National CD Reviews
National Music Reviews
SLUG Staff reviews releases from Beer Corpse, Boris, Cass McCombs, Foundation, Fucked Up, Joan of Arc, Mia Doi Todd, Nick 13, Panda Bear, Swingin’ Utters, Title Fight, Weekend Nachos and more.
Start and Complete
About Group = Hot Chip + Spring Heel Jack
This indie pseudo-super group fronted by Alexis Taylor (of Hot Chip) featuring members of Spring Heel Jack and This Heat is just about what you would expect: watered-down Hot Chip. Taylor’s voice is really hard to dissociate with Hot Chip, and because of that, I am constantly waiting for the songs to get interesting (always with disappointing results). The songs are fairly straightforward indie pop, usually on the slower side. The keyboard lines all hearken back to late ’80s Stevie Wonder, while the rest of the instrumentals sound like a less charming Harlem Shakes. If you love Hot Chip, check it out. If not, it isn’t terrible, but may not be worth your time. –Cody Hudson
Lives and Treasure
Friendly Fire Recordings/Hot Sand Records
Acrylics= The Cars + Fleetwood Mac + Lush + Labyrinth Soundtrack (1986)
Brooklyn’s Acrylics pull from a lot of sources, so it’s hard to really pinpoint where they’re going or what they’re doing. A two-piece, Molly Shea and Jason Klauber both share songwriting and vocal duties. They have distinct and different angles they’re coming from, but manage to meet in the middle. Shea seems to pull more from late ’70s/early ’80s pop, with glittery synth and an ethereal singing style that’s very reminiscent of the bands on the 4AD label. Klauber’s songs are heavy on the Neil Young ’70s folk rock end with a few pedal steel accents over acoustic guitar. Blended together, there is a kitschy quality that works for the most part, though it’s a little confusing. I can’t really tell if they’re serious or not, but it’s a solid effort if you spend time with it. –Mary Houdini
Anti-Social Music Is The Future Of Everything
Anti-Social Music = The Great American Snorebook/Dollar Store Dolor
By turns headache-inducing and subtly obnoxious, this NYC-based music “collective” is self-indulgent and obviously doesn’t care what type of noise it is making, as long as its members delude themselves that they are making “art. Regardless of a collective’s not-for-profit status and their seemingly good intentions of highlighting local artists at some of the their shows, it doesn’t mean they should be recording albums and certainly not promoting them.
A warning SLUG readers: this is album number three with two more on their way! I suppose there is a market for this drivel somewhere, but rarely has experimental chamber music sounded this boring or this out-of-tune. And the self-indulgence of stretching this shit out for twenty songs is beyond torturous. Most of the blame seems to be on founding member/president and self-proclaimed ‘spiritual leader’ Franz Nicolay (Guignol, Hold Steady) and his abysmal production skills—or the lack thereof.
Most of the song ‘cycles’ here are credited to the out-of-sync and out-of-key musicians and using Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note for the “Bitter Suite” section is both unoriginal and uninspired as its individual tracks are named: “Bull Elk,” “Nightmare in La-La Land” and “Fear.” The cellos and violins are untuned but seem to marry the other lackluster playing, and it’s as if Nicolay decided to record the first take of every idea and call it a finished song. Finally, to complete the package, the cover art (by the otherwise great Nicholas Gazin) matches the music inside nearly perfectly; in other words, it sucks! –Dean O Hillis
The Gospel of Rythm Recordings
Baby Baby = Fugazi + Sublime + some Everclear jungle-juice
A cluster-fuck of joyful noise with a wide variety of influences and stylings, this album is a wild ride spawned from the recklessly creative minds of four fun-loving dudes from Carrolton, GA. You can hear the sunshine in the music, with punky beats & riffs echoing sounds from the era of Sublime, dashes of harder punk like Fugazi, and definite influences of hard liquor mixin’ with testosterone. Throw this album in at your next party, dump the Everclear in the Jungle Juice and get crazy already! It’s evident that the only thing to be done with this album is to pop it in, get fucked up, get loud, and jump around. Sounds like a good time, right? Best get the album. -P.Buchanan
Balance and Composure
Balance and Composure = Title Fight + Tigers Jaw + Brand New
After a pair of fan-favorite EPs and a split with the similarly hot Tigers Jaw, Balance and Composure have delivered their first full length, and fans are gonna love it. Separation is intense and emotional, owing as much to bands like Polar Bear Club as it does to Nirvana. There is a darkness and complexity to the title track that channels Title Fight and later Crime In Stereo, while opener “Void” has a slow weirdness that recalls grunge in a completely non-shitty way.
The album’s only weakness—-and it’s a weakness that Balance and Composure have fallen to before–is the length of some songs. The majority of songs are 4-5 minutes long, which is fine for a while, but the album definitely drags towards the end and the first half feels fresher and sounds stronger. Regardless, Balance an Composure’s debut full-length definitely delivers and creates a promise of more greatness to come. – Ricky Vigil
Band of Heathens
Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son
Band of Heathens = G. Love and Special Sauce + Brad Paisley
Band of Heathens play exactly the kind of music you’d expect to hear at Bonnaroo, pushing the bluegrassy jam-band template forward only by throwing in compositions that could play on contemporary country stations. Their range is most evident on the acoustic album closer “Gris Gris Satchel,” showing they are capable of a folksier sound with their lush campfire harmonies.
Fans of the style will like the three lead vocalist/songwriters who each has character yet who all harmonize well together, but the didacticism of their social commentary is a bit much. The singers’ inflections will all but guarantee that they don’t find crossover success; theirs is a sound tolerable only to a narrow audience. –Nate Housley
Keg Nuts 7”
Beer Corpse = Machetazo + Gruesome Stuff Relish – the horror + beer!
Grab your favorite brew—it’s a necessity for it to be canned, because if you want the ultimate Beer Corpse experience, you need to continuously shotgun those brews until the 11-and-a-half minutes of their blistering 7” is all done. You’ll get a short break when you have to flip the record. The growing label Give Praise Records not only has a healthy mail order for grind and fastcore (which you’re probably not going to find too easily elsewhere), but they’re also putting out a bunch of new goodies, including the debut release of Australia’s Beer Corpse.
Schlepping a label on their brand of grind isn’t easy to do—it offers some unholy, guttural growls, giving it that special lager flavor of death metal, but mixing it up is some blazing fast thrash/punk-styled riffing with blasting or just good old D-beat drumming. The release also features some of the best use of the bass guitar in grind/fastcore. While it does keep the pace of the very short songs in check, it also does its own thing quite often and makes Keg Nuts sound heavy as all hell and overly nasty, like the puke stuck on your shirt from a night of partying.
Forget your new-school party-thrash metal, Beer Corpse pisses their albums out in seconds. Really, these guys need to pump out a full-length fast—spins beyond spins of this alcoholic grind is leaving me hungover and damn it, the only cure for a Beer Corpse hangover is more Beer Corpse. –Bryer Wharton
Bobby = Fol Chen + Electric President
Bobby is an interesting album: it is lush like Efterklang, engaging like Grizzly Bear (not quite Veckatimest, but probably Yellow House) and about as predictable as Animal Collective (Feels). I am not saying that it is a sum of those albums quality wise, but it is reminiscent of all of them. When they aren’t switching between male and female singers, the instrumental tracks will probably remind you of Album Leaf. The album is pretty slow moving, but if you have a pair of headphones, a lonely afternoon to kill and a book to read, this album could be the perfect fit. – Cody Hudson
Attention Please = New Album + Wata/Ai Aso Split + Golden Dance Classics
Heavy Rocks = Heavy Rocks (2002) + BXI + Smile!
I find it somewhat ironic that a band who never rests on their laurels—who seemingly change musical styles with every release—have now titled no less than three of their releases Heavy Rocks: a 2002 full-length, 2009’s 7” series on Southern Lord, and now another full-length in 2011. However, and somewhat surprisingly, this Heavy Rocks release is much less interesting and much more heavy-handed than Attention Please—the “companion” (and I use that term extremely loosely) release on Sargent House.
Essentially, Attention Please and Heavy Rocks are the United States versions of the Japanese-released New Album from earlier this year with different track listings and extra songs, and both are very different style-wise: They are very much “brother and sister” releases. Attention Please is sung entirely by Wata, Boris’ diminutive powerhouse of a guitarist, whose voice is nothing if not mesmerizing and dreamy, and is very much an experimental pop release. Repetitious beats cloud the album, and heavy guitar and bass tones abound, mixing perfectly with Wata’s vocals and experimental/ambient passages.
This, boys and girls, is one of Boris’ finest. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Heavy Rocks, the “brother” release. Heavy Rocks is quintessential Boris, if there is such a thing. Drummer Atsuo’s “yeah!” and “woo!” calls intermingle with gnarly guitars and guest appearances from the likes of Ghost’s Michio Kurihara, The Cult’s Ian Astbury and Isis’ Aaron Turner, which helps ensure a solid release, but when all is said and done, it is Attention Please—the “sister” release—that I find myself listening to on repeat. –Gavin Hoffman
Brain F≠ = RALPH + Solid Attitude + Loser Life
Punks seem much less boxed-in by the strict definitions and uniforms of their respective sub-genres than they once did, and North Carolina’s Brain F≠ (read Brain Flannel) is a prime example of the pleasantly bizarre free-for-all evident in our oh so modern age. Featuring former members of Logic Problems and Grids, the band’s hardcore roots are evident, but they would fit on a bill with the Mummies (or any of those seminal ‘90s garage fonzies) as smoothly as they would with someone like Career Suicide.
This 45 is a ripper through and through, and the opiate-addled, mixed gender vocals shine from beneath a fuzzed out blanket of delightful noise. The b-side, “Symptom Set,” is the summer soundtrack for house-partying rockers who hit their heads on the low beams of shitty, unfinished basements while pogoing like drunken mongoloids. Rumors abound of a forthcoming full-length, so keep yer eyes peeled. – Nate Perkins
Cass McCombs = Howe Gelb + Morrissey + Scott Walker
Still reeling from 2009’s insanely gorgeous and accessible Catacombs, Wit’s End’s smooth, R&B-influenced “County Line” sounds dangerously like a hit. Enjoy it, because the rest of Wit’s End is a dark, reclusive retreat back into McCombs’ moody and hyper-literate psyche. Patience is required for McCombs’ heady, slow-paced, and occasionally funny tales of dislocation and separation.
While occasionally belabored, McCombs once again proves to be a songwriter and storyteller of the highest caliber, possessing the allegorical power of Leonard Cohen and the morose yet bone-dry wit of Morrissey. This is certainly McCombs’ most orchestrated endeavor, with most of the songs straying far from the “singer-songwriter” fare of delicate acoustic guitar-picked melodies. Dulcimers, Rhodes and rhythmic bass lines lead McCombs’ idiosyncratic voice. Wit’s End solidifies Cass as a rare and untouchable talent. –Ryan Hall
Coke Bust = Slap-a-Ham Records + Infest + Straight Ahead
This is unashamedly straight-edge DC hardcore that’s got thick dollops of SSD running through its veins—like an angrier, more focused Spazz. Like Youth of Today blitzed out on amphetamines and … Nevermind. Prolific, consistent, and adding to their ever-expanding list of recorded output (a slew of EPs and an LP), Degradation is hardly a departure from the past, but it’s fine material and an excellent place for newbies to begin.
“Long Gone” shreds like rocks in a kitchen mixer, “Keep Out” has a frantic hustle that pulverizes everything within earshot and the dirge-ridden groove of “Deathbeds” will have bleary-eyed listeners walking the streets in search of crack dens to burn down. Tie it all up with hateful lyrics, a refreshing dose of social consciousness and a total running time of five minutes and you’ve got yourself a fine slab of wax that’s as vicious as it is addictive. –Dylan Chadwick
Damon & Naomi
False Beats and True Hearts
Damon & Naomi = Mojave 3 + The Clientele + Asobi Seksu
Given the massive success of Beach House last year, Dream Pop has made a come back in a big way. Behind Teen Dream’s shimmering guitars, breathy vocals and lethargic song pace, one could feel the heavy influence of early ‘90s 4AD bands like Cocteau Twins and Damon Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500 project, Damon & Naomi pressing firmly down on their shoulders.
As Godparents to this sub-genre, False Beats and True Hearts puts another notch in the duo’s catalog of flawless albums that run together without interruption—perfect for spring afternoon bike riding and naps. Wareham’s guitar still wraps each track in a delicate muslin gauze of haze, while Naomi Yang’s breathy, ephemeral vocals float placidly over the carefully sculpted compositions. –Ryan Hall
Face to Face
Laugh Now, Laugh Later
People Like You
Face to Face = Lagwagon + Strung Out + No Use For a Name
Attention semi-successful, quasi-mainstream punk bands from the ’90s who insist on putting out new music: Please stop. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of similar-sounding bands during this era (see the late ’90s Fat Wreck Chords/Epitaph rosters), and the style hasn’t aged particularly well. Face to Face were always a bit more serious in their musical approach, setting them apart from their EpiFat brethren, but I have a hard time believing many people were clamoring for a new album from these dudes.
There are definitely some decent tracks on Laugh Now, Laugh Later (“It’s All About You” is catchy as hell, and “Should Anything Go Wrong” kicks off the album with a lot of energy), but it’s hard to get through the entire album. Only one song is under three minutes, and for the type of music Face to Face is making, that’s just too goddamn long. Stay away from this one. (6/14, The Complex) –Ricky Vigil
When the Smoke Clears
Foundation = Trial + Unbroken + Terror
It It might be hard to think of hardcore as a comforting style of music. But, if comfort is to be found in the familiar, then Foundation is one of the most comfortable bands in the genre currently. Wearing mid-90s hardcore pride à la Unbroken and Trial on their sleeve proves not to be a liability for Foundation. Rather, the comfort found in the familiar and well-executed breakdowns, tough vocals and anthem-like choruses are reminiscent of a time gone past, but are still exhilarating.
Foundation find themselves occupying space in the here and now—even if they’re consistently looking back. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but just like your mom’s cooking, sometimes it’s better to go home than hit the new, trendy, four-star restaurant. Foundation is that plate of delicious comfort food that you’ll gladly eat for dinner and make a sandwich with the next day. –Peter Fryer
David Comes To Life
Fucked Up = Career Suicide + Hüsker Dü + End of a Year
The third album from Fucked Up is a rock opera in four acts about an Englishman who works in a light bulb factory—for real. After bending, stretching and beating the backbone of hardcore to fit their needs on 2008’s excellent The Chemistry of Common Life, Fucked Up have taken a slightly more melodic approach on their new album. I might be crazy, but I hear some weird-ass Beach Boys shit underneath Damian Abraham’s guttural yells, and the seemingly throwaway covers of British twee pop groups on Fucked Up’s Couple Track rarities collection definitely seem to have influenced their approach.
David also sees the band utilizing their three guitarists (yes, they have three fucking guitarists) much better than they have in the past, with one guitar holding down the rhythm and the other two mostly doing whatever the hell they want. Despite all the weirdness from the guitars, the organ and the surprisingly well-implemented female vocals (this is a love story, after all), David is very listenable. The only real problem is the album’s length (18 tracks in about 80 minutes), and that doesn’t even include the supplementary recordings. Still, David Comes to Life proves that Fucked Up is one of the most interesting and exciting bands making music today. Bring on the Broadway adaptation. –Ricky Vigil
Dead to Me
Girls Names = Dum Dum Girls + early Beach Boys
Girls Names do the same kind of surfy, reverby sound that Slumberland has been putting out for the last few years, distinguishing themselves stylistically only by sounding slightly drowsier than their contemporaries. For fans of the sound, this is great news. But Girls Names’ three-chord simplicity isn’t strikingly minimalistic nor are their melodies particularly infectious—in other words, they won’t break new ground for listeners not itching to find the next Pains of Being Pure at Heart. –Nate Housley
Helado Negro = Memory Tapes + Toro Y Moi
Although my first year Spanish skills aren’t quite enough to decipher the ramblings of Roberto Carlos Lange, this was still a really fun listen. It’s upbeat, sexy and electronic without being overt dance music. Canta Lechuza slowly moves along, pulsing through a few static, noise drenched passages. Although it never reaches the party time mood of Neon Indian or Memory Tapes, if you’re looking for chillwave, this will be a satisfying find. – Cody Hudson
Howe Gelb & A Band Of Gypsies
Alegrías = Calexico + Lou Reed + Giant Sand + Ennio Morricone
Having followed Tucson’s Howe Gelb for a number of years now, I am constantly impressed with his knack for experimentation. Each project of Gelb’s has a personalized twist in genre, whether country-tinged rock (Giant Sand) to straight-up Spaghetti Western (Band of Blacky Ranchette) or one-off gospel project (Sno Angel Like You). Musically, all are pretty different, save for his trademark swooning drawl.
He’s collaborated with a different group of A-list musicians for each album: from Neko Case and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, to Cat Power and John Parish, but it’s always apparent that Gelb is the one steering the ship. Alegrías is somewhat of a departure from the country-tinged-rock format, incorporating another grouping of A-list musicians in the form of flamenco-playing gypsies (including Spanish guitar virtuoso Raimundo Amador), and it is nothing short of awesome.
Gelb, as expected, has made yet another album like nothing I’ve heard him do before. It’s refreshing to see such a longtime respected musician constantly pushing himself and others into new realms and styles, consistent in his inconsistency. –Mary Houdini
Hunx and His Punx
Too Young To Be In Love
Hunx and His Punx = Nobunny + Thee Makeout Party + The Shirelles
This is another fine example of the bubblegum garage pop punk scene coming out of Oakland. Hunx and His Punx play “Be My Baby” music with a small recording budget and no Phil Spector, which provides for a modest recording heavily influenced by early ‘60s pop. From my perspective, that’s a good thing, though it does take a little away from the energy their live shows generate.
The main vocals kind of remind me of the singer from Violent Femmes, but with a noticeable lisp, while the backup vocals (particularly those of Shannon Shaw from Shannon and the Clams) stand out with an impressive presence. Following in step with the ‘60s influence, the band’s pop ballads are hook intensive and catchy. This album is perfect for listening to while wrapping a telephone cord around your hand and gossiping about Johnny—especially if you’re a guy. I suggest checking it out. –Mike Abu
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc = American Football x Captain Beefheart
Joan of Arc has always been based around the outsized personality of frontman Tim Kinsella. His lyrical range typically begins and ends with free associative jokes, and his vocal style is more often than not a kind of two-note madman chant—he’s the Dadaist Mark E. Smith. Like The Fall, Joan of Arc has a trial-and-error discography to match their penchant for experimentalism. Life Like begins with the aimless 10-minute “I Saw the Messed Binds of My Generation” and soldiers on with six of the nine songs containing either “life” or “like” in the title.
The album has its moments, but overall, Life Like seems rote in its attempt to be avant-garde and fails on the other hand to be particularly catchy or clever. Newcomers should check out the band’s brilliant first two albums. –Nate Housley
Karma To Burn
Karma to Burn = Kyuss + Black Sabbath
This stoner metal crew hailing from Hicksville, W.V., had a somewhat rocky start—a solid demo and EP got them attention, but facts from the rumor mill say that a label deal with Roadrunner Records made them use a vocalist when they wanted to be instrumental. The one album deal led to other labels, which allowed Karma To Burn to be fully instrumental, but the band went inactive around 2002. Last year, the reunited trio came back full force and delivered some grooving stoner goods on their Napalm Records debut, Appalachian Incantation.
With V, some of those styles and themes greatly displayed on the last record continue, but V thankfully and gratefully dominates even the last record, becoming the best offering the band has given up. The entire record is a groove and riff monster—once it starts rolling, the momentum is fast and fun. “49” has one of the best damn stoner riffs, bridges and builds I’ve heard in years. Friend of the band early on, Daniel Davies (who happens to be the son of the Kinks’ Dave Davies) has joined Karma to Burn as their vocalist for V.
While the vocals are minimal, only chiming in on three of the album’s eight tracks, it makes those tracks stick out that much better: Davies fits the tunes like a glove and does mighty fine glory to the album closer, a cover of Sabbath’s “Never Say Die.” –Bryer Wharton.
Unfortunate End EP
Velvet Blue Music
Kissing Cousins = PJ Harvey – the angst (and talent)
The initial concept of Kissing Cousins’ new EP is intriguing in its own right: four songs chronicling the ends of four different female protagonists. Led by songwriter/guitarist Heather Bray Hewood, this all-female quartet certainly has something in common with another all-girl band that I fancy: They are based in LA and they write and perform their own songs. But unlike my dream fab five—better known as the Go-Go’s—they lack a key ingredient that makes them likable: a sense of melody.
Maybe it is this long winter with only patches of spring that makes me not warm up to songs titled “You Bring Me Down” and “Throw Her Body In The River”—songs only a goth mom could love—but ladies, please, lighten up! Granny Get Your Gun is at least fun title-wise, but again, sounds like a suicidal lullaby sung by a nanny preparing her final arsenal. All is not lost on the closing semi-melodic “Pale White,” where the other “revolving” band members seem to come into their own. I heard harmonizing and instrumentation that seem lacking on the other three cuts, but perhaps they were all just laying low until Granny got the ugly deed done in the song before. –Dean O Hillis
Mia Doi Todd
Cosmic Ocean Ship
City Zen Records
Mia Doi Todd = Joni Mitchell + St. Vincent + Astrud Gilberto
Pack light, the ship you are about to board will soon set sail, making a relaxing journey across peaceful waters. Mia is your seasoned poetic captain, who has been making music since the late ‘90s. On her ninth excursion, Cosmic Ocean Noise, she draws inspiration from her travels to Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, France and India. First stop on the itinerary is the bossa nova beachside “Paraty,” followed up with a brief visit to the France on “My Baby Lives In Paris.”
Remember to pack a high SPF lotion or you’re bound to get toasted by the sun-soaked, jazzy piano and delicate percussion of “Summer Lover.” Head south, seek some shade and cool off with the psychedelic Afro samba “Canto De Lemanja.” The trip concludes with a return to South America featuring a cover of Chilean folk artist Violeta Parra’s “Gracias A La Vida.” –Courtney Blair
The Fantastic Lies of Grizzly Rose
Rock Park Records
Miwa Gemini = Gogol Bordello + Beirut
A dark and twisted fantasy is created inside each track of Miwa Gemini’s The Fantastic Lies of Grizzly Rose. Grizzly Rose is an imaginary friend that embodies the secret, dusty burlesque candor of a 1920s carnival show—the kind that happens behind the drawn curtain. “Troubling Waltz” begins with the familiar roll of the drum that precedes the breathtaking circus performer’s daredevil stunt and continues into an accordion waltz that almost feels like a polka number.
“Carroll Street” trills over the delicate tinkering of piano notes and playful horns with an almost tangible daydream. The familiar lyrics in Gemini’s version of “Que Sera Sera” serves as the only reminder to the listener that they still currently reside in the real world and not the surreal, magically crafted life of The Fantastic Lies of Grizzly Rose. –Liz Lucero
A Short Collection of Short Songs 7″
Mixtapes = The Measure [SA] + Iron Chic + Lemuria
This band features two vocalists: a cute punk girl and a chubby dude with a nasally voice–I’m pretty sure that is a fantasy combination for the vast majority of punknews.org patrons. A Short Collection of Short Songs is a sentimental little slab of wax perfect for lazy summer nights full of good friends and cheap beer. Opener “Birthday Party Summer Camp” manages to sound both sparse and gigantic with its minimalistic intro that transforms into a huge wall of voices, filling the room with good mood vibes.
“The Real Hotel California” sees the band taking a faster but thoughtful approach to pop punk reminiscent of The Measure [SA] while “Soups Whatever” brings things back down with its acoustic guitar, piano and light vocals from Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver. The 7” comes with a download code complete with a bonus cover of The Hold Steady’s “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” which is worth the cost all by itself. Snag up Mixtapes’ split with Direct Hit! and their newly released Hope Is For People 7” while you’re at it–definitely good stuff. –Ricky Vigil
Monument = Cap’n Jazz + Shinobu + Look Mexico
Tired of the emo revival yet? Do you even know about the emo revival? Either way, you should pick up the amazing debut album from Monument. This is catchy-as-hell, semi-sloppy, good-time music–it has the energy of Lookout! style pop punk and the subtle complexity of the Polyvinyl records roster circa 1997. “Roots Run Deep” kicks off the album right with it’s boisterously shouted vocals, a semi-cacophonous horn section and wailing guitars, while “Glass House” slows things down but keeps things fun with its chorus that will pound its way into your brain.
Every single song here has parts that will get stuck in your head, but “Diamond Age” is probably the best song on the album with its muffled vocals, rolling drumbeat and great-big chorus. “Small Mouth, Big Pizza” wins the award for best song title of the album since it reminds me of two of my favorite things: Minor Threat and pizza. Tiny Engines has yet to release a bad record, and Monument Goes Canoeing just might be their best release so far. –Ricky Vigil
Nick 13 = Chris Isaak + Hank Williams + Dwight Yoakam
Anyone who’s followed Tiger Army at all will have seen this coming. Nick 13, the lone songwriter, frontman, and the sole continuous member of the band, seemed to be on a collision course with a solo project for awhile now, and with the surprising popularity of the country songs Tiger Army would sneak on to each record, it was only a matter of time. The surprising thing about 13’s solo debut is how little it invokes Tiger Army in any way. Any expectations of a country record viewed through the prism of some edgy rocker should be dashed. This is a true-to-heart, authentic country record that pushes the genre forward as much as it sheds light on its past.
Songwriting and arrangements have been meticulously pounded out to add rich tonal colors to the country crooning Nick’s vocals bring to each track. The steel guitar played by Nashville legend Lloyd Green on the opening track “Nashville Winter” is particularly enchanting, and “All Alone” puts any listener into its downright dangerous voodoo trance. It’s records like this that give me hope for the future of country music. –James Orme
Nucular Aminals = The Magnetic Fields + 2011 + sunshine
Nucular Aminals is such an awkward name for this precious four-piece from Portland, Ore. Sure, it’s misspelled intentionally, but it sounds like a train wreck coming out of your mouth when you say their name aloud. This music is just as bizarre, but what do you expect from those quirky North Westerners? The farfisa organ creates a sinister atmosphere, channelling Count Chocula. Add the eerie goodness of the mid-’90s haze per The Magnetic Fields and Nirvana’s best and you’ve got the basis of Nucular Aminals’ sound. Almost a little bit surf rock, and a lot weirdo, it sounds like Man Man’s newest album, with Aloha’s groove.
The chorus of “Gay and Gay” merrily sings “can’t all be gay!” and “He can be a she if she wants to be!” followed by a much heavier yet equally as lyrically silly “Scams.” Their sound is certainly pop, but accompanied by heavy bass and jangly guitar—it’s like a well-balanced musical meal. With no song over three minutes, it’s a perfect album for riding your bike across town in the warmth of the coming springtime. Which is what I’m going to go do now. –Kyla G.
Panda Bear = Brian Wilson + Arthur Russell + Animal Collective
In 2007, under the Panda Bear moniker, Noah Lennox released Person Pitch. In 2009, with Animal Collective, he released Merriweather Post Pavilion. In less than two years, these albums married decades of experimental music and pop with epoch-defining results. Not only was accessibility no longer a liability, but it seemed really easy to make. A generation of musicians began churning out this dub-heavy, reverbed-out, sample-based psychedelic pop by the droves.
The sustainability of Chillwave might be in question, but Noah Lennox, its unwitting father, has proven himself to be a musician of rare talent. Layering Person Pitch’s sample-based output with more emphasis placed on electric guitar, ARP synth lines and Lennox’s soaring tenor, Tomboy feels familiar given its timeframe, but timeless in its delivery and confidence. Repeated listens reveal more and more secrets, but the whole is a perennially sunny, touching masterpiece. Would you expect anything less? –Ryan Hall
Poly Styrene = Blondie – Debbie Harry + M.I.A.
Generation Indigo is the debut solo album of the frontwoman of seminal punk group X-Ray Spex. Tragically, Poly Styrene died of breast cancer the day this album came out. Despite her battle with illness, the album shows no hint of flagging health. Styrene doesn’t show the incandescent angst of her days with X-Ray Spex, but her verve is on display in the percolating, new-wave inflected tunes, as in “White City.”
Instead of disguising her message in third-wave irony, her lyrics are direct: The chorus to “Code Pink Dub” declares, “We’ve got to get the hell out of Iraq.” Styrene shines most on the reggae-inflected tracks, such as in “No Rockefeller,” where her cool delivery and proto-M.I.A. spoken interlude fits perfectly with the humid grooves. It’s sad to know such a promising debut will not have a follow-up. –Nate Housley
Got Your Back
Pour Habit = The Offspring + Helloween + NOFX + Municipal Waste
Here’s Alex Ortega’s whole thing: Pour Habit is one whole heck of a mess of fun. While Municipal Waste mixes punk and metal at the junctures of abrasion and speed, Pour Habit accesses the anthemic properties of these styles with strummed chord progressions and virtuosic drum and guitar work. Vocalist Chuck Green soars through themes of childhood nostalgia in “Greenery” with equally skillful backups, and “East 69th” pounds through with a thrashy beat and rabid, drunken lyrics to match—a pristine tune for bombing a hill on a skate or bike.
Pour Habit rounds off their genre facility in their reggae jam, “Party,” which, of course, captures that lighthearted urge to “party it up.” They even include a political edge in songs like “Tomahawk.” My favorite, though, is “Teens Turned Fiends”—its catchy chorus, gymnastic guitar lines and story of drug-turned teens offers a twisted version of the sentiment set by “Don’t Stop Believing.” –Alexander Ortega
They Will Find You Here
Sleepy Vikings = Modest Mouse + Pavement + Lucero
Creating an undeniable Southern drawl of heartfelt expression is the debut album They Will Find You Here, from the self-described “Six Sleazy Tampainais,” Sleepy Vikings. It’s a lazy arrangement of identifiable, dusty jangles that pulls forward those memories you tried to bury somewhere deep inside. Julian Conner and Tessa Mckenna share a pleasingly slurred vocal style that envelopes the damaged lyrics.
Tracks “These Days” and “Hunters” are punctuated with soft drums and guitars that rest comfortably in the background to further offset the palpable regret. Tracks “Calm,” “Flashlight Tag” and “Twin Peaks” add a quick drumbeat that brings a little brightness into the heavy tonality and fleshes out the album, giving Sleepy Vikings the chops to continue to create perfectly harnessed songs for many more albums to come. –Liz Lucero
Arch Hill Recordings
Street Chant = The Soviettes + Discount + Surf City + Die Die Die
This female-fronted New Zealand band has a fairly standard sloppy, pop-punk sound, but one that’s filled with post punk instrumentation. They feature super aggressive tones and occasionally interesting song structures, overall resulting in a somewhat dark album. They kind of have a sound that reminds old man Abouzelof of Lookout! Records during the Screeching Weasel years.
Not all of their songs are great, but the ones that work are a good example of a sound that reminds me of that period between the ‘90s pop punk craze and the semi-solidification of indie, back during a time when bands weren’t quite sure where to go. If I didn’t know better, I would believe I’d seen this band at Kilby in the late ‘90s. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I enjoyed listening to the record, though I imagine I’d probably store it in my parents’ garage after a few weeks. –Mike Abu
Here Under Protest
Swingin’ Utters = Stiff Little Fingers + Sham 69 + Circle Jerks
It’s been eight long years since the last Swingin’ Utters record and I hope we never have to wait that long again. Here Under Protest displays maturity and growth that comes with playing music for 15-plus years. This record is actually more of a straight-up punk rock record than the Utters have put out in their last couple releases. I speculate that side projects like Filthy Thieving Bastards, where folk and country muscles have been well exorcized, have purified the band in a way to keep to a more punk rock form for this record.
We do still get a terrific country-style tune in “Scary Brittle Frame,” but it is the only track with additional instrumentation such as standup bass and mandolin. The rest of the record hosts excellent punk rock songs, one after another. “You’ve Got to Give it All to the Man,” is a searing, just over a minute, vicious “fuck you” to the shit we all deal with. The addition of former One Man Army frontman Jack Dalrymple on guitar doesn’t change much as far as approach, but he does take lead vocal duties on the superb last track “Effortless Amnesiac.” It’s not leaps and bounds from anything that came before it, but Here Under Protest sits well with all the other long-celebrated material from this band. –James Orme
Tin Horn Prayer
Get Busy Dying
Tin Horn Prayer = Lucero + The Lawrence Arms + Rumbleseat
The glut of punks going solo to release country records seems to have slowed over the past year, but Tin Horn Prayer have managed to make the punk-gone-country genre relevant and interesting once more. Rather than abandoning their punk rock roots (members have played in Colorado bands Only Thunder, The Blackout Pact, Pinhead Circus and more), Tin Horn Prayer injects punk straight into a country framework to create music with equal amounts of twang and swagger.
Opener “Better Living” is definitely strong, but it isn’t until the second track, “Crime Scene Cleanup Team,” that listeners will feel compelled to grab the nearest jug, take a few swigs of whatever’s inside, then crack it over the nearest head. Get Busy Dying is reminiscent of Hot Water Music’s country side project Rumbleseat with its heavy tinges of punk, but the electric element of Tin Horn Prayer and the fuller sound give them a sound unique to themselves. If you’ve enjoyed any of the punk and punk-ish musicians who have taken the country route but wished they were just bit grittier, Tin Horn Prayer will be right up your alley. –Ricky Vigil
Title Fight = The Movielife + Tigers Jaw + Hot Water Music
Boasting a handful of well-received EPs, years of touring, and an infectious blend of earnestness and melody, this Pennsylvania quartet has carved a niche for themselves in both the hardcore and pop-punk scenes, and their debut full-length caters to both crowds. Cuts like “Coxton Yard,” “27” and “Stab” showcase them at their most earnest and familiar, featuring tight up-tempo rhythms, fast riffing and a hoarse, Chuck Ragan-esque vocal delivery, while slower, more introspective songs like “GMT” display maturity and experimentation in their songwriting.
Still, the band is truly at their best when playing urgent, rollicking pop-punk, and though their frequent acoustic diversions add variety to the album, they also smother some of its frenetic momentum. It’s a solid full-length that longtime fans will loyally embrace, but it may lack the crucial punch to distinguish itself and grab the attention of discerning newcomers. (Kilby: 06.13) –Dylan Chadwick
Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
Touche Amore = Defeater + Pianos Become the Teeth + The Saddest Landscape
In the opening moments of “~,” the first track on Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, it’s clear that Touche Amore were paying a whole lot of attention to Envy during their tour with the Japanese post-rock/post-hardcore band last fall. Parting the Sea is both the most melodic and the most abrasive release from Touche Amore, as moments of desperate anger from vocalist Jeremy Bolm are broken up by soft, dreamy passages, only to be broken again by the vocalist’s impassioned howls.
Apart from Bolm’s vocals (tailor-made for scream-alongs in the live setting), the album’s other standout performance comes from drummer Elliot Babin, whose intense energy perfectly matches Bolm’s and serves as the perfect blueprint for the band’s style. Also notable is “Condolences,” which consists solely of a piano and Bolm’s muted screams, providing a bit of a break from the album’s driving intensity. This band is blowing up, so get on board now or get left behind. (Kilby: 06.13) –Ricky Vigil
Victims = The Great Deceiver + Disfear + From Ashes Rise
Hailing from Sweden, Victims is bringing it on their fifth proper full-length. This is one ferocious, tight record. And it sounds huuuuge. The recording is top notch (the album was produced by Nico Elgstrand of Entombed fame) and the years these guys have been around is evident. The instruments are separated nicely in the mix: guitar, bass and drums are all discernible, and Victims are the better for it.
Tight guitar solos, driving beats and a vocal pattern that is the perfect yell/scream really make the album. The vocals are layered nicely, woven with the musical patterns, which adds to the precise feel of the record. A Dissident blazes by in just under a half hour, and is at once fist-pumping, visceral and surprisingly layered. There’s plenty of punk and anger to be found, but it is equally matched by thoughtful composition and songs that beg for repeated listens. –Peter Fryer
Kiss of Death
VRGNS = Americana era Offspring + Rehasher
With a dead baby on the cover and songs with names like “Righteous Killings” and “Behind Bars”, Manimal seems like it might be the soundtrack to a movie about the life of Ron and Dan Lafferty (you know, those polygamists who received “revelation from God” to brutally murder a woman and her infant daughter in 1984), but this album is far, far less interesting.
Like the Lafferty brothers, however, VRGNS are self-important and tiring. I’d as soon share a cell with those polygamist fuckers in the Utah State Prison as I would ever listen to this album again. It’s abrasive, outdated Floridian punk that must have some sort of primitive fan base somewhere, but I can’t figure out who those people would be. Dudes with cutoff Blood for Blood t-shirts tucked into their carpenter jeans? Fuck, I have no idea. –Nate Perkins
Weekend Nachos = Crossed Out + Apartment 213 + Eyehategod
Expanding on the noticeably metallic sound they started crafting on Unforgivable, it seems that crisp production and a few years of touring have finally helped Chicago’s premier power-violence cretins find their niche and create their most cohesive and fully realized album to date. The signature “cookie monster blastbeat” sensibilities from Punish and Destroy and Torture are present, but they’re enhanced with a burlier, more commanding vocal style that’s a giant leap forward from the nail-gun approach of yore.
The varied (sometimes slower) pace may turn off old fans, but the occasional tempo reduction hardly dilutes their intensity, and actually renders them more volatile. A quick read over the scathing lyric sheet and a few spins of the epileptic “Obituary,” and you’ll know it’s the same old band, with the same goofy name. Now I’m hungry. –Dylan Chadwick
W.H. Walker = Pure Country Gold + Guantanamo Baywatch + The Troggs – any discernable style
Portland, Oregon, sitting on the banks of the Willamette and the Columbia, is a veritable factory of poppy garage rock ‘n’ roll. And it, like any other factory, is bound to churn out a couple of defects here and there. W.H. Walker (formerly Welcome Home Walker), or at the very least this particular EP of theirs, is one such dud. It’s goofy and cheesy, but not in a cool Estrus Records way. Instead, the songs ape other, more stylish regional garage bands, but come out like annoying, loud-voiced television commercials more than anything else.
“Watch Your Step” seems like a solid track until you release that that’s only because it sounds just like “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Bad Moon Rising” is a solid song to be sure, but it’s sure as hell not what garage is supposed to sound like. Overall this EP is just boring. If you’re looking for poppy garage from the Pacific Northwest you can definitely do better. Listen to Youthbitch instead. –Nate Perkins
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