Another week has wrapped up and I’m tired. Exhausted actually. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel because there I was amused speaking to a friend of mine, that her son and I have some of the same tastes in films & music. Now while one would think this would possibly lead to sharing things with another person, I’m not sure if it would go over well. I mean, her 3-year-old and I share similar tastes. We’re the same. It’s a true story. He has a love of Elton John songs as well as being a connoisseur of Marvel films. Go figure.
Listening to some “new” Swiss band called The Ruins who released a single today. Now, maybe I can forgive the fact that the sound of the band’s single “We All Got It Coming” (Ambulance Recordings), sounds like an outtake from a Social Distortion album, circa ’98, but the band’s name? Come on, it’s exhausting. Riding on a name indie rock has known as the Japanese duo which consisted of drummer/vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida, and a number of different bassists throughout the band’s 15-year existence, which is still active. We could also mention the Australian metal band that’s used the name as well since 2004. Ok, I know I shouldn’t bag so hard on something but I’m feeling brutally honest right now so, here it went. I need to clear my head.
What better way to do so than with Guided By Voices and the new Surrender Your Poppy Field (GBV Inc.). Everyone knows GBV isn’t for everyone, and that’s only because the group of music listeners that don’t listen to or don’t like the band, well, they’re all on what we like to call some “suckashit.” I mean come on, the band always rocks hard and Bob Pollard is the weathered rocker we’ve all come to know and love. He’s always switching things up with a variety of musicians filling in band roles. The current line-up of Pollard, Doug Gillard (Cobra Verde, Death of Samantha) who’s been playing with GBV for some time, Kevin March (Dambuilders), Bobby Bare Jr., and Mark Shue, deliver a classic and loud rock sound here, but with such class here. I’m particular to the slower drawl of “Volcano” here because it showcases how the band doesn’t need to move at a frenetic pace for one to enjoy the music. We kind of get some of that on “Arthur Has Business Elsewhere” until the band shifts dynamics and explodes throughout, even more so than when the song begins. But the charm here is the added instrumentation of organ and xylophone. Why do I dig this band? Well, I like to imagine Pollard fitting in well if he were a member of the Grifters, those gentlemen from Memphis with a bunch of great albums. They were a favorite of mine. So yeah, I love the band and this release.
And then there’s Jay Som, who just released A Thousand Words 7″ (Polyvinyl) which are outtakes; unreleased tracks from her ANAK KO sessions. To say Jay Som is a masterful and talented artist would be an understatement. She leans into her songs with loads of melody, compounded with loud instrumentation showcasing her ability to write a pop song and rock out at the same time. The title track here incorporates her jangly guitars, slightly distorted, with keyboard work and steady drumming but it’s her voice that’s hauntingly addictive. She coos out sweet melodies. Flip things over and there’s more of those vocals alongside strings and double bass. Who else is going to perform songs like this? Well, just Jay Som and the way she’s able to maneuver these instruments as her own is pretty amazing.
In its 10-year existence, Mountains For Clouds has only released one album, followed by the new and apparently final release, Anxious & Aware (Count Your Lucky Stars Records). The Chicago band is a local act that has its feet firmly planted, standing tall in it’s post, post-rock stance.
It’s far more acceptable to play to crowds a brand of music, a style that’s been offered up in the past, but done well. Many try, and many fail, but Mountain For Clouds digs into its influences, which seem to go back decades culled from groups that have trekked across the eastern seaboard and through the Midwest. I’m being pretty specific without specifying but I’m referring to the 90s when bands like Sleepyhead Trio, Seam, Codeine, The New Year, Low, and the ilk, raged through the fiery mire of their slower tempos and sweet melodies. Now Mountains For Clouds doesn’t always move at a snail’s pace, they do incorporate semblances, or touches, of that subgenre. But one thing the trio does is always incorporate enticing melodies. “Kids” indulges with wide-eyed innocence and child-like braggadocio over instruments volleying against one another with guitar notes sputtering beautifully against the canopy of breezy sounds blended together. “Have Done” adds sparseness and vocally, words are drawn out at length, much like the masterful Stephen Immerwahlr. But the band doesn’t just stick to a singular and formulaic delivery.
The band deliver’s “Full Disclosure” and the thick guitar lines are something pretty juicy to grab ahold of here while “Guilt And Closer” moves again in familiar territory with a quieter delivery although the volume is still turned up in order for points to come across.
The 10-songs compiled for Anxious & Aware are well written and performed with passion. There’s nothing left for debate here about the band’s final output, but it’s a great way to go out, when you’re still on top of your game, with the music to prove it.
Shuddering moments of quiet reflection will often force listeners and fans alike to wonder if a solo album will manifest itself into something quite different from the odds and ends of 2005’s Amber Headlights, an album tossed to the side (as Twilight Singers) and then later released, but panned by critics. The album was released under his own name but wasn’t considered his solo debut.
Enter: Random Desire (BMG) the debut release by Afghan Whigs vocalist/guitarist Greg Dulli. Of course, much reflection I’m sure had to have been made since the untimely death of Afghan guitarist Dave Rosser but the future is still bright from the looks of things. The new album doesn’t stray too far from Dulli’s previous work with the Whigs or even Twilight Singers. In fact, what’s pieced together here is notably a lighter version of both groups channeled by Dulli and his distinctive vocal timbre & inflections. For his new release though, my own desire to listen to this album is sometimes pretty random. There are songs that captivate in their own way, and Dulli is good at what he does, but he needs to be reeled in occasionally. But this isn’t an Afghan affair; Dulli’s in complete control. He opens the album with “Pantomima” which builds around a guitar melody and a couple of chords. And things are built around it in the most literal sense. Guitar on top of guitar on top of guitar, before the drums come in as Dulli sings. While I don’t mind it played for over three minutes, there isn’t much change within. “Sempre” follows the same formula although the crescendo is much more intensified as Dulli really belts it out here. There’s a slight variation but it’s enjoyable, very much so.
That same process is utilized on slower numbers like “Marry Me,” where it’s more effective because of the soft delivery and starkness. And while his vocals are sometimes drowned out under the music, it doesn’t seem to matter when his vocal notes run parallel to the melody of the guitars. But it’s “The Tide” I find solace with musically, as he confuses listeners opening as if it were a quiet love song but instead, intensifies into a raucous affair based around stunning guitar deliveries and string arrangements. Then the slow urge of “Scorpio” is offset by loud guitars and strongly pounded keys before the pace seems to shift but it’s just the drums that intensify the song.
Dulli’s singular delivery and vision take nothing away from the songs here, with “It Falls Apart” taking quieter aspects of his signature sound and expounding on it. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to let go of any guitars where they take more of a backseat to keyboards on this track. He’s adventurous though, culling from spaghetti-western ideas, fitting them all within “A Ghost” including castanets and slide guitar. Up to this point, the song is a bit out of place, much like the electronic beat of “Lockless” juxtaposed against horns (or the synth version of it) but Dulli tries to make it work as the song does shift with sweet yearnings accentuated by slide.
There are moments where I do find myself wishing for actual strings rather than a keyboard rendition of them on “Black Moon” which would have added charm to an already well-developed song.
There are a few missteps but they’re not outweighed by the pleasantries filling Random Desire. Would I listen to this again? Of course I would. For Afghan/Twilight fans, it’s probably a must.
Introductions can sometimes awkward because it’s that literal first meeting of someone you’ve heard stories of, or maybe have seen in passing, not knowing what you’re going to find once you get to know them.
Now while the Cannibal Kids have previously released material, the group’s last outing Bloom, dropping in 2017, this is the first time I’ve ever heard the group’s music, let alone the group itself. It’s probably due to the band classifying itself as ‘yacht rock,’ an open-ended term coined on the west coast, which is just adult-oriented rock. And while the young lads in Cannibal Kids can find itself linked within, they’re a juicy over-the-top pop band filled with sugary sweetness.
That’s the cheese I’m offering up here, but it fits in well with the band’s latest offering deadheads (Shaemax Records).
The band shared the lead single and opening “Voicemail” and while I’ll never associate the Cannibal Kids as the next coming of Hall & Oates, there’s something, or rather, everything(!) splendidly lovely to be said about the band’s sound. They never miss a beat and the melody on this piano-driven number is damn near perfect. Did I say perfect? Yeah, this is as easy and precise as one can get to perfection in pop music. It continues throughout the album and I’m left dumbfounded here.
Even when the band quiets things down a bit, much like on “Grasshopper,” you can hear the smooth jazz leanings they incorporate into the music here. I’m not referring to that William Hooker improvisational music but that CD 101.5 jazz. They’re more than capable of doing the love song thing, filling “Sweetwater Girl” with loads of harmonies. But the band simply explodes throughout its album with pop goodness from beginning to end. But don’t take my word for it, pick up the damn album for God’s sake!
Moving through a cloudy haze of smoke makes for a good starting point while listening to newfound discoveries. Sometimes those new finds have me moving backward looking for a starting point, where someone began to figure out where they’re heading.
Planetary Access is the duo of Myles Bullen and Sarah Violette and this is their first endeavor working together as a full-fledged project under the moniker. It isn’t difficult to figure out this is the world I would want to be a part of and probably want to spend more time in their makeshift hangout. Sent From A Treehouse E.P., but I think I need to back up a bit. Myles has released solo material, a couple of albums at least, as has Violette. In their own respect, they have bars, skills, and traverse a language I’ve always felt fortunate to dissect and reinterpret. This is probably that point where I’ve moved back into their individual catalog instead of focusing at the task at hand. I’ve digressed.
But it’s Planetary Access that meshes both rappers, both emcees, coalescing together becoming one musically. The delivery and style of these Portland, Maine artists are…similar, and it becomes a challenge to figure out where one ends and the other begins. It doesn’t matter though because it’s the songs that really matter. If they wanted individuality the duo wouldn’t bump fists together for Wonder Twin-like power for unity. Honestly, the Planet is easy to like from the get-go with “Purple Moon,” feeding tastebuds with smoothness and relaxed flows that’ll force me to play this joint over and over for years to come. It’s already been added to my playlist, and the song is so good, it’s difficult to move further along (So far, it’s been played 57 times. That’s probably 1/2 a cent in terms of Spotify.) And then much to my chagrin, “More Than Imagined” finally starts and I can’t help but think of Kenny Segal production here. Musically it sounds similar for its laidback feel, and with these two rapping over it, I know it’s not a result of the THC after-effects because listening to it before now, the soft sounds did sound tight. The music and flows are accentuated by singer Emma Ivy who sounds like she stepped out of time, coo’d us all, and then time-jumped back to an age-old world of the ’40s so we can cherish her music on weathered vinyl. Confusing? I’ll explain: hers is a voice of the Big Band Era singers like The Boswell Sisters or the Andrew Sisters. You wouldn’t see it coming.
“You Weren’t Invited” has both emcees bonding over youthful popularity, or lack of it. Being different is never a bad thing and they both include lyricism around the “cool kids” which many are never a part of but also never allow it to affect negatively. The Planet becomes a bit headier, with songs revolving around real-world issues. “27%” deals with social media additions, as I finally come down from my own. Then “At Home In This World,” which features R.I. rapper Jesse The Tree, focuses on solitude, and not finding a comfortability around others. Violette’s clever lyrical content, “I’m heading to the sea world the bottom feeders dwell / where the lives won’t survive because the honesty is hell” draws one into the mood, giving it so much clarity.
I could go on, I’m really sure about that, on the ability of Sent From A Treehouse to effortlessly capture the attention of music listeners way beyond our lifetime. But I won’t do that, although the closer “Wouldn’t That Be Nice” is pleasantly surprising with instrumentation that’s varied from the rest of the release. Guitars, bass, and drums add to the Planet’s charm.