Whiskerman – Nomad

Whiskerman – Nomad

Whiskerman
Nomad

OIM Records
Street: 10.09
Whiskerman = Widowspeak + U2

The newest release from Whiskerman is a compilation of big choruses and twangy guitar. On tracks like “Cardinal City” and “Perfect,” we hear thick atmospheres filled with orchestra strings and lots of “ooooooohhhs.” It’s music that has no disagreement with your ears. But the risk that band takes in this album is overindulging in themselves. With each burst of strings and harmonizing vocals, they move a little bit closer to the edge, beyond which is a pit filled with bands making “good music” but nothing particularly exciting. “My Good Country” is a well-composed track, but it sounds like every U2 song you have heard before. Nomad is an album of quality production and enjoyable stylistics, but nothing too interesting. –Austin Doty

Thee Oh Sees | An Odd Entrances | Castle Face Records

Thee Oh Sees
An Odd Entrances

Castle Face Records
Street: 11.18
Thee Oh Sees = (Deep Purple x Jethro Tull)^Brian Eno

Thee Oh Sees release as many albums a year as we go through mood swings in a week, and depending on what day of the week it was, I may have shared a different opinion on this latest release. Yesterday, I may have said that this release is a stretch too far and comes up short of their other 17 records, and tomorrow, I might say that this is the avant-garde masterpiece frontman John Dwyer has been striving for over the last half of a decade. But today, I find An Odd Entrances to be challenging yet pleasing in the sense that Thee Oh Sees are heading for new ground without leaving their own reality, however you want to define that.

Working as a sort of B-side collection to their release last August, Weird Exits, they create sounds that focus less on impact, like their early punk records, and focus more on the amount of ground covered. With three of the six tracks being instrumentals, the group is cracking their knuckles and letting their minds do the talking. “Jammed Exit” is a nasty jam brought out by the same cock-out attitude that Deep Purple in Machine Head used to breach so many borders. The other two instrumentals, “Unwrap The Fiend Pt. 1” and “Nervous Tech (Nah John),” take on a very polar approach. The former is a piece that could make itself comfortable on almost any of their other releases, while the latter becomes some of the most drawn-out work ever conjured by the group.

Regardless, though, of how drawn-out this record can feel, there are two tracks that clock in each at less than 3:30. The first single, “The Poem,” is a sweet song that brings a small orchestra into the album and is completely ignorant of the band’s dual drummers, not even allowing a soft bass kick. It’s as aggravating as it is relaxing in that it sounds nothing like Thee Oh Sees because the band has come so far. The other abbreviated track, “At The End, On The Stairs” isn’t as indifferent, but is still a half-full beer bottle’s throw from where the group usually stands. It grooves like a stout little man with an agenda in a Woody Allen film and carries a secrecy that makes you a bit more curious with what is going on in the backdrop.

By the end of this record, though, you feel as easy as you do restless. It’s a shorter album, but with a handful of six-minute-plus jams, it’s also a bit exasperating. Props to Thee Oh Sees for delivering each year and also for the ability to create such a cool and melodic album in such a short span of time. It’s either inevitable or a mystery—perhaps both—when the next record will come out from these guys. With so many years under their belts, and even more albums, they have a work ethic that’s matched by hardly anyone else in the industry, and a broad expansion of sounds and noises that’s matched by even fewer. An Odd Entrances will keep your mouth full of Thee Oh Sees for a while, but be prepared to swallow, because I’m sure they will have another spoonful ready sooner than we expect. –Austin Doty

Co-Pilgrim – Slows To Go

Co-Pilgrim – Slows To Go

Co-Pilgrim
Slows To Go

Battle Worldwide Recordings
Street: 10.16.15
Co-Pilgrim = Noel Gallagher + The Grateful Dead

Co-Pilgrim’s sophomore release is a pleasantry one could only find elsewhere by listening to a running creek or rain hitting the grass outside. “It’s a Blue Moon” is soft and has a semblance to an old, hungover folk tune. “You Come Over, You Go” and “Sweet Murmur” are poppy tracks that don’t get too loud, and in “Flood of Tears,” one finds peace in choruses they don’t even realize are going on. But the consequence of having such a relaxing and easy album is that it’s hard to grasp. If you were on a road trip, it could play through at least three or four times before somebody might notice a track repeat. This new release is enjoyable and nice to listen to, but you probably won’t remember to bring it the next time you go home to see mom and dad. –Austin Doty

Cloud Nothings | Life Without Sound | Carpark Records

Cloud Nothings
Life Without Sound

Carpark Records
Street: 01.27
Cloud Nothings = Television + Violent Soho

Cloud Nothings’ frontman, Dylan Baldi, describes Life Without Sound as “slowed down.” Coming from the angst of the highly-acclaimed Attack on Memory and that of the group’s previous release, Here and Nowhere Else, Life Without Sound does slow down their usual tempo and reveals new existential concern rather than just their past worries about being young and insecure. In an interview published by Stereogum, Baldi said the album “is about bigger things than me complaining — in my mind, at least.” Though Baldi might still be a little insecure about one thing or another, he’s not scared to take on the world, providing his band’s most polished and thought-out work yet. Moving through the sequence of tracks like “Internal World” and to “Realize My Fate,” it’s clear on which precipice he stands: one with a perspective reaching for knowledge and enlightenment while realizing that nothing is for certain. It’s a record that, while dark and challenging—what else would a Cloud Nothings record be?— it is also supposed to be something that gets your head out of the existential dirt.

“Modern Act” is the single off the record and the most lighthearted track from the group since their 2011 self-titled debut. It relates to making a huge issue out of the small stuff of everyday life, “when you feel like an ocean coming out of a creek.” It’s an existence that takes a step back to realize that some problems maybe aren’t that big of a deal. “Internal World” gets off on a similar foot: trying to refrain from a usual narcissistic solipsism or just trying not to be the asshole that thinks they’re always right. It’s also here that it comes to mind how instrumentally talented the band has become. The drums really come alive in an equally poppy and tenacious manner through the intricate chords and riffs that have come to illustrate the complex, dark yet playful nature of the group. “Darkened Rings” also touches on throwback sounds to the earlier and angrier punchy tracks like “No Sentiment.”

But again, these new songs aren’t as focused on expressing how angry you are but why you’re angry. Contemplating and trying to separate emotion from fact, “Enter Entirely” reflects on actions from the past and what ultimately motivated them. It calls for an existence that makes us truly examine our choices and try to understand our fears a bit more. How are you affecting your world and what effects do your concerns actually create? An album as caught in the middle as this naturally wraps up by communicating that there is purpose but with the frustration of not knowing what it is. In “Realize My Fate,” Baldi screeches out, “I believe in something bigger / But what I can’t articulate,” closing with a perspective that is as optimistic as it is bleak. Sure, there is truth in the universe, but where the hell is it? For Cloud Nothings, it’s up in the air. With this fourth release and US/European tour ahead, the band probably won’t come to any conclusions soon. They’ll be too busy promoting their current concern for existence and making sure that others share their bleak search for truth. –Austin Doty

Sheer Agony – Masterpiece

Sheer Agony – Masterpiece

Sheer Agony
Masterpiece

Couple Skate Records
Street: 10.30
Sheer Agony = The Stone Roses + Can + Love

There is a lot that can be said about this psychedelic record: it doesn’t sound like it was produced in Canada, it doesn’t sound of a particular era and it doesn’t sound much like a psychedelic record. Listening through it I pick up a lot of ’80s pop overtones—something in between The Stone Roses and Devo. But there are also a lot of derivations and experimentation that definitely place it among progressive rock and concept albums. “Debonaires” is an abstract track that reminisces in the early ’60s pop of Love and Herman’s Hermits. “Careers” points to those garage bands that helped move progressive rock to what it was by 1967. But then in tracks like “I Have a Dream” you can’t help but think of ’80s new wave pop tracks like “Melt with You” or “Come On Eileen.” Masterpiece provides a pallet of ’80s new wave and ’60s psychedelia. –Austin Doty

Moon Duo | Occult Architecture Vol. 1 | Sacred Bones

Moon Duo
Occult Architecture Vol. 1

Sacred Bones
Street: 02.03
Moon Duo = (The Black Angels x Thee Oh Sees) ^ Suicide

This first release of two volumes, which will be catalogued together as Moon Duo’s fourth record, takes on the yin of Chinese philosophy—the yang to be taken care of in Vol. 2. Roughly translating to “the shady side of the hill,” the yin in Vol. 1 is used as a vessel to take on a more grim subject matter, moving through night and dark, bumping into indefinite ideas about how vague and black the world can be. This is all according to the duo themselves, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada. They found themselves in the darkness of a Portland winter at the start of making Occult Architecture, and they thought it would only make sense to evolve this record as winter to spring, night to day, dark to light—yin to yang.

Pigeonholing themselves in the genre of what they call “repeat-o rock” (their incessant repetition and uncompromising loop of riffs provide a cadence that was probably first attributed to punk legends Suicide), they surface their dark contemplations, starting off with “The Death Set.” Setting the stage for rest of the record’s ambience, the track contains relentless, fuzzed-out guitar, a beat you can coolly nod your head back and forth to, synths attacking from all directions and soft yet demented, gospel-like vocals that keep you in tune with the evolution taking place. “Cold Fear” and “Will of the Devil” bring on more of the same, allowing the band to flex their commitment and show that if something gets stuck in their heads, it won’t be over for at least another five minutes. But it’s when we get to “Creepin’” that that perspective shifts and, listening to it, you feel like you could be on some coastal highway, zipping along the beach in a convertible. Ironically, given the dark tones and discrepancy of light within the rest of the album, this will probably be the composition that sticks with you come the end of the album. However, I might only think that because we are in the dead of winter, and I could really use a beach. “Cross-Town Fade” and “Cult of Moloch” are great tracks that alleviate the bite from a cold breeze; the former surfaces old-school drum machines that complement the playful synthesizers, which might sound familiar if you’re into the Brooklyn art project Japanther. The latter, however, elevates the band to their most tenacious mode, demonstrating a duel of two soloing guitars above the atmosphere of drum machines and blown-out guitars on repeat.

Vol. 1 comes to its conclusion in “White Rose,” pivoting to the yang and sunny skies of Vol. 2. The track channels in with ambient winds, almost like air moving through an indefinite valley, void of time and consequence, until the beat kicks in and you remember that you’re listening to a song. The song itself moves in and out of its gospel—clashing synths and guitar solos—but never lets that beat stop for a second. Not until the ambient winds return after 10 minutes doest it fade away under the stiff breeze, and you’re once again lost. The winds push through the valley, revealing to your mind that they will come again, like all seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall, winter again—and that life is just a repetition of the rotation of earth. Like the beat, the winds fade away and we’re back from the void, but it’s the moment that this record ends when we understand that a good life isn’t a lack of repetition, but rather, an excess of variation out of which we can fade in and out. –Austin Doty

Yoko and the Oh No's

Yoko and the Oh No’s
Self-Titled

Autumn Tone
Street: 10.30.15
Yoko and the Oh No’s = Neon Trees + Ducks Deluxe

Having toured with The Growlers and now releasing their debut LP, Yoko and the Oh No’s are making some noise. Coming from Autumn Tone Records, the self-titled album is a pop record integrating bluesy riffs and punchy snare hits. “She Ain’t Mine” is a loud jam that immediately makes you think of bands like the Scoundrels. “Movin’ On” and “Nobody Wants To Know” have a gospel cadence that’s similar to what The Black Keys have been putting out recently. And although there are a lot of pop tunes on the record, “Little Girl” reveals an edgier side of the band and takes you back to the pre-punk blues bands like Ducks Deluxe, whose distortion was almost as loud their drunken demeanor. Yoko and the Oh No’s are an exciting band with a surprisingly rough texture to their quality. –Austin Doty

The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings

The Orwells
Terrible Human Beings

Atlantic Records
Street: 02.17
The Orwells = (Franz Ferdinand + The Stooges)^Arctic Monkeys

The Orwells are at it again with their third release almost three years after the well-received Disgraceland. With this new record comes a new set of challenges for the group: not only are they in competition with their earlier releases, but they also must reckon with the question of how long rock and roll records are going to keep getting attention. In some views, The Orwells are today’s Strokes: five dudes making rock ‘n roll claimed to be saviors of the genre— youthful, spirited, sexy, etc. But it’s the contrast between the two bands and their respective eras that bring up the obstacles of reality this new record faces. The Strokes got to be in a world where MTV still gave a shit about music, and The Orwells get to hope that a portion of one of their songs play while VH1 transitions between episodes of America’s Next Top Model. The Strokes got to release records when people were still buying them; The Orwells get to have their pennies snubbed by Apple Music and Spotify; the Strokes were able to inspire a generation of kids to pick up a guitar; the Orwells might be some of the last of those kids. However, their situation isn’t all dismal. They are still able to tour as a group and they do have an unprecedented ability to make old rock ‘n roll tropes seem alive and well.

“They Put a Body In the Bayou” came out late last year, signaling another good delivery. It sets a high standard that is quickly followed up by “Fry” and “Creatures,” two tracks that demonstrate the band’s sassy yet relatable demeanor. “Buddy,” also an early single, probably comes out of the record as the best-sounding track. It’s quick, under a 1:30 and about one-night-stands, which has always been a favorite of rock ‘n roll. “Hippie Soldier” and “Heavy Head” keep the record moving at solid rates with tormented guitar laments of “the easy way out” until we arrive at “Body Reprise,” a 1:15 ambient track full of hollow “ooooohs” with a vacant drumbeat that I’m sure Brian Eno could at least nod at.

Wrapping up the record, “Ring Pop” and “Last Call (Go Home)” bring on a noise level that calls across the pond to those 1970s pub rock bands like Ducks Deluxe and Dr. Feelgood, who were as indifferent to the last call as are The Orwells to diminishing record sales. “Double Feature,” clocking at a surprising 7:18 for the band, questions life choices and what chance a man “from the wrong side of the tracks” has. After a few verses and choruses, the band dives into an instrumental break with technical guitar reminiscent of what Television were doing years ago and introducing more howling vocals similar to what was going on in “Body Reprise.”

By the end, this record turns out to be a solid release, but it’s nothing more significant than that. It’s an album defined by the rock ‘n roll tropes it lives up to. Nothing is out of place or wrong—it’s just very familiar. Without a newer cause or figurative idea of what rock ‘n roll could be, it comes out as another record. If this had been released 30 years ago, it would have gotten a fair amount of attention and deserved it. But if it were released 100 years from now, no one would probably know it. Terrible Human Beings is a good record, but because of the times and with all of the other noise out there, it’s just not that exciting. –Austin Doty

Golden Daze – Self-titled

Golden Daze
Self-titled

Autumn Tone Records
Street: 02.19
Golden Daze = Toy + The Byrds + Mac DeMarco

Enveloping themselves in L.A.’s neo/pop-psychedelic scene, Golden Daze’s debut is an aroma of waves hitting the beach and a nostalgia of old back beats. The strengths of this album are its oceanic themes and its call back to old bands of the ’60s, like The Byrds. This early rock n’ roll influence is most prevalent in their track “Sleepin’ In The Sun.” Acoustic guitar and synthesizers glaze over a great drumbeat that refuses to let you get down on yourself—especially while lying in the sun. Songs like this on the record keep a smile on your face with their upbeat rhythms and Southern California dreams. Not only are they nostalgic, but pretty damn catchy too. Another appeal this record has, is that it can make a sour situation feel comfortable. “Never Comin’ Back” deals with change and moving on in your life with such great vibes and an attitude that accepts the world’s malleability. “My mind is open wide / Taking back her time” speaks to a transition we’ve all been through, regardless of what latter pronoun we need to use. We can forget what is in the past because ahead of us lies miles and miles of a beautiful sandy beach.

The sunny nostalgia of this record runs deep, but you can also feel a similar presence in Golden Daze as with modern bands like Toy and Temples. All these bands contain that neo-psych blaze that many have become so fond of in recent years. The first single from the release, “Salt,” is a steady jam with intricate bass lines and an atmosphere filled with lots of reverb. “Low” has a synthed-out drive that blends together rippling guitar effects and bouncy acoustic strums. Though this album has a lot of similarities with other psych-pop acts, it also has traits that a lot of more recent acts don’t. “Lean In” slips us a sex appeal that we can only ever find in Little River Band and Mac DeMarco. Its catchy synth-wah is as calm as it is cool. It really makes you want to go back to that sandy beach we were on earlier, light a cigarette and decadently lie in the sun for years to come. It’s the kind of music that says don’t worry, “lay down with me my brother.” Following on the record, “Foreigner” upholds the sexy grooves and adds to them bits of an arena rock focus. The song’s bouncy wahs center on its strong choruses of loud cymbal crashes and harmonized “Aaahhhhs.” You might be crazy enough to say that it sounds a little like Arcade Fire. But thankfully, the track mostly resides with its own erotic affair. The record concludes with “Still Time,” which unlike most other tracks, evokes a kind of deranged and distant atmosphere. Its tempo is a lot slower and provides more time to notice the individual and unique tones coming through the track. The record in general does well in recreating old vibrations of the ‘60s, but at the same time provoking feelings not found in other modern pop-psych albums. Its sex appeal and mystery leave you wanting more while its nostalgia and catchy beats keep you turned on. It’s an appealing record that will only stray far enough to give you an enticing sense of danger.

Splashh | Waiting a Lifetime | Cinematic Music Group

Splashh
Waiting a Lifetime

Cinematic Music Group
Street: 04.14
Splashh = The Strokes + Jagwar Ma

Though it hasn’t been quite a lifetime, Waiting a Lifetime has taken long enough. Comfort, the debut from Splashh, came out in June of 2013, and “All I Wanna Do” and “Vacation” became soundtrack anthems of the summer. With the success of the debut, the band wanted to get out a follow-up called Honey and Salt in 2014. But with a change in drummers, the members spread from Brooklyn to New Zealand, releasing a new catalogue of tracks that just didn’t sound like Splashh. The group had to restart what would be the follow up. Two years later, they finally have it with a new sound, a new drummer and a new outlook that isn’t necessarily defined by a pair of shades in the summertime.

This new record is much darker. It’s not as sure of itself as its predecessor was, and it seems to play with the dark and grey matter found in between the seasons. “Honey and Salt” don’t seem to necessarily allude to the group’s former failure but does bring on dismal lyrics from singer Sasha Carlson: “All the leaves are falling / And the light is leaving.” It’s quite a step away from songs about sitting in the sun—establishing that this is a new album not only distinguished by its new sleeve, but also the four years of its making. “Gentle April” reveals how lackadaisical they’ve become. It’s a much softer track than what we’ve heard before and the lyrics show the loss of confidence the group has faced: “I never thought I’d lose my own direction / The month is fading into a passive feeling.” Rather than singing about the lust and desire in “All I Wanna Do,” they’ve instead become perplexed by just the passing of time.

But this record does have its bright lights, too. The title track actually has a vibe that’s similar to what they were doing for years, despite having a bit of a Pixies-esque feel. It’s followed by “Closer,” which is also nostalgic of the bands’ former work, and its chorus, “Trust me and love me / Kiss me, crush me,” exudes the same love of youth and lust found in Comfort. It’s a sign that it’s still the same Splashh making this music with the same desires and passions as before.

It’s still a little unclear as to what this new release hopes to overcome. Waiting a Lifetime has marks of maybe being bitter about what did and didn’t transpire two years ago, and still carries some of the same essence from what was accomplished four years ago. But alone, it doesn’t stand for much, aside from the fact that Splashh finally got a new record out. It does have its handful of catchy, fun tunes—and more dismal ones that are surprising, but not necessarily bad—but mostly it feels insecure. Hopefully, this record doesn’t linger at the forefront of the band for too long, and they can get another record out before another passing of four years. –Austin Doty