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Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 11

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Doug Mosurock and team wrap up more than three dozen records, including Mount Carmel, Tommy Jay & Mike Rep, and the Ex.

Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 11

Here’s the last few batches of blog posts, collected for your reading enjoyment.

If you haven’t heard, Otis is leaving NYC and moving himself and Dusted HQ to Washington, DC. Therefore, it’s imperative – especially if you want a timely review – to continue to send all vinyl submissions in care of the address below.

Altar of Flies
Förruttnelsen LP
(Release the Bats)

Mattias Gustafsson delivers a monstrous and fucking creepy album of distorted tape loops, damaged field recordings, and shorted-out electronics. Each track consists of a crunchy sub-bass loop, with what sound like additional loops of slowed-down, backward human voices, piercing feedback, and other unidentifiable high pitched electronic noises piled on top. Early industrial music seems like it must have been the inspiration for this record, but Förruttnelsen never seems to directly reference anything, doomed to exist in its own nightmare world. The fourteen-minute closing track is really remarkable in it’s pacing and use of dynamics, with a creep factor so high that it goes beyond mere musical comparisons, winding up in the middle of your nightmare, only to find demons with razor sharp claws crashing through your bedroom walls ready to rip your heart out and show it to you while you die. Recommended! 270 copies. (http://www.releasethebats.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Bear Claw
s/t one-sided 10” “picture disk” EP
(Monofonous Press)

The recording is kinda hollow and flat, their mostly generic melodies don’t really leap out of the speakers, and their over-reliance on the melodica tests the patience of even the most fervent lovers of said instrument. Bear Claw’s one-sided, four-song EP just lays there (the flipside is adorned with a full-sized 10” sticker of the band members that is cuter than any of the music contained within) . The record spins, their Keds n’ cardigans twee songs come out – kinda melancholy, kinda happy, but never really joyful – and then it’s over, and you immediately forget what you’ve just heard. The band doesn’t seem to be having any fun and neither are you; they just “are.” (http://monofonuspress.com)
(Mike Pace)

Birds of Maya
Ready to Howl 2xLP

Finally out with a long-awaited follow-up to their debut on Holy Mountain, which seems like it was released like 10 years ago at this point, Philly jam/burner rock trio Birds of Maya present one clumpy basement sesh over four sides of vinyl. The songs don’t line up with the beginnings and ends of each side, and there’s a bit of interstitial found recordings and experiments in between their meat-n-potatoes power trio recklessness (bummer, as I’d like to know exactly where a song called “Porch Dude” begins and ends), but with three tracks spanning a double LP, expect a handful of badass riffs and dudes riding them hard. The band addresses the whole length as resource issue vis a vis double LPs, and the lofty aspirations they carry quite casually, maybe a bit too much from listeners who might be anticipating a four-door blowout due to their last one raging out of bounds, or due to guitarist Mike Polizze’s solo turn as Purling Hiss carrying most of the caterwauling atavism in terms of a more extreme example of this thing. Ready to Howl is more of a cookout record (one track is even called “Porch Dude”), with sides labeled Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “The Weekender.” And sometimes at a cookout you gotta put some things on the top rack of the grill. That doesn’t mean they still can’t catch on fire. 500 copies. (http://testostertunes.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Blaque Boose
“Winter” b/w “Past Lives Owen” 7”
(Eternal Otter)

Something about Portland, ME must engender groupings of records by small labels. In the footsteps of the L’animaux Tryst Field Recordings record club, which had plenty to offer in the way of folk and traditional music, comes a similar pass by the Eternal Otter label. This single, the Cerberus Shoal and the Aly Spaltro/TJ Metcalfe split single. records listed below are part of something called the “Death, Rebirth & Transformation” series. All artists are local to Maine, and all seem to be working in the folk idiom (Cerberus Shoal having been all over the map in the past 15-20 years). Blaque Boose are a large form, female-led group, performing a haunting brand of stone mill chants and forceful, naturalistic spirituality. “Past Lives Owen” adds a bit of digital processing to the sigils it carves into the earth, though the weirdness factor stays closer to the neo-folk angle than to history’s diktat. It’s being released on Record Store Day 2010 and also available digitally. Chilling stuff. (http://eternalotterrecords.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Brain Handle
Baseball 7” EP
(Dear Skull/Mind Cure)

Limited to 200 and mostly given away at a show, this is tough news for Brain Handle fans who lived outside of Pittsburgh last month – it’s likely the band’s final record, and a weirder send-off you couldn’t hope for. The artwork is truly useless and frustrating., and the two complete songs here lumber around like never before, with an odd focus on. The punk record you hoped for turns into the Flipper record you didn’t quite expect, with both songs grinding out 105.9 The X, department store flannel and unswerving awkwardness with a hard-headed, tough exterior, microwaved and deep fried, and finally wheeled out to make fun of dudes who wear cologne. These guys live a mile or two from severe drunk culture of the lowest order, and in the vicinity of a bunch of frat houses, so the very act of existence hoists the big ol’ middle finger at the world around. The record ends with Ed Steck holding a mic near his stream of pee and getting shocked. It’s called “Shocking Pee.” I’m shocked. Mind Cure Records, the store, opens soon. (http://www.myspace.com/mindcurerecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Buk Buk Bigups
“Hot Mess” b/w “Endless Itch” 12”
(Weird Forest)

What’s in a name? In the case of Buk Buk Bigups, not much, except for being one of the worst I’ve heard lately; it reads like something off a Korean BBQ menu. Actually, maybe it’s more like the Denny’s Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity: embarrassing name, but ultimately a delicious slab of compact goodness that knows when to quit. BBB is a fun Sacramento-based one-man sound system who alternates between lo-fi “American Pie 2” keg-party electro to a more somber, kinda bullshit dub style mood piece with spooky vox. "Hot Mess" has a driving, italo-disco bassline and some pitched-down and tweaked vocals deep in the mix. There are some yelps, some pangs, and some pongs, and it works. At one point a shredding solo enters the picture like a poor man’s Prince, but I’ll give it a pass because at least it isn’t Vanity 6. (What? – Ed.) It’s a good song, and it could  have gone on longer. “Endless Itch” has a promising bassline, and tries to work in some Tuxedomoon "atmospheric" morass but ultimately never finds itself, sounding more like a 22 year old virgin in his room whispering into his 4-track than perhaps was intended. Limited to 500 copies. (http://www.weirdforest.com)
(Mike Pace)

Cerberus Shoal
“Tailor of Graves” b/w “Hymn” 7”
(Eternal Otter)

Said to be the final Cerberus Shoal recordings, these gave me a chance to peek in on a band to whom I really hadn’t paid a lot of attention since around 1997 or so. A wide range of musicality has never been an issue with this long-running Maine band, one which gravitated from heart-on-sleeve screamo to riveting post-rock, then somewhere in the wild weeds of folk. They had the guts to bring a pan flute player to a hardcore fest – do the math. “Tailor of Graves” is a stirring folk rocker, with vocal harmonies straight out of Tusk and a soaring, jaw-clenched delivery. “Hymn” rests in a more cyber-medieval setting, a capella chant vocals backing up on the occasional synth burble. How this all ties in with the band’s long history (or its future as Big Blood) may be up to diehard fans to decide, but I’m sold on at least one side of this single. (http://eternalotterrecords.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Eric Chenaux
“Warm Weather” b/w “La Vieux Favori 4” 7”
(Eat, Sleep, Repeat)

At 33, “La Vieux Favori 4” sounded pretty good, a nice midrange drone that I could’ve dug, until I read that it was to be played at 45. The mids went high and I listened to multiple violins harmonizing with one another for four minutes, as if a string section forgot its sheet music and just continued tuning indefinitely; actually sounded pretty nice at times, but it’s really nothing that I’d need to hear again. Flipped the record over and listened to some pleasant, gentle acoustic picking, and Chenaux’s wilting voice, not unlike Dave Bixby’s “Ode to Quetzacoatl.” This handsome, thick-coated stock 7” came with a postcard that said “the idea behind this record was to not have an A or B side,” but let’s get real – “Warm Weather” is something that might very well have been a limp James Taylor outtake, and “La Vieux” sounds like a member of the Kronos Quartet got hit with a case of explosive diarrhea and the others were just killing time until he came back; you tell me which one most people are going to listen to. (http://www.eatsleeprepeat.com)
(Mike Pace)

Tony Conrad/Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Taking Issue LP

Arguably two of the 20th century’s finest musical and artistic thinkers and practitioners, Tony Conrad and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge have long been respected as pre-eminent voices for their contributions as mixed-media composers and theorists, playing at least a modest role in the shaping and steering of whole sonic movements. Given the spheres in which the pair has tended to operate for much of their lives, it’s relatively unsurprising that, prior to a set of shows at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room in January of 2009, they never chanced to collaborate. Documenting those very same shows, Dais Records’ Taking Issue captures the two (with percussive help from Morrison Edley) in fine form, focusing mostly on the intersections of their unique, and genuinely complementary, takes on the violin. From the start, “Taking Issue” builds to an almost martial rhythm, as Conrad and P-Orridge’s bowed and scraped strings lock in and around each other with a beautifully ragged looseness. The second side doesn’t introduce a whole lot of variation, but with the suitably tasteful rhythmic underpinnings of tracks like “Demilitarized Ozone” forming a nice backdrop against which Conrad and P-Orridge confidently explore their strings, a deviation isn’t really necessary. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Michael Crumsho)

Dead Wife
(Psychic Handshake/No Vacation)

The best thing that I can say about this record is that Dead Wife probably isn’t a band of misogynists. With a band name like that, and song titles like “Gentleman Rapist,” I was preparing to take in a torturous EP’s worth of Peter Sotos/Brainbombs worship in the vein of Total Abuse, but it turns out that this band is three-quarters female, so that most likely isn’t the case. However, that didn’t make listening to this Montreal band’s record any more pleasant. Dead Wife is a punk band somewhere on the garage rock/hardcore border, and absolutely nothing about them stands out. Their songs have no hooks and seem to be random chords thrown together with on-the-beat female bellowing over top. The drummer plays the generic, mind-numbing punk polka beat, and the drum tones are pingy and cringeworthy. The guitars sound like they are being played out of a Crate practice amp and the recording quality just makes everything sound like a mid range mess. This is a record so unremarkable that it may as well not exist. Try harder, kids. (http://www.myspace.com/psychichandshake)
(Chris Strunk)

The Bottom of the City LP
(Nominal/Grotesque Modern)

More Vancouver punk, and not a moment too soon. Defektors feature members of some of the other locals in this vein (Vapid, Sex Church), and finally deliver on the promise of comp tracks and their single. As with the case of cohorts Modern Creatures, start with the full-length. Songs from this record have appeared in earlier versions, but the recording has given them a thin, fried sound that suits the reckless romanticism of tracks like “Doomsday Girl” the presence they require. For the most part, Defektors follows a wound-up, face-forward pedigree reaching from the Wipers to Agent Orange to the Observers. At once stonefaced and relentless, each of these nine songs tear themselves up with urgent style. “Burning Light” from the Emergency Room comp, is stretched out to “Youth of America” length and puts this band’s second phase into orbit. The whole thing is fun and frantic, and well worth your time and money. 1000 pressed. (http://www.recordsnominal.com) (http://www.grotesquemodern.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Ex
“Maybe I Was the Pilot” b/w “Leaky Homes” 7”

Now past their thirtieth year of activism, only the Fall comes close, conceptually, to the racket stirred up by the Ex, a shifting assortment of Dutchfolk and one Scotsman, living the dream that anarchy in a cultivated environment can afford. They are responsible, even if many won’t cop to it, for any sort of Turkish or Roma influence (and cowbell) in this side of music, and the band’s globetrotting activities include the awareness brought to outfits like Konono No. 1, with whom the band collaborated on an African tour, and whose street performances took the form of viral video in the moment just before YouTube launched. Longtime vocalist G.W. Sok has exited the role of vocalist, so only Andy Moor and Terrie Ex carry over from heritage lineups and past decades. He’s replaced by Arnold de Boer, whose voice provides some measure of relaxation against the shrill klaxon of Sox’s lyrical enunciation. For a band with so many edged surfaces in their sound, de Boer’s presence doesn’t necessarily soften them up so much as it allows an easier connection with the audience. Their frenetic nature is of course still intact, and they continue to serve as a prime example of what you can do when you love music, and discover that free will and compassionate action on the world around you don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Look for a new album this fall. (http://www.theex.nl)
(Doug Mosurock)

Feel Free/Treasure Mammal
split 7” EP
(Kingdom Mammalia)

Feel Free are some shambling indiepop, very Friend Rock. Could be their first band, maybe I’m way off, but they’re laying tracks so we better pay attention. Their three songs zip by with a trio of boy-girl-boy vocals sounding like a Silver Jews/New Pornographers tribute project though I really haven’t a clue where they’re coming from in terms of influences. There’s an earnest guitar solo that’s not a bad facsimile of some Under The Bushes, Under The Stars pedal setting. My copy has bad skips so it’s a frustratingly punctuated listen. For Treasure Mammal’s side we have an ironic faux-jam titled “Bromance.” Yeah, it’s all about a bromance, “a little Brokeback,” a real shoddily produced barrel of Auto-Tuned yuks that mentions cargo shorts, frosted tips and trucknuts. Two other songs include some flat-out annoying kiddie keyboard dribble then another slow jammer, a “Keith Sweat impersonation” called "Real Talk.” This manages to sound more like Atom & His Package than today’s digital crunkcore in terms of satirical merit and DIY spirit, and it’s interesting years later Atom has comparatively held up amazingly as a producer and pre-Internet trailblazer of such ironic youth crew synth spazz-outs. I’m sure it’s fun if you like that sort of quirky dance party dweeb-pop vibe, and the review another friend already wrote and included in the liners of this very split 7” is far more enthused than I & I. (http://www.myspace.com/feelfreeflagstaff) (http://www.myspace.com/treasuremammal)
(Andy Tefft)

Goodnight Loving
“Nothing Conquers Us” b/w “Scary Bad” 7”

Short songs, loud as hell at 45 rpm, as God and Edison intended, so points added there. The A-side stone cold embodies the word “jaunty” amalgamating twangy guitars and speculative organ, to Cheap Trickish motorvation, all in the name of luv, twoo luv – you can practically hear the drummer bouncing on his stool. Not too shabby, but easily overratable, so let’s do that. The flip is a noisier affair, but not by much and sounds like we-wrote-this-at-lunch in the tradition of B-sides everywhere. Between them you get both halfs of the relationship dynamic – sometimes you want to take on the world, sometime you want to climb into a bottle of Scotch and watch Law and Order reruns by your damn self. A fine thing. Does college radio still exist? Someone is playing this either now or three in the mornig, whenever the garage show is, but it would be quite a tiny coup to sneak it in during the bill-paying Americana slot between Old 97s and something from Porter and Dolly. (http://www.dirtnaprecs.com/)
(Joe Gross)

Grand Trine
Sunglasses 12” EP

I believe the guys from Muse would call this “skronk.” It’s all sorts of unintelligible garagey posturing, except for the blurting Fun House sax (or is it Blurt?), in that totally kooky WEIRD PUNK way. A sideways glance at the lyrics tells me that this Montreal band write a lot about drugs and paranoia, as if that should come as a surprise. OF COURSE the first track on side A devolves into noisy chaos and an orgasm of sax squeals, because let’s face it, why else would you have a saxophone in a band like this? "Catatonic State" has an off-brand Jesus Lizard feel to it, but this time the out-of-tune sax just cozies up next to you, gently prodding you awake when all you want to do is doze off. The b-side begins with the instrumental "Love & Napalm: Export U.S.A." that works in a ‘60s sci-fi kind of way. "Nazi Gold," the EP’s only real winner, has a great little organ riff, but the last track, "Prescription Drugs" (ugh) goes on waaay toooo longggg. Sunglasses is a totally fine, solid record, totally cool, and totally style over substance. 600 copies. (http://www.divorcerecords.ca)
(Mike Pace)

s/t LP

When was the last time you heard someone treat Paris 1919 as bible and not come across as a half-baked tent-city evangelist? Or openly contemplate ripping the synthesizers out of Taking Tiger Mountain’s mainframe and rewiring it with slightly rawer acoustics, only to have the monstrosity actually work? Given the grand, almost insurmountable conceptual and performance scope of albums like those, I’d wager that the answer is a solid “never.” Imagine my surprise, then, upon realizing a few seconds into “Wisteria,” the first track from Pittsburgh quartet Harangue’s first LP, that said near-baroque, happily glammed up sense of off-kilter pop is the exact sound for which these four were aiming, and damn it all if they don’t hit the mark pretty consistently. I’d imagine it would be almost too easy to drop this kind of material into hokey territory, but Harangue is fairly on-point all throughout, with a naked enough recording to give the songs plenty of breathing room, and allow tracks like “Brittle, Empty Morning” to stomp and kick ferociously. I have to say - within two minutes of dropping the needle on this one, I felt like a chump for having let it sit unplayed on the turntable for a few weeks. Let my mistake be your lesson. Grab this one if you still can. 220 copies. (http://wilder-pryor.blogspot.com)
(Michael Crumsho)

Seventeen LP

With seventeen album-length releases, Home is working the odds that you’ll find them before their music finds you. That’s not a diss, it’s the condition of the band’s mere existence. Borne out of high school friends playing together in Tampa (last year, their first eight albums – all released on cassette to a plastic jar in a local record store – were reissued as a digital brick by Brah, the friends-n-fam side label run by Oneida), a Home record can be a loose collection of songs by a looser collection of guys who all live and work apart from one another. These guys all have their various styles of songwriting and production, and you’re going to hear them all over the course of a record; what makes it music by Home is that one of them wrote it, and with that, the style . Removed from the spectre of expectations, this band has given itself free reign to grow wild; even after as many releases as they’ve packed in a two-decade span. You may not like every song on the records (and this time around, Eric Morrison’s voice on tracks like “Sugarplum,” despite the inventiveness of the melody, is reminding me of a kids’ musician type a la Dan Zanes, with which I cannot hang), but you’ll probably some of it at first, then inevitably more of it as the collection conforms to where your head’s at. The focus on their last full-length Sexteen – songs about fucking, natch – is missing here, so this one vacillates between lo- and mid-fi, with a number of approaches, all of which are well-balanced within the confines of an album. For me, it gets no better than Sean Martin’s “Pop! Pop!” at the close of side A, a jangly little beater full of first-take guitar, accidents, and a big cop-killing hook that sounds as if the band is doing the skinhead moonstomp all over their past, with a loose-toothed wisdom that doesn’t shine from any of the lo-fi newjax. No trouble on these terraces, though. Just another batch of songs to cram near to your heart (and tender ballad “Any Way That You Go” is headed for there now). Vinyl-only, but comes with a download card. (http://www.brahrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Tommy Jay & Mike Rep
The Grim-O Comix Sequence LP
(Columbus Discount)
Ron House
Blind Boy in the Backseat LP
(Columbus Discount)
Jim Shepard
V-3 Next Album LP

All of a sudden, it seems as if the world outside the few square miles of its existence has taken notice of the rock/roll and punk giants of Columbus, Ohio. Rightly so, in fact; outside of France and New Zealand, no single community has ever been able to translate obsessions with the Velvet Underground, Bowie, John and Yoko, and all the other worthwhile touchpoints of the cultural revolution, and its inevitable curdling. However much it resonated with the rest of the world, that bell continues to shake within certain souls of that flat, college-choked city – people who believed they were doing something important, and have been found by a larger audience to have done just that. Thanks should go to bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit, both of which have brought a spotlight back to their hometown, but most of the people responsible for their musical and civic origins – the very reasons why someone is compelled to start such projects – are still around, still active, and still sitting on troves of material. The Columbus Discount record label should also be credited for extending the dialogue to current times, with reissues of archival works by Ron House, Mike “Rep” Hummel, Tommy Jay, and Nudge Squidfish (whose 20,000 Leagues Under Nashville album is being handled by another Still Single writer); a bootleg LP of unreleased works by the late Jim Shepard couldn’t have come out at a more opportune moment.

Rep was one of the first artists to represent the city with a record of their new sound via his band the Quotas’ “Rocket to Nowhere” single. A sharp jab of zoned-out noise in the midst of the banana-and-umber-colored furnishings of 1975, that record propelled Rep into a central role in Columbus’ nerve center, and tradeoff bands with a handful of people aware enough to see it through. Anytime you see a cave etching of a snake and the letters “L.F.W.” on a record, you have Rep to thank for giving character to the finished product. Together with high school classmate Tommy Jay, he wrote the “rock/folk opera” The Grim-O Comix Sequence, one of their earliest works, and released here for the first time. Dating back to 1974, when the two were seniors – and likely very glad to have been just young enough to have missed the draft – it’s a product of the American dream as it had fractured and festered, the mantle held up for the ideals built up and knocked down in such a short period of time. Raised up on a diet of Lou Reed, Stephen Stills, Simon & Garfunkel and Lou Reed, this material sounds as if had been sitting in its own private puddle for years, and the work as a whole remains incomplete, at least to the standards that its creators had originally envisioned. But if you want to start following the story from the very beginning, through late-nite folk and tender mystery concocted in a basement and an OSU off-campus apartment, this is where you begin.

Ron House shouldn’t be a foreign name to readers of Still Single, even though very little of his music has been discussed here. A boisterous man with an agenda of his own, House spent the ‘90s fronting the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, whose four-track anthems confront you like bleary-eyed recognition of high beams in the dark, coming at you from the opposing lane. Their heartfelt tendencies were balanced by a recklessness seldom seen in House’s ‘80s band, Great Plains, a staple of Midwestern underground rock all the same. Back in 1995, I used my college’s money to throw myself a birthday show with the Slave Apartments and Gaunt, because I could, and how the hell else was that going to happen? Soon after meeting House, I saw him as an idol, someone who had opened his own world like two million oysters and let the liquor flood its town square. I remember him yelling at me a few years later, because I hadn’t figured out the somewhat arcane rules of the euchre, a card game that many Ohioans have used to close the gaps in their lives from adolescence onward. One giant, unending card game – there’s beauty in that. Blind Boy in the Backseat serves as a similar activity, collecting material from House’s earliest projects, the Twisted Shouts (also featuring Rep and Jay) and Moses Carryout. Some of this material was collected on his New Wave as the Next Guy CD from some years back, but Blind Boy augments these songs with practice outings of groups known as Ron, Tommy and Rep, and Ron, Kim and Rep. It’s all great: House’s vocal style is present from the outset, no need to find his voice when the adolescent snarl he was born with worked just as well. The bands were clearly affected a bit by the onslaught of punk, in particular the organized, mantra-like sadness of Joy Division in addition to all the other prime touchstones of rock in ’79 through ’81, both from modern and retrospective viewpoints, and ones which still hold today. Throw “Where the Windows Are” on a mix with Blank Dogs and Teepee, and most listeners wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, aside from House’s song being superior to those and nearly all other examples of bedroom loner-w/-bonerisms in present times. It’s a history lesson, and a satisfying one at that, a look at the moment just before a rocker started to take it all seriously, and a prelude to fall back on once those times proved less than fun.

Back at the euchre game at Ron House’s house, Jim Shepard sat a few tables away, engrossed in his own. I never had any interaction with Shepard, and if his music was any indicator, there was very little for us to discuss. The darkness surrounding this guy was a warning, and in my various trips to Columbus I always thought it best to stay at arm’s length, at least as what was evidenced by his music. Shepard’s band Vertical Slit released an LP in an edition of 100 back in the ‘70s, and copies were given to influences such as Bowie and Peter Hammill in lieu of actual sales or promotion. None of them bit, but Shepard kept writing songs and recording at home, eventually forming a second project, V-3, which had garnered a small but noteworthy amount of recognition throughout the ‘90s. This was no fluke. The pain and desperation in these songs works both ways, as a reminder of the complexity of life, and a good reason to smash away at it with hammers as arms. One of rock’s most popular voices at present, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, owes a tremendous debt to Shepard’s legacy – you hear both his nasal vocal style and bard-like predilections told true in both bands, a deadly secret of sorts and a travesty as well, seeing as Finn became the guy who figured out how to turn his abilities into success, at the cost of terribly hammy music and faux-Springsteen sentiments (a friend just told me a joke in this vein, something about when you mention “Bruce” to someone whose reply is “which one?”). V-3 Next Album suggests that these would have been included in the follow-up to 1996’s Photograph Burns. Shepard and House were among the handful lucky enough to get through the door at Johan Kugelberg’s Onion imprint of Def American before it slammed shut. If you saw copies at all, they were dead stock, or in the hands of promo CD vendors. This material feels a bit unfinished, with more instrumentals than songs with vocals. None of them have titles, but the last one is an extended, multi-part version of Shepard’s “Illogical,” which originally appeared on the Ego Summit album The Room Isn’t Big Enough (Old Age/No Age, 1996), a collaboration between Shepard, House, Rep, Jay and the Bassholes’ Don Howland. Financial ruin weighs on what lyrics do turn up (one track’s mantra is “I lent my sister $200/She put it in her arm”), and just being able to envision whatever was going through Shepard’s mind in between his last V-3 record and death by his own hand in 1998, but side two of Next Album encapsulates the unfiltered experimentalism, emotive rock focus, and willingness to expand simple concepts into alternate-reality wastelands of pure truth has not been met or matched by anyone who’s followed him. Uninterrputed by the demands of the outside world, all of these artists were able to extend themselves without succumbing to trends or favors, or felt the need to tone down in order to meet the demands of the paying customer.

Both the CDR releases were pressed in editions of 500, and are sold out from the source (stores and distros are your best bet). V-3 Next Album, being an unofficial release, was pressed up in an edition of 200 copies. Happy hunting. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Lizz King
All Songs Go To Heaven LP
Prudence Teacup
Where All the Little Songs Go When They Die LP
(All Hands Electric)

had to review these as a matched pair, as one album title answers the other, and both records are modern examples of female singer-songwriters who’ve stepped off of one well-worn path onto another. King is told to be some sort of key member in the Wham City movement in Baltimore, and for those of you whose eyes aren’t completely glazed over yet, this West Virginia transplant relies heavily on some sort of shared history with her hilltop ancestors to make a record of campfire folk and thrift store flapper sensibilities. Not all of it is good, but a few moments – particularly when she has a bunch of friends backing her – remind me of the highs reached by that Cherry Blossoms LP from a few years back. Prudence Teacup hails from Brooklyn, and her music box lullabies, trained soprano, and up-front subject matter align more with Tori Amos than the CocoRosie record most will compare this too. At one point she starts singing about what to order for brunch, which is where I tuned out, but there’s a lot of songs on this one, and taken in small bites, it’s more palatable than the others. Though they’re not related in any way, I think tracks from both of these records might have made a perfect split release. Both records come in silkscreened sleeves, and Ms. Teacup’s effort includes a 24-page lyric and illustration booklet, and is pressed in an edition of 150 copies. Also, you can listen to Lizz King’s entire album for free, from the label’s website. (http://www.ehserecords.com) (http://www.allhandselectric.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Sevens” b/w “Mara” 7”
(Low Point)

Kogumaza occupy an odd space between the dreaded “post-rock” and more psychedelic territories on this austerely presented single. “Sevens” takes a short riff, giving the impression of building up to something more generically “epic,” then just hammers it into oblivion, content to ride that snake until the trip abruptly ends. “Mara” follows a more expected path, starting moody and quiet, and moves into a midsection that evokes the better moments of the Constellation Records sound, then concludes with both guitars fully distorted as the drums fade out. Thankfully the whole thing is cloaked in murk reminiscent of Bardo Pond’s homegrown productions; that layer of fuzz keeps this away from retread territory, although I hope in the future the members of Kogumaza lean towards their work on the a-side of this one. 300 copies, all on red vinyl inside manila sleeves. (http://www.low-point.com)
(Patrick O’Donnell)

La Corde
“Black Salem” b/w “Urban Burqa” 7”

A cool, if unessential, debut new wave/post punk single from what looks to be a new San Francisco band. Both songs here feature a steady rhythm section, somewhat histrionic vocals that sound like a cross between the Robert Smith and the Ponys’ Jered Gummere, and a whole lot of reverb and delay on the guitarist’s spindly handiwork. From giving this a couple spins, I would guess this band’s biggest inspiration would be early ’80s Cure, or Portland Wipers/gloom enthusiasts the Estranged. This record isn’t going to bowl you over with its originality, but it is enjoyable, and this band could potentially develop into something great over time. If any of the band’s mentioned in this review are your bag, you might want to give this a try. (http://www.myspace.com/lacordesf)
(Chris Strunk)

The Living Kills
“You’ll Miss Me Most” b/w “Wires of Copper” 7”

The Living Kills (we must be running out of band names) debut 7” offers up two distinctly now-New York moody popsike songs, despite having a sleeve design and overall aesthetic that dates back to 1993. “You’ll Miss Me Most” is the more succinct and upbeat of the two, but still finds time for a swirling organ driven and reverbed guitar trip down the rabbit hole. The laconic male vocals put the leather pants on the band’s Strokes vibe, and aren’t quite as solid as what the ladies offer on the flip. “Wires of Copper” employs a slowed-down “All Tomorrows Parties”; a plucked guitar drones over a prominent singular bass beat before the organ fills the space around the folksy double-tracked female vocals. This one has a longer tail of stacked synths and strings. All in all, a pleasant blend of old and new sounds. (http://www.myspace.com/litbylightning)

Lucky Luke
Traveling for a Living LP
(Mexican Summer)

Counting drummer Alex Neilson as a former member, Lucky Luke hails from the same Glasgow experimental folk scene that’s produced Trembling Bells, Scatter and Alasdair Roberts. They lean closer to the UK folk rock canon than some of their contemporaries, although I’m not sure how closely a group with singers that deliver like a rural Kim & Thurston could ever be compared to Fairport or Pentangle. This is electric guitar-driven rock music, although having six members allows them to branch out with instruments both traditional (violin, mandolin) and foreign (harmonium, melodica) to the genre. The 12 songs featured on Traveling for a Living all come from vocalist Lucy Sweet and guitarist/vocalist Simon Shaw; although most of them are in the tradition of British folk balladry they’re bolstered by Shaw’s Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground-influenced guitar work. While Ms. Sweet can’t claim to sound like the greats of the genre (Sandy Denny, Judy Dyble, etc.), her voice is pleasant and distinctive, reminiscent of some of her more twee countrymen (Isobel Campbell in particular). Ultimately this is a solid effort that’s held back by the lack of a few stand-out songs – the album ends up being so consistent in mood and tempo that it ends up as a pleasant listening experience instead of an exciting one. In the context of the current folk revival in the UK, this isn’t an essential artifact but has definite appeal for aficionados. As with all Mexican Summer releases, this one is limited (500 copies with tip-on sleeves and download code) but as of writing this the LP is still available from their site. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
(Patrick O’Donnell)

Mess Folk
Something I Remember 7” EP

There was a TON of Hozac input this review cycle. Not sure how so much of it ended up under this roof, because the exchange of money for records almost never gets Hozac releases through the door these days. One look and listen to Nobunny and fear shot straight up from the scrotum to the throat … it was that feeling again. Like being Rowdy Roddy in “They Live,” or being 15 on the morning after your father has suffered a massive stroke in his sleep and suddenly can’t read the paper … that feeling of not-knowing what’s next on general well-being level. But the problem with acts like Mess Folk is one of KNOWING and GETTING IT but not wanting to accept that standards have sunk like they have. Once again, let’s hope that no part of a reverb unit is derived from plant or animal for the sake of avoiding yet another dodo bird sitch, or tree-extinction … same reason decent wine comes to you through a screw-top these days … we boozies made the goddamn cork tree go extinct. Reverb. “Psych” with nothing remotely psychedelic taking place within a five-mile radius of the portable USB Ion-brand record-ripper from Target, or vintage late-‘70s Pioneer component system, both of which did their respective bests (hey, not too shabby of a cartridge on this little portable jobs!) at cranking the living shit out of this record in hopes that it would cancel itself out in favor of silence. Whenever someone records THAT record, the hands will be put together in repetition. (http://www.hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Metal Rouge
Trails LP
(Emerald Cocoon)

Formed in New Zealand by vocalist and stringed instrument manipulator Helga Fassonaki and guitarist Andrew Scott, the trio Metal Rouge have put down roots in L.A. and other west coast drone ranches. Fassonaki, very much from the Linda Sharrock vocal school of wordless abyss-hollerin’, has released recordings as Yek Koo, including one tape of ghostly reverb pasted together with drums from Chris Corsano and Milford Graves LPs. So you could say they lay their influences out pretty clearly. The group might be found hunched over lapsteel, Behingers, or bouzouki, screeching out some dense strands of high-volume La Monte Young/Taj Mahal Travellers worship, but this newest LP on their own label finds them in “ur-rock” mode. Drum kit is used throughout and provides a steady, hazy pulse, while riffs repeated on the lapsteel and guitar rattle around in the dark like a cromagnon Dead C. cave-rockin the basement of a haunted mansion. Effectively eerie in the right light, Trails starts as a sparse, late night affair that dips down to a low gurgle, but on the other side they kick up some Magik Markers style dust with scattershot yet motorik drums and early Ash Ra-guided guitar squalls. I’m left wondering if I’d ever prefer their more avant, less-rocking tendencies, or if hip groops will ever tire of heaping the above name-plopped gamut of kraut/avant/art influences onto the knowingly feeble, ramshackle hammock frame of the “so far gone” freemo rock power trio … yet this one is good enough to not be the dealbreaker, yet. It grew on me, one to save for the twilight hours, and I’d go see them on their summer tour. 300 copies. (http://www.emeraldcocoon.com)
(Andy Tefft)

Lonnie Eugene Methe
“Hey Jack” Plus Six Other Songs 7” EP

This could have been recorded directly into a computer or it could have been recorded directly into one of those $30 Tascam analog 2-tracks that fooled many-a-90’s hack into believing they were a bedroom Albini. Thin, but the songwriting is there on three or four out of the seven, and when it’s not there, at least it’s replaced by the aural implication that it COULD be there. A guy, a bedroom, a guitar, and whatever he recorded this on. Oh, and a probable cavalcade of age-appropriate lady friends in and out of that room. Each song feels like it’s about a different girl. I looked at this record, noticing the brevity and other slapdash qualities, and my MEDIOCRIDAR began automatically fine-tuning its settings. This record is charming and from the gut and impossible to dislike, so there was no use for it. You know, the word “MEDIOCRIDAR” does not set off spell-check. Still mine to keep. (http://unread-records.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Mount Carmel
s/t LP

Plenty of bands drink from the well of tribute, allowing their vision to plateau in service of authenticity or Good Time Charlie-ism, because it’s fun and familiar, and for some quite easy to achieve. Mount Carmel is that rare band that takes an existing concept – here, British-influenced blues-based rock circa 1966-69, the times that bore Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, the Steve Miller Band, and above all, Free – and steers it so that they become a continuation of that earlier dialogue. The six offerings here from this Columbus, OH trio (five originals and one Ten Years After cover, which claims much of side B) sound as if they would have been that delayed next step towards metal, retaining all the subtlety of the form’s masters in one of the richest recordings I’ve heard in some time … apparently “L.F.W.” doesn’t always mean bled, dried and stuck to the lathe. Can’t really pick a favorite, as this thing just gets better and better with each listen, perfectly balancing and, most importantly, holding back when it’s most needed. Few realized that this music is best when it’s restrained, allowing each element of the band to contribute to the work as a whole. I’d liken it to the first Witchcraft record in terms of the impact this thing is gonna have with its gradual discovery. I could actually see this getting insanely popular, even, because these three young men are going to be the band that revives this sound altogether, and takes it to the minimal endpoint it longed for in 1972. A perfect record. (http://www.siltbreezerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Newclear Waves/Opus Finis
split 7”

I’m hardly an expert on the Cold Cave-induced coldwave explosion, but split records seem to imply some familiarity or camaraderie between artists which totally betrays my preconceived image of Rome’s Newclear Waves and Miami’s Opus Finis (veteran of both Wierd comps) as machine-worshipping loners. Both bands plays a similar sounding dark minimal synth, uh “pop.” The term Cold Wave basically auto-reviews the record for me, right? Newclear Waves is the more minimal and impersonally robotic of the pair. A mechanical 808 kick, open hat and synth bassline marches along, punctuated only by the occasional static burst, which I initially thought was a pressing error. A dead voice documents the last moments of a man, and a small, chiming melody adds the only musical shape. Opus Finis is a shade more tuneful and busy. It employs the same tones, but the drums are programmed with more rhythm, and the melody varies. Carlos Oni’s vocals are half sung and rise to what the genre might pass for an anthem chorus. If I had a goth/minimal wave dance night I would play Newclear Waves’ side. The only thing better than being alone is being alone in a crowd. Numbered edition of 300. (http://www.mannequinmailorder.com)

No Comply
It’s Getting Hot 7” EP

It’s interesting to see the great Goner label, which has unleashed a good number of the best garage rock LPs of the past decade, putting out a straightforward hardcore release. No Comply is a Memphis band that has an ex member of the legendary Deathreat on bass, and the drummer was in Left For Dead. They offer up eight songs of basic, fast hardcore that their label compares to Copout and Born Against, but sounds much more like SOA and the DC Youth Brigade to me. The songs are well-written and build up a decent head of steam here and there, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t stack up to the twisted brutality best current hardcore bands.  If you play the Slices LP, the Confines demo, the Vaccine 7”, or the Society Nurse single, and then put on this record, it just kind of sounds tame and traditional in comparison. I actually conducted this experiment in the name of music journalism. Not a bad record, but could have – and should have been – so much more. (http://www.goner-records.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Jakob Olausson
“Cornered In Your Circle” b/w “A Faded Picture” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

Late entry here for a Singles Club release – I dropped the ball here, if you don’t have one by now, you’re not getting one. Will be funny, seeing guys frantically searching every blank-sleeved 7” in the store. Have to say I failed to notice Olausson’s debut album from a few years back, but the quest begins now. His Lee Hazlewood-esque drawl, the lonesome pine of his guitar playing, and the lapsed, damaged production style draws these out to hot summer night roads, sodium vapor lights, and the uncertainty of who or what will use that night as cover for their activities. “Cornered in Your Circle” is a shambling original, and possibly in tribute to Columbus’ obsession with the Seeds (RIP Sky Saxon), covers “A Faded Picture” on the backside. Rendered in a left-right split mastering to accommodate the song’s 7+ minute runtime in separate channels. Unless you feel like fiddling with your balance knob, let it play as is. The phantom drift of two halves that don’t quite match up serves to ratchet up the isolation, two voices singing, but not to each other. 400 copies, barebones as they come. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)

Prince Rama of Ayodhya/Kegs of Acid
split 7” EP
(World War)

Prince Rama of Ayodhya roll out a long guitar rave-up cock-tease, like Bardo Pond or Serena Maneesh, except for the “sucking” part. Kegs of Acid sound exactly like the type of band that would call themselves that; then think that a “Point Break” reference is clever. Hmmm … mysticism by way of lazy slumming … so we’re on the 415th or 416th recalling of that unfortunate rock trend? Which is it? At least one of these bands exists as “something to do” or a vehicle for attaining attention while school is finished. I can smell it. Bands should be more than that. Once its members embark on their respective graduation walks, Kegs of Acid will be tossed aside and forgotten like so many pairs of flip-flops. And like that should-be-illegal form of footwear, bands like these two never seem to go away. 300 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/princeramaofayodhya)
(Andrew Earles)

The Puke Eaters
Y.M.I. Dead? 7” EP
Tuplafiesta 7” EP

About five or six years ago, I looked into the Finnish freak/free folk scene via some Kemialliset Ystävät and Avarus cds, found them to be directionless and unexciting group improv, and stopped keeping up with the scene, with the exception of keyboard prog heros Shogun Kunitoki. However, it may be time to reconsider my decision, because both of these Finnish bands – featuring ex-members of Kemialliset Ystävät and on the label of that band’s head honcho Jan Anderzen’s new label, are superb examples of group improvisation as it relates to general weirdness. Both records are very similar in feel and seem to consist of tape loops, synth abuse, homemade electronics, sped up and slowed down voices, and various bellows, moans, and chants. The Tsembla 7” is in general higher-pitched and has more of a whimsical feel (probably due to the catchy synth lines that crop up every once in awhile) and makes me think of pixies frollicking in a dewy meadow, while the Puke Eaters 7” is lower pitched, darker, and puts me in the mind of ogres stomping around in a cave. Both are highly recommended to fans of "out" music in general. (http://www.myspace.com/vauvalautasella)
(Chris Strunk)

s/t LP
Harbor Lights/Ribs
split 7”

Ribs just broke up. I was at their last show. When they finished playing, I left. The next day a friend asked me if I knew of any drummers to back up their frontman, Jason Frederick. He had driven all the way from Chicago to play at a private college in New York, and Ribs warmed up in the basement of the Charleston, an exhumed Williamsburg bar that was so much stranger than it is now. An elderly man who tended bar used to fire up the rope lighting and rapidly flick the beam of a laser pointer at whatever band was playing, giving anyone’s set here a manic unpredictability and distracted from the music. Now it’s one of those bars that gives out a free pizza with purchase of a drink, only you can’t even get the bartender’s attention. Louder bands and a post-screamo aesthetic dictate their booking and the selections of the DJ. That night, Ribs were playing with a band called Elks and another called Pigs. On other nights, Ribs would have lived up to their namesake and processed these bands for the display case, Los Paisanos style. It wasn’t meant to be, and it was further complicated by the fact that the band finally got their records out at this show. Frederick used to front noise/noisy rock bands in Chicago, Columbus, and Athens, OH (the Means, the Spiveys, Cool Devices, Love Story in Blood Red) that operated at a time when it was not particularly cool to partake in such activities. None of these bands were particularly known among the people who started to bring that sound back, and that’s a shame – the Means, in particular, lived up to their name. Ribs took that sentiment and grafted it onto freewheelin’ grunge with a no-nonsense rhythm section that strapped it down tight (Mitchell King and Mishka Shubaly, from Beat the Devil). More than anything, they reminded me of Nirvana’s Incesticide collection, whylin’ out on wacky chords and big screaming choruses. Frederick is the kind of guy who can get so caught up in the moment that he loses the guitar, so the presence on leads of Joachim Kearns, also of Harbor Lights, was beneficial – he has this loud, clean, snarling tone that anchored all of these songs, rigid as they were, because the chance of a tornado of human activity was possible in front of it. I sat through a lot of really shitty band’s sets waiting for these guys to play, and every other time they hit the mark, and knocked the drink out of my hand. I don’t know much from Harbor Lights, except that they play confident, professional guitar rock, employ three guitarists, at about half of Ribs’ stature. Both records were obviously labor intensive, with design elements literally glued onto blank sleeves. The LP collects a withering live recording from Mercury Lounge in late 2008, in the wake of the Obama election win, and the band’s four-track demo, seven songs in all (three appear on both sides). It’s far better than those sources might otherwise suggest. You’ll wish they could have entered an actual studio and gotten it together, but with members in separate cities, the momentum only came together when it had to. In an ironic twist, there’s only 100 copies of the LP, and the same recording of “A Red 1” is on the 500-press split. There’s definitely something about these songs, and this band, but due to circumstance, not very many people are ever going to know. (http://powerrecordings.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Pamela Wyn Shannon/The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree
Seasonal Sevens: Autumn split 7”
(Autumn Ferment)

P.S.: it’s early spring. Pamela Wyn Shannon (of Wales, by way of Western Mass.), takes side A with “Woolgathering” and Ireland’s the Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree are on the flip with “The Blackthorn Tree.” Settled in for an earthy experience, any whiff of embarrassing whimsy is quickly put to rest by the beautiful singing and fingerstyle guitar of Ms. Shannon, grounded in the British Isles modern folk legacy of Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins, who has praised her personally. Very pleasant with viola and bells, and I definitely wanted to hear more. Now warmed up for something from The Magickal Folk, their offering (originally from a 2003 cd-r) is like the Wizz Jones/Clive Palmer counterpoint to Shannon’s side. A duet of unpretentious harmonies backed by banjo and soft flute, it’s like a mellow night by a country pub’s fireplace with a whisky you never even knew existed. Another teaser, this season turns all too quickly. (http://autumnfermentrecords.com)
(Andy Tefft)

Slang Chickens
s/t LP
(Psychedelic Judaism)

The name Slang Chickens on the burlap sack this record comes in gives the feeling of an empty bar feeling at quarter to midnight on a Monday, and a band of dudes in plaid shirts are just starting to drag amps towards the stage, when more reasonable activities like sleep or clipping coupons under a bare lightbulb are so close yet so far away. But they’ll give it the old bar rock try, and in a bold aesthetic gambit it’s “southern-tinged” as well. Four songs into the set they’re singing stuff like “row my boat to shore” and “got blues drippin’ down my leg,” and all of a sudden offering management to replenish the men’s room urinal cakes free of charge seems like a pleasant “alt” to standing near this ho-hum indie country-rawk extravaganza. Lou Adler might be inclined to whisper “lose the banjo and the whole country thing” into their ears because maybe there’s potential in rock. There are sprinklings of fuzz guitar and ambitious choruses that work in he band’s favor, while the lap steel and most of the rural tinges are token at best. Throughout the focus remains on the quality of the lead and oft-harmonized vocals, which, on “I Want To Score” are reminiscent of Alice In Chains circa Jar Of Flies, which I love, but I don’t love this. The burlap sack ends up being the most useful aspect of this LP. (http://psychedelicjudaism.com)
(Andy Tefft)

Sonny & the Sunsets
“Broom & Dustpan” b/w “E.S.P.” 7”

Years ago, when a relatively small but respectable number of people fell in love with the music of The Bats, Unrest, The Clean, The Verlaines, Vomit Launch, Tiger Trap, Field Mice, and so on … primary among the reasons for that love was that these artists knew how to write a moving, mood-altering hook. More often than not, these bands were experts at what I like to call “blue hooks” – not necessarily melancholic on the surface, but the hooks were constructed using a progression of notes in which at least a couple combine in a melancholic way. What does this have to do with Sonny & the Sunsets? Well, that’s the problem. Nothing. S & the S’s makes pop that is the aggressive opposite of what constitutes real hooks, and this is a growing trend. The new crop of faux-positive pop bands, this one included, write TV jingles. The reasoning behind the ‘50s and early ‘60s influence you hear in much of this stuff is that these bands have no idea how to write a genuine heartfelt hook and cover up that fact with an obvious skiffle, ‘50s balladry, or otherwise public-domain melody. That’s the common ear’s idea of a hook. Both excruciatingly-mundane songs on this 7” felt like they lasted an hour. (http://www.homeskilletrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Sonny & the Sunsets
The Hypnotist 7” EP
(Future Stress)

This music makes me want to write stupid shit like, “I wish Glen Benton would drag this guy into an alleyway for a wordless ‘talking-to’.” Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me, Mercury Rev’s Yerself is Steam, MBV’s Loveless, the first or second Swirlies album, Godflesh, Seam, Treepeople, Sebadoh III, Slanted and Enchanted, Thinking Fellers Local 282, Fly Ashtray, Sun City Girls, the Dead C., the Flying Nun roster and the usual Krautrock suspects … all predictable stuff but all brand new and very important music to me between the ages of 16 and 19. This music would dictate that I would somehow be involved in, passionate about, and generally obsessed with music to this day. When I listen to this 7”, I wonder what music did it for this guy. Was his life-changing musical experience a Just For Feet commercial? Music means something different to the creative minds behind this movement, and it has little to do with heart. This is not the sound of someone FEELING music. Hey, guy in Burt Lancaster shorts and Cosby sweater on stage, acting like a high-school cheerleader … all the hand-clapping and forced positivity? Be positive for a reason. And grow a pair while you’re at it. You’re a grown-ass man. (http://www.futurestress.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Aly Spaltro/TJ Metcalfe
split 7”
(Eternal Otter)

Eternal Otter rages on by matchlight. Sprightly, somewhat ragged folk ballad and solo guitar by Spaltro; a cracked male Billie Holiday impersonation and peculiar guitar ditty by Metcalfe. Both songs were written and originally performed as a group called Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. I think the split of names and purposes serves it well, as it’s tough to take a moniker like that seriously. There seems to be a preponderance of this type of modern folk music in Portland, to which it might be more rewarding to experience firsthand than listen to anonymous records and take away whatever information they may pass on. This is the least of the three Eternal Otter singles in terms of originality and quality of finished product, but if you bought the other two, might as well pick up the third. (http://eternalotterrecords.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Titus Andronicus
“Four Score and Seven, Pt. 1” b/w “Four Score and Seven, Pt. 2” 7”

“Sigh,” as they say on the Internet. I tried. I really have. It’s just not happening – a whiskey dick of the ears, if you will. And like the biological version of whiskey dick for which ads are played during late night TV comedy, I think it has to do with being an old man. When they left me speechless at 2004’s SXSW, I didn’t think the Hold Steady steez/wolrdview would become a movement. I thought they were a brilliantly-executed in-joke about ‘90s indie rock and being thirty-something in the 21st century – well, we failed to change the world, how about some Bob Seger? But nope, there’s a JV squad. The Hold Steady sounds like they desperately wish they were from Jersey, Titus Andronicus actually are. Where Finn and crew vibe on Springsteen, the parts of the Clash left over from pub rock and ’90s college radio, Titus Andronicus has made a Civil War concept album (sort of) with a lot of lyrical Billy Bragg and Pogues references. This single is the music that swears it means it, but I find myself not caring at all what it’s about, nor do I entirely buy into it. When people talk about what they don’t like about the Hold Steady, their objections are virtually the same as my reactions to these gents. Finn’s braying voice takes some getting used to, but Patrick Stickles’ wail makes me want to leave the room (again, a stack of ‘80s and ‘90s emo back at my home means I should love it, but no). Some find the Hold Steady’s string of references eye-rolling, I think someone should talk you out of it when you want to name your album after a Seinfeld joke. My pals in their twenties (and many friends who still might as well be) just love these dudes and find my antipathy baffling. At Hold Steady shows, there is singing along, there is fist pumping and I can envision a great deal of both to this oversized anthem. This might be played over and over and flipped over and over, two copies purchased for seamless Park Slope DJ nights. This is their new sincerity. Mine is old and in the way. Here in Austin, the Hold Steady’s shows are attended both by these kids and a lot of parents who don’t get to go out to clubs that much. I can’t imagine anyone over 40 seeing Titus unless they are being paid to. So I got nothing. When someone yells “It’s still us against them,” as Stickles does over and over at this monster’s close, I’m not used to feeling like the latter. (http://www.xlrecordings.com)
(Joe Gross)

From the Grave LP

Mining the classic soundtrack work of John Carpenter and Goblin has become a small cottage industry in recent times, with Zombi in particular making a career out of this niche genre. Umberto (a.k.a. Matt Hill, sometimes of Expo 70) has provided us with the newest example with From the Grave, an LP that skirts the edge of Soundtrack for an Imaginary Giallo territory. What saves the project from paling in comparison to his influences is the way Hill skillfully merges them – his songs are generally anchored by pulsing synths, and then layered with progressive rock keyboards. Much like Zombi, this ends up being danceable music, although Umberto generally eschews the harder edge of Zombi’s work. Hill also seems to have a judicious eye for doling out cheese, never letting his music enter into the realm of irony while clearly not taking things too seriously. Along with the recent Purling Hiss album, this is another winner – limited to 500, and for the time being, still available at the source. (http://www.permanentrecordschicago.com)
(Patrick O’Donnell)

Vermillion Sands
“Something Wrong” b/w “Mother of Earth” 7”
(Hell, Yes!)

Back with another A+ indie pop single is Italy’s Vermillion Sands. Both songs shuffle along at a laid back 1-2-1-2 pace, with the jangly guitars of the poppier C-86 bands like Talulah Gosh, and topped off with Anna Barattin’s deadpan yet tuneful vocals. A Nuggets or Rubble influence creeps up all over both of these songs as well. “Something Wrong” gets a bit more frantic and has a big chorus with some great string bends in it, and “Mother of Earth” heads off into dreamier and downbeat territory, but both songs are equally great. This record has somewhat of a Swinging London/Mod feel to it, and it’s easy to imagine Vermillion Sands playing in the background of a club scene in Blow-up, but it’s also not a throw back and is defiantly of our time. I will buy all of this band’s records. You should, too. 400 copies. (http://hellyeshellyeshellyes.bigcartel.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Vienna Noise Choir/The Moore Brothers
split 7”
(Brick Factory)

A colour-Xeroxed split 7" between VNC and the Moore Brothers, an unlikely pairing that in some difficult-to-grok way, actually makes sense -- and it works well. VNC’s tune “Harm Guitar” starts out as ‘90s post-rock Branca-worship, adorned by perky group vocals, and finds its way to a coda of moody ‘80s underground anti-aesthetic clatter. It’s a beautiful map they draw, reaching backwards through time, in ways both clear and cryptic. The Moore Brothers blurt out some sub-Frogs folk silliness that lunges toward earnestness in the most straight-faced of manners. The harmonies on “Fishes with Faces” are angelic, and they know how to wield a 7th chord without overdoing it. The melody meanders enough to avoid getting irritating, but when it’s finished, I’m again wondering why these two bands go together. (http://www.brickfactory.org)
(Lynn Sauna)

The Whines
Hell to Play LP

Come to think of it, maybe it isn’t so bad if music is doomed to repeat itself in ever-tightening cycles. It’s not like any of us are going to be around for that long anyway, so when you find something you like, it’s always nice to have another rendition of it. So give credit where due to the Whines, a Portland rock trio that exemplifies the tension-release of the International Pop Underground, ragged as fuck but blasting away at the brooding tonk of their northwestern home. An earlier single spoke of a bedroom adorned with huge rock posters, the temple of young adult life, and hung off you like your friend’s older sister’s Cure t-shirt you borrowed to wear to Lollapalooza. Hell to Play keeps that promise that the music held, but opens the door a little wider. Capturing this very specific moment in time – 1991-1993, the sound of my high school years, and all the anxiety behind them – is obviously a detail that is personal to me, and maybe not so much to someone who feels like that sort of experience is meaningless to them. I know this isn’t the case, though, and there are probably 15-20,000 adults who would really appreciate the chance to experience that all over again. Karianne plays bass and sings, Jesse plays guitar, Bobby plays drums. They are probably making fun of this review right now, and as well they should, but this record is goddamn great. It’s Nirvana by way of Heavens to Betsy and early Bugskull. What could be better? (http://www.myspace.com/thewhines)
(Doug Mosurock)

Matt Wilga
There I Go 7” EP
(Labor of Love)

Matt Wilga turns a corner from his HC past as drummer for Cancer Kids and Failures with this single, three songs in the fuzz-encrusted tradition of early JAMC or perhaps the first Sonic Boom solo record (you know, the one with the wheel on the front – a killer jam, for real). Jangly, overdriven acoustic guitar is modulated to within an inch of its life, as Wilga sings his heart out over the top. I feel like there are a lot of records out right now that have unsuccessfully mined this shallow pool, but this one gracefully sidesteps the problems that release diarrhea/lack of quality control by teenage dipshits have brought upon the 7” bin. For starters, these songs were written and recorded in 2006, and shelved until now. Of course this is the right time to release something in this vein, but the distance Wilga has given himself from then and now allows for a cleaner and more unique perspective to emerge. Plus, his songwriting is assured and thoughtful, in particular “Headed on That Ride,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sarah Records compilation. He’s definitely much more than just some new jack with three chords, a fuzzbox, and a laptop. You’d be wise to check it out soon. White vinyl, letterpressed pocket sleeve and insert. (http://laboroflove.tumblr.com)
(Doug Mosurock)


Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. We 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.

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.

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Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.

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