New Music: Friday Roll Out! Drug Couple, Young Jesus, King Buzzo, Manjira

We’re walking a fine political line this year and yeah, it’s exhausting. That’s the problem with having two political parties: they both shout loudly at one another without getting anything done. As we get closer to this election, things I’m sure will take a turn, and probably not for the better. I have friends on both sides and stances have been made firm, insults fly, but what does that get me? Avoiding all of them. I’m not here to make any political statement, but just want everyone to do that right thing. I think of Rodney Dangerfield saying, “Try fantasy land!” ‘cause that seems the only place I’d find it. But just do what feels right for YOU, don’t let others try to sway you in their direction.

In the grand scheme, we need to look at things with an open mind. We all need to step out of our comfort zones to experience new things, attempt at challenging ourselves, and it’s all done with the hope of growth. Sometimes it works, and at other times it doesn’t but in the end, we give it our best shot.

With that said, we head towards the fourth(?) full-length by L.A.’s Young Jesus, Welcome To Conceptual Beach (Saddle Creek). Now if I’m being honest here, I was prepared to hate the new album just based off of one single, and that was “Root And Crown,” which was the first thing I heard off the release. Now while I though the 4-manned Young Jesus had something special, I was a bit put off by vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter. I couldn’t help but think of Devendra Banhart who Rossiter seems to resemble. Vocally at times anyway. I just wasn’t sure what to really think of this.

I revisited Conceptual Beach time and time again and today I think it finally hit me. Not listening to it while having it on as I worked on other things, the album has an uncanny ability to allow listeners to lose themselves within the music that’s vast and expansive. My cheap comparison earlier? While there are semblances, it doesn’t distract or drown out the music as a collective unit. It may take listeners multiple spins but getting it, and all from the 10 minute opus that is “Magicians” where the band, also comprised of drummer Kern Haug, keyboardist Eric Shevrin, and bassist Marcel Borbon, are on a fantastic journey with this song. The midtempo appeal through the first few minutes, as guitars pick on melodious notes and Rossiter sings delicately, not preparing us for the cooing harmonies of the rest of the band. It reels you in, which I can attest to, becoming one with the band. All this in the first 3 minutes as they allow space to intersect within before they turn their instruments up once again. The band experiments, allowing low-key controlled free jazz movements before turning things up, not all the way because we need to hear the clarity of the song. It rolls like a slow sunrise, which quickly sets softly before exploding again. Bra-fucking-vo!

That was only one song, and these revivalists have much more to offer, with “Faith” kicking things off, as the band becomes musically existential. Young Jesus plays with dynamic and allows the song to crescendo into oblivion…seemingly. There’s a delicacy with Rossiter’s delivery. What sounds like normalcy in its simplest form is actually something quite different. The band confuses letting us all believe song structures are pieced together like any other average song but there’s more to the compositions here. “Pattern Doubt” allows a saxophone to take the lead as it battles with keyboards and harmonies while “Meditations” takes a different trip with wind instruments filtered around it. It’s insanity.

Of course, I was wrong in my initial assessment, Welcome To Conceptual Beach will confound some and convert new fans into fanatics as well. The band takes risks not many would but that’s the glory that is Young Jesus.

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As artistry goes, there’s a certain level some reach that no one can touch based on perseverance, releases, and just all-around badassery. There aren’t many that ever reach that status but the few that do are always held in high regard, no matter the genre of music they’ve made their home.

Buzz Osborne is known around the world – if not the universe – as the godfather of grunge. He and the Melvins established a new subgenre even if they weren’t aware of it at the time. Sure, it was just a name of a style of rock that was being played all over the country anyway but it made for great press up in the Northwest. And now King Buzzo drops his solo debut. Sort of. On Gift Of Sacrifice (Ipecac Recordings), he’s assisted by bassist/composer Trevor Dunn (Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, Fantômas, etc.) and what a marriage in music this is right here.             

While Buzzo is best known for recording raucous songs at deafening levels with the Melvins, here he takes a different approach, leaving songs stark and almost bare, with anti-folk compositions. Buzzo utilizes both acoustic and electric guitars, writhing in repetition without becoming repetitious. His melodies and Dunn’s bass & string work fill songs so succulently there’s barely need for much else. The dark and brooding “Housing, Luxury, Energy” captures the essence of the duo fully, as acoustic guitars balance off string arrangements as Buzzo offers up a steady vocal range. “I’m Glad I Can Help Out” is rooted in blues, as is the astonishing “Mock She,” with Dunn handling a fretless double bass, and Buzzo sounding reminiscent of days past, filled with an amphetamine reptilian likeness. The two milk the track for all it’s worth, and it’s worth? Gold baby, pure gold. Of course, Buzz isn’t averse to experimentation in noisy fuckery, just take a listen to the opening ethereal “Mental Vomit,” or the sonically explosive “Acoustic Jesus” and you’ll get more than an idea of what King Buzzo is capable of.

Buzzo does increase the volume levels on occasion, but it’s well worth it on “Bird Animal,” which repeats itself musically for over 2 and ½ minutes, which at that point is perfect for the change he makes. Yes, perfect.

Gift Of Sacrifice is that offering to the gods of rock cementing his name with those purveyors of explosiveness that have come before him. He’s able to do it all and didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. But he did.

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The odds of lightning striking the same location are pretty slim to none, and that’s how music is on occasion as well. With new(ish) act, I teeter on cynicism when I receive a follow-up release. Am I completely unfair in my assessment from time to time? Maybe.

New York’s Drug Couple have just released its second release, the Choose Your Own Apocalypse EP (PaperCup Records), which follows up last year’s Little Hits EP. This new one forced my hand in revisiting their 2019 recordings to see why I was so intrigued with them. Sure, I thought the band showed signs of promise but with the new EP, Miles (guitar/keys/drums/etc.) and Becca (bass/vibraphone) have captured an abundance of melody that shapeshifts from track to track, at numerous points engulfed in glorious distortion but never relinquishing its sweetness.

While Drug Couple began writing and recording the EP back in 2016, it comes across as much stronger than the band’s first release. The opening “2027” begins with a bouncy beat shuffling along with both Becca & Miles sharing harmonies over a sugary melody, as the song crescendos with feedback and walls of guitar. While the songs power are much more forceful and direct, they’re not forced. The band eases around melodies & harmonies effortlessly and “No Legged Dog” is proof of that. The rhythm quickly reels listeners in as Becca offers her backing harmonies where needs as they open the track before they belt things out. She is the yin to his yang, the milk to his coffee…you get the point but the instruments defy the proverbial laws of physics here turning into something quite majestic.

But the dynamic duo here doesn’t always turn up levels to a comfortable 11 because on “Bottomless” they allow the lazy rhythm to grab hold with Becca’s sensual vocals leading the way. They completely flip the script with the keyboard led “The Ghost,” and like a chameleon, taking on another persona but holding onto the Drug Couple identity. That in itself is skillful, whether a band is aware of it or not. “Missing To Mars” plays with elements of classic rockery while “Ain’t That Heavy” draws from an ethereal percussive well that leaves a lingering beauty.

Yes, it’s easy to like Choose Your Own Apocalypse. Yes, the band’s songs are easily addictive and endearing. And Yes, I expect great things from Drug Couple, you better believe that.

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Sometimes there’s never any inkling of what to expect when something hits my in or my P.O. Box. Info was pretty sparse on this release, a throttling compilation of psychedelia filtered through thick beats for these instrumental bangers.

The Manjira Compilation (300 Club Records) is a journey through Trip Hop as seen through the eyes of a few individuals from the U.S. and around the globe. Here we have five different beat miners/producers who’ve created tracks that may share a genre but with styles obviously vary. Chicago’s Jack Adams opens with his “Vodka,” which is culled from a variety of sources that sound heavy on sci-fi, as he accentuates the track with keyboard richness and spacey guitars. It’s headily medicinal inducing with a hodgepodge of sound. Swab, hailing from Denmark, includes a  couple of deep movements here, beginning first with turntable stylings of “Sky Spy,” filled with wind instruments, consistent keyboard notes, scratches, and a slow, numbing beat. It drifts across musical currents avoiding space & time. But it’s his “The Mad Engineer V2” that’s truly entrancing and seems to owe much to the Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul era. Maniacal laughter ebbs in briefly and the thick beats can’t be ignored. It really is insane. Seattle’s Progeny, of Chisme fame, appears here as well, first with “Lost In A Trip,” which is hypnotic in its repetition without becoming repetitious, lulling into oblivious darkness. He follows it up within a different headspace altogether on “Blistered Mix,” where the beat drops hard at moments, shifting into cascading waterfall of calmness.

We also get Tacoma, Washington’s Smoke, who delivers a couple of interesting tracks, beginning with “Portal Head.” It’s an upbeat excursion which gallops away, intricately laying keyboard notes, occasionally shifting dynamics. But it’s his standout “Down Trod,” lingering in melancholy, with strings that are haunting. Tears well up around my eyes as the piano notes strike intense cords, reeling me in. This is by far one of the most emotional songs ever recorded. It’s followed up by Psycho Rooster, a collaborative effort between Jack Adams and another individual for “The Long Road Home.” Here the mood shifts; upbeat and direct with dissonant notes surrounding the deep melody. Guitars drift in and out around drums and it’s inviting.

Life is circular and it doesn’t surprise me that the psychedelic Trip-Hop vibe is making another go-around. The Manjira Compilation is a welcomed fit for it, Hip-Hop, or any other genre it chooses to fit into.

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