Author: Christian Schultz

Young Guv
Ripe 4 Luv
Slumberland Records
Street: 03.10
Young Guv = (Big Star x Prince / Cheap Trick) ± Kids On A Crime Spree
Young Guv, aka Ben Cook of Fucked Up and No Warning, makes his Slumberland debut with Ripe 4 Luv, eight tracks of unabashedly sugary power pop. Working in a genre that’s rutted in a specific array of sounds, Cook breathes new life into his tunes. Between crunchy guitars, crystalline synths and sweet-as-honey harmonies, Cook lays on his craftsmanship heavily in each track on Ripe 4 Luv, but doesn’t overload one’s palate. There’s nary a dull note on this record—from the power pop of “Crawling Back To You” and “Kelly, I’m Not A Creep” to smooth, soulful tracks like “Aquarian” and “Wrong Crowd,” Ripe 4 Luv, is stuffed with easy-listening, perfect pop tracks. #youngluv4vr. –Christian Schultz 
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The Circulars
Ornamental
Self-Released
Street: 06.27
The Circulars = The Field Mice + Felt + Galaxie 500
The Circulars’ year-long presence as a four-piece in the Salt Lake music scene was the sort of magical run that will be remembered by wide-eyed youths long after our time has passed. Ornamental, which they released on the eve of their final performance as a four-piece, shimmers with all the flourishes of their magnificent live shows. It is reflective of the group’s refined musicianship and genuine friendships, clearly evident in the following they accrued this past year. The band’s refreshing sound—a whirly jangle over tranquil dream pop—is fleshed out through each track, with Sam Burton’s wistful voice floating gently over the tender musical landscape. “To Unite, To Submerge” is marked with a Byrds jangle that twists into something complex, and my favorite, “With Virtue I Am Paid,” glistens like a bittersweet Cocteau Twins track. Now, as a trio, their brightness will carry on in Salt Lake. –Christian Schultz
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Mode Moderne

Occult Delight

Light Organ Records

Street: 01.21

Mode Moderne = Morrissey + Joy Division + Help Stamp Out Loneliness

For their third LP, Vancouver outfit Mode Moderne have embraced their goth pop style wholeheartedly and created their most confident album to date. As on 2010’s Ghosts Emerging and 2012’s Strange Bruises, Phillip Intile croons melancholy over “real goth” post-punk with subdued glimpses of cheery melodic pop, but here, Joshua Stevenson’s production polishes the band’s sound for a greater balance of dark and light. Alongside brooding tunes like “She, Untamed,” “Severed Heads” and “Thieving Babies’ Breath” there’s the genteel jangle fade-in of “Strangle the Shadows,” The Chameleons–like chime of “Dirty Dream #3” and the female harmonies on the upbeat “Unburden Yourself.” The fruit of this effort is “Baby Bunny,” one of the finest indie pop songs that I’ve heard in the past year. The aptly named Occult Delight is filled with such repeat elegance. –Christian Schultz
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Amen Dunes

Love

Sacred Bones

Street: 05.13

Amen Dunes = The Velvet Underground + Devendra Banhart

Love is songwriter Damon McMahon’s latest release as Amen Dunes on Sacred Bones Records. Near the start, at track two “Lonely Richard,” featuring McMahon’s folksy warble, backed by a John Cale–esque string drone and a gentle acoustic hum, is gonna knock you off your feet. It’s one of those understated anti-anthems—so simple, yet it unravels itself intricately around the complexities of your nostalgia. The rest of the album is McMahon exploring psych-folk territories similar to those of his previous records, though the production quality has risen significantly. It’s a welcome change to the lo-fi recording style of McMahon’s earlier work. Get these breezy, whistlin’ tunes for your next Sunday cleaning party or contemplative café time. –Christian Schultz
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LowCityRain
Self-Titled
Prophecy Productions
Street: 09.27
Lowcityrain = The Chameleons + Lowlife + Asylum Party
This record charges from the gate with the melancholic anthem, “You are everyone, you are everywhere.” As jangling new wave inspired chords cascade, driving bass and drums pump the track full of energy, a modest female vocal croons the title of the song and in these first three minutes, I’m left gasping. The following tracks wander through the uncertainties of Markus Siegenhort, a young German whose primary work is with the avant black metal band Lantlôs. There are nods to late ’80s alt music, when goths took to arenas to deliver dark dirges to wider audiences. Siegenhort’s post-punk baritone shifts through similar brooding sonic pathways— cold synths, heavy bass, melancholic guitars—all played by himself, and through similar thematic territory—urban nights and modern love. Simply put, this is one of those rare albums that contemplates perfectly the life that many of us have been living. –Christian Schultz
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Waxahatchee
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 
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Merchandise

After the End

4AD

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
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Bailterspace
Trinine
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

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Stagnant Pools

Geist

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

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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
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