Monthly Archives: February 2014

INNER MONOLOGUES: Doug Paisley

DP by Wil Opstals

The Canadian troubadour knows his way around a good love song, but he’s got more than just the affairs of the heart on his mind.

BY JORDAN LAWRENCE

 Don’t be surprised if the cover art for Strong Feelings — the latest effort from Canadian country romantic Doug Paisley — is one day hailed as iconic. With bales of hay behind him, the singer is caught in perfect half-light, his green eyes bright and perfectly focused, while the rest of his body is shrouded in dusky dimness. His mouth is parted slightly, and his eyes are wide. He looks bewildered, mystified by some confounding and unknowable truth that he can’t avoid pondering.

 The back story doesn’t hurt: The photo was captured off-the-cuff by a fan at Oregon’s Pickathon who sent it to Paisley a little while later. But like the best album covers — that oil-painted temptress on the front of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs; that bleary, black-and-white road that stretches into Nebraska‘s distance — the image is special because it highlights an essential strength of the 10 songs within.

Doug Paisley CD

 With fuller arrangements than Paisley has relied on previously, the new offerings are buoyant, beautiful and often a little boisterous. Emmett Kelly’s guitar lines are kinetic and poignant, while Band alumnus Garth Hudson contributes organ fills that flicker with cozy warmth. But beneath this understated grandeur are narratives that feel more like snippets of an inner monologue than fodder for a confident country frontman. These are personal ruminations on lost loves and fallen idols, imminent mortality and an uncertain future. Strong feelings, Paisley explains, don’t have to be bright. They can be daunting and delicate, too.

 “I guess the default association for ‘strong feelings’ is positive, and I’m definitely aligned with that,” he says. “But I also feel like it might reference or suggest the other side of it, which is ones that aren’t necessarily bad or terrible, but are really overwhelming, too. I feel like [the cover] reflects that somewhat. It actually was a pretty spontaneous photo that somebody took at a festival, and they sent it to me. It has this sort of Alfred Hitchcock expression on it. That was one of the reasons I really liked it.”

 Paisley’s romanticism is well documented, leading to the erroneous perception that he only writes love songs. Much of this stems from Constant Companion, his breakthrough sophomore album. That record, released in 2010, digs deep into the ever-changing dynamics of being in love. And sure enough, this resulted in several poignant expressions of devotion and affection. “Everyone is wounded/ Everyone wears scars,” Paisley offers on “Come Here and Love Me,” warbling over delicate chords from piano and guitar. “Come take off your brave face/ Show me who you are.” He excels during such direct and unguarded transmissions, conveying emotional honesty in a way few singers — and songwriters — can.

 But these passionate overtures are but one facet of what Paisley strives to accomplish. He writes with the intent of excavating intense emotions, searching within himself and meditating on various topics. Love is definitely among his more fruitful subjects, but he’s long been adept at handling others. Take “What I Saw,” the second cut on Constant Companion. Yes, it starts by establishing that its narrator “fell out of love,” but this wandering dude is after much more than a mere companion. “I’m up on the hill/ And I look to the sea,” he sings. “A ship on the shore/ Is waiting for me.” During the chorus, bolstered by the luminous tones of Leslie Feist, he implores the listener: “Did you see what I saw?/ Could it be that I’ve lost/ A way to go on/ And a reason to go?”

 Having read the reviews and heard the chatter lauding his love song acumen, Paisley consciously tried to diversify his writing for Strong Feelings, one reason why the new album arrives more than two years after its predecessor.

 “I have a tendency to really listen to and write a lot of love songs or be associated with that,” he explains. “I guess I wanted to broaden it somewhat and just explore other things besides people being in love or love, you know? There’s a short story writer I really love, Raymond Carver, and he’s got a book called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It’s along the same lines: What do you mean when you say feelings? It’s pretty undefined. They govern our actions, and they’re a big part of who we are, but we don’t really choose them or conjure them. So in that sense, I wasn’t necessarily signaling one or the other.”

 True to his aim, the best songs on Strong Feelings aren’t the love songs. “Radio Girl” breezes through at a brisk honky-tonk amble as Paisley seeks some lost AM songstress he once found on his car stereo — “You used to glow as bright as a candle,” he sings, “But now, burning the house down.” Just as radio waves crackle and die on his long and lonely drive, our great achievements fade into history.

 Paisley started his career playing covers of country hallmarks, and Strong Feelings finds him sounding more connected to that legacy than he ever has. The organ whirs are airy and crisp. The drums pound with a purposeful thrum. The guitars cut with twanging precision. It works so well within that tradition that there seems no way that it couldn’t be deliberate. But as with his reputation for loving odes, this was not Paisley’s intention.

 “It’s funny, I actually wasn’t [going for it],” he says. “I think Emmett Kelly’s guitar playing signals a lot of that. But it’s interesting because I’ve heard that almost unanimously since we made it. [Producer Stew Crookes] and I were so surprised because we thought it was a real departure from that aspect of my music, and everyone’s like, ‘This is the most country music album you’ve ever made.’ And I find that really interesting that I don’t see it. I certainly don’t think people are wrong. If everybody’s feeling it, then it must be something there.

 “It’s typical,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘I don’t hear it at all.’ And everyone else is like, ‘It’s really there.”

 DP by Ian Lefebvre

FORGOTTEN HERO: Mike Bloomfield

MB top by Mike Shea

In his documentary film included with a new box set, director Bob Sarles shines light on the artistry and enigma of the legendary late guitarist.

 BY DENISE SULLIVAN

 Bob Dylan calls him “the best guitar player I ever heard.” Carlos Santana remembers his distinctive style: “With an acoustic guitar, a Telecaster, a Stratocaster or Les Paul, you heard three notes, or you heard one note and you knew it was Michael.” B.B. King credits him with his own crossover success with young, white audiences. “I think they felt if Michael Bloomfield said if he listened to B.B. King, we’ll listen to him too,” said King, still on the touring circuit at age 88.

 So how is it in the age of excess information about guitar styles and rock ’n’ roll, Mike Bloomfield isn’t cited more often as a major contributor to the music’s evolution? West Coast filmmaker Bob Sarles has been in search of that answer for 20 years, charting the mystery, tracking down interviews, and compiling reels of footage. But he didn’t have a finished film until he was encouraged by Bloomfield friend and collaborator Al Kooper to deliver an hour-long cut of Sweet Blues: A Film About Michael Bloomfield, for inclusion in the four-disc collection, Mike Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands, released this week by Columbia/Legacy.

 MB_5X5_cvr

 “Piedmont, finger-picking, slide…normally people specialize, but Michael mastered it all,” explains Sarles, whose Ravin Films specializes in music documentary (Soulsville, Coldplay LIVE! At The Fillmore) “He could play like T-Bone Walker, he could play like Albert King, he knew what to do with his fingers, how to handle strings, all the minutiae of technique, he knew it all, and he still put his signature on it.”

 A Bloomfield fan since way back, Sarles initially gravitated to the guitarist’s supersonic electric feedback assaults and fearless psychedelic improvisations, but he eventually grew to understand and appreciate the deep ways Bloomfield impacted rock ’n’ roll. It’s the latter story he attempts to unreel in Sweet Blues with the help of some rare audio and visual footage that underscores just how far Bloomfield got into his blues. “He had ambitions of bettering himself, of learning more about music,” says Sarles. “But in terms of accumulating material wealth or becoming famous, he had no interest in that at all.” It’s possible Bloomfield could’ve been a bigger star had he not walked away from its trappings; but there were also darker forces at work that conspired to bring him down.

 Born in Chicago in 1943, and raised in suburban, well-to-do Glencoe, Bloomfield took up guitar despite assumptions that a good Jewish son would follow his father into the family’s lucrative restaurant supply business. Driven in part by his father’s hatred of the guitar and his insistence on calling it a “fruitbox,” Michael became a blues musician. “That’s where he found his solace,” remembers his mother, Dottie. As a lefty who played right-handed, it took Bloomfield extra hours of arduous practice to play properly. Further educating himself in style and technique, Bloomfield stole away from the family home and burrowed his way into Chicago’s Southside blues scene.  He sought out the players and even the homes of the local blues greats — Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King, Washboard Sam, Kokomo Arnold, Tommy McClennan — until Muddy Waters would come to refer to him as his “son.”  Eventually Bloomfield landed his first recording date: Broke and Hungry by Sleepy John Estes, with the Tennessee Jug Busters: Yank Rachell and Hammie Nixon (Rachell remembers him as “a nice young white boy”).

 Bloomfield was a voracious reader and a talker; he never slowed down and suffered from perpetual insomnia. His young white Chicago blues contemporary, Charlie Musselwhite, characterized it as his energy for the music and for life: “He wanted to just eat it all up.” Musselwhite says sometimes he couldn’t tell if Bloomfield’s tales were tall or the truth, (“He told both equally well”); naturally he was skeptical when Bloomfield told him about a contract with Columbia and upcoming session with John Hammond, but he showed up with his harps anyway (Musselwhite went on to international fame as an electric blues harmonica player; he and Ben Harper won this year’s Grammy for Best Blues Album for their collaboration, Get Up!).

 The Columbia sessions ultimately went unreleased for many years, (a few selections are included on the new collection), but Bloomfield forged a career by joining Paul Butterfield’s band. Signed to Elektra and playing a high-octane form of Chicago Blues, Butterfield, Bloomfield, Mark Naftalin, Elvin Bishop, Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay, as the Butterfield Blues Band, were among the first interracial groups on the rock scene. Acquainted with Dylan, it wasn’t long before Bloomfield received the call to prepare and play on the session for Highway 61 Revisited.

M_Bloomfield_5 crop

Pulled in to perform at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for the famous electric set, Bloomfield’s contribution was key to that performance, though he was ultimately happier staying on with Butterfield — with whom he was often at odds. Yet, the Butterfield Band went on to break further ground with projects like East/West: Influenced by LSD, Indian classical music and free jazz, its title track is widely acknowledged by music historians for introducing the concept of the extended jam into rock.

 Naftalin and Bishop recall their band’s transition from tough Chicago blues act to becoming fixtures on the San Francisco psychedelic scene. “We took right to it,” says Bishop. “They took the town by storm,” remembered Bill Graham, the larger-than-life rock promoter who along with promoter Chet Helms explain how Bloomfield influenced local bookings and tastes in elder blues and gospel players, from the Staple Singers to Howlin’ Wolf. Sarles was lucky to have been so long collecting footage of Bloomfield’s friends, loved ones and fellow musicians — those who knew his playing styles and personal quirks the best — since many, like Graham and Helms, have since passed. But perhaps most interesting of all the words spoken in the film are Bloomfield’s own, his lust for the blues crackling through the tape. Bloomfield’s longstanding association with the San Francisco scene influenced the style of many of its key players, from the aforementioned Santana, to members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. The Airplane’s (and later Hot Tuna’s) Jorma Kaukonen says, “He was one of the first guys that took some time and showed me to do stuff…how to bend notes and sustain things…he was really instrumental in getting me to be an electric guitar player.”

Though the San Francisco sound was loose by comparison to Chicago standards (Santana called it “cute” versus the “gutbucket switchblade music” of Bloomfield and Co.) and Bloomfield agreed with the assessment, he loved the people and easily fell in with them. Settling across the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, he formed the Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites, Buddy Miles, Barry Goldberg, Harvey Brooks and a horn section. Bloomfield and Electric Flag performed at yet another watershed festival — Monterey Pop — and produced some great traditional blues (as on “Texas”) and experimental soul, but Bloomfield really only supplied precious seconds of screaming leads and the sweet blues (as on “Easy Rider”). As time went on, it was revealed that Bloomfield wasn’t very prolific as a composer of original material; Electric Flag was a mixed bag but largely unsatisfactory. A push-pull with Buddy Miles and merely adequate vocalizing by Gravenites made the act a cross between a derivative show band and one that had yet to find its groove. Again, touring didn’t suit Bloomfield so he quit them. By the time the call came from Kooper for a collaboration, Bloomfield was resistant, but the guitarist gave himself over to one night of recording Super Session (Stephen Stills recorded his contribution the next day) and the follow-up onstage testament, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

 Kooper provides many of the film’s more poignant recollections of his friend. The pair’s professional bonding occurred at the epic recording session for Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited; as it turned out, they shared an extraordinary musical kinship. Both saw Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers on their 15th birthdays; they called each other by their birth names Alan and Michael “because that’s who we felt we were addressing,” writes Kooper in the liner notes he prepared while collecting the tracks for From His Head To His Heart To His Hands. He pulled just a few selections from Super Sessions, as well its follow-up The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and Fillmore East:  The Lost Concert Tapes, plus a rare, previously unreleased live recording of “Glamour Girl,” from a 1978 appearance at New York’s Bottom Line.

 Just as they were making plans for another collaboration, Bloomfield died on February 15, 1981. “Michael’s accidental premature ascent to the heavens hit me hard especially as I was notified by reading about it in the newspaper,” writes Kooper. Filmmaker Sarles chose not to dwell on the sordid and still somewhat mysterious circumstances of Bloomfield’s death on a San Francisco hilltop, an unsurprising end given how he’d been living: he’d found the only way to quell his undiagnosed manic energy and lifelong insomnia was heroin. “And he died young because of it,” says Sarles.

 “Michael had isolated himself and people isolated themselves from Michael because it was such a downward spiral, it was dangerous to be around. I could’ve told that story more explicitly, but in the hour long format, I didn’t see the point of it,” says the director. “If Errol Morris had made the film, the mystery might be solved, but for me, it was just like a sad epilogue. I wanted to point the way toward a guy who was really brilliant and whose music deserves to be listened to and appreciated; his impact on what happened in the history of music in the second part of the 20th Century was enormous. To me, that was much more important than the way he died.”

 For now the only way to see Sarles’ film is through purchase and download of the Columbia/Legacy box set, though it will continue to screen at festivals; it debuted in 2013 in Bloomfield’s adopted hometown, at the Mill Valley Film Festival.  Sarles hopes the film will pique the attention of an investor who may want to fund a feature-length documentary about the guitar player who friends and peers characterize as “brilliant,” and a “genius,” even if he hasn’t been as well-remembered as some other fretboard masters. Though Bloomfield also left another legacy: “He was very kind,” remembers Santana.  “He was a good person,” adds Musselwhite. “He was a loving, caring person…a good friend of mine,” says B.B. King.

 Though it might not be what makes a guitarist a legend, among men, Bloomfield was quite a guy.

 Film cover

Photos: Mike Shea, Don Hunstein

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Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep on Pushing, Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop and Shaman’s Blues: The Art and Influences Behind Jim Morrison and the Doors.

VINYL SOLUTION (PT. 1): Blurt’s Roundup of the Latest Indie Rock LPs

VINYL SOLUTION (PT.1) - Blurt's Roundup of the Latest Indie Rock LPs

Take one 180-gram platter and call your doctor in the morning…

 BY FRED MILLS

 You say you want a revolution? John and Paul may have intoned that line nearly a half century ago, but when we are talking vinyl, it’s happening right here. Wax is back, and that’s a fact, jack.

 In fact, you’ve already thrilled to BLURT blogger Tim Hinely’s recurring roundup of indie 45s, “Singles Scene” (go here for his latest column). You’ve salivated over contributing editor A.D. Amorosi’s “Plastic Fantastic” series on high-profile vinyl reissues (go here). And since we are receiving 12-inch albums more and more frequently as promos—many of them limited editions or featuring unique qualities such as colored vinyl—it seems appropriate to additionally spotlight some of the more deserving releases. Most of these you won’t find at Amazon.com and certainly not at big box retailers. You’ll have to track ‘em down at an independent record store—so support your local indie, goddammit! Happy hunting, punters… and bands, you can find the BLURT editorial address (where to send your promo platters for review consideration, natch) on this website’s masthead. Just click the “contact” button at the top of the page.

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Velvet vinyl

VELVET UNDERGROUNDVelvet Underground (Sundazed)

www.sundazed.com

     A sticker on the outer shrink wrap of this reissue loudly trumpets, “A Desert Island Disc!” Which may be a slight exaggeration; ask most Velvet Underground acolytes and they’re more likely to award that distinction to The Velvet Underground and Nico or White Light/White Heat, particularly in light of the fact that Velvet Underground, originally issued in 1970 as part of the MGM label’s “Golden Archive Series” of compilations of several of its key artists (MGM oversaw Verve, which released those first two VU LPs). Too, you’d be forgiven for not even being aware of the existence of Velvet Underground unless you are a serious Velvets collector, for while it probably sold well enough in its time (enjoying multiple releases, in fact) and can be spotted on a regular basis at record fairs and eBay listings, it rarely crops up in discussions about the band or in back catalog overviews since it’s a highly selective and limited-in-scope collection that neither adds to the group’s canon nor touches upon fully half of the ensemble’s original output.

     All that aside, as evidenced by this beautiful-sounding 180-gram platter – it’s also on CD, but the analog sonics are so warm you’d be foolish not to spring for the vinyl—the early Velvets were first and foremost a song-oriented rock band. It boasts an intriguing tracklist that sequences the beautifully poppy “Candy Says” next to the serene, dreamy “Sunday Morning”; the starkly droning “Heroin” beside archetypal VU choogler “Beginning to See the Light”; and the violently throbbing “White Light White Heat” just before the luminous, ethereal “Jesus.” And with these contrasting musical notions highlighting the group’s early oeuvre, not to mention the original LP’s compilers making selections that are nothing if not curious, focusing on the oddly gospellish likes of “I’m Set Free” and throwaway tune “Afterhours” at the expense of several far better known tunes, Velvet Underground emerges less as a catalog-exploiting curio than it might have once been deemed and, instead, a genuine alternate look at the group.

     As liner notesman David Fricke astutely observes, it “now plays like a set of greatest hits by a band that made them ahead of schedule, before the rest of the world was ready.”

Bremen Riot 11-12

THE BREMEN RIOTPM Magazine (self-released)

www.thebremenriot.com

     It’s no secret that here at BLURT we love Austin, and a slew of the Lone Star city’s bands definitely pass the smell test for us as well. Here’s another good ‘un: The Bremen Riot, which is a summit between Grand Champeen’s Channing Lewis (guitar/vocals), Alex Livingstone (bass/vocals), Michael Crow (guitar/vocals) and Ned Stewart (drums) and Minneapolis ex-pat Mike Nicolai, who’s been making the nature scene in Austin since the mid ‘90s, issuing a slew of records under his own name. With Nicolai’s assured, Ray Davies-like vocals at the fore, the band chugs lustily across a set of infectious power pop and high-energy garage/punk; images of vintage Rockpile and The Jam surface alongside the obvious Kinks connection, but the sound is still defiantly original.

     Standout tracks include the galloping “Keep Your Head,” with its chorus echoes of the Beatles’ “She Loves You”; the Ramones-like “Ruthless” (wait for the raveup guitar solo, however); and the darkly brooding “How’s Your Lunch?” which is guaranteed to send sonic shivers down your spine. Pressed on pristine 180-gram vinyl, natch. Ladies and gents, meet The Bremen Riot, and book the next flight to Austin, pronto.

 Cyrillic Typewriter 9-25

THE CYRILLIC TYPEWRITERCustodian (Jaz)

www.jazrecords.com

     Knowing that The Cyrillic Typewriter is a nom du composer of Jason Zumpano, who has pitched his pop tent previously with Destroyer, Sparrow, Loscil and of course Zumpano, doesn’t fully prepare you for this “score for an unreleased horror film” (as the press sheet calls Custodian). Ornate yet moody, synth heavy but dotted with strings, horns and percussion, it does indeed convey cinematic unease a la some of John Carpenter’s soundtracks or Edgar Froese’s non-Tangerine Dream excursions into film scores. Recurring sonic motifs abound; cursory track titles act as de facto cues, e.g. “Doorway,” “Faces,” “Hands,” etc. There’s also “Lament” parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Overall, Zumpano achieves his stated goal to suggest “a Heart Of Darkness narrative of doomed exploration and dreaded discovery.”

     Pressed on 180-gram vinyl and including a 10” x 10” felt weave print tucked inside the sleeve, Custodian comes in a limited edition of 160, so better act fast.

National Wake 10-8

NATIONAL WAKEWalk In Africa 1979-81 (Light In The Attic)

www.lightintheattic.net

     Once again, the astute archivists at Light In The Attic pluck another artist from undeserved obscurity—although sadly, unlike some of the label’s projects (Rodriguez comes to mind), the likelihood of a physical revival are slim as two of the musicians have passed away. National Wake formed in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising of 1976, South African students additionally inspired by the international punk movement, and a bi-racial combo to boot, which in the apartheid era wasn’t exactly given the blessings of the government. Indeed, the members of National Wake, as part of a Johannesburg commune, regularly attracted the scrutiny of the police, oftentimes even having their concerts cancelled. This only served to galvanize them further and provide songwriting fodder.

     As a result they penned meaty anthems such as the Clash-like “International News,” the reggae-drenched title track, blazing garage-rocker “Mercenaries” and the lilting Caribbean pop of “Corner House Stone,” all politically charged and purposeful. Their lone album National Wake saw release in 1981 and even got issued in the UK where deejay John Peel gave his blessings, but ultimately the band couldn’t sustain itself in the face of the constant myriad pressures.

     Light In The Attic has compiled all the key recordings here, several of them previously unreleased, as a double LP (180-gram vinyl) in a tip-on deluxe gatefold sleeve, plus a handsome, photo-packed 20-page booklet detailing the entire story. Essential listening for any serious student of punk—or the history of South Africa and apartheid.

Qutttinirpaaq vinyl

QUTTINIRPAAQ Let’s Hang Out (Rural Isolation Project)

www.quttinirpaaq.bandcamp.com; Quttinirpaaq@gmail.com

     No, not an artifact from the Canadian national park of the same name, but rather an obscure group of Austin-based noiseniks (hey, we dig Austin!) who channel the spirits of the Butthole Surfers, Chrome and Einstürzende Neubauten. Call it industrial space-skronk, with cortex-bruising “tunes” like the distorted, droning, sludgy “Diary of a Pig Keeper’s Wife,” the whirling, pleasurably repetitive “Stork” and pounding psychedelic jam “Vamos A Martar Santana.” (Yes, this is a band that sketches out its song titles in between bong hits, as evidenced by the preceding along with “Cop Boner,” “Man Without a Body” and “A Secret History of Belgian Dog Owners.”) Feedback, distortion, heavily phased electronics and random stereo panning, plus gargantuan drumming and barely-audible vocals are the order of the day here, which invariably means Quttinirpaaq would be more of a live “experience” to behold than chilling out back at the crib with the stereo cranked to 9 ½. But don’t let that dissuade you.

     Let’s Hang Out is the group’s second release in less than a year; No Visitors appeared back in June. And while there’s not a whole lot of info out there on Quttinirpaaq (much less instructions on how to pronounce the name), either. Still, with a keen ear for the musically transgressive and an even keener eye for the record collector – the limited-to-300-copies LP is pressed on clear vinyl with blood-red splatters throughout – the band has got yours truly’s vote for a must-own left-field delight.

Connections vinyl

CONNECTIONS Body Language (Anyway)

www.anyway-records.com

     Columbus, OH, combo straddling the post-punk and power pop camps with effortless aplomb, Connections manages to be edgy and serene at the same time. That’s no mean feat; most bands excel at one or the other, and come off too studied or stiff when they stray too far afield from their chosen aesthetic. Not this band, which includes musicians from Times New Viking, 84 Nash and El Jesus de Magico. From rough ‘n’ ready rocking opener “Aimless” and gnarly, ‘mats-styled punk romp “Girl’s Night Out” to clanging, anthemic “Summer Creeps” (which very nearly out-Pollards neighbors Guided By Voices) and glorious closing number “Florida, Vegas, Tahoe,” which sounds like a long-lost outtake from Who Sell Out, Connections manage to make the, er, connections between classic styles and artists and their own shared experiences, making for an utterly enjoyable and believable roller coaster ride.

     And guess what? When you get off the ride, you get gifted with a beautiful bright red vinyl LP. Sweet!

Living Serious 11-4

LIVING SERIOUSI Can Fight This Feeling 12” EP (Omad)

www.omad-records.com

     Though their appearance – choppy cuts, unkempt shave jobs, mis-matched attire – suggests an overly studious attempt at coming across as unkempt, the four gents of Living Serious belie any notions of NYC hipsterdom by sheer force of their musicality. With songwriter par excellence John DeNicola handling production, Living Serious serves up a 7-pak of youth and young manhood – most notably the impossibly catchy title track, which bounces like vintage XTC as filtered through the guitar fever dreams of Johnny Marr. The group’s poppy take on post-punk is pristine: check the serene, jangly throb of “Put Yourself Out There,” or adrenaline rush romp of “The One You Think It Is,” and then dare yourself not to pogo across the living room as the record spins.

     Yes, spins. In another nice twist, the 12” platter is pressed at 45rpm rather than 33, which isn’t particularly necessary but certainly adds to whatever fidelity one might be seeking. (For those not in the know, the sonics at 45 are greater than at 33.) Housed in a tip-on sleeve, it’s limited to 100 copies initially. Just another feather in these anti-hipster hipsters’ collective hat-brim, eh?

Warpaint vinyl

WARPAINTWarpaint (Rough Trade)

www.roughtraderecords.com

     The L.A. dreampop band is getting solid notices across the board for its second full-length. Our own Dr. Toland called Warpaint “an atmospheric take on the group’s patented groove rock… Arrangements seemingly arrive on a breeze, rather than through a combination of instruments, while Emily Kokal’s voice floats above, between and through the ripples like a curious ghost. Electronic sounds dominate, despite the two-guitars/bass/drums format.” Elsewhere, in Atlanta zine Stomp & Stammer yours truly enthused, “The band’s new Flood-produced/Nigel Godrich-mixed sophomore platter sustaining and extending its dreamlike grip upon the senses like precious few I’ve encountered of late. Warpaint manages to be simultaneously wraithlike and vividly present in the most sensual way. Kinda like a dream, in fact, the type that stays with you and leaves you feeling haunted for hours, maybe days, on end.”

     Equally noteworthy, if wax is your thing – and since you’re reading this feature, it clearly must be – then definitely spring for the limited edition 2LP of Warpaint. It comes pressed on brilliant blood-red vinyl, the group’s triangle logo etched on side 4. Amen.

 Turchi vinyl

TURCHI My Time Ain’t Now 10” EP (Devil Down)

www.devildownrecords.com

     Hailed as the “kings of kudzu boogie” in their hometown of Asheville, NC, Turchi may not yet be musical royalty, but as far as the second part of that musical equation goes, the inherent Southern sonic serendipity evinced throughout this 5-song 10”-er is profound indeed. Minimalist odes (the Lou Reed-esque “Any Other Way”) bump up against straight-up north Mississippi jukejoint blooze (“My Time Ain’t Now”) and spooky, ghostly trance grooves (a cover of Josh Ritter’s great “Mind’s Eye,” which features some killer slide-git licks). Dig it, bruthas and sistahs of the cotton.

     The band trundled down the mountains and over to Memphis to record this vinyl platter at Ardent Studios, but nothing was lost in the translation. As with another regional fave of yours truly (Pierce Edens & The Dirty Work, reviewed here), the roots wrangling here makes for some fine inspiration, be it meditation or simply hard drinking. It’s up to you. Consumer note: Initial copies of the 10” record come on sweet clear vinyl!

Roxy Swain vinyl

ROXY SWAINRestless Hearts (Spade Kitty)

www.spadekitty.com

     Fronted by the big-throated, touch-o-country-but-pop-tilting namesake singer who brings to mind, at various points Neko Case, Jenny Lewis and Bettie Serveert’s Carol Van Dyk, Chicago’s Roxy Swain (the band) hit the musical sweet spot so many times on its sophomore platter that you’d swear Roxy Swain (the aforementioned frontwoman) has been peeking in your window, staring at your record shelves, looking for clues as to how she might seduce you. That she does, on such gems as the yearning, tremolo-guitar-and-synth-laced “Impossible Wait,” the insistently twangy/jangly “Tonight” (which, we are advised, is a love letter to Big Star; the tune holds its own), and the deep blue, spookysexycool “Salt and Smoke,” a vocal tour de force for Swain that additionally allows her band to flex its instro muscles as if they were a Stax or Muscle Shoals house band backing up a visiting soul superstar.

     You want spookysexycool? Check the orange wax for this LP, what with its sneaky white (as in, “smoky”… make that, “smokysexycool”) swirls pressed within. It’s vinyl collector catnip.