Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Give 'em yer money!

Hullo there. Still listening to Pile's A Hairshirt of Purpose but digging into a few other things that will pop up around these parts shortly. In the meantime, the Hype Machine folks have begun to ask for money, and sure, there are certainly more worthwhile causes to donate to -- yes, please donate to animal sanctuaries and programs to keep people afloat and temporary housing to accommodate the city with the worst homelessness rate, and for fuck's sake, give all you can to the family of Sonny Vincent. (Really, truly -- his family suffered a terrible fire and have a never-ending pile of medical bills to deal with, as well as a long list of surgeries still ahead.) But if you've put in your share and happen to have something like $3 left at the end of the month, consider putting in a donation to the Hype Machine.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies joined the Hype Machine nearly a decade ago; if you're not familiar, it collects the music posted by all of its registered blogs, and plops them down in one handy place for free streaming. As a member, you can save your favorite songs to a playlist, follow other members, and search for artists by name. It's free to use! Moreover, it's a great equalizer and doesn't give a damn whether your site is a one-man blog or a proper website with a full staff and a huge following; every site that posts music receives equal space for its posts to be seen. It allows you to discover new music, and to discover new blogs that feature music you enjoy, and it's been a damn godsend in providing a place for music discovery. Donate if you can. Clicky click click.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

When Pile came around

It took a while but the opportunity to see Pile in Los Angeles finally popped up a little over a week ago, which is quite lucky, as west coast visits don't generally happen. The group is made up of individually skilled musicians, including brilliant drummer Kris Kuss, perhaps the band's secret weapon, though what really stood out was the facial range of frontman Rick Maguire, who bore the terrified, deadpan grimace of Alan Huck and left little room to interact until the show was nearly over and he suddenly realized that it'd perhaps be the right thing to say a few words. On record, Maguire's voice projects a great deal of self-loathing, but when watching him, it becomes apparent that his voice simply projects -- flawlessly, effortlessly, out loud, with precise intent -- and it seems like a special treat to see him occasionally share a smile from the side of his face.

A Hairshirt of Purpose might be the easiest Pile album to latch onto thus far, and there are all sorts of marvelous details scattered throughout: the way the guitar riff on "Worms" mimics that on "Texas," the dour lines ("Not happy/not in love/but let's have a baby to save the marriage that we made up" and "So play in traffic/and have a kid/may every good deed be in self-interest" off "Leaning on a Wheel" are standouts). Rhyming "pathetic" with "eremitic," which is something only Fiona Apple could've pulled off up to now. And as has become standard with Pile, it contains no filler whatsoever, with nearly each song on the record being that song, the highlight you come to anticipate. In other cases, it'd be ridiculous to declare this one of the best records of the year, so early on, but there's no doubting that this one will be near the top of the list come December.





Just buy it all. There's not a bad one in the bunch.

Friday, April 28, 2017

This stuff's made in Kansas City. Kansas City?

Today we celebrate Kansas City, Missouri, with something oldish and something newish. To start, Warm Bodies, a group who remind a bit of what the Peppermints once were, what with the squeaks and the squawks and the quick noise, but whose frontlady wears ultra-normal garb like shorts and overalls on stage as though she were a member of Mika Miko (also circa ten years ago).





------

We're also checking out a remaster of a 1979 release from Ric Gordon, who has released a variety of albums under his own Russian Winter Records, and had this to say:

"It's Ric from Russian Winter Records. We moved the label into a new home last month and I'm am excited to say we found a box of 50 original vinyl copies of my 1979 debut EP, Just Can't Get Enough, on the label shelves. So, we're re-releasing it, remastered in digital & CD format, plus making the 50 original vinyl copies available as well."

In the 38 years since recording this power pop record (I'm reluctant to call it punk or compare it to the Misfits, as he does, though it does have a touch of Voidoids to it), he's yet to settle on a sound, and this is apparent in the variety among his label, which includes synths and an album born out of busking, and a live recording of a "private concert for a very special lady." Have I mentioned that he also paints? But Just Can't Get Enough is a nice poppy gem to have dug up, and it's refreshing to be able to refer to Missouri. Maybe someone can tell this guy the Ric Gordon Band actually did exist?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RIXE

Perhaps it's the Jew in me (and yes, it's taking up quite a lot of space in there), but whenever I hear something this aggro, I always hope the performers and their name are all for show and otherwise give genuine hugs and handshakes in real life. Upping the anxiety factor with a band like Rixe is that without knowing French, you've got no way of knowing whether they're uniformly shouty over their dinner being cold or whether they're on a mission to get some heads on sticks. This is the age of the smartphone, sure, when the entire developed world is passive and drowsy and has its collective head down, but one can never be too wary of a skinhead post-1980.

That out of the way, Rixe popped up in 2015, another marvelous example of Europe outdoing the U.S. in pure passion, and the French Oi! group has just released its third EP in three consecutive years. What they do well is walk the fine line of a genre that has plenty of potential to sound dated, instead injecting enough anger and urgency and (somehow) restraint that, thankfully, this doesn't sound straight off a Punk-O-Rama compilation. And maybe it is for show, but it packs a hell of a punch.



From 2016's Les Nerfs A Vif:



Saturday, April 15, 2017

In love all over again: Peter Perrett

The really great songwriters are usually the ones who die off early, and somehow, it's the junkies who tend to be some of the very best, smartest and funniest writers, with fantastic taste in music and literature (possibly best summed up in the final paragraph of this piece). Peter Perrett certainly and perhaps unfortunately fell into this category for many years, and he's a longtime favorite songwriter of mine, largely for his uncomfortable and beautiful and all-too-realistic takes on love and infatuation.

All things considered, then, what with the hepatitis and the drugs and the COPD and the gaunt Ronnie Wood face, he probably should have died a thousand times during the last forty years. But he's well alive, and he lets his wife run his Facebook page, which includes poorly shot photos of each other and tributes to Fidel Castro, sort of adorable. And now he's making a return, in collaboration with his sons, which actually appears promising. This is the album opener:



The modern day pop culture references are a bit strange and might date this first single in time, but musically it's a really lovely hark back to "If Not for You," and it's lyrically biting, and I'm tickled to say that Peter's voice has hardly changed a bit. Domino is releasing this solo record of the same title in June.

Monday, April 10, 2017

If they were any colder they'd be dead

Last year, Oakland's Marbled Eye put out an EP of sleepy, deadpan post-punk resembling the work of a few artists here and there, albeit a well-done example of how to be simultaneously retro and relevant without taking part in or ripping off the Castle Face scene. Though its cover art did look like a more minimalist version of something from the past, didn't it?



Anyway, Marbled Eye put out another EP just last month on Erste Theke Tontraeger (home to this gem) and it's a bit more of the same, though more of the same means angular guitar and bass, bare-bones drumming that drives each song forward, icy post-punk to counter the indulgent more-means-more glamorous pop trends that have permeated the music world over the last few years. When you're uncomfortable dancing and you want something you can stiffly sort of dance to, more of this is a godsend.



Purchase EP II. And if you're a musician looking for a studio, hire their bass player, who produced the first Marbled Eye release.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Everybody, making a return

In as much time as it took for Aldous Harding to promote her 2014 record and go nuts making tour appearances in the U.S., she's already gotten a new record set up with 4AD. And lucky her, it was recorded with John Parish, who is a brilliant complement to nearly anyone, really. Party will be out in May, and she's gone a bit chic, but its first single is just as beautiful as anything she's previously released. She still sings with guts, and though she's been on a constant tour and has already been in the U.S. twice during the last six months, she'll be returning in June.



(This will also be on the record.)



Full circle to an act that was once on 4AD: Celebration. Years ago, Celebration embodied their own name, putting a sound to the face of Mardi Gras, Carnival, Holi, anything with color and movement and vitality. In June, ten years later, they have a new record, their fifth, which will be arriving on Bella Union in June, and they've shared one of its tracks, which is decidedly less chaotic than the music they used to release. But it's lovely to see them still being the people and doing the thing, and they still go big, which is the most important thing one could ask of them.



Beans returns! At 45 he is still humorous and creative, at times thrilling, even, and he recently did a funny little interview with PopMatters to mark the simultaneous release of three albums and a book. He walks the line between novelty and not, and though he definitely could have filtered out some of these three albums to make two, it might be more accurate (and would lend him more appropriate credit) to say that he's a regular ol' dude who just loves Batman and sweet, sweet love.





Purchase Wolves of the World.
Purchase Love Me Tonight.
Purchase Haast.
Purchase all three of his new records as a bundle and get a free copy of his book, Die Tonight.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I just can't quit you (this week, anyway)

Hey! Girlpool was signed to Anti- and they're now using drums and this video was filmed in Echo Park and features the mouthy chick from French Vanilla as the other ginger. Can't help but be reminded of the time Patrice O'Neal said that white people love feeling bad.



This man-trio from Cardiff called Disjoy played their first gig with the excellent Diät about one year ago, since un-becoming Luvv, and made a record in the last few months which is meant to see the light of day any moment now. This is the best impression of Killing Joke you might ever run across, and that's meant as a compliment.



Here's the first song off the second record by Alex Napping, which comes out in May. They are a-okay with turtlenecks and are the not-exactly-solo project of Alex Cohen, who made this thing last summer and recently left Austin.



Neville Staple's not dying!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

HVNG GRT FN N SWDN

Received two spring-appropriate submissions from Sweden's PNKSLM (Punk Slime) Records; the first is just about a perfect sequel to the Concretes, and to an extent, Up Against the Legends, about half a generation later, called Hater. The Malmö band only formed a year ago, and singer Caroline Landahl sings with a casual, reluctant quality that one might use if she weren't quite used to being center stage. There's a bit of Victoria Bergsman in her, and possibly a touch of Harriet Wheeler as well. Perhaps this is imagined, but it always seems to be the case with Swedish pop bands that there's a limit to how much cheer they're capable of, and there's a certain cloud over this full-length debut, which is lovely and otherwise boasts a breadth of energy and emotion.



Purchase You Tried, and give last year's Radius a go.

------

And then there is ShitKid, 24-year old Åsa Söderqvist, whose "Sugar Town" is not a cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic but musically something of an update on the Budget Girls, and--Jesus Christ, she would have been a great fit for Damaged Goods twenty years ago. Would almost conclude that the above theory about melancholy Swedes has already been disproven, except she's been photographed in a trench coat. 



Purchase EP 2.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Warping and bending

Years after he put out this fantastic record as Olivier Daysoul, Olivier St. Louis has put out a stunning new EP, and in the span of two songs he jumps from smoothly singing, "The way you wear them heels make a grown man cry" to a kitschy piece that harks back to '70s funk. He's also got quite the impressive/ridiculous/ambitious beard! He'll be at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles this May, with Oddisee (who produced that great 2010 record of his).



Purchase Ever Since the Fall
------

Received a beautiful submission from Richmond, Virginia, called Vivian Fantasy, a lo-fi dream pop act and the musical alter ego of Danny Bozella. Serial Experiments 1: Pink Witch bends all over the place, and within it, you might hear everything from finger-tapping to jingling bells to the warping of cassette tape. It even sounds pink. Vivian Fantasy, meet your new best friends, Los Angeles' Winter and Chicago's Warik.



Purchase Serial Experiments 1: Pink Witch

------

The newest EP from Boston's Free Pizza came out last summer but is worth a mention, particularly as they've just made a video for "Slipping." Berlin, DE is miles better than 2014's Boston, MA, and a step in a more focused direction. It might build nostalgia for a pre-internet world, when lyrics might have been wacky and goofy but totally without irony or with a naive sort of humor, much in the way Jonathan Richman is goofy but completely pure, or the way a foreign-born songwriter might approach lyrics with the limited vocabulary to sing only what is absolutely intended. Nothing here is overdone, nothing.

"Maybe if I didn't care/maybe if I went upstairs/this water would fucking boil/but I sit here staring at the fire/'cause there's nothing I would rather see/than this water already boiling."



Purchase Berlin, DE

Monday, February 27, 2017

Under perfect control...Exploded View

While I might have spent years previous allowing a range of emotions to dictate my listening choices, I find myself craving, in 2017, nothing but music that is aggressively passionate. I want something that sounds dangerous and keeps me on my toes and makes me want to cry out with whomever is playing the means to the message, and so I've essentially spent the last two months listening nonstop to Iceage and Nina Simone.

Seeing as Marching Church's Telling It Like It Is made for a natural follow-up to Iceage's Plowing Into the Field of Love, it fit the criteria for early 2017 quite nicely, and of course led me down a spiral of records under Sacred Bones. Which is how we came to Exploded View, on six months' delay after the release of their excellent debut.

To an extent, Exploded View is dangerous the way Portishead was dangerous -- which makes sense, given the involvement of Geoff Barrow on Anika's solo record from 2010, and the lasting influence he may have had. You might hear all sorts of influences on this album, from the obvious Portishead recall on opener "Lost Illusions" to, strangely, Suburban Lawns on spooky surf number "Disco Glove." Anika's head voice isn't unlike that of Su Tissue at her most focused, only the music behind her is cold, spacey, at times militant, and quintessentially German.

She's backed by a great group of Mexico City-based producers, including Martin Thulin, who recorded the last Crocodiles record shortly after Exploded View. Had Broadcast not already had a run, it might be an accurate guess to say that any of their kitschy, mod, fantastic records could have been the next step beyond this icy debut from Exploded View.



Monday, February 20, 2017

She's yours, she's yours!

I've no doubt that Molly Burch is earning comparisons to all the others: Angel Olson, Zooey Deschanel within the bounds of She & Him, La Sera's Katy Goodman, or any other adorable, quirky, retro, sweetly singing millennial who apparently has enviable bangs, an accompanying guitar in hand (whether her own or someone else's), and is followed by a rainbow of reverb. We're still only a few years past the girl group trend, and this shift toward the solo act was a natural next step.

The obvious now stated, Burch sings the way women sing in Los Angeles at present, and Please Be Mine is the type of adorable, quirky, retro almost-country album about heartbreak that could only be made by someone who has spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles. But this isn't an irritating collection of same-old as characterized by the adjectives above; Burch's voice is at its best when it shows guts, has a bit of ballsiness to it, and it'd be nice to hear this coming out of everyone in that group, the others. And for this, she has a versatility that could one day see her sharing similarities with anyone from Aldous Harding to Courtney Barnett. Please Be Mine is an easy record to listen to, but there are so many directions for her to turn from here, and I'll be eagerly watching.




Friday, February 17, 2017

Taking a break from the same ole

How often does the drummer come out from behind his or her kit? Oh. Yes, well. Looking forward to the second album by drummer/producer Karriem Riggins, set for February 24. These are some spiffy instrumentals to start with.





In November, Greg Grease of ZULUZULUU put out a gorgeous EP that's soothing, heavy on bass, and lyrically relevant, if not heartbreaking. This is understanding freedom.

"I ain't trying to stay broke in the cycle/We just wanna live free and die old"


"Will I make it to the morning/am I still breathing/or lose my life for petty tickets/
I was only speeding"


Last year's mF deM was a free collection of MF DOOM tracks borrowed by deM atlaS (Christ, remember when the token crazy girl in junior high used to type in alternating upper- and lower-case letters on AIM?) He paired decently, though he's by far the most energetic man on this page, and perhaps the type of guy that Greg Grease is speaking to. Sorry, deM. Last month, deM atlaS put out a new song that has more...chill. And though I admittedly haven't thought about Rhymesayers in something like ten years, he's given reason to reconsider the label and give them another look and listen.



Monday, February 6, 2017

None of them are American

Brazil's Boogarins are one of the better live acts circling about right now, and they'll be in Los Angeles this Friday with fellow Brazilian Samira Winter, whose (local) band Winter is also a marvelous live act. Lots of hair, lots of weed, surely, and if the Bootleg Theater gets it right, lots of lights. If you're nowhere near L.A. or have better things to do, they just put out this assembled live EP and were kind enough to match donations to the ACLU while Bandcamp donated their sales on Friday.





This is an old thing, at least in the context of music, but it's a beautiful old thing. Forever-crush Bry Webb and fellow former Constantine Will Kidman recorded this cover and released it last fall. One day, he'll return to the U.S. One day.



In November, Song, by Toad had the good sense to put out a brief new record by Meursault (Neil Pennycook's Supermoon project may have been short-lived). So here's a song off it. Quite nice. As the label's Matthew Young calls it, it's #not fucking folktronica. Useful tag, as they've essentially eliminated the electronic whatsits several years later. Here's "By Gaslight," which reminds a bit of Clearlake or Doves (remember 2005?).



Well, look at this poor timing. There's already a Meursault full-length LP headed for release later this month. They're getting quite decent at cover art. Here's a piece of that, then.



Sam Wisternoff has made his way through these pages over the last ten years, under the name SJ Esau, and though he's previously made exciting stuff that sounds like no other, he can also boast that he never makes the same record twice, and now he has something a bit more soothing and piano-based, in collaboration, under the name Landslide Purist. Get Your Hopes Down came out in December.



And something from the always-thoughtful Vaadat Charigim, who recorded in Tel Aviv a peek at their next album, expected to arrive this year. If you look closely you'll see Dan Bloch's nod to Froth, courtesy of a past tour stop in Los Angeles.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Tuning in


It's been quiet the last ten days, as we [yes, the royal "we"] have spent our few free hours marching, reading, and writing letters to members of Congress, as well as whoever has the unfortunate task of reviewing correspondence sent via whitehouse.gov. In the span of a single week, the U.S. has been thrown into a state of disarray, and we've already sucked the rest of the world into our messy whirlpool of intolerance and unrest.

Given all there is to be concerned with at present, it seems silly to go on posting music like it's business as usual. But the truth is that we need to be excited about music right now. Art is the ultimate form of free speech; it allows you to speak in protest, to share insight, to educate and encourage further research. It might've been a song that taught you about a part of the world you didn't know existed, explained a part of history that got skipped over in your high school textbook, or addressed a current event head-on in a way that the media couldn't begin to touch. And when a song can't teach you all you need to know in the span of four minutes, it can spark a reaction of urgency and make you eager to read up.

Moreover, art keeps us sane. We need to protest what is not right, and we need to stay informed. But we are nothing without our health, and we cannot build up the energy to speak loudly if we don't shut off the switch now and then, giving ourselves the chance to quietly listen and stimulate that need to speak loudly. The music posted here, this week, next week, next year, will not always be politically relevant, but taking the time to listen to what's here, or elsewhere, is a chance to enjoy what someone else has taken the time to create, and frankly, anyone who contributes to our well-being or creates a product that brings us happiness, or challenges us, is doing their part. Let's shut ourselves off for a few minutes a day to let those creators do their part. And let's continue to buy their work so they can keep creating.

___________


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Slipping into 2017 after the bell's rung

Hey! There's a new Pile record coming! A Hairshirt of Purpose comes out on Exploding in Sound on March 31 and there's going to be a tour this spring and Pile's finally coming to the west coast. Tour dates are on their Bandcamp page, as is a lovely deal to get eight downloads of their releases for $45. Thanks again, Exploding in Sound.



Tenth Court is a label out of Brisbane that's been boasting a small but mighty lineup over the last few years (see: Wireheads), and it's really delightful to see them representing bands like Pious Faults, who have the energy to put out a quick, concise, energetic punk album that keeps it tidy, in the vein of Wire's Pink Flag but with perhaps more blatant masculinity. At fewer than six minutes, one might even be inclined to call this self-titled EP a rip-off at $3 (terrible cents-to-seconds ratio when you can purchase a four-minute song for a dollar in most cases, wink), but it's just such a fun little listen.



Haven't received too many submissions from the Netherlands over the last decade, so ladyband Dakota is a nice start. The Amsterdam-based band might appeal to fans of Feist or Jay Som or Warpaint, and they're being marked as "Cali dream pop" (a rather trite genre if you actually do live in Southern Cali, made more so by the fact that no one who lives here calls it Cali). But the Leda EP gets more and more hazy and dreamy as it goes on, which is just how an album should progress, and these few songs are sung sweetly.



New Cherry Glazerrrrrrrrrr. And there's a humping scene filmed in the bathroom at Two Boots.



Really, though, this video is everything we need this month.






Monday, January 9, 2017

Goal for 2017: More Marching Church


One of the social outcomes of the November general election is the way in which American leftists now criticize and coach ourselves, telling each other in both hindsight and anticipation that we ought to be fighting like conservativesto be the unrelenting, uncompromising, more confrontational versions of ourselves. There's no way of knowing until it happens whether this will result in the U.S. (and surely, the internet) becoming one giant, overwhelming bucket of passion, tearing us in all directions. But by George (!), we'll all have clear cut stances to put out there and fight for. The same might be said of musicians, or any artist, really. You can preach the word if you please, whatever the word is, but be passionate, be convincing and convinced, be mighty.

Marching Church is the more recently active project of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, frontman (or, as Lias Saoudi might call it, posturer) of Copenhagen's Iceage. Marching Church runs parallel to Iceage; it's also drawn comparisons to Nick Cave, and with good reason. As with the transition from Birthday Party to Bad Seeds, this is what happens when a fighting spirit ages out of punk rock and into piano ballads. It's the songs of the Twilight Sad as performed by members of Killing Joke, with tumbling drums, looming violin, and Rønnenfelt's tortured soul up front. Exception being, perhaps, the single "2016," which is what the Waterboys might've become if they'd run with what they were in 1988.



The project has a European fearlessness to it: unafraid to pour out, to not just mimic the style of but embrace the passion of its past musical heroes, to shout the loudest not out of arrogance but out of desperation. American punk doesn't act with this sort of desperation, and perhaps it's never needed to. But that's neither here nor there. Rønnenfelt and his work consistently walk the line between artsy and militant, with urgent force. If this wasn't the most exciting album of 2016, it was certainly one more in a string of thrilling releases led by a commanding presence. Madly in love with this one.




Monday, January 2, 2017

Slurping away at 2016 with a very tiny spoon

Th' good ol' month of January will likely be spent catching up on all the music missed in 2016; when we [certainly, the royal we] were busy spending last year catching old favorites like PJ Harvey and Wreckless Eric and the Cure, or slogging away at proper job, or panicking, we were also busy missing new goodies. So here's part one of a little roundup of fun records and project announcements missed 'round these parts last year.

----------

Vexx - Wild Hunt EP


Wild Hunt begins like Damned Damned Damned and ends like (GI); it's speedy and fun and gory and violent and supports the possibility that great, unmarketable punk albums will be coming out of Olympia -- and shouted out by women -- until the world caves in. Look for the Runaways cover that beats the Runaways at their own game by a long shot.



Purchase Wild Hunt (M'Lady's Records also has a ridiculous number of great reissues for sale, by the way)

----------

Hellrazor - Satan Smile


Hellrazor is a minor super-ish East Coast group that includes Mike Falcone (drummer of Speedy Ortiz) on guitar/vocals, Jon Hartlett (bassist of Ovlov) on drums, and Julian Wahlberg (guitarist of the Screw-Ups) on bass. They have the same essential harkback to grunge that many of their sister acts around New England bear, but the perk that seems to come with having a guitarist as bass player -- think Stranglers here -- is that the bass on this album is so fucking fat. Yes.



Purchase Satan Smile via New Professor Music (based in Los Angeles?!)

----------

And countering some of the current shit of the world is this marvelous project thought up by Waxploitation's awfully well-connected founder Jeff Antebi, a book of stories written by contemporary musicians and accompanied by art. Its sale will benefit several different child literacy nonprofits. But the best part of this project, perhaps, is the choice of narrator in each of its promotional videos. Here are a couple favorites thus far in promotion of Stories for Ways & Means:





Ah jeez, and there are signed prints for sale!