Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 12
Solo vocal and sparse accompaniment from one Alyce Ornella, going across four traditional folk songs and two bent originals. On the covers she excels in a way compatriots like Inca Ore or Pocahaunted never could, with a somewhat reserved presence in her voice and demeanor. Singing alone takes some guts, and it’s good to hear the Bird Mic avoiding any embarrassing dress-up games, and making this sort of material come across as naturally as possible. She slips up a bit on the final track, “A Narrow Bed,” that veers too close to the guardrails of irony, but I’ll give that a pass since the rest is so strong. Edition of 300 in a numbered Stonehenge sleeve, possible hand-illustrated and part of this label’s worthwhile subscription series (check out the other five entries throughout the rest of the column for similarly inspired action).
Some form of a continuation of early Hozac release Spider, minus any of its redeeming qualities (songs, for one). Sounding bloated and tinny all at once, these four songs ghost the late night highways but you’ll see them coming from a good ways off, blankdoggin’ as hard as they possibly can. Hozac rules = 500 regular pressing + 150 gold vinyl editions with different sleeves, though even the regular editions sell through in no time at all. Sucks that this one is such a bummer.
Pop from SF that’s a lot better than what I’ve been hearing. Citing a surf influence, I only hear more of a Spector-like commitment to reverb, played through clean, droningly rhythmic guitars and voiced with drowsy prose. A song like “Table by the Window” works as well as it does because it manages to evoke other highly-stylized bands in quick successive passing – Reckoning era R.E.M., Radiohead, the Police – but apply it all to a more traditional ‘60s pop structure. Their cover of George Harrison’s “Awaiting On You All” is faithful to the original and in essence is a very big tell to what they would sound like with a bigger budget and better studio resources, a Wall of Sound that focuses on the guitar and the tambourine. The religious message of Harrison’s masterwork takes on a decidedly Christian pall here, which might turn off some, but regardless, these folks have got something good here.
Shaking off the ‘50s R’n’R/early Wire cross-up from their first single, here’s Denmark’s Cola Freaks again, concentrating on making instead a bigger, more useful record. “Dodt Batteri” and “Nej!” both play with crisp, spring-loaded guitars, but allows them to go slack on the latter, making for the sort of discordant interplay you’d hear on a Hot Snakes record, and the former perhaps on an old Rocket From the Crypt single. Hard to hide Reis as an influence, so these guys don’t even try. Catchy, though, and I liked the first one and this one for different reasons. 600 copies.
Baltimore trio of singer (notable typographic artist Nolen Strals), bassist and drummer, slugging two singles out here for the people. They’re of a generation that’s sick of being chained to a desk, even though they said that’d probably never be them, which is honorable enough in these times of weak political stances and laissez-faire, market-driven social policy, so it’s winning (and telling) that they’re willing to bring the ‘90s posi-political humanist stance to the table. Spastic screaming lands atop anthems of the Parts & Labor variety in “Luxury Condos for the Poor” (off the Sophisticated Urban Living EP) and “Catalogs” from the other. The messages they carry in their music aren’t hurting anyone but their respective employers, as well, so that’s another plus. Nice to hear something like this, especially in an era when punk rock is born cynical.
Two more from one of the nicest surprises of the year. Guitars, road-weary voices and hand percussion tap out these two “what now” style tough love ballads, as much in reverence to the Stones as they are to Dead Moon. Both rage, and if you were a fan of the LP you’ll be scrambling for this one. 150 gold edition all gone, 600 of the regular pressing flying out of the post office.
Spindly, tense drone from the Family, rattling with a mechanical anxiety throughout one side of a 12” record. The piece takes a little while to reach its full impact, but is fairly busy and interesting once it gets there, as guitar-based tones give way to pit yowling and a semblance of rhythm beating against the walls of the silo that holds it. 299 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeve, painted B-side; ultimately one more patch for the many holes in your life.
Massive improvements have shaken this NYC post-punk outfit out of imitator status and into one hell of a record here, delivering on all sorts of big, confident moves on a familiar canvas, yet one that the band members clearly respect. Think the sort of action that ATV or Wire would have pulled back in ’78, with the sort of heft that a first-wave revival like the Volcano Suns swung around with such determination. Four of these seven songs are better than just about anyone who’s gone down this path, and would stack up to anything off the last two A Frames albums. You’ll just have to pick up the record to figure out which ones. 500 hand-numbered copies, 180g vinyl.
Dreamy, brooding garage rock from Florida, casting their lot with roughly tuneless vocals but bringing “Island Ave.” up on some early Echo & the Bunnymen shit, aware of how hard they can rock but keeping things breezy and direct instead. Only “You Should Know” steps it up a bit, but I like these guys when they’re going slower – they seem to have a really good handle on how they want to sound, and it’s a welcome model to have around, youthful and cool. 500 copies + 150 gold vinyl editions w/ alternate sleeve art.
Mind’s kinda blown by this one, two guys from Detroit sluggin’ away at art. All eight of these songs get heavy, like backyard wrestling heavy, they’re all 90 seconds or less, and they all get weird, whether it’s some random effects pedal, or the way the vocals come out, or some tape drop-in. Yet none of it sounds forced, more like two guys who didn’t start a two-guy band to try to compete with a full band; these songs pull back into the Electric Eels and Half Japanese-styled monoculture, when just sounding weird wasn’t enough and you might have to watch your back. Bent, ferocious, and strangely compelling, definitely the best thing I’ve heard on X! since the first Tyvek single. Plus they share my love of hot dogs, a great American food. Love it or leave it.
Second one from this Sacramento torture machine, churning loud, somewhat amorphous Hammerhead style riffs into the vortex, with plenty of speaker-shredding noise and delay pedal abuse. “Airplanes” rules hard, milking engine trouble for all its worth and clipping off the tops of nearby trees. Might be as tough to get as their first, which is long gone, so hurry up – these guys are trying to will us back to 1993, so we might as well join ‘em, since we can’t beat ‘em.
Resuscitated remixes by organ grinder Mudboy of Extreme Animals and DarkDarkDark. To say he makes an improvement on either is modest; that he may have found the key within his own keys to make these pieces more meaningful than they’d be on their own is more like it. Doesn’t take too many left turns, but instead focuses on the inherent spookiness of the tracks themselves, and builds on their very present “circus just left town” motif. 535 copies, blue vinyl, impressive silkscreened sleeves. Other labels have committed to releasing future installments of these remixes.
The North Sea is Brad Rose, who’s been at this for a while, with releases on Type and other like-minded ambient imprints. He goes full-throttle into rich-sounding, deeply strummed emotional folk here, and again on Corsican Paintbrush, where he’s backing up a female singer whose name is too poorly silkscreened onto the insert to read. I’m into that side more; there’s a lot going on with the synth drone in the background and the various qualities of the recording. 300 copies, on black pressed petal paper, silkscreened.
Prisma is the most deadened of any of these L’Animaux Tryst singles to date, quite a gorgeous sleepwalk through barely-alive late nite fantasy folk. Drona Vera turn it up a bit with a deep, sinuous instrumental that braids its guitar lines across and throughout a dense and rewarding side of their own. 300 copies, avocado green vinyl, in a die-cut vellum sleeve.
Yet another distinct female vocal in this series, this time from Sarah Ramey, who does “Magic” solo and “Jane” with either a banjo or an autoharp, can’t tell. I’m not sure how good I feel about unaccompanied singing becoming a big deal a year or two down the line, though its fitting with the end-times motif that world events have been taking as of late. The Red F is a guy singing with some spare acoustic guitar accompaniment, a fair and heartfelt ballad entitled “Fingers.” As part of the subscription package it’s sold in, not a regrettable purchase. 300 copies, offset printed on art paper and hand-watercolored.
The adventures of an 18-year-old kid named Ryan from Santa Rosa, CA, who’s apparently written a few albums’ worth of material that’s led up to a debut 7”. It’s indie pop, obviously touched by what’s been going on in that realm over the past few years, as well as other popular areas in teen culture – he’s got the sound of distance working for him, as had wavo/goth revivalists like Interpol, he’s got the chintzy lo-fi headspace of a Casiotone, but fortunately he doesn’t let any of this overpower “I Crossed Out the Options,” colored with the darker crayons in the box, and powered with no more than three chords and a drum machine, but still a highly memorable affair, energetic but coolly delivered. “Fridays Off” doesn’t really deliver the same goods; it’s quieter, just as simple, but with a cloying, childlike demeanor that’s as tired as anyone else who’s ever turned this trick. Still, finding a single with at least one good song on it is harder than you might think, so in that sense this guy wins. 500 numbered copies.
Muddy, mid-tempo chord-chuggin’ with a lady singer brattin’ all over the place, big balls bass, and a forceful drummer. Almost reaching for a Jesus Lizard thing, maybe making it as far as Jack O’ Nuts, though, with some of the more caustic edges chopped off and replaced with rain delay mope. A better recording might have brought out more of what these folks have to offer, but the songs and overall ideas behind them hold promise. Includes a CD-R with remixes by Diet Cola and Belong.
Mushroom faerie folk reveal, haunted two-chord stomp, spectral mists, and the like have at each other when tourmates and kindred spirits Big Blood and Visitations collaborated for this session (finished material was clipped for the 7”, while outtakes and meditative jams is documented on a 55-minute CD-R included in the sleeve). Trance jamming beyond the pale, wild-sounding and strange. Haven’t had much exposure with either group but this is reaffirming to hear, weirdos being weird without sounding as if they’re trying to color out of the lines present on, say, a Shelley Hirsch record. It’s following an uncontrived position in folk and psych all the same, breathing in while the Wicker Man burns. Features Caleb Mulkerin of Cerberus Shoal, who’s been keeping it weird up in Maine for quite a while. Edition of 300, in hand-pressed silkscreen sleeves.
Eastern-flavored split, with White Light marching into the mantra-like “Saraswati,” lyrically indicting W (it would seem), and Barry Burst launching “Rabies” off into the sands, tabla and sitar ripping through the track, Comus-like, with mild danger and nosehair-singeing presence. Fun record in a fun series. 300 copies, packaged in a silkscreen, die-cut cardboard gatefold which opens in the middle.
Four guys in Brooklyn playing nimble, discordant rock in the T&G/chest thump school. At their most rocking Golden Error do a very acceptable Monorchid impersonation, well-breaded Southern rock guitars sneering under the vocal gymnastics of Erick Hughes. The band rarely settles down, cramming each measure with notesnotesnotes and a mechanically rhythmic lead guitar, but they lighten things up where necessary, and weird shit out when it could use such doings. Pretty good.
Mystery man in bunny mask writes killer pop rocks and slams it home in a fun, reckless style leaning on early rock ‘n’ roll and its noble descendents (Ramones, Dictators, Undertones, Sha Na Na, etc.) It looks and sounds rough, but all twelve songs are gems that’d stand alone as traditional, catchy budget rock ‘n’ roll that possess the context built up by several decades’ worth of heavy petting, spiked Coca-Cola, and small-town American dreamin’. Nothing new, but of course the qualities of ownership (or at least a long-term lease) on these sounds are stamped all over each song, especially “Not That Good,” one of my favorite songs this year; moreover, Nobunny doesn’t play this sort of sound for ironic value, and it really comes across in each song here1. Pretty scarce, even at the time of its initial release a few months back, so I don’t know what to tell you, other than keep lookin’. The edition I got is a paste-on cover over a Supertramp sleeve, and the pressing is pretty noisy, but in this case it doesn’t really matter. Great record, would rock again.
Metallic bass/drums duo from Brooklyn, with DC/Balto ties (Brendan Majewski was a member of Quix*o*tic). They muddy up in heavy ‘90s style sludge, with tempos plodding and shifting, vocals tortured and unintelligble, and tones thick and samey. The performances within are up to the task, traumatic and full of rage, and while things start to sound all too similar throughout the run of the record, and the sentiments within a bit too simple to really weigh in on as of yet – it’s pretty fair to say that the two have explored the limits of their sound, somewhere south of black metal but north of early Hole or Babes in Toyland – they pack a punch, and perhaps that’s enough for now. White vinyl, 666 numbered copies.
This one floats in on a carbon monoxide blackout vibe, as Gary War hustles in a scalding, rich psychedelic ichor – Bobb Trimble, Nick Nicely, Ariel Pink and other treaters of intentional or organic weirdness having been found in similar states. Gets into more places than you’d expect: minimal synth (“Please Don’t Die”), Talking Heads (“Healthy Living”), and a handful of other forewords are extended, curling their way like smoke across songs that have been given the time to develop. Kinda runs a little long (you’ll probably get bored with their cover of “Eye in the Sky”) but definitely on its own shit. Released by the same label that did that Wicked Poseur single, which had warps of its own that I’m starting to see a bit more clearly. Really cool, and this guy seems to tour non-stop so get out there and see it.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
ANY genre of music is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
Submissions can be sent to:
Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.
Keep sending in submissions, please!
By Doug Mosurock