Valentine & The Regard – A History of Fashion

Valentine & The Regard
A History of Fashion

Feral Cat Records
Street: 04.18.15
Valentine & The Regard = Television + The Replacements

Northern Utah band Valentine & The Regard’s latest album, A History of Fashion, conjures up a mash up of three wonderful things. I hear the hollow, eerie echo of The Cowboy Junkies during The Trinity Sessions, and I hear the thump-and-drag sound of Tom Wait‘s Mule Variations, all fused together with the last-call, drunk-punk musings of The Replacements. It all works. Don’t get lost in my comparisons: Valentine & The Regard have their own identity, and A History of Fashion is its own record. It’s blues music for the self-possessed. It’s Robert Johnson, removed from the crossroads and placed at a busier modern intersection—preferably with a 7-11.

Each track on this record has a different feel, as if the songs were recorded in different rooms and different places. The first track, “Bend Like A Bridge,” is a slow blues burner that ignites slowly than all at once—like a match. You can almost hear the dust rise and fall from the floorboards with every drumbeat, and when the guitar finally arrives, it’s as cool and clean as a knife. The power-chord precision of “America Is Hanging By A Thread” jolts you to your feet—it’s the time of the record when the energy drinks kick in. Also, just try and get the guitar riff from “I Got The Girl” out of your head anytime soon—you won’t. My favorite track, “Infatuate,” is sadly beautiful, like the near-perfect Replacements gem”Skyway.” It’s an emotional punch of a song that comes in under two minutes, but will stay with you a long time after.

On the track “Bargain State,” vocalist Mike Maurer sings: “Change my look / Get some shining new guitars and sing like everyone else.” He also adds: “Trade all my gear, lose the lo-fidelity / Maybe I’ll get some respect from SLUG Magazine.” I do not know what devil you are dealing with here, Mr. Maurer, but do not take that bargain! You have the respect! Stay as you are. Everything works on this record: the drums, the guitars, the vocals and the lyrics. Valentine & The Regard are a local band that people in the know need to continue paying attention to. –Russ Holsten

Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions | Until the Hunter | Tendril Tails

Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions
Until The Hunter

Tendril Tails
Street: 11.04
Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions = The Sunday’s + Lana Del Rey + Mazzy Star 

A lot of the music from the ‘90s was loud, pissed off, in your face—Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots Grunge. It was the identity of the decade, but grunge’s baby sister was certainly heroin—the drug that helped fuel and kill the last great music scene of the 20th century. Mazzy Star was that quiet, mysterious baby sister of the decade, and Hope Sandoval provided that voice—the voice that exists in the peak of that heroin haze, slow and dreamlike with a haunting tambourine jangle.

Mazzy Star released four studio albums between 1990 and 2013. She Hangs Brightly (1990), So Tonight That I Might See (1993), Among My Swan (1996) and Season Of Your Day (2013). Sandoval formed Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions with My Bloody Valentine‘s Colm O’ Ciosoig in 2001 and have since released two albums, Bavarian Fruit Bread and Through The Devil Softly. Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ third album, Until The Hunter, is a shy little beast that wakes slowly and occasionally bites. Mazzy Star has been called dream pop, neo-psychedelia, acid folk and trip-hop country. They deliver all of the above in this endeavor.

The standout track is Sandoval’s duet with Kurt Vile, “Let Me Get There.” Vile brings his own melancholic whine and adds a cutting guitar to the track. This is easily one of the best singles of the year, and we can only hope for a future full-length with these two. This song is not the love-torn anthem that Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks (a genius duet pairing) gave us with “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” “Let Me Get There” is more about two floating souls laid back in a slower world: “It was always our story, if you forgot / Everything we say we have to honor / And all the things we feel we have to remove / It’s just the way we keep it all in the groove.” Don’t get caught up in the cheese of the lyrics—the two voices together equal gold.

Not all that glitters here is gold, however. A few songs on this album at first seem clunky and misplaced. The nine-minutes-and-a-handful-of-seconds opener, “Into The Trees” is at least four minutes too long. The track “A Wonderful Seed” sounds like your weird aunt telling you a bedtime story that she recently wrote in her community college creative writing class—just close your eyes and hope she thinks you are asleep. “Day Disguise” sounds like your weird cousin that won’t stop talking about sunshine, trees and dolphins: “Why don’t you linger on / Make my branches strong so that I can shade you.” What? I must admit, on repeated listens, I have learned to adore these three songs.  The rest of the album finds Sandoval in fine form with wheelhouse songs like “The Peasant,” “Treasure” and “Salt Of The Sea.” The album ends with the hand-clapping intensity of “I Took A Slip” (every song should have handclaps) and the blues-scorched “Liquid Lady.”

In the end, this album is Mazzy Star wanting to sound more like The Sunday’s and Sandoval reminding us all that she invented Lana Del Rey, who, along with Norah Jones, lifted Sandoval’s vocal stylings and cashed checks. This isn’t a perfect album—at times it reaches, misses and recovers, and I am fine with that. It’s not your mother’s Mazzy Star, but it’s Hope Sandoval welcoming in her warm inventions—perfect for those cooler fall days. –Russ Holsten

Suburban Hell Kill

Suburban Hell Kill
In a Perfect World

Street: 05.12
Suburban Hell Kill = DRI + Off!

If you stand still enough in the heart of the city and aim your ears just right, you might hear the sound of Salt City spit hitting the pavement at 4,226 feet above sea level. It’s a balanced sound of angry, punch-you-in-the-face, hardcore punk with a metal thrash that, in the right moments, dump trucks you. That is the brutally honest and alive sound of Suburban Hell Kill. Josh Leland (guitars/vocals), Eric U. Norris (bass) and Adam Chryst (drums) infuse a beautiful blend of familiar sounds and make it their own, setting a foundation of pleasantly perfect, pissed-off cement right in our own backyard.

As you lean into the sounds of In a Perfect World, it starts with the song “D.C. in Flames” with the introduction, “I believe in death, destruction, chaos, filth and greed,” voiced by Edward Furlong from the film American History X. What follows is Suburban Hell Kill’s barrage of sound that comes out like live bullets out of the barrel of a gun with relentless precision. “We’ve seen it all before / What are we waiting for / This nation belongs to the people,” Leland sings. “They’ll burn it to the ground / Rebuild it to the sound / Of the people together talking revolution.”

“Dead Leaves And Broken Dreams” gives you the blueprint Suburban Hell Kill sound of Leland’s immediate and right-now vocals with a surfy, metal thrash rhythm section that holds the anger up and propels it forward. The rebellion/individualism vs. fashion speech from the film SLC Punk! sets off the track “In A Perfect World.” A perfect world with no systems, government, authority, religion or reason. “Be your own god,” Leland tells us. “Worship yourself.”

These hometown punk rock thrashers preaching “destruction, devastation in the age of revolution” give voice to a boxed-in town that isn’t really a boxed-in town. Suburban Hell Kill is rebel music. It demands to be heard. Pay attention, Salt Lake City! –Russ Holsten

Jake Haws
Good Grief

Street: 12.18
Jake Haws = Charlie Brown + James Taylor

Jake Haws is a local institution. Reading his bio, it is clear he is a busy man. Haws is a musician, songwriter and film composer with an impressive resume of seven albums, four EPs and three films. Haws once owned Muse Music Cafe—a venue and recording studio in Provo, Utah, that helped to support local musicians. He also documented in a blog “50 songs in 50 weeks.” How prolific can he be? This man needs a rest, but he doesn’t take it. Haws has continued his mind-blowing musical output by releasing a new full-length album titled, Good Grief. The theme of this record is pretty easy—there is someone out there that has broken Haws’ heart, and this album is the floodgate of heartbreak that pours over this entire record, the lost-love/no-love/finding-love formula of the lonely wounded heart.

Jake Haws has cultivated that laid-back, early-70s Laurel Canyon California sound that enables Haws to put his heart hurt, lovesick poetry on display. “I don’t know what went wrong that is making me sing this song,” Jake Haws sings on “Little Bird,” “but I got a feeling that someone’s coming back for me.” Maybe, maybe not. This is the crux of the album—the loss of a loved one and the longing/hope for their return. On the upbeat “Moving On,” Haws confidently states, “I’m finally free to step into the light / Oh, yeah, I’m feeling confident and the future’s bright.” It seems a little like he’s moved on. He hasn’t. It changes in the next song. “Because I’m flawed from the start / And it’s keeping me apart / From the ones I love and adore,” Haws sings on the track “Flawed.” “I’m trying harder every day / To shed the weaker man away.” When we finally reach the final song, “Brand New Life,” it’s the optimistic reach of a lonely heart: “What if we got together / We could watch the boats float by / You could talk and I would listen / And I would understand your mind.”

Good grief! Jake Haws is the sad-sack Charlie Brown of his own record. This isn’t a bad thing. Broken/mending hearts make for great songs, and Jake Haws has plenty of them here. I can only hope that true love will find its way back to him and provide a companion record of love—sweet love in all its splendid glory. –Russ Holsten

Mike and the Melvins
Three Men And A Baby

Sub Pop
Street: 04.01
Mike and the Melvins = godheadSilo + Melvins circa 1999 + Melvins circa 2016

Three Men And A Baby is a collaboration between sludge rock legends the Melvins and bassist/vocalist Mike Kunka from godheadSilo. It’s a meeting of the warped and interesting minds that came together at the end of the 20th century. The Sub Pop album was originally scheduled for release in 1999. If you were to open a music time capsule from 1999 your first instinct would be to put kerosene, gasoline or napalm to it and burn it to ash, destroying all evidence. Grunge had already been taken behind the woodshed and shot, heavy metal was already dead, and what was passing for alternative music was sour and rotten like past-due milk. Boy bands, pop princesses and faux country acts ruled the airwaves. The music industry was a 9 fire—so was the world. The Senate was trying to impeach President Bill Clinton for a blow job, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace opened to big box office numbers and would go on to disappoint an entire nerd nation, and Columbine destroyed our high-school idea of innocence and youth.  Despite what Prince had been telling us, it was a horrible year. The world was in a panic. Clocks were counting down to Y2K and the end of the world. It didn’t happen, and neither did the Three Men And A Baby album.

Sixteen years later, like hardened, grizzled detectives, Kunka and the Melvins returned to Three Men and a Baby like a cold case that still needed to be solved. The beauty of it all? The Melvins had never left. The Melvins are one of the most underrated bands over the last 30 years, and quite possibly one of the most respected. They’ve survived New Wave, grunge, EDM and any name you want to put on a music movement over the last three decades. Having married hardcore punk with Black Sabbath years ago and merging their unique sense of silly and doom with a sound that explodes at you like a runaway diesel truck trying to drive through a tar pit, the Melvins are still here. They should be masters of the universe by now with all the royalty checks they should have received for pretty much inventing ’90s rock.

Buzz Osbourne aka King Buzzo (guitar/bass/vocals), Dale Crover (drums/vocals), and Kevin Rutmanis (bass/vocals) still bring the noise. Kunka proves to be a great addition to the well-oiled machine that is the Melvins. The first single, “Chicken ‘n’ Dump,” was written by Kunka’s nine-year-old daughter. The song is a grinding sludge gem that slaps you in the face. “Limited Teeth” is also a standout treat, delivering pure metal guitar bliss. It was “Bummer Conversation” that got my attention, though. It’s a little bit of a ’90s music heist—or it’s a reminder that Mike and the Melvins did it first. It’s a headbanging grunge crunch with a White Zombie monster funk and a sprinkling of sing/talk vocals that remind you of Gibby Haynes and The Butthole Surfers. All the while, Mike and the Melvins seem to be in on the joke: ”It’s too good to be true / What the hell is wrong with you?” Another track that brings up the past is “Annalisa.” The song is a bass and drum–driven burner that sounds a tad familiar. If Kim Deal wandered in and provided backing vocals, it would sound like a classic Pixies song that would comfortably exist on any Pixies album.  Whether it was written in 1999 or added in 2016, the song “Read The Label (It’s Chili)” sums up the last 16 years: ”This used to be the future / Now it’s just shit / You seen it coming / You stepped in it.” The future in all its glory—smartphones, Donald Trump, Sandy Hook and fucking ISIS! We’ve definitely stepped in it.

The album was worth the wait. I hope they plan to revive this project in another 16 years. April fools! –Russ Holsten

Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker

Leonard Cohen
You Want It Darker

Leonard Cohen = The Angel with a Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s voice has always elevated to the heights of angels and descended to the depths of the devil, sometimes in the same song. In his life, Cohen understood the themes of love, light and the grace of redemption, but he also understood the quiet, unholy, looming darkness and the beasts that pull you there. Cohen once sang, “Like a bird on a wire / Like a drunk in a midnight choir / I have tried in my way to be free.” On Nov. 7, 2016, Leonard Cohen finally found that freedom—The Baffled King composing “Hallelujah” stepped into the space between the “garbage and the flowers,” and the flame flickered out.

You Want It Darker is Cohen’s 14th studio album. Like David Bowie’s Blackstar, Cohen gives us one more masterpiece before stepping into the great beyond. The album starts out by placing you immediately into the heart of darkness with the title track. Cohen sings, “Magnified and sanctified / Be thy holy name / Vilified and crucified / In the human frame / A million candles burning / For the help that never came / You want it darker / We kill the flame.” Death, darkness and sin thread through every song on this album. These themes have been staples in Cohen’s whole career, and he reminds us of how unavoidable they are. On the track “Treaty,” Cohen tells us, “I heard the snake was baffled by his sin / He shed his scales to find the snake within / But born again is born without a skin / The poison enters into everything.”

Cohen put death and dying at the heart of this record. As always, he would never leave it at just that. Cohen once famously sang, “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” That light has always been love. And on this album, he leaves that behind, too. On the track “On The Level,” Cohen thinks about staying for one more go-around: “I said I best be moving on / You said we have all day / You smiled at me like I was young / It took my breath away.” Cohen changes his mind—understanding his fate. “Leaving The Table” is the song where Leonard Cohen seems to say his goodbye: “You don’t need a lawyer / I’m not making a claim / You don’t need to surrender / I’m not taking aim / I don’t need a lover / The wretched beast is tame / I don’t need a lover / So blow out the flame.”

Leonard Cohen never shouted out into the void—he whispered, with that ghostly voice that age and experience scratched raw and clean. Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker is a great album, but we’ve always expected that of him. What we didn’t expect is that it would be his last. It hurts a little. “Now I bid you farewell / I don’t know when I’ll be back / But you’ll be hearing from me, baby, long after I’m gone / I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song.” I hope this is true. Goodnight, maestro. Hallelujah. –Russ Holsten

The Vistanauts | Apollo Down | Self-Released

The Vistanauts
Apollo Down

Street: 04.12
The Vistanauts = Julian Cope + Ziggy Stardust

Apollo Down is a fun record. It’s as if The Spiders From Mars got a ride in a yellow submarine—in space. A finely tuned rhythm section, with fuzz guitars layered over perfectly structured synth lines, allow Larsen’s beeps, whirls and sonic tidal waves of cosmic debris to flood over every track on this record. The Vistanauts are Tom Larsen (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Stephanie Selcho (drums), Kent Rytting (lead guitar) and Anton Nielsen (bass).

It is hard to filter out this influence when listening to Larsen’s band The Vistanauts, because Bowie is so much there on the surface. It’s OK to imitate your heroes, and Larsen does just that—however, this isn’t a Bowie tribute album. This is a Vistanauts record.

Whether it’s Starman, Ziggy Stardust or The Thin White Duke, Bowie is, and always will be, one of the gold standards of interpretation. It is a badge of honor to be Beatles–esque or “that guy that sounds like Bowie.” Local legend Tom Larsen does in fact “sound like Bowie”—so much so that Larsen heads a Bowie tribute band called Major Tom & The Moonboys.

Imitation is delivered in an original package with catchy sonic space freak songs that capture your attention with a glam rock, fun-house, mindfuck vibe. Larsen ties the whole album together in a pleasantly perfect, pretty pink boa.

“I’ll just be there picking up the pieces after my tumble down,” Larsen sings on the title track—The Vistanauts’ version of The Man Who Fell to Earth. The song is everything at once and at times sounds like a nervous cockpit of a lost spaceship in which the computer has taken over. “Shhh” is a chaotic space age pop song. “Got a straight jacket brain,” Larsen sings, “and a heart in the loo.” Apollo Down is a great record that we are lucky to have locally, but the album deserves to be heard nationally. Larsen and his merry pranksters deliver on all 13 tracks. Seek out this album and share with your friends. –Russ Holsten

Editorial Note: An earlier edition of this review incorrectly named the bass player of the Vistanauts as Brady Anderson, as opposed to Anton Nielsen. Changes have been made to correct this error.

Jake Burch

Street: 08.18
Jacob Burch = Maxwell + Jeff Buckley

Listening to Jake Burch’s new album I on a snowed-in, February day, I can’t help but be reminded of spring—his songs flutter out like butterflies. Burch gives you that blue-eyed soul that is easy on the ears and settles gently on the mind. He sings with a high falsetto that, at times, sounds like the tortured heart of Jeff Buckley and, at other times, leans toward the soft soul of Maxwell. I hate using comparisons, but I do get that Maxwell/Buckley vibe of love-sick folk and slow-groove soul.

Burch gives us everything but the kitchen sink on this wonderfully pleasant album. It all seems to work for him: chilly cool synth lines, well-paced drum machines: and icy, echoing guitar that move in and out of these songs—not to mention some soft piano and perfectly timed saxophone appearances. Saying this record is easy listening is unfair because easy listening can mean the barely listener pays attention—it’s noise just coming from a faraway speaker while you do other things. That’s not the case with I. When I listen to this record, I want to get absorbed in these songs—they just slowly consume me. Whether it’s the soaring slow brooding opening track “It Ain’t Love” or the emotionally “Stacked Hearts” that closes it, everything in between connects. “I want to fly so I can be free / Run away from everything / Let the dark side out of me / When she gave me everything,” Jake Burch sings on “I Want To Fly,” proving that his lyrics can hold up these wonderfully constructed songs.

Jake Burch created and recorded I in his own house. Scott Rakozy, Hannah Galliosborn, Sam Johnson, Riley Parsens, Michael Hofer, and Shaun Boulter all show up to contribute to this record. This album is a mix of sad songs, slow jams, subtle rain and sunshine. If I’m looking for a soundtrack for a Sunday morning, a lazy afternoon or winding down after a long day, Jake Burch can fill that void. Russ Holsten

Lush – Blind Spot

Blind Spot

Street: 04.15
Lush = Pale Saints + Ride + Slowdive

The ’90s turned out to be a high watermark for badass female musicians. It was riot grrrl nirvana. Icons like Kim Deal, Kim Gordon, Shirley Manson, Gwen Stefani, Bjork and Kathleen Hanna ruled the school. Female-fronted bands like Hole, Elastica, Curve, Belly, 7-Year Bitch, Lucious Jackson and L7 raged, hard and aggressive; multi-selling artists like Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos and Jewel stood for much more than what would later be defined as a pop princess; and Julianna Hatfield was the epitome of alternative slacker cool. This movement was so important that Hanna created the “Riot Grrrl Manifesto.” It was a call to arms and revolution against “beergutboyrock.”

One of the most important things that came out of this manifesto stated, “BECAUSE we don’t want to assimilate to someone else’s (boy) standards of what is or isn’t,” and what would become the foundation: “BECAUSE we know that life is much more than physical survival and are patently aware that the punk rock ‘You can do anything’ idea is crucial to the coming angry-girl rock revolution which seeks to save the psychic and cultural lives of girls and women everywhere according to their own terms, not ours.” This revolution was white-hot for a decade until the flame burned out.  Just as every revolution burns to ash, so do they again. And just as endings turn back around to the beginning, a familiar echo of the past has resurfaced to inspire a new generation.

The London-based band Lush had previously called it quits after the album Lovelife and the suicide of drummer Chris Acland. In 1996, the band disappeared into their lives. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, on Sept. 28, 2015, the new lineup of Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar), Emma Anderson (vocals, guitar), Phil King (bass) and Justin Welch (drums) announced their reunion on their Facebook page. They also announced the release of the new EP, Blind Spot.

Blind Spot doesn’t disappoint. Lush have quickly fallen back into their dreamscape of soft vocals and rolling, reverberating guitars that come at you in waves. Early on in their careers, Berenyi and Anderson were shy about their own voices and requested that their vocals be turned down and everything else be turned up. Lush would be one of the pioneers of shoegaze. On their four-song EP, Lush deliver that shoegaze cool. The first track, “Out Of Control,” is a song of love fading in and fading out, changing and rearranging. Berenyi sings in a voice that hasn’t changed in almost 30 years: “All that I want is the joy of your touch / Twisted together, my love is forever / Out of control and I love you so much.” The song is 100-percent, pure Lush bliss.  The remaining three songs equal the opener. Lost love haunts the song “Lost Boy,” and The Beach Boys–sounding dream pop of “Burning Beeches” invoke blossoming flowers and sunshine, right on time for spring and summer. “Rosebud” leaves us with the perfect Lush lyric: “When the fireworks end, a 100 years will pass / I will hold your happiness in my heart.”

Welcome back, Lush. The Titans have returned! Girl power now! –Russ Holsten

The Flaming Lips | Oczy Mlody | Warner Bros. Records

The Flaming Lips
Oczy Mlody

Warner Bros. Records
Street: 01.13
Flaming Lips = Sun Ra + all weirdness since

The Flaming Lips have always been a mishmash of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, fused together on the Dark Side of the Moon on Sgt. Pepper’s watch. The trash-compacted cosmic debris sounds that we’ve come to expect and adore surface once again on their new album, Oczy Mlody. It’s all here: the cold, clean drums, hornets’ nest bass buzz and keys straight out of an evil toy land. The mindfuck sorcerer supreme, Wayne Coyne, is still in charge. Coyne brings his lo-fi discontent and high-strung anxieties, keeping the lights on at the circus and making sure all the tents are open for business.

As usual, The Flaming Lip’s Oczy Mlody sounds like the soundtrack to the best sci-fi novel you’ve always dreamed about reading, or the background noise to your late-night, drug-filled weird thoughts. The track “There Should Be Unicorns” is the tipping point to the madness of the album. It’s a more sinister Pink Floyd–like time warp, with an ominous buildup to lyrics like: “I hope the swans don’t die … There should be unicorns / The ones with the purple eyes and not the green eyes.” The nirvana-floating purple unicorns are the high-point, heavenly mattress to a tied-together universe. The downside: “Whatever they give them, they shit everywhere.”

The standout track, “The Castle,” delivers more beautifully constructed nonsense. “Her face was a fairytale … Her skull was a mighty moat / And her brain was the castle … A castle brighter than 1,000 Christmas trees … The castle taller than the Northern Lights.” The craziness continues on “One Night While Hunting,” a song about fairies, digging up riches and shooting out wizard brains—a typical day on planet Flaming Lip. “Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes” is more sideways, brainwave fun: “Hiding ourselves in the trees … Have you ever seen someone die? / In the summertime / Is that what your demon eyes see?” And of course, it asks the existential question: “Have you ever gone through the hole in the night sky?”

Most bands pour gasoline everywhere and then light matches in hopes that something catches fire. The Flaming Lips have never been that subtle. They just do their Flaming Lip thing and leave the hits to the philistines. After the shitshow called 2016, Oczy Mlody is a welcome treasure to a new year where we find ourselves at the point of thinking we may still have it together before “Jesus and the spaceships come down.” For a brief amount of time—or at least the length of a Flaming Lips record—we have a sugar-sweet, marshmallow-soft, rainbow-fueled utopia where “If the police show up / We will give them so much money that they can retire from their shitty, violent jobs / And live the greatest lives that they’ve ever lived / And we will be high / And the love generator will be turned up to its maximum / And we’ll get higher / When at last, the sun comes up in the morning.” Here’s to hoping the love generator lasts all year. I want to live in this world—everyone would want to live in this world. The Flaming Lips do live in this world, and thank god for that! They give us some hope in the darkness that lately seems so all-consuming. –Russ Holsten