Author: LeAundra Jeffs

B.E. Godfrey

Wild Desperation

Very Jazzed / Chill Mega Chill Records

Street: 05.20

B.E. Godfrey = Charles Ellsworth + City and Colour

Ben Godfrey has created a short and sweet, melancholy fairytale world that ranges from ghostly and fuzzy to being reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes (see “Words Like Poison”). The album is heavily based in country—many tracks feature a heaping portion of twang and wah, and many have low-register cello and overlaid fiddle. The album is only 16 minutes long, but covers so many different points in space that it would be less palatable if it were longer. Godfrey somehow turns the universal feeling of having an incessant bruised spot at the core into lilting notes on the piano and acoustic guitar. Later on, when I lay in my bed shedding salty tears of desperation, or walking through the city, stoic and drowning in my apathy, this will be the first album I put on every time. –LeAundra Jeffs
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Andrew Jackson Jihad

Christmas Island

Street: 05.06

SideOneDummy

Andrew Jackson Jihad = Ezra Furman + Titus
Andronicus

Like their previous albums, Andrew Jackson Jihad has created a disturbed eulogy to a candy-coated world view. Their combination of intensely morbid metaphors and reminiscent lyrical content captures the incensed and worn-out attitudes of so many of our generation—see “Getting Naked, Playing with Guns.” Musically, they tend to choose acoustic instruments that simultaneously contrast and complement vocals evocative of Dead Kennedys’ old-school punk. The album is a veritable mishmash of different music styles. “Angel of Death” referenced their invention, the “Salad Glove.” I chuckled, which was perfectly timed as a symbol of a past self shed. To be able to write such simplistically complex lyrics is genius, especially when, at the end, I was left with an unexpected and contrasting emotional response, mourning the rancid state of the world, yet somehow feeling uplifted and fulfilled. –LeAundra Jeffs
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Chandler Travis Three-O
This is What Bears Look Like Underwater
Iddy Biddy
Street: 10.23.12
Chandler Travis Three-O = Bob Schneider + America
Intermittently instrumental, in my opinion, is always a benefit when an album features more than five instruments. Compared to Chandler Travis’ concurrent venture with Catbirds, This is What Bears Look Like Underwater comes off a lot less forced. Heavy on the clarinet, the Three-O’s premiere record is velvety, soothing and honeyed. Guitars often bend and melt into light percussion. “Zoe” sounds like the smooth but often unpredictable flight path of a lark. In a few numbers, the vocals sound slightly contrived, but songs that sound organic, like “January,” make up for the shortcoming. Vocal harmonies range from folky to barbershop-y and provide auxiliary charm to this creative venture. Simple yet pronounced bass lines round out every number. I danced through Lindsey Gardens like an awkward jaguarundi (awesome band name!) in an anti-gravity chamber, and would do it again. These swaggarific senior citizens make me want to freak out.

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folk hogan art

folk hogan art

Folk Hogan
The Show

Self-Released
Street: 04.10
Folk Hogan = Oingo Boingo + Tom Waits + In Extremo

Folk Hogan have chosen an entirely new direction. The Show is a concept album centered on a nightmarish allegory of a troupe of carnival workers who feel trapped and resort to mayhem. With their signature quirkiness marinated in heavy metal, Folk Hogan have taken a turn from their previously folk punk ways. “Illusionist” mixes swooning melodies with despairingly violent guitar breaks. The grinding heaviness of songs such as “Butcher” are offset by sweet and emotive pieces like “Said the Beast to the Bearded Lady.” To add to the album’s versatility, Jared Hayes has been added as a main vocalist, launching the album into a sinister, character-centric, narrative realm. Even with only one reference to alcohol over the course of the album, their drunken, bawdy intensity shines through. Join the show and you can never leave. Are you in the mood for a gamble? –LeAundra Jeffs

Novella – Land Novella
Land

Sinderlyn Records
Street: 05.11
Novella = Faust + The Horrors

Novella finally graced the scene with another album after three years of hermiting and honing their style, and it has graciously paid off. Land is a psychedelic and danceable chimera full of soaring and layered vocals. A unification of simple, pop-ready melodies, heavy feedback and creative krautrock influences provide a palette suitable for crossclique enjoyment—see “Land Gone” and “Blue Swallows.” Tinges of ’90s alt and shoegaze round out the dish, imparting a complex flavor profile. I know what I’ll be turning on at my next carouse. –LeAundra Jeffs

Black Mountain
IV

Jagjaguwar
Street: 04.01
Black Mountain = The Black Angels + Kraftwerk + Portugal. The Man

IV, Black Mountain’s fourth album, is as texturally masterful as a pointillism painting, each dot a lone universe from which, when viewed from a distance, a landscape of surprising complexity emerges. The album begins with a detonation, and the quiet that follows after is eerie and foreboding. “Mothers of the Sun” slams abruptly from an erotic, heavy psych riff to tamer harmonic vocals and back, catching attention before any chance of distraction. Tinkling piano in the background lends the song increased depth. It ends softly and powerfully like a fugue, preparing the listener for their next dose of medicine.

“Defector” is lightly mathy with synthesizer styling that sounds like it was recorded in orbit around Ursa Minor. Liltingly progressive keyboards underlay steady percussion and a mix of interspersed, slow-head-bang-worthy six-string aftershocks. Harmonies slip or catapult back and forth between Amber Webber and Stephen McBean, who play off of each other in their twangy, angst-ridden intonations. Dreamy krautrock, a velvety acid trip, swirls eardrums while heavy blues psychedelia pounds through like a violently throbbing heart. This trance is brought to you by John Gourley and hosted by Neu! On the surface, the mix may seem incongruous, but it is eclecticism that makes this album so significant. Atmospheric guitar solos round out the set with some classic throwbacks, à la Hawkwind. This addition is subtle when transformed with modern blues and heavy reverb, but the influence is still apparent.

It is often easy for a group to stick to a tried-and-true method for hard rock, but Black Mountain seem to take every song with an entirely different perspective. “Constellations” reeks of mid-2000s alternative without the nostril-heavy vocalization of many bands from that era. The substantial use of cowbell and a Dennis DeYoung injection had me flailing my hair until I slipped and fell into the cat bowl in my kitchen. With a bruise on my shin, screaming “More cowbell!” to myself has left my body sore and emaciated, but exhaustion and endorphins follow a good flurry of limbs and vocal chords. “Line Them All Up” employs melancholic folk, letting listeners surface for air. Previous songs on IV make this sweet and emotive piece unexpected, but it allows for a dose of self-reflection amid a chaotic front half. It felt as if a reincarnation of a 1975 Stevie Nicks was channeling through my speakers, perfectly captured in bittersweet and earnest candor.

Heavy eyeliner and black wristbands not required. “Cemetery Breeding” is a gem, cutting and reminiscent, providing a bridge between the silky and thunderous rudiments of the album. The story in this song deals with somber affection and the simultaneous acceptance of death. Youthful anguish, when put in an adult perspective, is still the same, hidden cherry pit of despair, now less a scream and more a whisper, and it has become clear that nobody understands you, still. The contrasts evident on this album only seek to make the opposite more intense. Listening to this masterpiece from beginning to end feels like a psychological journey spanning from elation to utter dejection. How ready are you to get to know yourself? The balance between shadowy romanticism and murky, driving rock n’ roll provides a rare, raw sincerity.  It’s only April, and I’m already positive that this will be my favorite album of 2016. Are you listening? –LeAundra Jeffs

Hectic Hobo
Our Medicine Will Do You In
Self-Released
Street: 08.15
Hectic Hobo = Squirrel Nut Zippers + Tom Waits
The Hobos are back with their third venture. This time around, their sound focuses much more on the piano, and an outstanding violin player has joined their ranks (as heard on “Scarecrow Jones”). Production quality has improved tenfold, lending more to the music than they previously could on We Lost Our Legs In The War, We Just Can’t Remember Which War. The accordion is less prominent, and there is more balance in the percussion and bass. The band has delved headfirst into folky twang—where they previously waded at armpit level—and it’s mixed with a previously unrepresented 1920s ragtime influence. Auxiliary instruments are still vital to their sound, such as an especially ghostly saw on “Prison Prayer” and percussive chains on “Hole in My Coffin.” Most lyrical content involves heavy drinking or the woes of love. This album is more well-rounded and versatile than the last. Turn it on, and you won’t stop stomping your feet to this rhythmic masterpiece. –LeAundra Jeffs
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Richard Tyler Epperson
Hourglass
Self-Released
Street: 04.08
Richard Tyler Epperson = Bob Schneider + Explosions in the Sky
 
This mix of often sweet-sounding acoustic guitar and multi-layered instrumentation is definitely pop-radio ready. Honeyed vocals and saccharine, sometimes cheesed-out lyrics work together with soft effects to create a warm blanket of music to envelop your eardrums. Spacey electronic effects and lilting piano add to the album’s velvety dimensions. The entire work is beautifully produced. On the other hand, the style presented has been done many times before, and comes across a bit lackluster and unexciting. Two songs, “Like Always” and “Lights,” are distinctively glitchy. Chilly piano melodies and whiplashing minor-key instrumentation sets “Like Always” apart from the rest of the album. In the end, Hourglass is pretty and easy to listen to. –LeAundra Jeffs
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Legs
Pass the Ringo
Loglady Records
Street: 04.23
Legs = The Who + The Libertines
Pass the Ringo sounds like vintage British Invasion rock put through a broken tape deck in a car with all the speakers blown. Using lo-fi techniques can add grunge and soul elements to an album, but Legs create a fuzzy washout of their music, making any distinct instruments difficult to pick out. I was further dispirited when I realized Legs’ music is endearing underneath a cacophony of ill-produced instruments. “Two Colours” (reminiscent of Arcade Fire) and “The Kingdom’s Collections of Slides and Super 8” are exceptions that I enjoyed. Stop hiding your talent! If the din was cleaned up slightly, it would sound less like an act at a middle school battle of the bands and more like a finished album. –LeAundra Jeffs

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Insect Ark – Portal/Well

Insect Ark – Portal/WellInsect Ark
Portal/Well

Autumnsongs Records
Street: 06.08
Insect Ark = King Woman + Locrian

Experimental sludge and smoldering, ambient drones smash back and forth unexpectedly in this record. Always instrumental and constantly bleak, Portal/Well seeps into the tarred marrow of your bones and grips, forcing emotional opisthotonos. “Collector” is especially bass-heavy, and Insect Ark exhibit this motif across the album, especially in light of the fact that frontwoman Dana Schechter is, by trade, a bassist. The title track features pinpricks of hallucinatory and nightmarish industrial grind. I’ve had to listen to this album in chunks because it forces me to marinate my psyche in my irrevocable fear of yawning, inky abysses that are both metaphorical and tangible. Pain is often translated into pleasure—Portal/Well is terrifying, and my indulgence thereof is intense and unabated. –LeAundra Jeffs