Pop Crimes is a Paris-based quartet who share a name with the title of an album from Rowland S. Howard (RIP), and include members of (amongst others) En Attendant Ana. Debuts, the band’s appropriately titled first release, is a brilliant four song introduction to a very anglophilic sounding group of francophones.
On Debuts, Pop Crimes demonstrate a wicked proficiency in fusing the blissful and the barbed – c86-style jangle and slacker indie, weighted with the crunch of garage and shoegaze and a soupçon of Libertines-like louche swagger. Perfect example: the hazy, scuffed pop of ‘Goes’, with antipodean shades of groups like The Church and the swing and swagger of early Ride or The House of Love. Like the best of bands who wear their collective influences on their sleeves, the set brings fond memories without sounding like mere rehash. Very much looking forward to hearing what comes next.
Debuts was released in January, courtesy of Howlin’ Banana – allez, go pick it up!
A new band of old hands, Minneapolis (Janet voice)-based Green/Blue present a jagged kind of garage-pop on their self-titled debut. Initially a recording project featuring the guitar/vocal stylings of Jim Blaha (of The Blind Shake) – whose solo basement musings formed the bases for the album’s eleven tracks – and Annie Sparrows (of The Soviettes), the group is now a quartet, having added Danny Henry (drums, also of The Soviettes) and Hideo Takahashi (bass, of The Birthday Suits).
The album is a hodgepodge of familiar sounding styles, blended into something very immediate. According to a press release, the tracks on Green/Blue were born partially from Blaha’s “newfound love of lo-fi pop jangle” (namechecking The Chills), but Green/Blue’s handling of the sound feels similar to the way The Misfits approached late-night 50’s croon or The Jesus and Mary Chain worked with girl-group, surf and other 60’s pop. There’s certainly sugary tones to be found here, the band exhibiting a deft touch for catchy melodies – but the ear candy is often chased with cough syrup, Blaha’s whispery vocals and he and Sparrows’ dual scuzzed up axe attack providing more than a hint of menace to the romance alluded to in many of the lyrics. Highlights ‘Proto Caves’ and ‘Way Down’ throw off a kind of haunted nostalgia, the former sounding like a roughneck Everly Brothers demo in spots – a leather-clad sock hop leading to a fogged up rear window. It’s great how the band are able to infuse so much energy into the boogie chug of ‘That Face’, while the JAMC pyres blaze bright on the brilliant ‘Find a New World’. Qué bella.
Green/Blue is out now, courtesy of Slovenly Recordings. The band also have really rad shirt designs (see here), so hopefully if we’re ever allowed out of our houses again and Green/Blue tour, I’ll snatch one up.
Protruders are a four-piece band of miscreants from Montréal, who have graced us with a slab of proto-punk goodness in the form of Poison Future, billed as the band’s ‘vinyl debut’ following several, self-released tapes.
Though hailing from the great white north™, you’d be excused if the album’s seven tracks had your mind wandering firmly towards the midwestern US and its many punk forefathers who embraced the weird. Poison Future is, throughout, shot through with late-Stooges/early Iggy glam-sludge stompers and more experimental sounding Electric Eels garage skronk. The vocals remind a bit of Richard Hell, at times, as maniacal saxomophone punctuates jittery rhythm changes. ‘No Stone’ marries Dead Boys sleaze with Kid Congo cheek, while other numbers deconstruct into long-form jam wig-out sessions. It’s a glorious greasy mess of a record – and highly recommended.
Poison Future is out now, courtesy of Feel It. The band have a few shows upcoming in Canada, with the label promising US midwest and east coast dates soon – find those dates here (scroll down a bit).
The Murder Capital, “Feeling Fades” (Human Season)
Dublin, Ireland, quintet The Murder Capital are a rising force, and not in a cheesily histrionic, Yngvie Malmsteen kind of way. Having stormed out of the gates with debut track, “More Is Less” (which, I believe, is only listentoable via live video (and worth it)), they come for the castle on follow-up, “Feeling Fades”. James McGovern’s intensely sung/shouted vocals are equal measures antagonizing and resigned (not a million miles from Birthday Party-era Cave) like a heated discussion with a stranger at the bar at closing time, climaxing in a wordless paean. The music tip toes the proverbial razor wire, building tension if not release, putting them of a piece with other modern post-punk purveyors like Protomartyr. The band have a host of upcoming tour dates, which can be found on their site.
Hash Redactor, “Good Sense” (Goner; Upset the Rhythm)
Can a band featuring members of two great bands be, unto itself, great? If that band be Hash Redactor then, gentle reader, early evidence suggests a resounding hell (to the) yes. The contributing bands in question are NOTS (bassist Meredith Lones and drummer Charlotte Watson) and Ex-Cult (singer/guitarist Alec McIntyre) – whose musicalstylings have often rattled the bookshelves at tgh hq – joined by guitarist George Williford. Debut track “Good Sense” welds a brilliant, lurching bassline onto phased-out guitar swoons and deadpan vocals. A bit reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers in spaces, the track just continues to build across its 2:50 run time, before abruptly downing tools. Hash Redactor’s long-form debut, Drecksound, is due April 26 from Goner (US) and Upset the Rhythm (UK/EU) and is now available for pre-order here and/or here.
NOTS, “Half Painted House” (Goner; Upset the Rhythm)
Speaking of NOTS, the Memphis psych-punks have a new album – 3 – coming out May 10 (also) from Goner (US) and Upset the Rhythm (UK/EU); it will be the band’s first new music since 2017’s “Cruel Friend” 7” and its first as a trio, following the last year’s departure of keys player Alexandra Eastburn. Album teaser track, “Half Painted House”, is one of the best things they’ve done. Further tightening the loosely-spooled, straight out of the garage ravers of their earliest output, the track glides along a solid groove (those basslines again!), providing a north star through the hazy, fogged synth sounds and stage-left siren howls. Each new release from this band makes us antsy to hear the rest, and “Half Painted House” is no exception. Pre-order 3here and/or here.
Olivia Neutron-John (bka, On-J) – self-proclaimed leader of the ‘post-bro movement’ we all need – is the project of Washington, D.C.’s Anna Nasty, who has also done time as a member of the Ian Svenonius-fronted Chain and the Gang (see what we did there?). “March” is her first On-J release since 2014’s “Injury Train and I’m Never Getting Off It” single, and serves as a teaser for a forthcoming, eponymous debut long-player. The simplest of rhythms and basic melody – the titular, casiotoned beat and one note key – is soon wrapped in a truly beguiling, serpentine bassline, Nasty’s words sounding as though processed through a megaphone as she vocalizes a relationship’s push/pull (“is this what you want?/..but it feels good at night/doesn’t make it right”). Olivia Neutron-John is due May 10, on Sister Polygon, and is available for pre-order now. On-J is also currently on tour (including some dates with Priests), with dates to be found on her site.
Our latest in a series of recaps of albums we loved from the last calendar year…
Starchild and the New Romantic, Language (Ghostly International)
Starchild and the New Romantic is the brainchild of New York-based Maryland transplant, Bryndon Cook. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has also worked with fellow travelers like Devonté Hynes and Solange Knowles, Language is an exemplary slice of lush, 80s-inflected r&b. Drums don’t so much hit as disperse, synths probe longingly, guitars flicker and wane. While the purple one’s haze hangs thick over this set, you also hear the ambitious, heart-on-sleeve arrangements of bands like Force MD’s or the Blue Nile – Cook’s revelatory voice reminiscent of the underlauded Jesse Johnson or Melvin Riley in its plaintive tenor notes. As an added bonus, ‘Only If U Knew’ and ‘Hangin’ On’ might be the best ‘quiet storm’ summoning slow jams I’ve heard in an age. It’s a record that takes things back and pushes them forward simultaneously. Highlights include: “Hangin’ On”; “Language”; “Good Stuff”.
Austin-based trio Borzoi released their latest, A Prayer for War, last September. I’ve listened to it many times since and, though I find it absolutely stunning, I’ve no real idea what to make of it – and that, friends, is what makes it great. Sure, there’s elements of punk, acid-drenched post-punk, funk, a free kinda jazz, noise, dweebs, wasteoids, dickheads, righteous dudes, a fuckin’ partridge in a mother fuckin’ pear tree. All there. In the end, though, the record breaks down to a feeling – and that feeling is “tenuously hinged”. The skittery, jittery atmosphere is shot through, here, with bursts of melody (“Schlock”) and, in many other places, with a heavy boot to the face (“Lizard Men of the Third Reich”). Buckle up. Highlights include: “Schlock”; “Big Pink”; “The Tonsure Twist”.
Rose Mercie is a quartet based in Montreuil, France. Their debut, self-titled album came out last March, and it’s intoxicating. Stripping elements of hypnotic psych, folk and dream pop to their bare essentials – there’s nothing adulterated in the arrangements or production here – then building them up again, with a layer of girl group in the rhythms and vocal interplay. Tracks like highlight, ‘Moyen-Age’, recall a less ornamental Broadcast; elsewhere, ‘The End of Love’ projects The Raincoats jamming in a hazy flat with the Velvet Underground. While largely bucolic in feel, there is a bit of welcome menace “In the Valley” – it’s an album to sit with, the eight tracks unspooling at a deliberate pace. Settle in and listen. Highlights include: “Moyen-Age”; “Floating”; “How Can I Talk”.
Nashville, TN trio Datenight (US) serve up garage-punk with a side of power pop hooks and classic, driving midwestern rock on last February’s Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph. It’s an apt title, with no more than half of the dozen tracks in the set clocking in on the high side of two minutes. Each cut, though, leaves a mark; the melodies linger long after the band has roared on to the next. Be it the straight up Sonics’ garage rumble of ‘While it Lasts’, the blissful lo-fi jangle of ‘Poor Exchange’ or the perfected combo of highlight, ‘Tennessee Rider’, the set drips with brio – it’ll have you singing along, even when you don’t know any of the words. Fab. Highlights include: “Tennessee Rider”; “Poor Exchange”; “In and Out”.
Olympia, WA-based Gen Pop released a six-track EP last May, entitled II. Lifting off from their devastatingly potent debut, On the Screen (released less than a year prior), II offers a virulent slice of old school hardcore for the modern world. Featuring MaryJane Dunphy and Ian Corrigan from the fantastic Vexx, the band manages to push a swirl of sounds into a tight timeframe. [Update: MaryJane Dunphy has left the band. Elle Svete both sings and plays guitar on “No Change”] features tepid vocals transposed over Flex Your Head-summoning musical righteousness, while tracks like ‘Waxing State’ and ‘Din’ inject a bit of post-punk jitter and Buzzcocks’ guitar melodiousness. Highlights include: “No Change”; “Waxing State”.
Part the second of our ‘apology tour’, in which we continue to dig through the list of records that touched us last year and make sure that we spread the good word.
Salad Boys, This is Glue (Trouble in Mind)
Christchurch, New Zealand’s Salad Boys returned last February with their latest album, This is Glue, and it’s a thrilling listen. Opener, “Blown Off” lifts off with a thrum like a motorik “Kids in America”, before dissolving into a blissful Buzzcocks charged guitar run, and the remaining tracks employ shades of indie disco, the purest power-pop, pearlescent strum-pop (“Exaltation”), orphic psych and early REM jangle (“Psych Slasher”). It’s lush, without being cloying; polished, but still retaining scuff and patina. Highlights include: “Psych Slasher”; “Right Time”; “Going Down Slow”.
Also released last February, Pinned, the latest from C.A.R. (the recording project of London-based Franco-Canadian Chloé Raunet) features elements of icy, Yaz(oo)-like new wave sensuality, post-punk empty spaces, and dubby trip-hop – all blended into transportive art-pop. There’s a Nina Hagen art-bounce meets Grace Jones cool on tracks like “Heat”, “Growing Pains” gradually adding gorgeous layers of glacial synths and ethereal background vocals to a stark bass/drum combo. C.A.R. has since released several remixes (I particularly enjoyed Peaking Lights’ remix of ‘Daughters’), one of which included a new song, “All But…”, as a b-side. Highlights include: “Growing Pains”; “Heat”; “Cholera”.
Ravyn Lenae, Crush EP (Atlantic/Three Twenty Three Music)
Ravyn Lenae hails from Chicago, and released a smoke bomb of an EP last February called Crush. Lifting off even higher than her dizzying 2016 debut, Moon Shoes, the EP provides an intoxicating cache of silky smooth, new-old school r&b tracks. Lenae’s effortless voice balances featherweight highs and funky gnarl, moving stealthily through hazy grooves that evoke everything from Funkadelic, the Isleys, Erykah Badu, and Prince. Steve Lacey’s head-swimming production provides highlights as well (see the introduction of the bass in “Computer Luv”, on which he also provides vocal accompaniment). More of this, soon, please and thank you. Highlights include: “Closer (Ode 2U)”; “Computer Luv”.
Sometimes, an album comes along whose constituent parts may seem familiar, but taking a step back to view the entire picture reveals something new and difficult to describe. A Ghost, A Beast, the debut full-length from Zed Penguin – the musical project of Edinburgh-based Australian, Matthew Winter – is such an album. The shapeshifting arrangements meld psych, chamber-pop, the wry, arty-rock of Zevon, and tensile post-punk, Winter’s tremulous tone recalling a mix of Joe Jackson and Ian McCullough. Some moments transcend – to wit, the glorious ‘End of Time’, with it’s shimmery jangle. Highlights include: “End of Time”; “Wandering”; “Violent Night”.
Our Arkansas pals in Ten High released the Autobondage EP this past October, and it slays. Five fuzzed-out, gonzo tracks held together by a steady, powerful bass/drum battery. The roiling opener, ‘Dr. Choice’ (featuring vocals by drummer Devan Theos) couldn’t possibly be a more apt, ‘in the red’ introduction to the splendor on show here. Trading in the same gloriously trashy garage/blues/punk sleaze as debut, Self-Entitled, these tracks manage to tighten things up a notch, without losing any of their edge. Highlights include: “Dr. Choice”; “You Want It”.
L.A.-based quartet Smokescreens released their latest, Used to Yesterday, last summer. Appropriate to that season, the album is jam-packed with absolutely gorgeous power-(psych)pop and Paisley Underground-style hooks. The band’s online bio mentions a mutual admiration for Dunedin sound between founders Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham, and you can hear it loud and clear on tracks like ‘Buddy’. But there’s also a US spin on things, with ‘Steel Blue Skies’ adding a slacker-y take, and the band channeling the Velvets on ‘Fool Me’. Highlights include: “Steel Blue Skies”; “Jolly Jane”; “Used to Yesterday”.
Ten High are a new (to me) four piece based out of Fayetteville, AR. To date, the group has released three EPs, played shows will tgh faves like Aquarian Blood, and have name checked as inspiration several others, including the Blind Shake and Ex-Cult. Recently, drummer/vocalist Devan Theos was kind enough to pass along a link to their debut full-length, Self-Entitled (get it?), and I’m glad she did.
Self-Entitled finds Ten High tearing through an eleven-song set chock full o’ straight up r’nr, hints of psychobilly, 60s beat, hardcore, garage, psych – basically anything that sounds great played loud – all chewed up and spit out on a platter. Primary vocalist Cat Owens’ shredded pipes recall Reverend Beat Man’s gruff screed, pairing like a fine ripple with the jagged-edged guitar and short/sharp drum and bass combination of Theos and Aaron Smith (as a former – terrible – bassist, I love the thick, rubbery bass sound). Theos takes the mic sounding like a young Kate Pierson on the stomping “Skin Crawlers”, which comes off like a psychobilly take on Walk Among Us-era Misfits.
As with the best of so-called ‘noise’ rock, these tracks come based on infectious melodies residing dead center in the maelstrom. “Royal Blood” employs a bit of blues boogie, while “Fakers” had my brain checking to Three Dog Night, for fuck’s sake. Brilliant, even though I blame them for having “Mama Told Me Not to Come” for a full day…bygones.
Self-Entitled is available digitally and on cassette on April 5, courtesy of Rare Plant Records. Ten High will be on Greenway Records’ upcoming showcase at SXSW, for all you lucky mallards heading to Austin. There’s also a few dates before that, as well as a west coast US tour planned for the summer – check out the Ten High fbook for the dates.
Highlights include: “User’s Choice”; “Skin Crawlers”; “Fakers”; “The Trouble”.
Mr. Airplane Man, beloved crafters of garage-blues finery, returned to the scene after a multi-year hiatus in 2014, clearing out the vaults to release two fantastic album’s worth of unreleased material (Lost Tapes and Bits and Pieces), a live EP (Geneva Session), and playing shows all over the US and Europe. The promise of new material has hovered for a bit and, happily, the duo recently announced brand new long-player, Jacaranda Blue, due for digital release March 16. This announcement was preceded by a single – “I’m in Love” – which also serves as the lead track/taster for the album.
“I’m in love” shows Mr. Airplane Man returning no less smoldering than when they left. A trippy take on blues, sashaying along a slow-burn, ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ kinda groove, the track has a way of expanding and retracting in your head. It’s a long-distance phone call to a love through a whiskey-induced fugue state, a rapturous profile in the glowing embers of a cigarette drag. Margaret Garrett’s vocals – punctuated here and there with otherworldly coos and moans – emanate from somewhere down the other end of the line, faintly tethered by the gossamer light drumming of Tara McManus. It’s a dizzying, seductive cut.
In addition to the digital release, which you can pre-order here, look for Jacaranda Blue on vinyl, courtesy of the mighty Sympathy for the Record Industry in the US, and on french label Beast in Europe. Mr. Airplane Man – a live force not to be missed – have a few upcoming dates as well, which you can find on their website. You can also wander the woods with them on fbook.