Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Slight Birching - Cultural Envelope (2014)

To reveal my methodology on these write-ups a bit, I generally will give an album an first listen in the evening when I'm too weary to do anything but passively listen. I try not to form much of an opinion the first go around, and save that for a more attentive hearing in the morning, for if thing work out well I'm usually more clearheaded and productive in the cool morning air with my hot coffee at hand. As a matter of routine at this point I get up and pull the headphones over my ears right after putting on my pants, only in the order as I need a pocket for my iPod to rest in.

Now I'd be lying if I said I religious stuck to the intending listening material and never found myself playing Televison's Marquee Moon or Tyrannosaurus Rex's A Beard of Stars for the Nth time. However, every now and again I have an album I'm already so eager to re-listen to that I forgo my usual habit of repeatedly pressing the snooze button and clumsily search for a music player straightaway. The warm folk of Cultural Envelope provoked that sort of energizing awakening for me, in fact I started at the end with the very apopros song "you have nowhere to go" with the lyrics "Wake up, it's morning, the Sun's out, a warning, you have no place to go." Of course, I've a dead end job to go to, but feels like a proper sentiment nonetheless.

The songs done by this Canadian going by Slight Birching have contradictorily contain gloomy realities and optimism, self-improvement along with self-ridicule. All in a wonderfully hazy lo-fi bedroom folk style. They aren't quick, rather at times there's a good bout of silence at the beginning of the tracks, but it is worth waiting for it to get started. Experimental and electronically effected the songs are well-produced compositions even without paying attention to the lyrical content, but I think he's a fine poet on top of it and makes the singing gratifying to analyze. Finally, thanks to my Parisian friend over at With A Messy Head for telling me about this album, you all should know by now to trust that man's unassailable taste.

To be had here:
Slight Birching - Cultural Envelope

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alpha Hopper - Let Heaven and Nature Sing (2014)

Alpha Hopper is the latest in a string of great submissions from Buffalo, NY that includes Brimstone Blondes, Space Wolves, Bill Times A Billion and their own labelmates Fleshy Mounds. The city seems to be producing excellent lo-fi rock like it is their jobs.

I find that a good punk album is one that gets me worked up. Not in a fit or seizures, but excited and causes time to pass swiftly as I enjoy the songs. Alpha Hopper is capable of achieving this, and in large part to the most righteous guitar playing. I cannot get enough of the fast and loud guitar, not that this should shock anyone, I feel like I am always praising guitar playing. However, a song isn't just the one instrument, at least not these songs. There's the whole picture that really makes the whole listening experience pleasurable. Alpha Hopper created an awesome punk sound by infusing enough hardcore, especially in the fast, incomprehensible female-delivered singing and with the loud and rumbling playing of guitar and drums that descends from the punk rock greats of the past like the MC5. Done well enough to feel artful and not any more sloppy than was intended.

Let Heaven and Nature Sing is being issued by More Power Tapes, who has already put out several punk releases. Check out what they've got if you're into the noisy loud sound of Buffalo's punk rock musicians.

To be had here:
Alpha Hopper - Let Heaven and Nature Sing

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sarah Mikovski - Sarah Mikovski (2014)

This is admitted outside the the usual fare on this blog, but not something I think many of the readership will dislike. At least that's my hope in posting it up. I came across this album while putting together the Scenes of a City post of Lyon, France yet it didn't seem to gel with the other music on that post, in fact as I suggested, with most of the lo-fi rock and adjacent genres I normally cover. Nevertheless, it is an album I could not ignore and found myself desiring to hear it has it popped back into my mind even days after writing the Lyon post.

I've got a soft spot of French singing. Partly because my French is so awful I can't understand more than a few words in any given song, and partly for the same reason French is held as a romantic and poetic language in general, at least by those not raised speaking and reading it. It isn't the only language for which I harbor mawkish feelings, but it is the only I have the longest relationship with and the only one I half-assedly tried to learn. There are many adolescent memories listening to Serge Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy, loving the chason pop and the sweetness of yé-yé girls. My wish isn't to conflate Sarah Mikovski with those musicians, but like most truly popular the sounds of have permeated our minds and becomes a point of departure for new music, even if we only impose it there as a listener. Of course, her songs are pop music meant to be sung in French and therefore shares that very board lineage of chason and she does it fabulously.

This self-titled release is only an EP if judged by length, only being about 20 minutes. However, that is if you only hear it once through, which I can't imagine how one would manage that. I didn't even make it past the first song "Au bord de la Seine" without having to put down my book and restart the track. And it isn't the only song get me to do that, I was already repeating reactions with the second tune. Her soulful and swift singing, the eletro-pop beats that recall Stereo Total,  is fascinating to hear, and while it has many trapping of popular music and little of it will be surprising as elements, yet it never that way with pop. The whole song, the meshing of the various influences and borrowed affectations into a fresh auditory experience is all that matters. Sarah Mikovski has masterfully produced this effect and it is addictively good.

To be had here:
Sarah Mikovski - Sarah Mikovski 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bo White - Millennial Tombs (2014)

Bo White is a hell of a songwriter.

He writes piano driven pop rock music, and like "Pop Rock" candy, his music is so sugary sweet that if you drank a soda while listening to it, your head would likely explode right of it's damn stem, covering your walls with syrupy, red goo. Luckily, the end results eschew the candy-corniness that infects most of the mellow cream pop universe... resembling more of a glittering 70's glam pop sound, than the "let me show you how cute and clever I can be" Ben Folds brand of piano pop.

If you're familiar with the Pennsylvania-born glam icon Jobriath, you'll find an immediate reference to Mr. White's sound. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics are a little loud in the mix for me, but it's difficult to not get hooked by all these... hooks. You only need listen to the fantastic first track here, "Golden Ops", to know if Bo White is your bag. His voice may remind you of Tobin Sprout (of Guided By Voices), maybe even Roger Daltry in his more tender moments ...two singers whose work I enjoy quite a bit myself, so again, difficult to not enjoy the fuck out of this release.

5 songs.

Bo White - Millennial Tombs

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ry Smith - REXROTH (2014)

Another album from the guys over at February Records. Ry Smith is a songwriter that was a member of the New York band Eastern Phobes, but has since gone on to make this solo effort. I won't lie, I was worried about listening to it at first as the press release on stated, "self-proclaimed 'record about sadness,' tackling so many of the twists and turns of life." While I do find a gloomy album a fine thing at many times I was worried to sink to deep into that as I've just returned to my natural state of semi-isolation by living alone. However, I was pleasantly surprised, in fact enthused, to find that the mood of the album was more upbeat than one could reasonable hope from that blurb. Like a Beulah or countless other groups I've made reference to Rexroth contains those sneaky melancholy pieces of music that sound sweetly happy while maintaining the depressingly stark lyrics disappointment and hardship. This is all done in with a lovely jaunty organ sound and effected lyrics that reminds me of the band Quasi, only reinforced by the fantastic songwriting talent Ry Smith brings that I think even surpasses Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss, though I am not prepared to fight over it.

The songs are done in a way that takes repeated hearings to get out what they're really about, as the instrumentation with absorb most of the listener's attention for the first couple of go-arounds. But as one keeps at enjoying it they lyrics and the overall mood with set in and shift the album and make it more than something happy and sweet to play in the background and becomes a much more substantial album. There's some excellent storytelling woven into the songs, not that following them closely is necessary or extremely advisable as it is still indie pop and supposed to be enjoyed. I get hundreds of albums sent in every year and I have gotten pretty good at figuring them out on context clues, not that I don't spend a ton of time listening to them anyway, but this one through me for more of the more wonderful loops I've gotten thrown my way lately.

To be had here:
Ry Smith - REXROTH

Thursday, September 25, 2014

EP Grab Bag vol. 74

This installment of the EP Grab Bag is more of a guise for a collection of singles, as many of these are just two song releases though not all of them. However, these songs were great and I've been enjoying playing them so much and people seem to be fans of the Grab Bags, so here's what I fucking got, dudes. In perhaps some of the better coincides I've experienced lately all these are lo-fi rock and roll of garage rock and psychedelic sorts, oh and all-American to boot.

To be had here:

This a musician for Atlanta that's got an erstwhile member of Atenat. A couple of lo-fi garage-drone-fuzz-punk that's a bit chaotic and hard to categorize any more clearly. However, it is doesn't long listening to this pair of songs to see how an full-length by this artist will be an event worth waiting for. The track "FERNS" has got me excited in the way that COOLRUNNINGS and Moondawg Jones truly got me all jazzed up. Eagerly looking forward to more NUNS.

Mexican Knives / Ritual Howls - Split 7" (2014)

I recently saw Ty Segall playing in Detroit and it was a most righteous experience. And aside from the highlight of getting to talk to Mikal Cronin and Charlie Moonheart again and having them remember me, I got to see the Detroit garage rock band Mexican Knives open the show for them. Turns out their members have been customers of mine at the bookstore and I can't believe I've yet to feature them. Very good lo-fi rock, highly recommend you click around on the bandcamp to see the other songs. Also, this is more first exposure to Ritual Howls but they're very solid too.

Aaron & the Burrs - Release the Bats! (2014)

This album's cover art was enough to invoke memories of flicking through drawers of CDs at the public library hunting for garage rock. I would have grab this up in a heartbeat. I've posted this group before, namely their self-titled full-length from 2012. On that post there bands I think they're akin to, but I think I left out how much they remind me of Midwestern garage rockers like the Yolks and the Soledad Brothers, in fact the b-side to this is a sweet instrumental garage number that'll join the ranks of other short and fast songs like that from those two bands and others I have for driving places quickly. Put out by Feral Kid Records and Ut Records.

Strange Lot - Walk of the Sun EP (2014)

As I said, not all of these are only two tracks, here's an EP proper from Arizona psychedelic band. Strange Lot is washed out rock that really has a drunkenly cheerful tone like playing on a beach, though it isn't very surf rock-ish. Addictively when listened to and it is excellently retro at times, playing with a foggy recollection of many past late nights hearing strange psychedelia for sure. I'd especially recommend it if you liked the Australian band Cobwebbs that was posted up yesterday.

Useless Eaters - Linear Movement (2014)

Useless Eaters loves fucking small releases. I've yet to find anything longer than four songs put out by them so far. I'll take whatever I can get though, as they are some of the most awesome garage punk outfits consistently putting out songs for our sonic consumption. This is just one of two releases of two songs from this past summer, and I do beseech you to check out Mother Earth if you liked this one and to go back and hear all those other EPs and singles they've been pumping out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cobwebbs - WORLD WIDE WEBBS (2014)

To break up what looks like it could easily become a string on gloomy folk write-ups to introduce the autumn to the Midwestern United States, we’ve got something from the part of the world where it never gets too cold and is only getting warmer this time of year. From Brisbane, Australia come the Cobwebbs with their second full-length album, WORLD WIDE WEBBS. I am actually not familiar with their first album, as I believe they’ve only become familiar with Spacerockmountain after I began an effort to post up more Australian bands and have sought to join their ranks. What I do know is how this album sounds, which is washed out psychedelic rock. It is a droning, sleazy sounding series of sounds, with that creepily creaking vocals that recalls some weirder garage rock albums. I woke up this morning and began playing this album in my headphones, and I kept it repeating up until the minutes I finally had to miserably give in and go to work. Doesn't mean I can't sneak the earbuds in and keep on listening even if the old cranky boss disapproves...

The material they sent in with the release says this album is a change in sound from the prior one, but I am curious at what that one holds after hearing WORLD WIDE WEBBS, and I just might try to hunt it down. This album can be heard on the soundcloud link below, or streamed on the bandcamp page of the label Sonic Masala, though it doesn't seem to be a terribly cheap record to purchase in a physical format.

To be had here:
Cobwebbs - World Wide Webs

Monday, September 22, 2014

Galápagos Finches - The Genetics of Folk Music (2013)

At the behest of Modern Folk I've taken another look at the independent label, Sioux Trails. They put out the remarkable album by the Glass Men that Elvis wrote up back in the spring. This time I've chosen to listen to the folk musician that releases under the name Galápagos Finches.

Although Galápagos Finches is an acoustic folk project on the face of it, the themes of the songs are reversed from what one might expect. They're not homesick and longing for return as often as mourning never having a chance to have yet explored. He sings of personal independence, emigrating from the USA and a restless melancholy that's resigned to lonesomeness and heartbreak. I know this seems like a major bummer, and truthfully the songs aren't cheerful but they are beautifully accurate and expressive of the self-doubt felt by the doleful, among which I'd include myself. It's a gloomy reflection on the limitations of one's own life and not getting stressed out and worried about it all, rather a consoling knowledge of seeing things as they are for both oneself and many others. In this state of mind daydreaming takes on a paramount significance in its ability to reintroduce glimmers of hope and whiffs of happy musings. All of this emotional cycling is wonderfully covered in these songs, and done with more classy and skill than my words are portraying. I believe should you listen to this album, and see what he's singing about and what the music is evoking, it'll leave you better off than it found you, even if there are bleak moments in-between. 

To be had here:
Galápagos Finches - The Genetics of Folk Music

Friday, September 19, 2014

TURN TO CRIME - Can't Love (2014)

I got a ticket today, going to the suburbs to get my brother to help me out with food to eat, that's how tight my budget has gotten. Of course I got popped in a money grabbing speed trap if the fuckhole city of Ferndale, MI. Go there, get $40 in food and $150 ticket for my troubles, fuck them. There's gonna be some unruly city council meetings in the future if I get my way. Nothing to lose when your broke I guess. Anyhow, I needed something to redeem my faith in the Detroit region, and I've found it in Can't Love by TURN TO CRIME. Let's hope it quells my rage before I get myself arrested... again.

TURN TO CRIME seems to be a getting a reputation, perhaps more than most Detroit bands I've run across in recent months. So for me not to throw in my two cents about this band might be a small and less than noteworthy thing as this group has gotten press from much more significant outlets like Stereogum and The Fader, yet I don't suppose that's any reason to penalize them at all and not to share them as they are meeting the core requirement of this blog. This being as simple as having the album be streamable online and someone that writes here likes it. It isn't an album that's easy to place genre-wise, as it shifts from song to song from post-punk to noisy ambient pop and always has anti-pop irregular catchiness inherited from Lou Reed. If you forced it, you could called Can't Love art-pop, which is code for classily undefinable. As in someone knows how pop music works but can subvert it enough to make it into something more than popcorn. Some of the songs like "Nightmares" are totally noise-filled post-punk, which I do enjoy, however the real brilliance is in the very Velvet Underground-esque songs "Sunday's Cool" and "Forgiveness." I can already hear the out podcast pal Craig saying he'd rather just play VU, but I like to hear something new too, even if it is recalling something old. Everything is a building mound of cultural references and struggles to sort and redefining yourself against and in harmony them. Which I'll keep in mind when I am yelling at suburban officials and know I am hopeless underpowered to succeed. I won't be the first one nor the last.

To be had here:
TURN TO CRIME - Can't Love

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Drawn... - Surges (2014)

As I've eluded to, I recently moved to another town. Well, sorta another town, Hamtramck is surrounded by Detroit so it really isn't like I left the city so much as went to a political separate enclave within it. It's much better here, more things to do and see, and it is about as diverse as it gets demographically. However, as a moved and it sapped my cash I haven't much furniture nor funds to go out an explore yet. So I sit on my porch and watch the neighbors, something that would be dull in almost any other part of Michigan, but here there are young men carrying their musical instruments, children at play, Muslim families streaming in and out of their homes, teenagers throwing footballs across the street over the top of traffic, and so many tiny interesting happenings of urban living.

While observing the human landscape around me, enjoying what may be the last of the warm weather this city gets until springtime, I need a soundtrack. Luckily I have an inbox full of potential candidates to assume the role of the sonic background to my stationary sightseeing. The London-based electronic musician known as Drawn... fit this role marvelously. Although one could tag Surges as a dark ambient album, it isn't purely so and it never takes on a sinister tone. The experimental and other-worldly electronic explorations dominate making it a prefect companion to my street gazing. Lightly droning and only momentarily gloomy the album usually picks up pace in unexpected yet incredibly well-transitioned cycles. A feat of electronic mastery, I'd think Surges would make a fine accompaniment to most any my solitary activities and if I ever had a cool party in my life I might be able to play it there too.

To be had here:
Drawn... - Surges