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”.
C.A.R., Pinned(Ransom Note)
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”.
Zed Penguin, A Ghost, A Beast (Song, by Toad)
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”.
Ten High, Autobondage EP (Hexbeat)
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”.
Smokescreens, Used to Yesterday (Slumberland)
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”.