Author: Christian Schultz

Ivy Tripp
Merge Records
Street: 04.07
Waxahatchee = The Softies x Lemuria x Cat Power 
Ivy Tripp begins with the nearly five-minute-long track “Breathless,” a song that showcases Waxahatchee songwriter Katie Crutchfield’s adroit skill at reorienting her talent at different stages of her career—it retains the skulking pace and anti-nostalgic lyrics of heartache she mastered on 2011’s American Weekend then reinvented on 2013’s Cerulean Salt, yet buzzes with just enough of an unexpected minimal organ loop to steer the vehicle into another lane yet again. Waxahatchee’s indie-label success lends Ivy Tripp’s songs the same production polish that we heard on Cerulean Salt, but again, it’s Crutchfield’s bold and visionary narrative that rocks the album. Tracks like “Grey Hair” and “Stale by Noon,” which incorporate Casio-like piano notes into Waxahatchee’s ‘90s alt rock–flecked palate are confident additions to the Crutchfield songbook. Overall, Ivy Tripp is another subtle evolution along the path of a great artist. –Christian Schultz 

After the End


Street: 08.25

Merchandise = Echo & the Bunnymen + The Chameleons

With After the End, Merchandise complete their journey toward a full embrace of pop structure. Gone are all traces of Dave Vassalotti’s screamin’ guitar noise, which held the syrupy-sweet elements on Children of Desire and Totale Nite from rocketing off into unabashedly pure-pop territory, though they haven’t relinquished their dexterity—well-crafted, sonically shape-shifting songs with graceful, assured lyrics. With songs averaging just over four minutes in length, smooth-voiced singer and songwriter Carson Cox transcends any preconceptions of his band’s previous image to deliver songs beholden to the thread of his nostalgic lyricism. After the End is flecked with mellow, restrained passages of introspective jangle pop—replete with soft organs, gentle acoustic guitars, harmonicas and tambourines. It’s the realization of the potential that they’ve always held and, with 4AD’s help, another step toward cementing their status as defining artists of this wistful generation. –Christian Schultz

Fire Records
Street: 10.01.13
Bailterspace = Dinosaur Jr. + Sonic Youth
Noise and shoegaze legends Bailterspace are back with the second album since their 2008 reunion, their 11th since forming as a band called The Gordons in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1980. Let’s get easy comparisons out of the way—Bailterspace are often compared to certain American alternative bands from the angry alt ’80s and it’s not difficult to hear why on Trinine—Alister Parker’s monotonous singing and vicious guitar playing sounds so close to both Thurston Moore and J. Mascis. True, there’s plenty of sonic fury, especially on “Painted Window,” which could be a B-side from You’re Living All Over Me. There’s also plenty of noise and distortion that’s all Bailterspace, a welcome guitar album in a time where many have moved on. –Christian Schultz


Stagnant Pools


Polyvinyl Records

Street: 06.10

Stagnant Pools = Slowdive + Wire + Edwyn Collins

I could probably fill most of the shoegaze reviews I write with half-hearted comparisons to Slowdive and be done with ’em. That’s what I thought here, at first, with the opening song “You Whir,” but a different narrative unfolded upon subsequent listenings. This one starts off shoegaze-strong, then back channels with a bit of post-punkiness in the guitar work and deadpanish Orange Juice–style vocals from vocalist Bryan Enas. Brian and his brother Douglass recorded Geist, their second album, in a Chicago winter, and though they’re from Indiana, I swear their long lost home is dreary ol’ England—these tracks are buzzin’ with that classic British indie sound. –Christian Schultz

Vaadat Charigim
The World Is Well Lost
Burger Records/Warm Ratio
Street: 11.12
Vaadat Charigim = Interpol + Ride + Skywave
Vaadat Charigim (Hebrew for “Exceptions Committee”) is an Israeli shoegaze band from Tel Aviv. The World Is Well Lost is their debut album. Though its songs are sung in Hebrew, translation is not necessary—this record’s ambition is perfectly clear. The World abounds in primary shoegaze elements: swirls of lush guitar and nostalgic, monotone vocals. Tracks here move in and out of noise and meandering sonic contemplation, with a dark energy reminiscent of Slowdive’s Souvlaki. Let Vaadat Charigim remind you why you love the genre. –Christian Schultz
Echo Lake
No Pain In Pop
Street: 03.02
Echo Lake = (Tamaryn / The Raveonettes / SPC ECO)^Deerhunter
Following the release of their splendid debut album and the sudden death of drummer Peter Hayes in 2012, London-based band Echo Lake have returned with Era, a dense and mature bouquet of lush, layered guitar pop. Weighing in at 45 minutes, Era warrants alert, repeat listening—its seven swirling tracks flower upon each spin with new sonic findings that make it an album best heard through a good pair of headphones. Still, if spun on a turntable, Era’s waves of serene shoegaze will submerge listeners. “Waves” is the album’s most pop-forward tune, featuring Linda Jarvis’ honeyed voice gliding from ear to ear in harmony with itself over glistening keys and swirling guitars, but there’s a similar nod to the pop side of shoegaze that’s permeating the album, making it one of this year’s most enjoyable listens. –Christian Schultz 
Slumberland Records
Street: 06.03
Gold-Bears = Nana Grizol + The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Dalliance, Gold-Bears’ follow-up to 2011’s Are You Falling in Love? on the incomparable indie label, Slumberland, exudes a shiny indie-pop presence under a fuzzy, folk punk veneer. Papa Bear Jeremy Underwood, who cut his teeth writing wooly, Wedding Present–influenced guitar hooks, took a leap here with more effervescent noise pop and a snarkier, more nasally vocal delivery over the same great lyricism. Picking up where they left off, literally, opening with a jolted take on Falling in Love’s closer “Yeah, Tonight,” Gold-Bears’ sophomore effort is all punk noise with all pop underpinnings. Take “From Tallahassee to Gainesville,” which features vocals from Pam Berry, and “Hey, Sophie,” which glistens with jangly progressions that sound as though they’re ripped from debut-era Pains tracks (“Gentle Sons” and “Orchard of My Eye” come to mind). That’s not to say they’re not great tracks. They bristle with their own energy and lyrical integrity, like “Punk Song No. 15” does—clocking in at 1:03 minutes, it’s brimming with an EP’s worth of ideas. If this had you at indie pop, do yourself a favor and get Dalliance pronto. –Christian Schultz
Street: 11.17.13
Eraas = This Mortal Coil + Massive Attack + The KVB
Initiation, Eraas’ second full-length album full of trip hop beats, kraut rock tempos and ethereal vocal samples, is remarkably hermetic and cohesive. Like Chelsea Wolfe, Eraas infuse their vocals with haunting echoes to create a kind of ominous atmosphere, especially on the sinister tracks such as “Old Magic” and “Above.” The title track is particularly enchanted, with its slow build up of found spoken word samples over a soft crackle into an airy, smoldering finale. It’s a more mature record than their debut of 2012, and hopefully pointed towards more mature releases in the future. –Christian Schultz
King Dude & Chelsea Wolfe
Sing More Songs Together…
Not Just Religious Music
Street: 03.25
King Dude & Chelsea Wolfe = SWANS + PJ Harvey

What can I tell you about this two-track collaboration that you aren’t already certain of? TJ Cowgill sounds like Michael Gira; Chelsea Wolfe is un-fuck-with-able, and the combo is, for a second time now, nothing short of incredible. “Be Free” is their unholy duet, which directly aims each singers’ voice at the other with the aggressive refrain of, “Don’t you dare take my hand if you wanna be free,” volleyed from both sides—perhaps it’s the most direct thing Wolfe’s set her voice to yet. “Bed On Fire” haunts like a tune from Apokalypsis, with Wolfe restlessly lingering over a sonic abandon of smoldering and cinematic post-apocalyptic folk like it so wonderfully does. Are they going to make an album together? God, I hope so. –Christian Schultz


Metal Mother
Post Primal Records
Street: 04.16
Metal Mother = Fever Ray + Austra + Claire Boucher
A project of Oakland native Taara Tati’s confident musicianship and dark-wave occultism, Metal Mother’s second album, Ionika, will surely make waves in that burgeoning ethereal-witchy-gothic-pop, post-Internet scene you either love or hate by now. Inspired by her Celtic ancestry, Druid fantasy and altpop sirens Björk and Kate Bush, Tati’s recorded an album full of magnificent, dark goth-pop tunes. “Mind_off” opens the album with Tati’s deft vocal maneuvers, pulsating synths that build up to moments of bombastic drum rhythms and anthemic choruses. I did double takes on some tracks though, like the Grimes-sounding “Hungers” and “Windexx’d,” which features pitch-bending vocals and tin drums in the style of Purity Ring. In “Omens,” Tati is a dead ringer for Karin Dreijer Andersson. But the magic in Metal Mother’s sound is not in its similarities, rather it’s in the album’s perfect production, its range of gothic darknesses and its avant-pop sensibilities. –Christian Schultz