New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Danko Jones, Walking Bicycles, Reptaliens, Your Heart Breaks, Pistol McFly, Yucca King

I’ve followed Danko Jones since the band’s earliest days playing small clubs on tour with a fresh-faced frontman whose name also doubled as that of the group. Live, the band was vicious, unrelenting, and sometimes perceived a notion of danger. Musically, the boys from Toronto were brash and loud. That was back on ’98.

I lost touch with the band’s music and now, on the heels of its ninth studio release, they’re not as dangerous as they once were. Sure, they’re still loud and hold onto that musical brashness but Danko Jones is pretty straight-forward. I guess I was looking for the grimier sound of the band earlier releases, like say off their My Love Is Bold E.P. or shit, even songs put together on Born A Lion. But I’m holding onto my own fantasies of the band’s music. Of course, they’re going to clean up their sound and refrain from going over the top with guitar explosions like on “Lovercall,” although all isn’t lost on A Rock Supreme (AFM Records).  

Listening to this here, I’d rather focus on the band’s strengths which is clearly manifested in “Dance Dance Dance,” a rhythmically hypnotic track that’s catchy AF! Danko Jones clearly capitalizes on the rhythm and melody to strike gold. Guitar licks and rhythms are obviously more than adept and stray from being forced. “Lipstick City” takes on an arena-sized scope here with relentless rhythm while “You Got Today” brings the party wherever you might be. Think Van Halen once you hear it and you’ll know what I’m referring to. And then there’s “Burn In Hell” where the band is completely feverish in its delivery and just want to pummel you to death! It’s a welcomed death party here.

I’m never at a loss when it comes to Danko Jones. With A Rock Supreme the band just wants to rock, and that’s exactly what they do.

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Chicago post-punks Walking Bicycles have gone through changes which may not have any bearing here because the mostly unknown group of musicians just released its fourth(?) long player and has a healthy catalog of releases under its belt. Chooch (Highwheel Records) is the band’s first release in 5 years, and that’s where the changes had come into play. But it was a momentary lapse that didn’t seem to affect the group.

Fronted by Jocelyn Summers, Walking Bicycles winds its songs around loud repetitive structures as her haunting voice leads the quartet on a psyched-out journey where space and time have no meaning, it just is. The rhythm section forcefully attempts to swallow the compositions whole, as if Kronus himself consumed his offspring. But Summers allows the blood of her words to seep through pores, allowing their escape. “Statutory Basement” gives a good example of that as guitars add to the cacophony with what sounds like one chord played over and over, adding to the rhythm as the bass moves fluidly from note to note. Summers doesn’t force her words here, urging her own creativity she seems willing to die for with lyrics like, “If it’s all been done before then don’t blame me / If I can’t be a creative force then just hang me.” This isn’t just a song, but rather, a force of nature. Everything comes together like osmosis.

It doesn’t even come as a surprise the album was recorded by Albini, as he more often then not allows the music to form naturally. At only six tracks here, Chooch allows you to bounce back and forth from track to track over and over again because of its brevity. I swerve back to “Fat Cat” which has that same repetitive nature but it’s far from being repetitious. Guitars are edgy on the brink of explosion while the rhythm keeps the same steady pace to entrance. The band easily hits its mark here. There’s only one complaint I’m left with after listening to Chooch, and it’s something already mentioned; the brevity. You’ll want so much more from Walking Bicycles, and they leave you hungry for more of the same

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Pulling directly from the press release: “Drone Butch Blues (Sofaburn) is a queer concept album based on the writings of historic and contemporary GLBTQI authors. With a focus on stories surrounding queer community, Drone Butch Blues touches on topics of secret and forbidden love, sex with strangers, the lives of hustlers, the impact of AIDS on homosexuals, historic events and rebellion all interwoven with the personal narrative of Clyde Petersen.” Easily the best resource, being clear and descriptive as to what Clyde Petersen has pieced together.

The concept behind the album is important to Petersen, who records under Your Heart Breaks, but the final product though probably tears down more walls and barriers than even the artist knows. The words are honest as Petersen shares thoughts and feelings that have all Petersen could deliver. But Drown Butch Blues is more than that. While it doesn’t conform to your granddad’s way of thinking, it tells the world who and what Petersen is; a talented artist only defined by skill.

Petersen had a helping hand with the Your Heart Breaks project from a variety of artists like  Kyle Fields (Little Wings), Dylan Carlson (Earth), Kelley Deal, Karl Blau who produced the album, and many more. Petersen’s vocals always teeter between a sung-spoken delivery but it’s utilized well, entrancing listeners…well at least this one. It’s difficult to get past the opening “Our Forbidden Country,” which features Deal’s vocals, Kyle Field & Dylan Carlson’s guitars, because the track is just that good. The harmonies are beautiful while the cellos streaming in and out accentuate it. But we move on because this is more than just one song.

“Late Nights In The Lab” tells a story of crushes and kisses over an upbeat backdrop as Petersen reflects on her memories. The sometimes-stark percussion is hypnotic, and you can’t help but fall in love here while “Wanting To Stay” gives more of the storytelling and includes light xylophone work and chimes. There’s a heaviness in “The Worst July On Record,” both musically and lyrically. Dylan Carlson opens with heavy electric strums that sets the timbre and Petersen’s words are haunting with realism.

I could go and on one song at a time but trying to place Petersen in a formatted book-report style isn’t what Drone Butch Blues is about. It’s about emotion and allowing us all into her life, good and bad. It’s a beautifully recorded piece of work.

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There’s been a shift within Hip Hop culture; there’s a disparity in varying factions. Mumble mouthed and nonsensical rap has been the most prevalent (see: Lil Yachty, Lil Pump, or any other “Lil”) while there are others who take their craft much more seriously, opting to focus on musicality and words. Pistol McFly though, he might just be a beast of a different kind.

The South Central emcee is navigating and avoiding any trappings set by media or the culture itself. With his fourth album Road Trip (Dirty Science), seems like Pistol McFly is about to break out with his latest 15-track opus. The album was produced entirely by Power (Rich the Kid, Vic Mensa, Chris Brown) and his production here is clean, concise and dramatic, fitting well alongside Pistol’s laidback deliveries.

He opens with “My Honor,” where Pistol’s words are hypnotic, colorfully descriptive loaded with metaphors and similes that run rampant throughout the song in this minute and a half composition.  It isn’t difficult to fall in love with his cadence or Power’s production wizardry. The beautiful “TeePee Ft. Phantom Thrett” moves with the ebb & flow of a calm sea. While “Caught Up Ft. Madison Rose” captures urban life in Pistol’s words as he offers advice on pushing forward and his own work ethics. Throughout Road Trip, Pistol McFly doesn’t shy away from referencing his endo weed he imbibes in, specifically on “Jah Bless,” where he even offers, “Mama says I need to stop, find my way up to Zion / Find Jah before I find a job, bless up.” But there’s so much more given here that teeters on greatness.

“I Gotchu” utilizes an Isaac Hayes sample (“The Look Of Love”) that may be altered but still recognizable, and it’s where we find Pistol in search of a higher consciousness. My own bias for this track, caught between 70s urban soul and Hip Hop, forces me to let the world know Pistol McFly is a grandmaster in this game. He wraps his words around Power’s productive beats and sounds to perfection.

In honesty, there isn’t one song on Road Trip that lingers on filler or mediocrity. This album is just that good and assuredly will (or should) launch Pistol’s career forward because he’s on some next level shit.  I have seen the future of rap and Hip Hop, and Pistol McFly is at the forefront.

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It’s the juxtaposition of the band’s name and its music that may confuse some and may detract future visitors from enjoying the music created by the Reptaliens, the Portland, Oregon outfit that may one day change the musical landscape of their home town.

The band just released its second long-player, VALIS (Captured Tracks), another set of tracks that falls somewhere in between dreamy pop and easy listening Brazilian jazz, sans those pesky Bossa nova references, on some bizarre space odyssey. While the music revolves predominantly around 80’s synthesizers there’s nothing dated about the group’s sound itself. It’s the soft sultriness of the opener “Sunrise, Sunset” that draws one in; playing with keyboard washes and guitar strumming that’s simply inviting. Frontwoman/bassist Bambi Browning’s voice adds to that same texture the band streamlines. But the group is far from being a one-trick pony, following with the punchier “Venetian Blinds.” The song, with the occasional handclaps rides on a current of electricity utilized by keyboards as the rhythm finds solace in repetition without being repetitious.

Our Reptaliens though aren’t ones to stray from mimicry when it suits them. The brief “Shuggie 1” has a melody that’s randomly familiar but you won’t be able to put your finger on it. Or you might. “Baby Come Home” draws on the soft and tender before it picks up the pace into dreamy spaces but it seems it doesn’t matter what tempo the group is moving it, they’ll find a way in allow its musical heroin into your veins to compel you to do its bidding. “Changing” moves through varying emotions, drawing on imagery to take over the imagination while “Give Me Your Love” takes a different spacey approach altogether.

Reptaliens find themselves in a world all their own, owing much to many while placing its stamp with its own identity on VALIS. That’s never an easy feat to accomplish.

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I’m hard-pressed to figure out where the New York band Yucca King fits within the scope of things. The freneticism the band shows on Popcorn, But Also House Fires differs from its previous release, The Ghost Of Everyone, but it seems like a welcomed change.

The band is much more experimental on its new release, as they open with “Panic Attack #2,” which may also border on prog, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The rhythm section is completely in synch both mentally and physically with a bassline that’s constantly in motion. Even when guitars are overpowering during the chorus, you’re able to make sense of it all. But getting back to Yucca King’s guitars; odd, yet charming. Powerful, yet subdued. Impressive. The band keeps things going with “Binge,” again with that bassline taking charge before drums and guitars chime in. The band moves in repetitive motions eventually allowing solos into the fray. Vocally, the band fits in sparse lyricism that seems to border on madness. I don’t want to imagine the after effects of to food intake of this one.

There’s definitely a formula the band utilizes here with driving guitars filled with distortion, littered occasionally in funk with blasting dynamics. That is unless they decide to shift dramatically like in “Somewhere Else,” as their metallic influences come to light. Yucca King is definitely odd in delivery and composition which could eventually allow the appreciation for the group’s music in years to come. “Small Talk” is a bizarre ride through loud melancholy while “World Keeps Turning” is more direct in lyricism that revolves around its own political influence, or lack of, singing about everything wrong with the current administration, and even taking shots at phony angelical Christians. All that around a dark timbre groove, it’s fitting.

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We’ll just skip the pleasantries and get right down to it. This is that “WTF” moment when you wonder why in the world anyone would release this. But then it all comes together after further analysis.

Buzzy Lee’s vocals at aren’t bad. In actuality, she’s rather good. Last year she released a 5-track EP Facepaint, with loads of 80s synths with her voice dominating. Now, Buzzy Lee also happens to be known under a different name, specifically Sasha Spielberg. Yes, we all know the name because her father Steven has made it famous. But I still have no clue as to why we’re all subjected to Close Encounters OF Their Own Kind E.P. (KRO Records), the collaborative effort between Buzzy Lee & Tommy Mandel.

Here we have three tracks with Buzzy Lee handling vocals and they obviously outshine the music by Tommy Mandel. By no fault of his own, Mandel’s 1979 album Mellow Magic was chopped and spliced by producer Justin Raisen to suit Lee. All I can add is: NO. If you’re looking for a fanatically fantastic space odyssey through Beat Street, this may appeal to you. If you have at least a smidgen of sanity, you’d probably want to avoid this at all cost. I never plan on listening to this again. Ever. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

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