Category Archives: Vinyl records

SENSE OF PLACE: The War On Drugs

For his fourth full length as the War On Drugs, Adam Granduciel marries pop, psych, and Prog to create a brilliantly cathartic record that’s an “album” in the most traditional sense possible.

BY FRED MILLS

His name, in case you’ve forgotten, is Adam Granduciel, which, while not rolling incident-free off the tongue, still seems likely to stick in your mind. Equally likely: There’s not a more misleadingly-named outfit right now than the War On Drugs. A moniker like that connotes aggression and dissonance, if not outright musical violence, with a like response—moshing, fist-thrusting, stage diving—expected from the audience.

Hardly. When this Philly band performs, the crowd’s swaying beatifically to the blissed-out drone-pop and rambling rock narratives being spun by the long-haired, charismatic frontman. And the War On Drugs’ ascent from clubdom to festival favorites has been organic, to say the least. There was 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues, for which, at the time, the band included another indie buzz-artist-in-the-making, Kurt Vile. His departure left Granduciel firmly at the helm of the group’s musical vision, and that vision gradually morphed from a brand of indie-rock tilting Americana into the dreamier, more expansive creature that was 2011’s Slave Ambient.

At that point Granduciel certainly wasn’t renouncing his indie inclinations, although he had already proven to be  fond of cramming a lot of lyrics, Dylan/Springsteen style, into his verses. He was also blessed with a lovely, soaring singing voice that at times could suggest a young Roger McGuinn, helping him make the kind of emotional connection with listeners that might have eluded a less confident vocalist. (Indeed, a lush, cinematic track like “Your Love Is Calling My Name,” with its pulsing, motorik percussion and rippling cascades of keyboards and guitars, suggested nothing less than a marriage between McGuinn’s cosmic cowboy-period Byrds and Krautrock psych icons Neu!.) Clearly, Granduciel was in the process of evolving, and the little glimpses he offered the public of that process were fascinating.

By the time of 2014’s Lost In the Dream—as with its predecessor, released by stalwart independent label Secretly Canadian; and significantly, per the then-booming vinyl resurgence, it arrived as a limited edition purple wax 2LP platter of pure eye candy—Granduciel had nigh-on perfected his vision, fulfilling all the promise, and then some, of his earlier work. Factually speaking, it was “indie rock,” but aesthetically and structurally it was pure Classic Rock with a capital “C” and “R.” Song after song revealed how Granduciel has studied the masters, from Fleetwood Mac (the thrumming, exuberant “Red Eyes,” with its “Go Your Own Way” percussion motif) and Dire Straits (“Disappearing,” whose clean, resonant guitar lines were pure Knopfler), to Springsteen (one listen to the anthemic “Burning” was sufficient to have you, ahem, dancing in the dark) and Seger (“Eyes To the Wind” not only nodded at “Against the Wind” with its title, but also bore an “ATW”-inspired piano melody).

Speaking to BLURT’s own Susan Moll around the time the album was released, Granduciel even admitted that his sensibilities had shifted more in the direction of traditional introspective singer-songwriterdom than the indie milieu’s tendency towards ironic distance and meta concerns. “I feel like, for a long time, I just didn’t look inside at all,” he admitted. “I think that’s kind of what the record is about—finally taking that journey to the inside.”

None of the foregoing is to suggest LITD was imitative or derivative, but some of the references were so direct that one at least had to think “homage.” War On Drugs retained certain touches of the so-called indie rock “DIY aesthetic,” yet was also infused with that distinctive classic rock vibe, via overtones of the aforementioned icons—the good parts of those artists’ music, not the self-indulgent ones. And in both the sequencing and packaging, it was clear that Granduciel viewed the album as part of an artform tradition, and not merely a collection of disparate tracks destined for Spotify streaming and playlist cherry-picking.

Which brings us to 2017. In rock lives, a lot can go down in three and a half years. Granduciel has (a) gotten sucked into a ridiculous hip-hop-styled indie-rock beef with Mark Kozelek, of Sun Kil Moon; (b) landed on—and in a number of instances, atop—music critics’ year-end best-of lists for LITD; (c) scored a major label deal with the venerable Atlantic Records; and (d) secured status as a headliner, including at a number of outdoor festivals. With all that going on, it’s not surprising that he decided to take his time sketching out his next move. On A Deeper Understanding Granduciel’s still taking those “good parts” and crafting intensely melodic, rhythmically focused, deeply emotional tunes—part-pop, part-psych, even part-Prog—while simultaneously expanding his sonic palette.

The record opens with “Up All Night,” all shimmering guitars and throbbing, programmed percussion. “Strangest Thing” is a massive, echoing, Spectorian chorale of massed guitars, grand keyboard flourishes, and heavenly harmonies. And later, 11-minute epic “Thinking of a Place”—originally released as a limited edition 12” for this year’s Record Store Day—offers up an impressionistic musical travelogue of alternating textures, ethereal/choirlike backing vocals, and deep-mix instrumental flourishes that ultimately tug the listener down into a near-bottomless pool of sound. Hold that thought: Granduciel even turns this aquatic sonic metaphor into a lyrical one, singing, “See it through my eyes/ Walk me to the water…Lead me through tonight/ Pull me from the water/ Hold my hand as something turns to me/ Just see it through my eyes.”

In its sonic cohesion, this is an “album” in the most traditional sense, cathartic and unencumbered by instant gratification internet GIF culture. That most of the songs clock in at six minutes or more suggests Granduciel isn’t overly concerned about having radio or iTunes hits. Each track follows logically from the previous one, eschewing jarring tonal or rhythmic shifts in favor of subtly recurring melodic motifs. And throughout, Granduciel’s keening, passionate vocals serve as a reassuring connective glue, his introspective lyrics probing themes such as uncertainty towards the future, holding onto love in order to beat the odds, and yearning to break out in order to explore life’s myriad possibilities. That’s about as Springsteenian as it gets.

Don’t be fooled by the name. With the War On Drugs, Adam Granduciel’s not battling anyone here: he’s already won. The “drugs” part of the equation is optional.

Worth Noting for Fans and Collectors: The A Deeper Understanding Limited Edition Deluxe Vinyl Box Set includes vinyl pressed on 2 12″ coke-bottle-green color vinyl plus one 7″ coke-bottle-green color vinyl (“Holding On” b/w “Nothing to Find”). Also in the package is the RSD ’17 release “Thinking of A Place” 12”  (standard black vinyl), a custom made case, an exclusive 16-page photo and lyric booklet, a double-sided 12” x 24” poster, and the A Deeper Understanding CD.

COATHANGERS – Parasite 12” EP

Album: Parasite 12" EP

Artist: Coathangers

Label: Suicide Squeeze

Release Date: May 05, 2017

www.suicidesqueeze.net

The Upshot: Parasites’ presence or not, there’s no sucking here—just balls-to-the-wall (term used loosely) ground zero distaff punk, with power chords a-powerin’ and anthemic vocal choruses a-chorusin’.

BY FRED MILLS

If we weren’t a family friendly publication I’d love simply reprinting all the Coathangers’ lyrics, libretto-style and accompanied by chord instructions, in lieu of another silly review. Can I at least scribble down the terms “get out of my fucking life,” “you’re acting like a little cunt,” “who made a prince out of you,” and—my favorite epithet—“swiss cheese brain”? [No. –Standards & Practices Ed.] At any rate, Atlanta’s premiere distaff trio is takin’ names and summarily burning ‘em on a pyre of… well, not love. These ladies are pissed, and they have no intention of taking things on the chin.

Parasite is a 5-song 12-inch vinyl EP – on stunningly gorgeous green marble wax, at that, with all the tracks assembled on side A in order that side B can be given over to an artful etching; kudos to record designer Helena Darling — and it certainly should be regarded as far more than the usual “stopgap release” status typically bestowed between already prominent bands’ albums. From the ground zero punk ranter opening track “Parasite” (choppy chords courtesy the School of Buzzcocks) to the moody tribal psychedelia of “Down Down” (a cross between vintage Television and contemporary Savages) to the impossibly anthemic “Wipeout” (a mélange of great girl groups throughout history, from ‘60s bouffant queens to latterday chopped-and-coiffed swagger galls), this is nonstop fun.

Consumer Note: LP comes with digital download, a nod to fans that should not be overlooked. A lot of major label artists don’t bother to go the extra mile in that regard, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

DOWNLOAD: All of it, but if pressed to the wall for a single standout, I’d have to submit “Down Down” as it is already on my personal mixtape and the BLURT Spotify playlist.

LOOK BLUE GO PURPLE – Still Bewitched LP

Album: Still Bewitched

Artist: Look Blue Go Purple

Label: Flying Nun

Release Date: May 05, 2017

www.flyingnun.co.nz

The Upshot: Distaff Dunedin rockers from the ‘80s have their debut reissue and expanded.

BY TIM HINELY

The all-female 5-piece from Dunedin were one of  the most enchanting, bewitching (yup) bands on the Flying Nun roster and heck, 30 years on they still sound enchanting, unique…at times magical. It was in the mid-late ‘80s that I started getting turned on to many of the Flying Nun bands usually by friends or reviews in zines and I instantly fell in love with the label and its roster of bands (as I’ve mentioned many times on this site before) but this band was a mystery. Unlike the Chills, The Bats or the Clean they never toured the USA so none of us fans ever got to see them and only ever saw a few pictures of the band (which added to the  mystery) and , in more recently years, some You Tube footage.

In their day the ladies released three EPs between the years 1985 and 1987: Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This and promptly broke up. Guitarist Denise Roughan went on to many other N.Z. bands while drummer Lesley Paris ended up managing the Flying Nun label and the other three, Kath Webster, Kathy Bull and Norma O’Malley, who knows. Anyway after that long lead in I’m here to tell you that the Flying Nun label has graciously reissued these tracks and more (some live ones) on vinyl in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and its glorious (available on cd, too). It’s the original 14 songs plus 5 bonus live tracks. The music was poppy and jangly at times but their secret weapon Norma O’Malley who not only added keyboards to the tunes but also some well-placed flute that pushes the songs over the top. Also, the ladies harmonized perfectly and well, could just write some really terrific songs. Listen to ace pop cuts like “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun” (for some of that flute), “Circumspect Penelope,” “Vain Hopes” and the crown jewel, the upbeat blast of “Cactus Cat.”

If you missed the boat the first time around and have even a passing interest in the Flying Nun label (or uhh… good music in general) then don’t miss Still Bewitched. It’s great.

DOWNLOAD:  “Cactus Cat,” “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun,” “Circumspect Penelope”

 

TUNABUNNY – PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr. LP

Album: PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr.

Artist: Tunabunny

Label: Happy Happy Birthday To Me

Release Date: June 23, 2017

http://hhbtm.com/

The Upshot: At 28 songs, the potential for veering off the rails here is profound, yet the Athens band keeps its conceptual eye on the prize and arrives at the best set of tunes the Flying Nun label never released. Below, watch some of the group’s delightful videos.

BY FRED MILLS

Intrigued by the name? Ignore that first search hit you get for “tunabunny”—it’s a red herring. (Or, more likely, a detour to some gamers’ hack for the Clash of Kings MMMO.) Try, instead, this ridiculously talented and prodigious Athens band’s Bandcamp or Facebook page… I’ll give you some time here… okay, logged on? Found some audio and/or video? Not yet? Good. See below.

Wildly prolific, yet so cheekily oblivious to general matters of commerce and market exploitation—this is an outfit that still lists its MySpace page among its contact links (hint: try it anyway)—Tunabunny is part of a long line of Athens art-rockers ‘n’ upstarts stretching back to B-52s days and beyond; one could even argue that the group’s eye for mischief and ear for chaos is at least somewhat influenced by nearby Atlanta’s late great Hampton Grease Band, whose classic 1971 classic Music to Eat, was, like PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr., a sprawling double-LP rife with conceptual lunacy and sonic serendipity (not to mention a collagist’s dream of sleeve art—the front cover above is ½ of one gem of a colorful and textural riot).

Mere words don’t do justice to either the album title or its contents, so let’s break for a moment:

Whew. At 28 songs, the potential for veering off the rails here is profound, yet Tunabunny keeps things lively and varied (pardon the staid description), not to mention psychedelic as hell and punk as fuck (pardon the old-school ‘ziners description). Riotous indie rock by any other name, it boasts sweetly arcing distaff vox, fuzzed-out guitars leavened by kosmiche drones and tones, and propulsive rhythms with backbeats ya can’t lose. (Flying Nun worship, anyone?)

Rumor has it that this is an answer record to the Beatles’ White Album, and with a few songtitles like “Julia” and “Revolution None,” one might be tempted to accept that at face value. Me, I never bought the Liz Phair myth about Exile in Guyville being an answer to Exile on Main Street, so it’s your call; personally, I’m sticking with the aforementioned Music to Eat nod, or perhaps even Trout Mask Replica. Either way (or not), this is some of the most fun stretched across four sides of beautiful heavyweight wax you’ll have in the gradually-declining summer of ’17. Anyone up for skinny-dipping in a rural Georgia pond?

DOWNLOAD: “I Thought I Caught It (With You),” “Blackwater Homes,” “Nevermind the Cobblestones,” “Incinerate,” “Pitocin Enduction Hour”





New Game Theory “Supercalifragile” LP is Here!

Eagerly-awaited album available digitally, on CD, and on vinyl. You get an instant download if you order the vinyl, incidentally—and we’re listening to it here at the BLURT office at this very moment.

By Fred Mills

It’s finally here—Supercalifragile, the final recordings of Scott Miller, assembled by his widow Kristine Chambers Miller and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, and released under the Game Theory name. According to the record’s Bandcamp page, the album “collects material Miller was working on at the time of his 2013 passing for a reimagining of Game Theory.” You can order the record directly from Kristine via the Bandcamp link. (Funding for the project, incidentally, was via a Kickstarter campaign, and there were a number of intriguing premiums available at the various pledge levels.)

Contributing to the project were Jon Auer (Posies), Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices/Nada Surf), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel, Mitch Easter, The Orange Peels’ Allen Clapp, The Loud Family’s Alison Faith Levy, Game Theory members Nan Becker, Fred Juhos, Dave Gill, Jozef Becker, Shelley LaFreniere, Suzi Ziegler, Donnette Thayer and Gil Ray. (The album therefore also represents some of Ray’s final recordings, who we lost earlier this year.)

Below, watch a video clip from a few months ago showing Stringfellow, Auer, Becker, and Anton Barbeau working in the legendary Abbey Road studios on “I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris” from the album.

In addition to the “Paris” song, highlights include “No Love” performed by Scott and Aimee Mann, “Time Warner” by Scott with the Game Theory gang, and “All You Need is White” featuring Scott and Stéphane Schück. Mitch Easter took care of the final mixing, and the record was mastered by Bob Weston.

Did we mention it’s on vinyl as well as CD and digital? To Kristine and Ken, and to everyone involved, thank you—this is clearly a labor of love.

 

EMILY DUFF – Maybe in the Morning LP

Album: Maybe in the Morning LP

Artist: Emily Duff

Label: Mod Prom

Release Date: March 24, 2017

www.emilyduff.bandcamp.com

The Upshot: The “S” word gets a thorough workout, FAME-style, on what just may be the most perfect platter of 2017 so far. Worth noting: In addition to CD, it’s available on 180-gm vinyl, and an informal A-B comparison clearly suggests that the wax is sonically superior.

BY FRED MILLS

Everything—and I do mean everything—on the third record from NYC-based country soul songstress Emily Duff clicks, from the wise-beyond-her-years lyrics and charisma-draped, Melissa Etheridge-meets-Lucinda Williams-meets-Bobbie Gentry vocals, to the easy-going virtuoso musicianship of her band and assorted guests and the rare-air recording vibe that comes with cutting an album at the legendary FAME studios. Even the album cover—a painting by Chalet Comellas-Baker that depicts a shot glass, an ashtray, and a vintage turntable with a record spinning on it—carries a whiff of intimacy that augments the larger picture (no pun intended).

Duff, who grew up listening to classic roots (Kris, Willie, Janis) and soul (Al, Marvin, Aretha), worked with guitarist Gary Lucas in Gods & Monsters in the ‘90s, replacing Jeff Buckley when he embarked upon a solo career. Soon enough, she felt the irresistible tug of Americana, releasing Pass It On and Go Tell Your Friends and laying the stylistic and emotional groundwork for what would become Maybe in the Morning. Fortuitously, an opportunity arose to record in Muscle Shoals, and she jumped at the chance. Aptly enough, country soul/swamp pop as immortalized at FAME has, according to Duff, “a sexiness to it that almost feels forbidden. It’s rock ’n’ roll, but there’s also a bit of it that sounds sanctified, that’s protecting from the devil. It’s almost got a church quality to it, that you can step to the edge but then you’ll step back.”

No shit. The dozen tracks on Maybe in the Morning embody those very qualities, and then some.

Opening track “Hypmotizing Chickenz” [sic] is funky and funny, with her core band—guitarist Scott Aldrich, bassist Skip Ward, and drummer Kenny Soule—conjuring up a groove that’d make the original FAME Swampers proud, while an actual FAME alumnus, session keyboardsman Clayton Ivey, contributes crucial organ textures to underscore Duff’s vocal swagger. (Duff’s lyrics have a delightful “Polk Salad Annie”-esque quality to them here, in lines like “Backwards walkin’ Granny/ She fell off the front porch again/ Made it all the way to Nashville/ She’s still lookin’ for big brother Ken.”) A few songs later, the title track goes for full immersion via a thickly-pulsing arrangement and choirlike backing vocals. Amid the gently waltzing “I’d Rather Go Blind” vibe of “Don’t,” things get taken down a notch or two, smokily, sweetly, and sexily, Duff’s subtle vocal rasp imbuing the song with an uncommon earthiness; that contrasts perfectly with jaunty upbeat twanger “Daddy’s Drunk Again,” in which Duff details a family that’s holding on but is at risk of disintegrating and, as the narrator, she’s just about had her fill (“Daddy when you gonna put that bottle down/ Looks like you’re tryin’ awful hard to drown/The same damn thing goes down every day/ $50 and a dream on the scratch ‘n’ play/ But nobody wins when Daddy’s drunk again…”).

One unimpeachable standout, among many, is “Diamonds”: With its “Ode to Billie Joe”-tilting, country-swamp arrangement, it finds Duff training her lens on marriage, Loretta Lynn style—which is to say, the good parts alongside the bad. And on closing track “Somebody on Sunday,” she goes straight-up country gospel soul (there’s that “S” word again)—complete with call-and-response choruses and righteous chants of “Amen!”—to bring a universality to the fore wherein everybody, on Sunday morning, is equal (equally culpable, and therefore equally capable of redemption) in the eyes of you-know-who.

It’s risky to assign a 5-out-of-5 stars to a review of a new release, as the wise rock critic will typically wait at least a year (or ten) to see if a record can hold its own against the passage of time. But Maybe in the Morning has an essential timelessness that can’t be denied. It’s the kind of album that deserves to be framed and hung on the walls of FAME studios—just like its progenitors from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Believe it.

DOWNLOAD: “Somebody on Sunday,” “Maybe in the Morning,” “Don’t,” “Needledrop Blues” (The latter is, you guessed it, an ode to the joys of spinning wax that doubles as a relationship metaphor. —Vinyl Ed.)

 

 

Incoming: Monster Magnet’s 1st Two Albums Reissued on Vinyl/CD/Digital

Spine of God and Tab helped usher in the era of stoner rock…

By Uncle Blurt

Okay kids, a quick history lesson from yer ol’ Uncle. The year was 1989. The locale was New Jersey. And the band was called Monster Magnet. Three years after their first EP on Glitterhouse, the band released their official debut album “Spine Of God” on Caroline Records. The original debut album “Tab” was recorded a year earlier then “Spine of God”, but it wasn’t until the latter drew critical and commercial blood that Tab ultimately saw release. Now, with Sept. 1 looming, the Napalm label is prepped to reissue those two stoner-rock touchstone, and on vinyl as well as CD and digital.

Check out some classic tuneage to refresh your memories, below, then make your plans to line up at your favorite local indie record store.

We are duly advised that “the drug hazed heavy sound of both releases helped in cementing Monster Magnet’s reputation of being the only legit descendants of the likes of psychedelic and stoner rock Godfathers Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, and their electrifying punk siblings in MC5.” Soon enough, the albums Superjudge, Dopes to Infinity and Powertrip would be unleashed.

The band will also release a brand new studio album later this year. On the web:
http://zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet/
https://www.instagram.com/monstermagnetofficial/

Watch Video for Jean Caffeine’s “All Girl Band”

New album arrives end of August on vinyl and digital.

By Fred Mills

Longtime fave Jean Caffeine is about to drop her new album Sadie Saturday Nite – the followup to 2011’s Geckos In the Elevator is due Aug. 29 on Joe Records, and it combines new music and reworked older tracks along with some spoken word narrated interluded and a cover of the Zeros’ classic punk anthem “Wimp.” The album marks the Austin rocker’s 40th anniversary in music, and the first single directly celebrates her back pages as a member of The Urge in San Francisco, Pulsallama in New York, and Clambake also in NYC. It’s titled “All Girl Band” and you can check out her video for it:

Did I mention that the new album is a vinyl edition of 500? More details on how to snag it or a digital version at her Bandcamp page.

THE PINEAPPLES – Twice On the Pipe LP

Album: Twice On the Pipe

Artist: The Pineapples

Label: Wicked Ape

Release Date: July 14, 2017

www.pineapplesband.com

The Upshot: Downtown NYC heaviosity like they useta make in the early ‘90s. Guess what? They still do.

BY FRED MILLS

“… after which they took a long hiatus.” Talk about a band bio understatement—we’re talking nearly a quarter-century’s layoff between releases for this downtown Big Apple outfit, last heard from on 1993’s Kramer-produced She Brings Me Down EP. And, admittedly, you’d be forgiven for not having clamored for a reunion—or, hell, even remembering the name, unless you were either on the Amerindie ‘zine scene back in those admittedly pre-goldrush alt-rock daze, or a regular consumer of the UK weeklies, which momentarily championed the Pineapples. And not without cause, either—this was a heavy, Prog/punk noize as cool as it got, deservingly aligned by the critics with the likes of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. But alas, things have a way of coming to abrupt endings.

Now, though, Sirs Howard Rappaport (gtr, vox), Kevin Neenan (gtr), Michael Delanni (bs) and Thomas Dwyer (dr) have decided to pen a coda that promises to open an entire new volume. Amazingly, there’s still an enticingly familiar early ‘90s vibe here, with angular leads bolstered by brutal power chords, vocals that slip easily between yearning reverie, loutish growls, and heavenly harmonies, and a rhythmic assault that could power its way through any stylistic decade you’d care to name. From the post-grunge glissandos of “Red King” and part-dreamscape/part-overdrive alt-pop that is “Summergreen,” to the anthemic, immeasurably hookish power pop of “Reason to Live” and shuddery, wah-wah-powered, psychedelic anthem “Please Don’t Kill Doctor Strange” (yes, there are at least a few unapologetic comics fans in the band), there’s a lot going on with this slab o’ heaviness.

Did someone mention “slab”? We’ve got a shiny black 180-gram piece o’ 12” wax in hand, with a neon-tinted inner sleeve and a nude pineapple-bearer gracing the outer sleeve, so really, what are you waiting for, a goddam jpeg or something?

DOWNLOAD: “Reason to Live,” “Summergreen”

REESE MCHENRY W/SPIDER BAGS – Bad Girl LP

Album: Bad Girl

Artist: Reese McHenry w/Spider Bags

Label: Sophomoe Lounge

Release Date: July 14, 2017

www.sophomorelounge.com

The Upshot: Vinyl alert! Twangy garage and off-kilter country as wielded by an utterly original voice who’s backed by a fearless group of musicians.

BY FRED MILLS

An album that gets better and more riotously fun with each successive spin, Bad Girl teams Chapel Hill singer-songwriter Reese McHenry (formerly of Dirty Little Heaters) with Tarheel garage-skronksters the Spider Bags for a sonic summit that not only plays to the respective strengths of all the players, it also finds them pushing one another outside their comfort zones and discovering new skills. It’s a collaboration in the truest sense of the word, too, with some songs written by McHenry, some by the Bags’ Dan McGee, some jointly by the pair, and some by other writers. (McGee also acts as the project’s producer, and the ever-talented Wesley Wolfe handles engineering duties.)

Opening track “Bad Girl” is explosive enough and sets the stage perfectly. Penned by Lee Moses, it serves as a personal manifesto for McHenry, who croons, moans, and wails her titular self-assessment with enough vim ‘n’ vigor that you quickly learn to believe her. The band, abetted by Clarque Blomquist on piano and Ben Riseling on sax, initially conjures a vintage ‘50s vibe that gradually turns rowdy, like a libation-fueled gathering that progresses well into the wee hours. Twangy garageabilly raveup “On the 45” follows, boasting a kind of Panther Burns-meets-Southern Culture on the Skids ambiance. And the hits just keep coming—the careening romp that is “Mexico City”; the pedal steel-powered, straight-up country-tonk ballad “Painter Man’s Blues” (one of four tunes featuring Caitlin Cary on backing vocals); a sassy shuffle, “Bomb,” that revs and roars until you can practically see the stage collapsing from the collective impact of all the stomping feet; and closing number “The Rose of Monmouth County” that lets all assembled let loose in a noise orgy that somehow manages to retain a tender edge—testimony, no doubt, to McHenry’s utterly convincing skills at the mic.

She’s one part Lucinda Williams (in her unusual phrasing-drawl), one part Frazey Ford (in her signature high-range warble), and several parts tent revival preacher in the throes of a laying-on-of-hands possession. And Bad Girl just might be the most unique musical artifact you’ll hear out of North Carolina all year.

DOWNLOAD: “Mexico City,” “On the 45,” “The Rose of Monmouth County”