All posts by Eddie Ugarte

I’ve been hesitating. It’s probably because I just can’t get enough of the latest album by A Tribe Called Quest. Listening to a podcast today I wasn’t even thinking their album but then Michael Rapaport brought up the group’s performance on the Grammys and the loss of a key member, so I had to play it. Again. The maturity of that album and the songs(!) get me every time. I’ve even started hitting ATCQ back catalog. Timeless. But it detracts me from what I need to do and the tasks at hand. And again, I’m thinking about Phife’s album that’s supposed to drop this year. And if it’s not something ATCQ relatedo, then it’s that Beach Slang, which has me tightly wound like a crack whore. But I digress. Again.

Today there are a number of releases, monotonous or not, hitting shelves of stores like Haffa Records and Stinkweeds (shameless plugs.) This week, we have a few, um, unexpected albums that made this one scribe really think. About? Well let’s just say life is full of surprises.  Many people probably don’t know about Ten In The Swear Jar; it was a project Jamie Stewart was a part of early on in his musical career (I still have a 10″ they released.) It touched on some of the things he’s done with Xiu Xiu over the past 15 years. But as any fledgling musical group or artist does, he’s evolved. With the band’s new album Forget (Polyvinyl Records) the evolution has continued. I’m hard pressed to simply write-off Xiu Xiu as just another experimental outfit because what Stewart and the band, whose current roster also includes Shayna Dunkelman and Angela Seo, and have put together are a collection of tracks that seamlessly flow from one to another with a deep rooted pop sensibility. But that’s not to say the group doesn’t continue to explore new avenues of sound structuring. The opening “The Call” isn’t how you’d expect a Xiu Xiu song to begin but then again it is. Jamie Stewart immersing himself in other genres of music outside of his Xiu Xiu outfit has possibly contributed to it. The group gets Enyce Smith to quickly rhyme on the track, coming in and out, while the band builds a clever synth-pop track around it, keeping that relentless beat from dissipating. The song is soon followed by “Queen Of The Losers,” which sounds anthemic with images of grandeur. The bitter feel and darkness of previous releases seems to have almost vanished and there’s nary a negative feel here, although the band seemingly wraps Stewart’s sometimes gloomy wordplay around light-hearted music. But that doesn’t happen on “Hay Choco Bananas” where you’re overwhelmed by the wall of sound of instruments that are quite frightening. Stewart’s lyrics begin hauntingly with “The plague / That is your eyes / A joke to break ones heart” does jab knives into you. When you get to “At Last, At Last,” you get the full treatment of interchanging dynamics. When Xiu Xiu is at its most explosive it’s as if the group is punk band for the thinking man. It’s not until getting to “Petite” that you realize Xiu Xiu isn’t just about electronics and beating listeners over the head with synthetics. Here on this sparse track you get the beauty of Stewart’s unique voice and delivery, along with strings and acoustic guitars. Oh the majesty of it all! With Forget, the band has undoubtedly surpassed expectations. The band tears sounds apart and reconnects them with originality and sheer abandon.

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Xiu Xiu – Forget

Well now…. the San Francisco four-piece band Blank Square drops a new album completely different from anything else I’ve listened to today. While the pace isn’t as frantic as I expected, the band takes an unorthodox approach. I dont want to categorize the group’s release, Animal I (Castle Face Records), as some fly-by-night avant-garde recording, although some of those elements may be present but hot damn if this isn’t listenable, again and again. While there may be no new ground broken here by the members of Blank Square, it sounds as if they’ve taken elements of a few 90’s outfits, taken out the bits and pieces that matter, and have created a story that’s both innovative and insane at the same time. You may be overcome with a feel of dread once the 1:28 minute plays. Disjointed guitars are occasionally surrounded by an unrelenting horn section before bellowing with dissonance and a quick rhythmic pace on “Bangers.” There’s grit, and lots of it here and yet it showcases the cohesiveness of it much like how one southern California outfit might do it. Simply put, the members of Truman’s Water would probably be thrilled to hear the band’s take a style they’ve perfected by not perfecting it. But one simple comparison doesn’t do Blank Square justice. After listening to “Exit Saint” I can’t help but think this might be what The Cows would sound like after molesting Brainiac in a vat filled with ice water. And if I were to go back further I’d say they were the great grandkids of the Fall, who happen to take more chances than a whore without a stack of condoms.

Blank Squares - Animal I
Blank Square – Animal I

I can’t help but think that Blank Square doesn’t come to play at being a flash-in-the-pan outfit with visions of grandeur. They’re here simply to  shock an industry with the necessary defibrillator shocking them back to life. Animal I is just that good.

I tried, I really, really did, but Wild Pink and its self-titled release (Tiny Engines) had something I really couldn’t put my finger on with my first run through, but the boys from Brooklyn pieced together a collection of songs that fall short. I can’t say that there’s anything necessarily bad about the the album but there’s nothing that makes the group stand out from an assortment of bands that play every week at a local club. “How Do You Know If God Takes You Back” is probably the group’s strongest song on this 11-song collection of music but an attempt of changing the dynamics of songs fails to nudge listeners into a sense of wanting to listen to more of the album. And of wanting what? Something that doesn’t linger in mediocrity. There are moments the band nudges from a slowcore genre but there’s nothing interesting enough to keep my attention at least.  There are pop-punk sensibilities the band holds onto but doesn’t really work well. Songs ebb and flow from one direction to the other and I don’t feel the need to dwell on each track. “Nothing To Show” though has my attention. But then I realize it’s probably because it reminds me of Superchunk. But it’s more of a time that’s already forgotten in my head. Well, maybe next time… but not this time.

WildPink
Wild Pink – S/T

In the tradition of great singer-songwriters, Justin Carter seems to stick out like a sore thumb. Not because he’s better than the ones who have come before him, but it’s because although he’s traversed ground that’s been treaded previously, with his new album The Leaves Fall (Mister Saturday Night Records) I’m hard pressed to squeeze him into just any old sub-genre. No, some know Carter by his collaborative efforts with Eamon Harkin, as half of popular New York party and record label Mister Saturday Night but this release here, really isn’t much of a part of it. While it may be released on the label, The Leaves Fall is occasionally a haunting affair, with Justin’s sweet voice throughout it. The opus, “The Great Destroyer” opens the album with a simple and catch finger-picked guitar line with a cello suddenly entering as Justin’s delicate vocals sound like they would break apart at just about any moment. I can’t get enough of this song. Now while you may believe there’s more of the same to follow, that’s not what happens. The beat drives a number of these songs but fortunately it’s Justin Carter’s voice that reels everything in to streamline The Leaves Fall into a cohesive album. “Infinite Pieces” drown out the world with its syncopated rhythm over the rest of the music. Carter begins showing his easy flowed range here, and it doesn’t even sound like he’s trying too hard. It works though. And then it dips into “Know It All” where it goes back to the basics again with one instrument under his vocals. THIS is how we know there will be a reckoning with Justin Carter.

Justin Carter
Justin Carter – The Leaves Fall

He’s able to pull out all the stops on his songs in whichever mode he’s set to. Here I’m sure he’s fully aware of the beauty of his song structure, sprinkling it with background harmonies. It does sound as if he has a full orchestra behind him at times, and while he may utilize other musicians for their talent here and there, this is strictly a Justin Carter affair. “With The Old Breed” he makes everything sound so damned easy. Again, that feel of multi-person musical unity treads all throughout the song. This time around though, it’s the fragility of the music that threatens to fall apart.  But minds are blown with “Leaves” which don’t threaten to take the beat further, it just simply does. The odd-man-out of a track you’d be likely to find on the dance floor rather than a hipster coffee shop. It’s obvious the man can do it all which makes The Leaves Fall one of my favorite albums of the year.

 

 

Justin Carter – Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Wild Pink – Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Xiu Xiu – Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Blank Square – Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

The Columbus, Ohio band Earwig Shares the video for “Bring Yrself 2 Me” off of the group’s Pause For The Jets. The song/video features ‘iconic drag queen Nina West,’ and while I’m not sure what that means, I’m still having a hard time getting around what in the world is going on in this video. It begins with one of the members waking up, throwing on his MJ Thriller jacket, walking around town while singing. Obviously a concept video that we’re all forced to watch a couple of times, partly because attempting to dissect the video is one reason but the song and heavy low end bass theory here is infectious.

 

By now most have heard the band Oxbow, who will undoubtedly reach legendary status at some point, will be releasing their new album Thin Black Duke May 5, 2017 on Hydra Head Records. This is the band’s first release in 10 years.

Over the 30 years of Oxbow’s operations, no one has come comfortably close to classifying the bay area group. This could arguably be the result of Oxbow’s ongoing evolution, but accurately describing any particular phase of the group’s seven-album career is no easier than describing the broader metamorphic arc of their creative path, modifiers like “noise,” “avant garde,” and “experimental” frequently get tossed about, but even honing in on a noun any more specific than “rock” becomes problematic. Sure, the band employs the standard rock choices of instrumentation and displays the requisite evolutionary tie to the blues, but such vague designations mean little. So it’s tempting to attach the only-slightly-more-specific handle of “punk” to Oxbow, if one’s view of punk is narrowly focused on the kind of free-jazz inflected antagonism later-era Black Flag inflicted on the nascent American hardcore scene. But punk’s primitivism is completely at odds with Oxbow’s highly disciplined approach. This is especially true with their seventh album Thin Black Duke, where Oxbow’s elusive brand of harmonic unrest has absorbed the ornate and ostentatious palate of baroque pop into their sound, pushing their polarized dynamics into a scope that spans between sublime and completely unnerving. This is new musical territory for all parties involved.

From the sound of the promo, seems like the band has matured and we’ll all be the better for it.

 

OxbowThinBlackDuke

Track Listing:

1.    Cold & Well Lit Place

2.    Ecce Homo

3.    A Gentleman’s Gentleman

4.    Letter Of Note

5.    Host

6.    The Upper

7.    Other People

8.    The Finished Line

 

It’s been 7 years since Ted Leo + Pharmacists released 2010’s The Brutalist Bricks on Matador. This time around though Ted and his crew have gone the dreaded Kickstarter route and the yet unnamed album boasts guest appearances from his musical partner Aimee Mann in The Both to Jean Grae Adrienne Berry and Jonathan Coulton. He explains:

“The last record that I recorded under my own name or with the always amazing group of comrades we call The Pharmacists was released seven years ago. It’s almost hard to believe. To be fair to myself, it’s not like I’ve been sitting on my hands the whole time – I had an incredibly active few years in the middle there, writing, recording, and touring with my collaborative project; I toured with the Pharmacists to the logical end of the cycle on the last album (and some beyond that), I’ve continued to tour solo since, and I am always up for a drop in on any number of extremely talented friends’ podcasts, benefits, comedy, variety, etc. shows, AND, I’ve been little by little putting together a body of work – a set of music and ideas – that has, at this point, sprawled beyond the traditional album length, as well as – little by little – week by week, month by month, year by year – creating a space to record and produce this music, and learning on the job exactly how to do that.”

With praise still reverberating from December’s unveiling of “Governed By Contagions,” At The Drive In has issued another clarion call from its first album in 17 years: “Incurably Innocent” is the second track to be released in advance of that record, titled in • ter a • li • a, now available for pre-order and confirmed for release May 5 on Rise Records.

Pitting spacey phaser and thrash-y riffing against a sidewinder hook and siren wail, “Incurably Innocent,” described by vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala as “a song about sexual abuse and being able to finally speak out,” reveals additional facets of the kaleidoscopic in • ter a • li • a (Latin for “among other things”). Produced by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Rich Costey at Hollywood’s Sound Factory, the 11-song 41-minute in • ter a • li • a picks up where 2000’s Relationship of Command left off… and rockets off into myriad other trajectories as unpredictable as they are intense.
in • ter a • li • a’s release will be immediately followed by a new series of live dates beginning in At The Drive In’s native El Paso, Texas and including headline dates at the likes of the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and more. Le Butcherettes will support on the new dates (below in BOLD). For further information, updates and tickets, go to www.atthedriveinmusic.com/tour/.
ATDI

in • ter a • li • a tracklist:

NO WOLF LIKE THE PRESENT
CONTINUUM
TILTING AT THE UNIVENDOR
GOVERNED BY CONTAGIONS
PENDULUM IN A PEASANT DRESS
INCURABLY INNOCENT
CALL BROKEN ARROW
HOLTZCLAW
TORRENTIALLY CUTSHAW
GHOST-TAPE NO.9
HOSTAGE STAMPS

At The Drive In
Live 2017
3/17/17 – New Orleans, LA – Civic Theatre
3/18/17 – Atlanta, GA – The Tabernacle
3/20/17 – Washington DC – 9:30 Club
3/22/17 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
3/25/17 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
3/27/17 – Detroit, MI — The Fillmore
3/29/17 – Toronto, Canada – Rebel (formerly Sound Academy)
5/6/17 — El Paso TX — County Coliseum
5/8/17 — Phoenix AZ — Marquee Theatre
5/9/17 — San Diego CA — Soma
5/12/17 — San Francisco CA — Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
5/13/17 — Los Angeles CA — Shrine Auditorium
5/17/17 — Mexico City — Pepsi Center WTC
6/7/17 — Austin, TX — Stubb’s
6/9/17 — San Antonio, TX — Aztec Theater
6/10/17 — Houston, TX — Revention Music Center
6/12/17 — Dallas, TX — South Side Ballroom
6/13/17 — Oklahoma City, OK — The Criterion
6/15/17 — Denver, CO — The Fillmore
6/17/17 — St. Paul, MN — Palace Theatre
6/18/17 — Chicago, IL — Aragon Ballroom
6/20/17 — Columbus, OH — Express Live!
6/21/17 — Cleveland, OH — Agora Theatre
8/15-17/17 — St. Pölten, Austria — FM4 Frequency Festival 2017
8/16-19/17 — Paredes De Coura, Portugal — Paredes De Coura Festival 2017
8/16-19/17 — Kiewit, Belgium — Pukkelpop Festival 2017
8/25-27/17 — Weatherby, UK — Leeds Festival 2017
8/25-27/17 — Reading, UK — Reading Festival 2017

It’s another Friday and this week a few friends have expressed how there’s a feeling of  dread when it comes to rock music. It’s difficult to argue that point considering just about everything you find on the radio is bland and has a mass pop appeal to it. But it’s something that always comes up and is a never-ending cycle. But you have to look past what’s in front of you and dig deep for something viable on your own. So of course, rock isn’t dead; that’s a hearty “no.” Real rock has always remained on the fringes and it’s something you have to search out. It occasionally falls on my lap , which I’m always appreciative of. Oh what a glorious week it’s been.

One band that’s been marginalized that more people need to be familiarized with is Meat Wave. Three guys from Chicago that formed the group back in 2011 who have released their third proper full-length as a unit. The Incessant (SideOne Dummy) is one record that I’ve been anticipating. The group’s last outing, 2015’s Delusion Moon, was one record I couldn’t get enough of. Forget that Albini produced it, you can’t force such powerful and great songwriting. What do we all get from the new album? More of the same. With Albini behind the boards, Meat Wave is reminiscent of those post-punk acts that came before them. It may have something to do with a few similarities in music but there’s no faking the approach with a take-no-prisoners attitude when the three members,  Chris Sutter (vocals/guitar), Joe Gac (bass), and Ryan Wizniak (drums), barrel through every song. The band kicks things off with “To Be Swayed,” with its mechanical rhythms beginning things but quickly turning a corner with Sutter’s screamed/sung vocals. The band pauses on a dime, then quickly explode ear drums again with the powerful “Tomosaki.” As soon as you interest is peaked, it’s gone and clears into a fantastic “Run You Out.” The first three tracks run about, or just under, the 2-minute mark; they’re perfect but leave you begging for more.

meat wave
Meat Wave – The Incessant

When the track starts up, the kid gloves come off and the band takes a stab at hypnotizing listeners with a frenetic beat and frenzied guitar work. By this point I’m not even half way through the album and I’m in hook, line and sinker. Jumping around tracks like I normally do, “Glass Teeth” differs a bit softly crescendo’ing into a sonic beast of a song. Where there was some room to breath, the trio encapsulates the track in a blissful tryst full of jackhammers and sugar cookies. The title track might be the odd man out here within the 12-songs of the album, a little slower with the occasional burst of distorted guitars wrapped under Sutter’s vocals. Different, but after a few listens it seems to fit in more than I thought it would. The Incessant is more complex then you might think upon that first listen but its infectiousness is unrelenting.

My cousin turned me onto Hanni El Khatib some years ago when he released his debut Will The Guns Come Out. That release was pretty stark but had charm to it. “Loved Ones” still remains one of my favorite songs of Khatib’s. With the release of new material,  I was a little skeptical about his album Savage Times (Innovative Leisure.) I’m always left with a feeling of dread believing that a good thing never lasts. BUT, that’s not the case. When I first listened to the album I hit my social media with, “I fucks with Hanni El Khatib.” Yeah, this album is no fucking joke.

HEK ST
Hanni El Khatib – Savage Times

There has to be something amazing about someone who does things that hes never attempted before, from playing instruments he’s never played before to creating a collection of limited 10″ vinyl records that make up the 19-song collection of Savage Times. You’ll find yourself in familiar territory catching Khatib’s trademark rhythmic blues, opening things up with an explosive “Baby’s Ok” where Khatib’s simple delivery of lyrics “I was high as fuck,” he repeats without being repetitious. Then again, he doesn’t need much more than that here. What may surprise listeners are his lyrics on songs that are culturally relevant and have more social commentary than he’d probably want to let on. “Born Brown” is a thunderous, repetitive track where Khatib howls what he’s about, acknowledging his Palestinian and Filipino heritage, how his parents emigrated to the U.S., and the hard work they put in. There’s no other way to put it, he may play that dirty rock n roll but he was born brown. This is only the beginning though.  The quick-paced “Mangos & Rice,” gives you a small insight into not only what he was fed as a child but how it just may be  a cultural factor many just won’t understand. He’s putting that stamp on himself that in 2017 he’s the son of immigrants. Khatib takes things even farther with “Gun Clap Hero, ” a little more musically subdued but reflecting on gun culture in America, most notably how freely they’re used by law enforcement. He uses his words cleverly, not always calling them out directly until he sings, “Watch for the sirens/ They follow us/ everywhere that I turn I see them/ In the squad cars looking like demons.” It’s an amazing protest song without sounding like a protest song.

Everything is pretty direct here on Savage Times, as he drives through the garage rock he’s become so familiarized with. “Paralyzed” has him sounding more Rolling Stones than Mick Jagger while “Miracle” walks through a more frequented route he’s traveled down. Just him and his guitar when in reality, there isn’t anything else he needs. There are a number of different sides to Khatib on this 19-track opus as he shifts dynamics from song to song like on “Mondo And His Makeup” where he’s not averse to turning up the volume to 11 and throwing keyboards to accentuate that bluesy rawk! In all though, Hanni El Khatib has done something different here so new and old fans alike should be clamoring for more of him after listening to Savage Times. So yeah, I still fucks with Hanni El Khatib.

Now that brings us to Jonwayne,  and the adversity in his life. As a direct result, that same adversity  was the driving force for his record, Rap Album Two (The Order Label.) This album comes after a self-imposed hiatus that lasted a couple of years. Sometimes you’re hand is forced when there are situations that you can’t control. A bout with alcohol addiction will do that to you. That’s what happened to Jonwayne. He’s even gone on record in an open letter on social media. This is what he’s done; it’s what we all should do when we’re on top of the world and then it crashes around you. You have to pick yourself up and reassess. Now with this release expectations are quickly pushed off the curb. If you expected a depressed look at life, that’s not what we get here.

Jonwayne
Jonwayne – Rap Album Two

He’s put together 12 tracks of easy flowed tracks that never force an attack but rather gradually take you on a journey with his words that’ll have you visualizing what he’s dreaming on with the prowess of a master storyteller.  One track that stands out this way is “Out Of Sight,” which ebbs and flows with the calmness of cool breeze on a beach. Jonwayne is reflective on how he’s led his life, with the gains and the losses being what they are. It’s a beautifully done number that I keep coming back to. “Live From The Fuck You” marks his return, beginning with a dialogue between him and someone attempting to get him to rap for his girlfriend before he just agrees and spits knowledge. But damn if this album doesn’t continue with tracks that slowly build around Jonwayne’s voice. Musically “City Voice” always sounds like it’s going to explode into something huge but Jonwayne just rides that beat and current until it ends. You’re able to grasp onto every word he shares with that beautifully rainy melody.  Rap Album Two just has that watery feel throughout it, which makes me think here’s he’s just all about washing away the negative past and focusing on the future. “Afraid Of Us (feat. Zoroh)” even tracks moves he’s made in the past and is a bit self-deprecating while Zoroh holds down the melody. But it’s “Blue Green (feat. Low Leaf)” where he puts that open letter to music, obviously changing lyrics to fit but the concept is there, reflecting on what he’s done to get where he’s left standing. You can feel his words cutting deeply throughout Rap Album Two but it doesn’t leave listeners wallowing in self-pity alongside him. It’s a story of survival, which many can relate to. At least I can. This right here, isn’t something to be taken lightly.

 

JonwayneFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Hanni El KhatibFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Meat WaveFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

On the heels of the release of Chill, Dummy it happened. P.O.S. shares a new video for “Bully” featuring two other Minneapolis performers, Rapper Hooks and Moncelas Boston. The track is an aggressive number, and doesn’t shy away from their call to arms “The world is yours/Fuck it, until it’s mine/Get out of mine/Get out of mine..BULLY.” They’ve planned for the takeover and they’re slowly moving into your town.

POS-tour

 

Back in March of 2016 Hip Hop across the world mourned the loss of Malik Izaak Taylor, most notably known as Phife Dawg who was one-third, or one-fourth (depending on the time), of A Tribe Called Quest.  He may have succumbed to complications of diabetes but his legacy continues to live on. A Tribe Called Quest reemerged with a new album that featured all the members, as well as an assortment of artists that were more than willing to contribute to an amazing album that everyone knows now to be We Got It From Here …Thank You For Your Service.

There’s been talk of a posthumous solo release for 2017 but that same talk has been vague as to when the album will be released. We get our first taste of Phife Dawg’s newly released single “Wanna Dance (feat. Dwele & Mike City)” and appetites should be whetted for the time being.

 

 

Mick Harvey has unveiled the video for his German translation of Gainsbourg’s most infamous song, “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus.” The track is taken from Harvey’s fourth and final volume of Serge Gainsbourg translations, Intoxicated Women, out now on Mute. Here guest vocalist Andrea Schroeder delivers a smoldering duet with Mick Harvey. Intoxicated Women concentrates on the duets and songs written by Gainsbourg, mostly during the 60s in a period where he was focusing his songwriting on singers such as France Gall, Juliette Greco and most famously, Brigitte Bardot. Here Harvey has enlisted the talents of guest singers Channthy Kak (Cambodian Space Project), Australian singers Xanthe Waite (Terry, Primo), Sophia Brous, Lyndelle-Jayne Spruyt, Jess Ribeiro and the German chanteuse Andrea Schroeder along with a special appearance on “Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth” by Harvey’s son, Solomon.

A recent reissue of the first two volumes (Intoxicated Man, originally released in 1996 and Pink Elephants, released in 1997) rekindled Harvey’s interest in the Gainsbourg translations and 20 years after the original release, work began on what would become Volumes 3 and 4. Recording in late 2015 in Melbourne with J.P. Shilo and the rest of his Antipodean-based live band, 10 songs were tracked at Birdland Studios. The project then relocated to Berlin where a further 9 songs were recorded with Toby Dammit (The Stooges, Residents) and Bertrand Burgalat (of French label Tricatel) who was the string arranger on the first 2 volumes.

The resulting recordings served to whet Harvey’s appetite for more and almost immediately work continued back in Melbourne in order to have enough material to fill 2 new volumes. Along with principle musical collaborator, Shilo (with whom Harvey also worked on Rowland S. Howard’s ‘Pop Crimes’) and Melbourne based musicians Glenn Lewis and Hugo Cran, Harvey enlisted the aforementioned female singers to help complete this final volume in the series.