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.

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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.

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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)

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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?!)

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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!