Tom Diabo = Horrid Red + Joy Division + Big Black
Each track off this album came and went through my ear canals leaving little behind, slipping through like shadow-ooze of no consequence. When you stare down at each song on this track, half a dozen possible influences pop out at you, awkwardly, fleetingly. I came to understand this weird half-made work, though, when I realized that Tom Diabo wrote this over the course of seven cancer-ridden years between 1979 and 1986, at the end of which he passed away. That accounts for the meticulation that the 18-tracker possesses, and also for the diversity, with anything from elevator-jazz intermissions to Cramps vibes and low-key, near-folky tones. All are hampered with stripped-down distress. Because it’s a piece being released about 30 years after its construction, it’s a potent, fermented peek back into the past, through a dusty window. It’s fascinating, even though in my ears, it slithers quietly, evading hard capture. –Erin Moore
New Granada Records
Thrushes =Esben and the Witch + Swirlies
This record is Thrushes’ first in a good number of years, and despite those years, it sounds like they’ve been consistently working together. They still have a very impactful volume, but they’ve passed up above their big, indie rock sound to more atmospheric, shoegaze vibes. It doesn’t feel like they’ve changed much, just taken a firm hold of a style they were already playing. Fans of their older stuff should check it out, but it lacks a certain something in comparison and feels a touch dramatic sometimes, like in sweeping, brilliantly produced tracks like their single, “Joan of Arc.” However, I really liked the dark and melodic “Snowblind” and the infectious pop track “Arsonist.” It’s not the most remarkable album I’ve heard this year, but it’s worth checking out from a band that’s been together a long time. –Erin Moore
Air Waves = Strong Words + The Fresh & Onlys + Veronica Falls
This album is a suitable companion to its predecessor, 2010’s Dungeon Dots. I’m not sure that that’s an awesome thing though. The two are both what I can only call casual pop. Both are jam packed with songs and are incredibly produced, showing clear marks of a dedicated musician. However, few songs stir anything up in me like some comparable pop artists (Frankie Rose) do. The catchy melodies don’t actually catch on anything. They’re tinted with emotion but lack saturation. The two albums do differ in that Parting Glances is a little more blue than the bright Dungeon Dots. However, when Nicole Schneit dabbles with an edgier mood instead of a sad-ish one, in “Touch of Light,” “Thunder” and “Sweet Talk,” it gets interesting, and those are tracks I do sincerely like and want more of. I only wonder if Air Waves will continue on in that direction. –Erin Moore
Revolution Girl Style Now
Bikini Kill Records
Bikini Kill = Babes in Toyland + Sleater-Kinney
The work of Bikini Kill, and the raw power evident in this demo particularly are still shocking to hear even years after its initial release. Combining the childish topics of girlhood with loud and pissed-off attitude, they set the stage for other women to relate and create. Their influence can be heard acutely in acts like the young wonders of Skating Polly. Both prove that, over time, no garage-y rock sounds quite like what the Riot Grrrl types can churn out. Gravelly distortion and the monstrous baby voice of Kathleen Hanna ensnare the brain like nothing else does. Trying to have a conversation while listening to “Daddy’s L’il Girl” the other night, I found myself training off, completely stuck on its sound of pounding contempt. This demo is just crazy rad, and now’s the time to acquaint yourself with Bikini Kill, if you haven’t already. –Erin Moore
No Ditching/Baby Ghosts
Drunken Sailor Records
No Ditching/Baby Ghosts = P.S. Eliot + Diet Cig
The best part about this split is that two bands, rocking super similar brands of unapologetically energetic and innovative pop punk, found each other from across the world and managed to put out this fantastic thing together. No Ditching are from the town of Pity Me (wonderful, right?), all the way over in the U.K. This split’s goodness evidences the goodness of whatever providence brought these bands together.
The first two songs on the split are “Emo” and “Dog Problem” by No Ditching. They remind me of SPORTS with a bratty twang. The end of “Emo” drops off with the same tone as a Baby Ghosts song, and the voices “oohing” over one another also hearken to Baby Ghosts’ style. Both bands have a whole lot of the same sort of attitudes. The lyrics in “Emo” are incredibly catchy, ending with, “I’ll do the emotional work for you / I’ll do it if you want me to / I can take it yeah / I can take it, and I won’t even think it through.” Their second song, “Dog Problem,” is equally catchy and reminds me of a Tacocat song, but it’s moody—and the song itself is a testament to how catchy angry jangles can be.
The Baby Ghosts song, “Return of Bones (Part I and II),” is their first newly released song in a while, and, as expected, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a little longer in length than most of their past material, at 3:26. It starts off with their typical fast tempo and lyrics that sound ghost-themed, even if they don’t mention ghosts, sweetly sung at spitfire speed. The song progresses with its fast-paced, vital drums that rush in perfect tandem with their well-honed guitar style. And even if it is about a ghost, some of the lyrics hint at issues of self-belief that made me feel kind of mushy. –Erin Moore
Wrecking Light Records
Still Corners = Chromatics + Blouse
Slow Air, the newest release by the classic, indie duo Still Corners, is dreamy, meditative and washed all over with a haze that makes the songs sound like foggy memories, dreams that are hardly recollectable. This motif is present in most of their material, which will now span four albums. However, with Slow Air, Still Corners, made up of Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes, takes an earthier turn, with songs that almost pull the dream pop pair back down to the ground.
The bright and coppery opening chords of “In the Middle of the Night” open up Slow Air, establishing immediately some kind of mysterious western feeling. The jangly guitar melds with the Still Corners standard–dreamy fare that has movement and vitality, but an indifferent mood that doesn’t offer to take listeners along with it. Lyrics like “I love to drive the highways, the skyways, just to get lost,” imply this careless movement, and also indicate the wide open spaces that, of course, suit a band with a penchant for galactic-synth spreads.
The continued presence of warm, nostalgic guitar in “The Message” definitely indicates that Still Corners is moving in a new direction with their sound, or at least inviting in a new aesthetic. “The Message” specifically makes it easy to forget that Still Corners aren’t Los Angelenos who drive out to the desert every time they want to record, but are actually longtime Londoners. Unsurprisingly, the album actually was recorded in Austin, Texas, and in only three weeks—a timetable which the band has said they rushed into to avoid losing hold of their desert-inspired sound.
It’s a sound that, after only one listen, I feel suits them and grounds them a little—though perhaps they didn’t mean to be grounded. While their albums and songs have always had the feeling of being tiny, cinematic portraits, this album has a decidedly western-noir vibe to it that spreads over the listener more easily and is more memorable. “Sad Movies” at first plays like a cliché, sad girl song, but it does well in drenching the listener in more palatable simplicity. Murray sings that sad movies make her cry and she doesn’t know why, and later on she gives out a big, deep sigh and in that four minutes implants herself into a movie. It’s a play that calls to mind Chromatics’ classic album Cherry, which is filled with these intense, cinematic moments.
Though Still Corners is reliable in their deliverance of steady, unchangingly hazy dreamscapes, something about this album made me forget I was listening to the Still Corners I knew. “Welcome to Slow Air” has a mood of discovery, with twinkling synth notes and the chirping of birds painting an image of humidity and heat, lushness and bright sun. The rest of the songs on the album, like the single “Black Lagoon” still ripple with an unseeing, yet hyper-feeling of self-indulgence. “Black Lagoon” is a song that plays very loudly from someone’s car at twilight on a quiet night, but what we hear as listeners is what a passerby hears as they glance over at the car—someone else’s intense experience, galaxies away from everyone else. Still Corners is definitely still only making music for their own little world, but it seems that by engaging with the overwhelming landscape of the Texas desert around them, their dream world has become a little easier to access, and maybe a little easier to hold in memory. –Erin Moore
Danish producer and singer Anders Rhedin of ’80s pop-influenced Dinner is a chrome-y, space-age jukebox with heart eyes. A gathering of pop mutations, it starts out with sizzling “Going Out,” which sets the listener up to be captivated Because of that thick, deep, emotive vocal affectation of the era he’s emulating, in “You Are Like LA,” he comes out saying “You are like Las Anjiiulez.” As a synth-heavy compilation, baleful, romantic pop influence is definitely the founding structure, but there’s a certain eclecticness that speaks to a modernity that gives it a shine of newness. What’s so catching is that he picks apart the dated cheese crumbs (throaty baritone, simplistic synth) and pours them into a new mold. His experience with production may be helping out—this compilation doesn’t mess around, brimming with groovy, consistent brilliance that’s playful like a poke in the ribs. –Erin Moore
Kicking Every Day
All Dogs = Bully + Speedy Ortiz
Like that forlorn ache I get sometimes when looking back on my teenage years, Kicking Every Day feels like youth, like a charming scar from what used to be a constantly reopening scratch. What I mean is that this album carries timeless themes without feeling at all cliché. This is the first full-length by All Dogs, following their 2013 self-titled EP, which was packed with killer tunes. There’s a restlessness that stirs up feelings of a worn-in anxiety and tired contentedness, heard in “How Long,” “Ophelia” and “Skin,” and it’s relatable as hell. Maryn Jones’ voice is high, easy and soothing, coasting melodically along the rhythms of each song. For me, it’s better with each listen, rock music that’s upfront with and unabashedly dependent on its emotion. It maintains a gentleness, even in their punchier songs (“That Kind of Girl”), which lends a sense of kindness to it all. –Erin Moore