Survive – RR7349

surviveRR7349 (Relapse Records) sounds like some sort of galaxy or nebulae that has yet to be named by human scientists. While this isnt the case (Its the catalogue number) I think the general line of thought fits. The sounds, timbres and moods contained in this record are upfront, but theres subtleties at work that make it difficult to say exactly what they are. Read more

Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

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Rating: ★★★★★

“Maybe you know that its been too long.” Yes we do, Angel. It’s good to have you back.

At this point in her discography, I assumed that I knew what to expect from a new Angel Olsen album – confessional folk music that explores the uncomfortable dichotomy of relationships while occasionally picking up an electric guitar. In fact, I had the intention of analyzing the albums meaning and lyrical intentions when I initially dived into it, but I was constantly sidetracked by the range of emotions this album reverberates through its variety, production, and songwriting. Angel Olsen of the past, as a songwriter, seemed to deliver her message carefully and quietly. Now she’s writing unique pop and rock songs with confidence and conviction in her delivery; whether it’s a background vocal laden in effects, a climactic guitar solo, or a keyboard subtly peeking in, Angel relies more on the instruments around her and her tools in the studio than her voice to manipulate her listeners emotions. Read more

Mild High Club- Skiptracing

mildhighMild High Club delivers another mellow mixer of soft, psyche-soaked rock with their sophomore album, Skiptracing. Mac DeMarcos former tourmates pay homage to the likes of the Beach Boys and Homeshake with their lay-in-the-sun trippy reverberation. Alexander Brettin leads the charge with his laissez faire vocals that carry throughout the album, carrying their hazy sound that pairs perfectly with the dreamy dripping guitars and synth. The Circle Star Records (Stones Throws step-sister label) band delivers a solid collection with their second album, with sauntering soul/jazz songs like Tesselation and Head Out to the some impromptu instrumental jam on Whodunit?, Mild High Club gives listeners more than what they came to expect.

Hit the jump for full review.

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Omni – Deluxe

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Rating: ★★★★½

Rock n’ roll has a tendency to get stale, and the current landscape has seemed as such, by and large, until I came into this Omni album, Deluxe. Sure, there are nods here and there, but for me, the band have managed to reimagine the world of punk (pop, proto, etc) and capture it at its fascinating best.

The one-two punch of “Afterlife” and “Wednesday Wedding” set the tone for what’s an exciting listen from start to finish. Deluxeopens with a propulsive bounce, discordant guitars ringing in your ears and changing speeds via “Afterlife.” But, in “Wednesday Wedding” the group displays what’s made them wholly fascinating; this track seemingly works against itself, with stabbing chords and bobbing bass hitting in contrast to the cooled vocal punch. If you listen to the song’s chorus and aren’t in love, even though it’s brief, you’re not doing it right.

Really though, Omni have left you with what is actually a 1-2…10 punch. There’s not a bad song here, and every listener will likely find their own favorite. I mean “Wire” has this danceable stab that separates the dreamy state of the track. “Eyes on the Floor” could easily have been penned by the band’s many Aussie label mates such as Dick Diver, filled with these great guitar lines. Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards “Jungle Jenny,” which definitely seems to wear the touches of Frankie Broyles (who was once upon a time in Deerhunter). Those are just some of the standouts and benchmarks from my voice.

But, that being said, I don’t thing anyone that looks for a reason to hate something will find that within the confines of Deluxe. It excels in creativity, but is also fortunate in that there’s some brevity to the album, so you’re not worn out by anything. Each song turns and turns, leaving you flustered, yet immersed in the art the group brings to the table. Start to finish, you’re going to need to listen to this record; you’re going to want to listen to this record…and in a world of singles, that says a whole lot more than I can.

It’s available now via Trouble in Mind Records.

Puff Pieces – Bland in DC

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Puff Pieces are anything but what their band name might lead you to believe. They’ve compiled 11 songs for their latest release, Bland in DC, with each providing listeners with a message. You needn’t look further than some of the titles like “March of the Idiots” or “Money” to see where they take aim. But, in order for the record and the message to completely endear itself to the audience, the band has to supply the musicality to make it last…and boy do they.

“Wanna No” kicks off the album in a jittery, proto-punk fashion while the vocals are drawn out across the tune, seemingly working against the heart of the track. Emphasis is given by backing vocals sporadically shouted from the distance. Staying long isn’t the band’s cup of tea on Bland in DC, as they bounce right into the next track, and so on and so forth until the end. At times, it almost feels like you’re falling off the tracks or racing towards the finish line, such as on tracks like “Wondrous Flowers;” it’s remarkable how quickly and flawlessly the rhythm section moves throughout.

Yet while the group definitely has a signature sound they’re pushing, they also open up the chords for a more traditional approach on tracks like “Pointless People,” which again takes on a furious pace that would likely have normal humans rushing to catch their breath.

I think my favorite track is “Goths and Vandals;” there seems to be a dark sense of humor that lurks in the track, if not a slight bit of sarcasm. My favorite lyric comes via “Y” where the band proclaims “the future’s like a big locked door.”

All in all, I found the record really enjoyable, but I can see detractors proclaiming that it’s too one-note. On the surface, sure, but those of you looking for energetic, yet artful, punk with a message will find a happy home with Puff Pieces.

Young Tongue – Death Rattle

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Still waters run deep. That colloquialism kept bouncing around in my head while listening to Young Tongue long overdue, much anticipated debut album. Why do I keep coming back to that phrase? Still waters run deep. Young Tongue isn’t a band that I would refer to as still in any kind of literal sense, going on short sprints with other great indie acts such as Mr. Gnome while maintaining a consistent gigging schedule in their hometown of Austin. This cliché has such resonance with me for this album because while most indie, local based artists seem to ebb and flow on a 1-3 year calendar, Young Tongue has been consistently plugging away for years and year Eight years to be exact – 5 of those in Austin. As a fan I’ve been following them just about all of those 8 years (they were one of the early pioneers of the musical flow from Asheville, NC to Austin, TX).

Musically Young Tongue leans heavily on the mid 2000s’ indie rock explosion – drawing inspiration from the likes of Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. Their sound relies heavily on the 8th note counterpoint between lead guitar lines and bass riffs. Daryl Schomberg’s intense, shifting drum patterns provide the backdrop while Stu and Liz Baker’s melodic and lyrical duets shimmer ontop. At it’s best all the parts fit into place like mechanical gears and seeing them perform live is like watching a well oiled steampunk machine. At it’s worst the gears don’t quite fit into place and the music can and machines lurches forward uncomfortably.

For a new listener of Young Tongue this album provides the truest and most exciting musical snapshot of Young Tongue. Young Tongue has long been a band plagued by the difficulty of capturing their live charisma and translating this to a record. Death Rattle unequivocally meets this challenge. Death Rattle provides more than enough fuel to continue the momentum Young Tongue has been gaining in recent years.

As a longtime fan and listener my only disappointment in this album is that feels like Young Tongue has been treading water. While the album only has one song – Matriarch – from their previous album as the Baker Family, a lot of these songs feel like a rewrite of old material and a lesson in habitual songwriting. The tunes that stuck out to me were the ones where I felt like they were reaching for new sounds, new styles. Heavy Metal Thunder – the 3rd track and the de facto single from the album – takes the best of their writing style and reaches for new terroritory. It keeps the driving rhythm of Nathan Ribner’s bass but the guitar lines and vocals refrain from getting sucked in the busy, insecure clutter that dominates other tracks like Sand Dance.  The song grows into a huge anthem, culminating in a vocal counterpoint that few bands can pull off.

For new fans, this album will be played over and over. For those of us familiar with the Young Tongue catalog, it provides us with a great touchtone but I know I will be waiting to see where the second album takes us.

The Fireworks – Switch Me On

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

The Fireworks are a self-proclaimed loud fuzzy pop band from London who have released a bunch of material thus far, but Switch Me On marks their first trip down full-length LP lane. And it is an exciting one, filled with gritty feedback, alluring pop hooks and dueling vocals coated in reverb to pull you into this groups infectious sound.

Switch Me On is an exhilarating chase at high speeds—you’re constantly trying to keep up with The Fireworks in their never-ending energy, but its one that you’re willing, and wanting, to keep pace with, as the lo-fi fuzz rock is as good as it gets. The band bursts through the door with their squalling feedback, utterly distorted guitars, popping percussion and the trading off of vocals between Emma Hall and Matthew Rimmell. “With My Heart,” is just the beginning, breaking the ice so that you can jam along with the band. The chorus is infectious, as Hall and Rimmell share the hook; their voices collide to add to the collected messiness of the sound. It’s not clean and it’s not delicate, but the ferocity gives the band the right amount of grit they need to push forward to other places. For example, “Let You Know” is the least fuzzy track on the record, and it pushes on the jangly nature of the guitars and the smooth vocals rather than the intensity of the feedback. The Fireworks aren’t a one trick pony.

Halfway through, you’re refreshed with “On and On,” which is championed by Emma Hall’s vocals and a killer guitar solo at the end. Like the other songs on this album, this one is also fast and furious, streaming by in a blaze of buzzing guitars and pop hooks and its one of the best tracks on the album. As Hall chants “on and on and on…” as the title suggests, you wish her and the band would just keep on. And they do; later on you get “Corner of My Mind,” which is as close to shoe-gaze as this band gets, and the guitar riffs that cut through the feedback are sharp and crisp, grabbing you with their clarity in the fuzzy cloud of noise. It’s the little nuances such as these that vary from song to song that keep the tracks from getting too redundant or falling down the well of sound.

So you reach the end of the album, and you realize just what’s happened to you: your hair has been blown back a bit, and your socks have been knocked clean off your feet, and you find it a little hard to stop shaking your hips. You’ve been switched on by The Fireworks, and the only cure is to spin Switch Me On again and accept your grunge-y, fuzz pop fate. As far as this genre goes, this is some of the best music you’ll find. Turn it up loud and get down.

Twerps – Range Anxiety

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Twerps self-titled debut was something of a marvel.  It hit the US with little fanfare, but won over the hearts of many listeners and scored them a tour opening for Real Estate.  Me, personally, I fawned over the LP for the entirety of 2011. There was something in the relaxed attitude the band employed, and yet often offset with their jangling Aussie guitar prowess.  Range Anxiety picks up where that album left off, though there’s touches with the vocals that elevate this effort above its predecessor.

While there’s a statement instrumental opener, Range Anxiety officially begins with “I Don’t Mind.”  I hesitate to call it a true piece of slacker pop, though the pacing would suggest such.  My issue with that revolves around the song’s time, spanning over 5 minutes.  That’s not a slacker band running out of ideas, but rather a comfortable approach to well-crafted pop music. They follow it up with the bouncy “Back to You,” which sounds like a spritely version of the Go-Betweens.  I love how the backing vocals don’t join instantaneously during the chorus, but rather build into it…that’s a nice touch.

Speaking of nice touches, I like how Jules has a more prominent role on this LP, particularly in the standout track, “Shoulders.” It’s a tune that features that shimmering guitar work, but her voice offers a different tonal quality than that of her counterpart, Marty.  It actually harkens back to a time of more pristine female voices, void of auto-tune and all that other technological hoopla. Her presence on “Adrenaline” adds a continued softness that really smooths out the edges for Twerps; it’s still the same act, just a slight bit more leaning towards classic sounds of pop beauty.

In the end, I’m going to still fawn over this album for it’s guitar playing. Sure, everyone has praised the Oceanic influence on guitar over the last decade, but I don’t think there are many that do it quite as authentically as these guys. Listening to “Cheap Education,” I was pushed way back into my own record collection, at least mentally.  There’s a spirit to it that’s hardly been matched, and it always make listening to the group a joy.  But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t invest a sentence or two in “Love at First Sight.”  This song is unlike much of those that precede it, though I’ve found myself gravitating towards it again and again.  There’s something ramshackle that’s set amidst a really subdued performance.

Those that first fell in love with Twerps will surely find every song on Range Anxiety to have a redeeming quality.  But, I think they’ve put in enough finishing touches to really surpass their debut in many ways.  It’s a different listen, but one that exemplifies growth whilst staying grounded to what got them their in the first place.  Going to keep playing this album again and again.

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