these guys turn up on your doorstep.

DOWNLOAD: “Something New,” “Don’t Let Him In,” “If It’s All Right With You”

JOE HENDERSON FEATURING ALICE COLTRANE – The Elements LP (reissue)

Album: The Elements LP

Artist: Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane

Label: Jazz Dispensary/Concord/Milestone

Release Date: July 28, 2017

www.jazzdispensary.com

The Upshot: Fire, air, water and earth are the four elements, and saxophonist Joe Henderson serves up jazz ruminations upon each on this 1974 album featuring Alice Coltrane, Charlie Haden, Michael White, Leon Chancler and Kenneth Nash. (Go HERE to see additional entries at the BLURT Jazz Desk.)

 BY BILL KOPP

Released in 1974, The Elements is the 16th album from tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. This four-track album features four extended tracks; each is an improvisational exploration/meditation on one the elements. Though much of Henderson’s work had been well within the relatively conservative parameters of hard- and post-bop, The Elements is a conscious and largely successful attempt to venture beyond convention.

“Fire” begins with several minutes of hypnotic rhythm section work; the track eventually flowers into something more exploratory, first with a violin solo from Michael White and then Alice Coltrane playing a harp in a manner that makes it sound more like a kalimba. It’s only when she does a glissando that the instrument is recognizable for what it is. They rhythm section (bassist Charlie Haden and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler) remains steady throughout, though via modern recording techniques they’re brought forward and faded deeper into the mix at various points. In a slight bow to convention, “Fire” restates its head near the end of its eleven-plus minutes.

“Air” has a completely different character. Lacking the insistent groove of “Fire,” it begins with sax and bass both seemingly vamping, with what sound like random bits of percussion splashed about. Henderson wails on his saxophone, and Coltrane enters, playing dramatic figures on piano. After five minutes or so, the entire performance is faded out, replaced in the sonic space by what sounds like a wholly new piece, and a different song. But this second “song” has a similarly unfocused character, one that has the feel of musicians preparing to play a piece together but never actually quite getting around to doing so. Alice Coltrane’s piano improvisations form the centerpiece of the second half of “Air,” joined now and then by Henderson’s sax and Haden’s upright bass work. White shows up on violin near the end of the piece.

The Eastern flavors of tambura and harmonium (played by Coltrane) open “Water.” While Haden lays down a static bass line, Henderson overdubs multiple sax parts, some of which employ heavy amounts of reverb. Unlike the previous tracks, “Water” is a Henderson solo spotlight, with none of the other players stepping forward. Near the track’s end he plays a few relatively conventional melodies, but for most of the track’s run time, he seems more intent on improvising.

At over 13 minutes, “Earth” is the longest track on The Elements. The track combines African percussion and a smoky, slightly sinister and funky beat. That backdrop provides a musical canvas upon which Henderson paints with his tenor saxophone. He plays smoky, soulful lines, again making extensive use of overdubbing; various sax lines intertwine throughout the piece. Sometimes the result is jarringly atonal, but more often it comes together seamlessly. Just over four and a half minutes in, all of the players save Haden are faded out of the mix. After a full minute of soloing, the bassist is joined by subtle bits of Indian instrumentation. Coltrane adds harp, and while the rhythm section continues to lay out, the players set up a mysterious sonic landscape. Percussionist Kenneth Nash recites lyrics that ruminate on the concept of time. The narration may remind some listeners of Rick Holmes’ work on Nat Adderley’s Soul Zodiac. The track’s final moments are built upon a slow, hypnotic rhythmic pattern, with layers of saxophone, harmonium and violin all competing for the sonic space.

After The Elements, Henderson would go on to make more than a dozen albums, switching from Milestone to Red and eventually Verve. His exploratory nature would continue after The Elements, but he never again would work with that album’s particular set of musicians.

Jazz Dispensary’s 2017 reissue of The Elements recreates the original, upgrading to 180-gram vinyl and a sturdier color sleeve.

DOWNLOAD: “Fire”

 

 

GARY BARTZ NTU TROOP – Harlem Bush Music: Uhuru LP (reissue)

Album: Harlem Bush Music

Artist: Gary Bartz Ntu Troop

Label: Jazz Dispensary/Concord/Milestone

Release Date: July 28, 2017

www.jazzdispensary.com

The Upshot: African rhythms, the blues and vocals are highlights of this early 1970s jazz outing from saxophonist Gary Bartz, newly reissued on 180-gram vinyl with high-quality reproduction sleeve from Jazz Dispensary. (Go HERE to see additional entries at the BLURT Jazz Desk.)

BY BILL KOPP

The 1970s were a fascinating time in jazz. Fusion was establishing its footing, and a wide variety of artists had committed themselves to exploring the outer boundaries of the jazz form. One of the directions pursued was the incorporation of African rhythms and textures. Of course in and of itself, that was hardly a new idea: Cannonball Adderley’s African Waltz had explicitly followed such a direction way back in 1961. and it goes without saying that jazz was built upon an African foundation.

When saxophonist Gary Bartz recorded the second of his Harlem Bush Music albums – 1971’s Uhuru, credited to Bartz’s Ntu Troop – he chose to work with some of the best sidemen he could find. That short list included bassist Ron Carter. For this record, he built the collection around an 18-minute blues with vocal called “Blue (A Folk Tale).” The piece has the feel of an opening theme from a play or other stage presentation. The tune initially features only Carter’s bass plus Bartz on vocal and piano. He’s playing in a style quite reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. Three minutes in, Bartz enters on sax, joined by percussion stabs from Nat Bettis and drums by Harold White. Much of the next few minutes features little other than Bartz’s screaming, squawking and sometimes melodic saxophone, punctuated by vocal whoops and hollers. It’s exciting stuff.

Through overdubbing, Bartz adds multiple vocal lines as the band kicks into a truly funky workout; in turns it’s groove-filled, exploratory, bluesy and near ambient; Bartz seems intent on traveling to several destinations within the blues idiom within the framework of a single performance.

The albums’ remaining four tracks are all much shorter, but no less intriguing. “Uhuru Sasa” features Carter and Bartz often playing the same melodic line; but just when the listener licks into that groove, they diverge. The vocals – especially the chorus – dig into the African flavors.

“Vietcong” features Juni Booth on bass instead of Carter. The track fades in, suggesting that what we hear on record is merely part of a much longer piece. An alluring sax melody is supported by a slinky blues foundation. Against the backdrop of the then-current conflict in Southeast Asia, a tale of a Vietcong warrior “ fight[ing] for his homeland” would have been controversial stuff indeed. Regardless, it’s a swinging tune.

“Celestial Blues” fad in as well. The rhythm section of Carter and White turns out a hypnotic patter, atop which Bartz sings and solos on his sax. His soloing becomes wilder and unrestrained as the performance unfolds. Carter sounds like he’s having fun even while adhering to the limits imposed by function as the song’s anchor.

“The Planets” is not a reading of Gustav Holst’s classical work. Instead it’s a relatively spare number that lies halfway between cocktail jazz (thanks to the wood block percussion) and the sort of thing Sun Ra and His Arkestra might have done. The song largely becomes untethered in its midsection, allowing the players to head off in whatever direction they choose. More than anything else on Uhuru, “The Planets” feels like an improvisation.

A new 180-gram vinyl reissue of the album reproduces the music and the packaging in all its glory. Harlem Bush Music: Uhuru was Bartz’s fifth album as band leader. He would go on to release more than two dozen more albums, and today at age 76 he continues to perform. He also teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue (A Folk Tale),” “Uhuru Sasa”

 

JEAN CAFFEINE –Sadie Saturday Nite LP

Album: Sadie Saturday Night LP

Artist: Jean Caffeine

Label: self-released

Release Date: August 25, 2017

http://www.jeancaffeine.com/

The Upshot: Thumbing through her back pages, the songwriter offers up sweet pop alongside snarling punk for a wonderfully vivid sonic memoir.

BY FRED MILLS

Jean Caffeine is a gifted, extroverted singer/songwriter, artist, actress, and a writer, spending time in San Francisco, NYC, Austin, Durham, Ontario, and elsewhere, and along the way she’s collected plenty of memories and vivid stories to go with those memories. Sadie Saturday Nite, then, her first album since 2011’s acclaimed Geckos In the Elevator, is what I’ll describe as an aural memoir in which she thumbs through her back pages via song and spoken interludes, going all the way back to her concert-going days as a high schooler in San Francisco. It’s a vivid narrative she spins from the outset: thrumming midtempo rocker “Neon Adventure / Mission (District) Statement” offers sonic snapshots of those early days; that’s immediately followed by “High School Was A Drag,” a spoken narrative outlining her misfit status; and then by “Winterland (Talking Blues),” part-spoken and part-sung, telling how she escaped the teenage doledrums via shows by Bowie, the Stones, the Who, Patti Smith, etc. For anyone who was also on the scene at the time, regardless of the city, it all rings remarkable true.

Soon enough, Caffeine immersed herself on the burgeoning San Fran punk scene, and as detailed in the delightfully waltzing—and, musically, determinedly un-punk—title track, she “was a mere 17, when she spotted a poster for the Nuns & Crime”—and that was all it took. She would learn the drums and join a punk band herself, The Urge, later moving across-country to New York where she wound up in actress/rocker Ann Magnuson’s band Pulsallama for a stint before forming her own group, Clambake. Here, on the album, the ridiculously catchy “All Girl Band” details those band experiences: “We learned to play on the stage,” she sings, against a jangly/poppy/garagey backdrop, “one note at a time, out of tune, a beat behind.” (There’s a sneaky homage to the Go-Gos in the middle of the tune worth listening for.)

Other highlights include dreamy ballad “It’s Not Nice Without You,” the thumping, T. Rex-esque “Mad As Hell in the White Night,” a riffy number the smartly nicks a handful of Sex Pistols licks (“Winter of Hate”), and a positively brilliant cover of the Zeros’ punk anthem “Wimp.” Throughout, Caffeine adjusts her vocal style, chameleon like, to the specific tone and imagery of each song, crooning sweetly one moment in a poppy tune and sneering in the next for a punk arrangement.

Overall, Sadie Saturday Night is both poignant and fun, bringing an autobiography to vivid life. The record is, in fact, intended as a companion to a one woman/one guitar player show that Caffeine has put together about growing up punk in San Francisco during the ‘70s. Currently based in Austin, she’s doing performances here and there, with shows coming up soon in Arizona and on the West Coast. (Details at the Facebook Page the Jean Caffeine Appreciation Society.) If you get a chance to see her, don’t pass up the opportunity. It just might turn out to be a lot like thumbing through your own back pages.

It’s on vinyl, to book, wax fans. More details:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sadie-saturday-nite-the-album–2#/

https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwmusic/article/SongwriterMusician-Jean-Caffeine-Unveils-Video-for-All-Girl-Band-20170725

DOWNLOAD: “Wimp,” “Winter of Hate,” “All Girl Band”

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”