Author: Lizz Corrigan

Max Pain and the Groovies
Electro Cosmic
Psych Lake City Records
Street: 12.31.14
Max Pain and the Groovies = The Growlers + The Black Angels

I first saw Max Pain and the Groovies in 2010 at Kilby Court. I forgot who headlined because Max P. and the boys definitely stole the show. Since then, they’ve been jamming harder, as their debut full-length album, Electro Cosmic, was released this past New Year’s Eve—it’s a game changer. Much like their self-titled EP in 2013, Electro Cosmic is a cohesive, high-energy set from start to finish, but with 12 tracks, it’s three times as good. Here, psychedelic garage rock is taken to a new level: The boys go a littler harder, with the confidence to loosen up and let the reverb and mysticism flow. The interludes are undeniably groovier than before—even the song titles give it away: “Electro Cosmic Chronic Jam.” If you’re looking for a way to kick off 2015 the right way, don’t miss out on one of the best albums of the year. –Lizz Corrigan

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The Growlers
Chinese Fountain
Everloving Records
Street: 09.23
The Growlers = Allah-Las + The Babies

The Growlers have coasted with albums like Gilded Pleasures and Hung at Heart, but deliver something a little different with Chinese Fountain. Chinese Fountain is an obvious attempt at maturity—with meta-narrative aside from the girl next door—and they’ve appealed to those who are attached to the pre–Chinese Fountain Growlers and to those who are interested in what else they can achieve. It’s still their classic psychedelic sound and beach-rat attitude, but cleaned up a bit on tracks like “Big Toe,” clinging to their roots on tracks like “Good Advice,” and sparking a new side on tracks like “Going Gets Tuff.” Chinese Fountain is a transition—showing that the band is another year older and wiser—but it is anything but a disappointment. –Lizz Corrigan

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Echodog 
Mine
Self-Released
Street: 02.22
Echodog = The Black Keys + The Shins

 

Echodog reeks with potential. With a short five-track album, these locals know how to play. Each track is rock-oriented, with the exception of “Mine,” which feels more along the lines of acoustic, alternative coffee-shop rock—not that that’s a bad thing. Echodog maintains a pleasant balance between instrumentals and vocals—you can hear everything. No instrument overwhelms another, and the vocals aren’t drowned out by the electric guitar. It’s well put together—instrumentally, vocally and lyrically. The band capitalized on the rock genesis of music, giving it their own unique twist to it. Nice riffs, man!  –Lizz Corrigan
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Amy Blaschke

Amy Blaschke – Opaline
Amy Blaschke
Opaline

Rocket Heart Records
Street: 10.09
Amy Blaschke = She & Him + The Ettes

Amy Blaschke is a Los Angeles–based singer/songwriter who just released her fifth studio album. Opaline is 11 of 28 songs that she has crafted following her last album, Desert Varnish (2013). Blaschke is not entirely folk because she moves quickly and unexpectedly from hauntingly folk-like to more pop, rock and edge on tracks like “Shiver Wary.” While most of the album is slow, even the faster tracks, like “All Of One Love,” feel slowish with her distant vocals. Blaschke showcases her ability to be stylistically versatile, but listening is a lot of up and down, which is fine if you’re into that sort of thing. –Lizz Corrigan

Hot Vodka - Prisoner of Paradise

Hot Vodka
Prisoner of Paradise

Self-Released
Street: 06.10
Hot Vodka = Husker Dü + Dinosaur Jr. + Sonic Youth + Fuzz

After a series of casual and after-party jam sessions between friends, Hot Vodka emerged from the basement and broke into the local music scene. The band comprises Andrew Aldridge (drums), Logan Griffith (guitar, vocals) and Durell Williams (guitar, vocals), each bringing their unique musical quirks and influences to the stage. Former bassist Sean Whitaker slaps the bass on Prisoner of Paradise, but left shortly after the release to join the Navy (thanks, Sean).

Prisoner of Paradise dropped in June following their showcase five-track EP, Everyday is the Same, which was released in February. Everyday is the Same is traditional rock n’ roll, leaning toward acid rock and incorporating lyrical simplicity, intense drumming and amplified electric guitar progressions with elements of rawness and psychedelia.

In three short tracks, Prisoner of Paradise proves that Hot Vodka are a group of innovators, not imitators. Holding onto the rock/acid-rock elements, the seemingly distant skate-punk-like vocals center on heavy metal melodies. The EP opens with “This Time,” a comparatively mellow and trippy song with drawn-out electric distortions and slow jams. With each track, the rhythm picks up—“What’s Going On” is a catchy electric set, beginning with simple chords supported by distinct bass riffs, and then transitions into fast-action picks and drumming, peaking with a heavy electric solo about midway through the track. “Prisoner of Paradise” seems outwardly void of the bass and noticeably more metal and dominated by electric guitar. Dramatic advances between energized strums and picks leaves me feeling trapped in a realm of technical electric frenzy.

Hot Vodka play shows at local hot spots like Urban Lounge and Kilby Court, opening for groups like Max Pain and the Groovies. Rooted in the skate and snowboard world, they were invited to headline at Art/Visuals, a May art show and live concert at the Photo Collective Studios that was featured on snowboarder.com. Hot Vodka are on a roll, developing a more unique sound with Prisoner of Paradise, and it appears they have no plans of coolin’ down. Get trapped in paradise. Mark your calendars for their next show, cruise over to hotvodka.bandcamp.com, and fire up Hot Vodka’s newest EP. –Lizz Corrigan


Editor’s note: “Logan Griffin” was updated to Logan Griffith.

Julia Holter | In the Same Room | Domino Records

Julia Holter
In the Same Room

Domino Records
Street: 03.31
Julia Holter = Kate Bush + Julianna Barwick

In The Same Room is an 11-track, live album by L.A.-based artist Julia Holter and her bandmates Devin Hoff, Dina Maccabee and Corey Fogel at RAK studios over the course of two days. This is Holter’s fifth album, although In The Same Room features live versions of songs from previous albums throughout Holter’s career, like Have You In My Wilderness, Loud City Song and Tragedy. The album is titled after the song “In The Same Room,” from Holter’s 2012 album, Ekstasis, but actually doesn’t feature the song “In The Same Room,” or any song from Ekstasis. In The Same Room neatly repackages Holter’s career into a single, beautiful album.

In The Same Room incorporates classical, indie and baroque, and differs from Holter’s more electronic-styled music. While part of the difference in sound can attributed to the nature of a live-recorded track, for the most part, these versions of the songs aren’t much different—while there are a few stylistic differences, Holter and the band do a great job a translating the recorded version into live version.

Some songs, however, like the opening track, “Horns Surrounding Me,” are notably different from their original version. In place of upbeat electronic harmonies, Holter significantly slows the pace, trading the lo-fi for high fidelity, piano and strings. By re-structuring the rhythm and bringing more focus to her vocals, which teeter between piercing and crooning, the song becomes a haunting and dramatic arrangement, displaying Holter’s talent into taking on a track to make it sound entirely new.

Whether songs are similar or different from their original versions, there are no overwhelming sound effects, but rather a focus on establishing layered and dramatic, multi-instrumental depth. The refreshing instrumental variation is graced by the harpsichord, with drumming, light percussions and Holter’s icy vocals. Each song exudes a sense of simplicity and rawness, yet resonance.

Holter’s voice is the staple of each track, completing the elegance that begins with soft, drawn-out instrumentals, which lead into powerful strikes on the keys and quicker plucking and bowing on the strings on tracks like “City Appearing.” Her voice is simultaneously powerful and fragile, accompanied by quick, sharp, wild moments on the strings, which seem to simulate the electronic portions of songs on tracks like “So Lillies.” On tracks like “Betsy On The Roof,” Holter easily ranges from low to high notes with softness and ease.

While Holter’s lyrics make literary references, Holter is quite funny in her music videos, lightening the otherwise serious tone of her lyrics. For example, “Feel You,” from Have You In My Wilderness, is a four-minute video, featuring her dog. While seemingly profound, philosophical and poetic lyrics, I don’t think Holter takes herself too seriously.

Holter likes to take risks, and she showcases how to write tracks that sound great live, how to adapt recorded songs to sound even better live, and how past expressions can be a foundation for new musical assertions. Holter used past career choices to formulate a new yet entirely different approach to LP construction: She polished up some old stuff and made it shine. Lizz Corrigan

Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel

Milk! Records
Street: 05.18
Courtney Barnett: = Waxahatchee + Lucinda Williams

Australian-based singer songwriter Courtney Barnett delivers yet again with her newest album. This 10-track release is an emotionally and electrically charged album, well-crafted to iterate Barnett’s deadpan style and undeniable appeal.

Barnett fuses her instrumental vigor with powerful yet poetic lyrics. The album lives up to its name. Navigating the complexity of feeling and emotional expression. Sometimes the theme reveals itself in subtle nods and lines, while other times it’s obvious, like in “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence.”

The album opens with “Hopefulessness,” which begins with a low-note reverb and a slow-paced riff and grows and develops as the song progresses. Shortly after the start, accompanied by a synthesized buzz, Barnett croons, “You know what they say / No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere / Along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art.” The eventual and subtle drumming and percussion amid the continued mesmerizing drab of the electric guitar echoes the title of the song: a bit hopeful and a bit hopeless. Barnett effortlessly draws out the words, “It’s OK / It’s OK / It’s OK to have a bad day.” What started as a slow and simple track expands into a blended electric whirl, capping out at nearly five minutes, all instrumental, with the sound a seeming steaming, whistling teapot.

Some tracks are more than four minutes, like “City Looks Pretty” and “Charity.” They are instrumentally cheerful, with a vocal range as diverse as it gets for Barnett. Meanwhile, some are characteristically deadpan and to the point, like the laconic track, “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.” This less-than-two-minute-song is grunge-packed with some edge, some yelling, and generously heavy on the drums and dramatic strums. It’s mostly instrumental and dives into sporadic quick shifts on the guitar. It is over as quickly as it began.

Barnett softens her edge with “Walkin’ on Eggshells,” a folk-rock song, dipping her toes in pop elements. The electric guitar and drums remain gently at the forefront while subtle keyboarding becomes intermittently apparent. “Help Your Self” is temperate, too, yet a little fun and funky. It starts first with the drums, which remain and never cease, and then brings in a simultaneous and toe-tapping riff on the bass and electric guitar. Between dramatic starts and stops, Barnett integrates poetic introspection and perspective, from “Darkness depends on where you’re standin’” to “The sun on the shelf / Says please help yourself” and “Humble but hungry / Need validation,” in the chorus.

Tell Me How You Really Feel is ardently raw and toggles between classic-style Barnett, nuances and novel endeavors. Whatever she does, Barnett seems to do it well, guided simply by instrumental exploration and musical soul-searching. Since her first full-length release in 2015, Barnett has proven she’s a musical standout: Tell Me How You Really Feel not only hits the nail on the head—it raises the bar for what’s to come. –Lizz Corrigan

Selja Sini
Back Home
Self-Released
Street: 09.26.14
Selja Sini = Cate Le Bon + Rilo Kiley

Selja Sini is a local husband-and-wife duo and power couple. Selja Felin Engar of Finland and Brett Engar of Utah created this indie-folk EP, Back Home: six tracks beautifully composed with the ukulele, percussion and a hint of electric fringe—everything as soft as the hum of Selja’s voice. Each track surpasses the next, dancing through moments of hope and reverie. Slower tempos and wondrous, transfixing songs and upbeat tracks like “We Ran” affirm the epic tragedy of this album: There are only six tracks. –Lizz Corrigan

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Co-Pilgrim
Plumes
Battle Worldwide Recordings
Street: 05.26
Co-Pilgrim = Mist and Mast + M. Ward

Co-Pilgrim are back after a number of years with album number three, Plumes. This album is a solid and hauntingly beautiful 10-track, melodic pop album. Together, Mike Gale, Joe Bennett, Tom Wenzel, Andy Reaney and Claire Bennett play guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, string instruments and percussion to amplify each song in a bittersweet manner—and by bittersweet, I mean that the lyrics are perfectly written and harmonized to be both happy and sad at the same time. Songs like, “Dancin’ Hoods” epitomize how Plumes is the soundtrack for staring at the stars while feeling everything deeply. –Lizz Corrigan

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Michael Gross
Golden Hits, Volume 1
Self-Released
Street: 03.18
Michael Gross = The Allman Brothers Band + Josh Ritter
 
Michael Gross is the frontman and founder of the band The Statuettes, but he’s releasing this EP on his own. This EP comprises of five tracks—his “Golden Hits.” Gross is an indie/folk rock singer-songwriter who takes full advantage of his guitar ability. Gross is simple and complex at the same time. There is a big difference in musical style between each track. He goes from somber and slow to upbeat with a little twang, eventually finding a middle-ground between the two styles. If Gross sounds up your alley, head over to michaelgross.bandcamp.com and check out his new EP today! –Lizz Corrigan
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