The season seems to have passed us all by this year yet it’s been pretty slow. Now that life is picking up, there’s so much going on. I’ve been inundated with requests, invitations, and a number of other “things” I’m not at liberty to discuss. Yet. But I’ve been trying to do things, like listen to that new album by Redd Kross and unfortunately, I can’t even sit through it in its entirety for one listen. Yeah, I know they’ve been the talk of the town for years and had a couple of albums on Frontier Records before Redd Kross’ major-label debut. Even then though, I couldn’t stomach “Annie’s Gone,” the band’s breakthrough single. If you think their new one, Beyond The Door (Merge), is a good album and I should give it a spin, slide into my DMs. I still doubt you’d be able to change my mind.
I’m not sure if I was quite ready for another Tropical Fuck Storm so soon. It seems just yesterday I was listening to A Laughing Death In Meatspace, which I was but that album was released in October of 2018 so I guess we should have expected something right about now. Just two months short of releasing their last album exactly a year ago, Tropical Fuck Storm shares Braindrops (Joyful Noise Recordings) to an unsuspecting world, although this time around, the band seems to take a slightly different approach with their compositions.
While …Meatspace shared an affinity to rock out consistently in your face, Braindrops takes its time, allowing its sporadic and spaciousness to drift into consciousness with instruments casually building around a melody. With this release, it seems the band builds around melodies to see what forms. Even if that’s not the case, the tone of the album works in so many facets. The slow dirge that is the opening “Paradise” is a heady affair, with dull & flat notes/chords opening this with Gareth Liddiard’s vocals leading the way. The track begins sparsely and you can’t imagine it going anywhere but it evolves with off-kilter harmonies as the crescendo that builds, carefully reverts back into the solemn place it originated. The song moves like a rollercoaster of emotion, reminiscent of when Glen Galaxy was once a member of Truman’s Water. Guitars battle for dominance against one another yet coalesces well together. There’s an unrestrained beauty here.
The band plays on though and they bring together an assortment of numbers that are conjoined by the instruments each member has honed. “The Planet Of Straw Men” harkens back to 80s-90s eras when bands weren’t afraid to form uncalculated efforts to create something as original as this. Disjointed and distorted guitars swirl in and out as you’re enticed by a rhythm that’s catchy AF! “Maria 62” has a sublime and chaotic feel, as the quiet cacophony of sound derived from the instrumentation isn’t much different from the patter of rain against a roof that draws one into its hypnotic vibe. The fuck storm is real. The band does things others don’t, allowing it to be derivative only unto itself. Check the title track, with Lauren Hammel’s percussive drumming opening the number, which morphs into the catchiest of numbers when bassist Fiona Kitschin enters the fray. Liddiard and Erica Dunn are on separate channels but perform as one.
When “Aspirin” drops, there are moments when Liddiard’s cadence & delivery is reminiscent of another artist. In this instance it’s actually J. Cole I’m reminded of. An odd reference I know, but some may make that connection.
With Braindrops, where does this leave Tropical Fuck Storm? Dare I say the Australian band is on the cusp of greatness? Has the group already reached that pinnacle with only two albums in? Depending on where you stand, the answer could be an emphatic “YES!” to either question. Closing out the album with “Maria 63,” a somber yet beautiful song with disjointed percussion, probably accentuates that answer because it’s just that amazing. If you’re not ready for the Tropical Fuck Storm then you better seal yourself away into your safe space because the band is here. GB
Not much has been offered up by the Queens, NY based singer/songwriter Lina Tullgren. She’s recorded a couple of albums and E.P.s but pretty much remains unknown since her 2016 EP, Wishlist. I’m sure like many artists, hopes to break free of a limited fanbase. With Tullgren’s latest offering, Free Cell (Captured Tracks), I’m sure that just might happen.
The opening title track has Lina singing over a few notes of her guitar before the strings come in. Her cooing is captivating, and the emotion is felt through her breathless delivery. Yes, listeners should be all in by the starting point. On “110717,” the delivery of seemingly lazy instrumentation is pretty endearing as the song frolics like the slacker George McFly was assumed to be. It’s inviting but keeps you at a distance. It’s friendly but lonesome. It’s completely enchanting. Tullgren refrains from repeating herself though, as she picks up the pace on “Golden Babyland.” Her penchant for creating sweet melodies isn’t missed herewith a few notes morphing into a bestial track with lots of low ends and an ethereal keyboard filling loose space at times. She experiments with her guitar through the last minute of the track, always keeping that rhythm and melody in check.
Tullgren’s music isn’t an acquired taste, it just sometimes takes a moment to get adjusted to. Her playing is sometimes sparse, but it usually builds around other instruments, like on “Glowing x 1000,” where guitar notes are played, and strings seep their way in. It’s difficult not to fall in love with her soothing voice as well, which is my own personal preference at times. And then there’s the beauty of “Soft Again” where her voice and guitar is all we may need in life but the addition of a rhythm section and keyboards are welcome.
Lina Tullgren’s Free Cell may not change the world, but you’ll fall in love with it after repeated listen. That’s the guarantee this album should come with, it’s literally that good. GB
There are moments when one is left unprepared for what’s in front of him/her/it/they, and for the moment, that’s with the Shreveport, Louisiana band Seratones. While the band’s name has been heard in passing, expectations have been set and what’s received is completely unexpected. Frontwoman A.J. Haynes is a gospel-trained vocalist but we all shouldn’t make comparisons to those artists whose powerful & soulful voices have shaped R&B. That’s not to say the Seratones should be trivialized and ignored, that’s far from the case here. The first few tracks on POWER seem to have more in common with Phil Spector-penned Ronettes than it does with Supremes or Marvelettes. This may give you an idea of where the band’s footing begins on this release. But the Seratones are far from being simplified as a one-trick-pony.
The band takes a few steps forward with “Gotta Get To Know Ya” though as the band moves into a different direction altogether. The driving fuzzed-out bass end and matching percussive beats allows the band to rock out with funky edginess with Haynes delivering as powerfully as Kelvin Swaby might. The party continues with “Over You” as keyboards make their way to the foreground and guitars make sporadic entrances now and again on a thick repetitive beat. Hell yes! When Haynes sings “We made love like I was falling down the stairs and out into the roaring traffic…I’m over, over you,” one gets the sense she’s not taking anyone’s shit anymore. But it’s on the quieter numbers where the band comes across as unrelenting. “Permission,” with its finger snaps, keyboard, and subtle drumming; it’s captivating. And when Haynes sings along with the descending bassline “I can teach you baby but whatcha gonna do for me? Everyone’s a winner when the satisfaction’s guaranteed,” the expectations are high and she’s giving as good as she gets. If not better.
But it’s the closing “Crossfire” where the Seratones captivate with Haynes voice opening alongside a lone keyboard. Her voice is powerful and unique and there’s a sense this is what the band was building up to. POWER is one crescendo that builds up to this unique and melodic track filled with luscious harmonies. It’s easy to get sucked into the album and eventually fall in love. The proof is right here. GB
If you feel you’ve slipped through some kind of interdimensional time warp, you’re not alone. There seems to have been a resurgence of 80s power pop-metal that’s left so many people, including me, completely fucking dumbfounded. Is that a bad thing? Well, it’s all dependent upon perspective. Or it could be what Sheer Mag expects you to believe.
The Philadelphian quartet took form back in 2014, self-released a few 7” singles before releasing the debut full-length Need To Feel Your Love back in 2017. I’ll never make excuses here or feign knowledge of something, instead totally embracing ignorance. With the new album, A Distant Call (Wilsuns RC), this is my own introduction to Sheer Mag and yeah, this is what one might call a sheer fucking delight to listen to. Opening the album with “Steel Sharpens Steel,” the initial assumption had was Sheer Mag is bringing back that power pop metal on this album. But one song does not an album make, and while the song may bring back imagery of spandex, long hair, opened shirts tied at the waist, and metal chains swinging from necks, A Distant Call delves much further into a power-pop culture than anything else. Although, I have to keep hitting that rewind button to listen to that track over and over again.
“Blood From A Stone” walks a fine line between hair metal and pop but it’s catchy AF and Tina Halladay’s voice is larger than life while guitars rip through the track with loads of melody and vocal harmonies, but you just have to look for them. Shoot, the band, rounded out by Matt Palmer, Kyle Seely, and brother Hart Seely, create songs that are infectious and perfectly seasoned. But after 100 listens, I realize it’s Halladay’s voice that I keep coming back for. Or is it the music? Both? It’s easy to fall in love with this over and over again.
There are a number of great things to love about Sheer Mag. The band shifts like California’s tectonic plates and provides a different look within their sound which ranges from 80s proto-metal to 70s inspired pop. “Silver Line” could have been culled from Lindsey Buckingham’s musical trove, if he was raised on a variety of punk and heavy rock. Guitars swell and sparkle and the free-flowing drums would make Mick Fleetwood proud. But the band never stays in one spot too long as you hear the influences the band culls from Runaways’ Lita Ford on “Chopping Block.” But Sheer Mag holds onto its own identity, so don’t start believing they’re a carbon copy of anything or anyone else. Although, I’m completely in awe and fascinated(!) by “The Killer.” The crunchy Stooges-inspired guitars fit well against Halladay’s voice, as this romp is filled with good times.
If you haven’t figured it out, it isn’t difficult to co-sign on Sheer Mag’s sophomore effort, A Distant Call. If there was any recommendation to make today, it may go without saying, but here you’d get an emphatic “HELL YES!” GB
I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it is, after all, Little Brother. I know so many people that are completely ignorant when it comes to the music the southern Little Brother has released, and maybe that can be forgiven considering the group went on an extended hiatus after 2010’s Leftback. But while some things may never come to fruition again, Like Voltron, Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder once again reformed back in 2018 at Art of Cool Festival in their hometown.
May The Lord Watch is the new one by Little Brother and it’s as great as the group as ever been. Opening with “The Feel,” you get a sense Little Brother has never left. Still present is the R&B inflection, which includes deep soulful bass, backing feminine harmonies over 9th’s thick beats, and Phonte & Big Pooh’s lyrical volleys. Shoved in between tracks on occasion are interludes that sometimes may serve as comic relief with false advertisements. They lighten moods before and after hypnotic tracks take listeners into dreamscapes of beats and words. “Everything” and “Right Time” move seamlessly into “Black Magic (Make It Better)” and it’s difficult to point out a favorite; the album is chock full of bangers from beginning to end.
It’s easy to say that Little Brother is back and May The Lord Watch is testament to that fact. This album is just that good. GB