While I’m all for groups finding their stride, as well as creating certain themes through their subsequent releases, the comedic breaks and skits in between are sometimes off-putting. No harm, no foul considering the FF>> button is possibly one of the greatest inventions ever created. With that said, PUP has released its 4th full-length offering THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND (Rise Records). The Canadian act has always provided heavy-handed melodic chording throughout its releases and with the new album, things aren’t much different. We still find the band comfortably doing what it does best, fitting every song with melodies & delectable harmonies. It’s easy to fan out songs that drive fast and hard like “Matilda,” where the group moves in unison and separates only when needed, filling rooms with harmonies and brash guitars. This is what PUP is about, and it’s marvelous.
Consistency. It’s a word many aren’t familiar with, but some are. It’s the importance of placing the right amount of energy, or an overabundance of it, into something. Anything less than that isn’t worth much. Seems as if one thing we’ll never receive from Canada’s Factor Chandelier is something that has less than his very best. He’s just dropped the new album Time Invested II, his 14th solo effort, which bookends Time Invested, released 20 years ago. With II, Factor has obviously taken his time with the album, filled with zest and vibrancy. But where to actually begin? There’s so much to dissect from the 16-track release.
Frequent collaborator Myka 9 appears in the opening “Time Invested” and the track is stunning in just about every aspect. The emcee wraps his words around the album title and eloquently breaks down time and investments, unifying both around financial aspects of it all, as well as noting satisfying one’s hopes and dreams. His wordplay is literal nōn prefaces compos mentis(!) and it’s fitting while also utilizing witty Frankie Goes To Hollywood puns. Musically? Well, Factor Chandelier collects a deep bass groove within an atmospheric backdrop, filled with backing vocals that caress and massage the senses. You’ll notice it after constant listening. One of the more surprising tracks here though is wrapped in “So Cold” featuring Canadian rapper Moka Only. It’s only surprising because of its banger-heavy rhythm. Seriously, it’s a banger of a different kind. The bassline alone only utilizes what sounds like 2, maybe 3, notes, but it doesn’t need more than that because the beat holds it all together as instruments drift in and out of the background. It’s softly tempered but hardened all at once. Horns feed into the melody of Moka’s vocals during the chorus. Moka Only is impressive but that comes as no surprise with over 80 albums to his credit.
There are plenty of surprises throughout the album and “Picturesque” which features Paranoid Castle – Factor’s partnership with Kirby Dominant – rides the electronic groove as Kirby delivers some gob-smacking prose: “My rhymes are still the Guggenheim kind/refined and enshrined in the back of ya’ll mind/on display I still captivate, game don’t decay/book the show and watch me activate your main vertebrae.” It’s unexpected but offers up Kirby Dominant’s skills without bravado.
The oddly captivating melody of “Garbage Island” is a welcomed effort here and features Common Grackle, AWOL ONE, and Ceschi. The subject matter is obviously figurative, a place where negativity is locked away on. Gregory Pepper – ½ of Common Grackle with Factor – holds down the hook of the track but also shares his own verse with AWOL and Ceschi. The clear imagery is juxtaposed right along with the music and we get clever deliveries with deep introspections. This is the island many have visited but it’s not the only moment swaddled in melancholia. We deep dive into Def3’s words on “Lost My Way.” The track is self-explanatory in its title alone and Factor’s composition has a rhythmic groove that you may not want to let go of. The keyboard notes are subliminally infectious, while the track’s bassline drones out. This one is built differently. There’s a LOT to anatomize with a diverse number of emcees & vocalists who play their part throughout the album’s release. Kay The Aquanaut takes “Red Ochre” to another level as his vocals drift in and out of the foreground and background, Factor and Living Legends’ Sunspot Jonz brings the noise with the bounce of “Tiger Fight,” while his crewmate Eligh drops a tongue twister with the melancholic “Insecticide” and softly cooing of “Patience.” But it’s Taylor Jade that creates a haunting beauty with “Sleight Of Hand.”
The album closes with “The Flood (Gold Chains),” a remix of Factor Chandelier’s instrumental “The Flood,” off 2020’s Eastlake. Both Ceschi and Evil Ebenezer appear here and beautifully incorporate their voices within the mix. It’s expressive and powerful as the song drifts from one end to the other. There’s a desolation to it but it’s not all gloom and doom, it’s a charming little seductress of a track.
If Time Invested II leaves you with a fascinating numbness, it’s probably done its job. From beginning to end, the album doesn’t let up. The songs are infectious, delicate masterpieces that will frequent your dreams and leave you dumbfounded every time.
Put some respect on his name. I’m not referring to Birdman, but then again, I could be. There’s a lot of respect that could go around in a variety of genres, for artists that may not receive what they deserve. Sure they may have shared the limelight at one time or another but some things aren’t forever. Well, some things may not be but Jon Spencer should.
After numerous albums throughout the past few decades with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and later abbreviated to JSBX, before its dissolution, running concurrently with Boss Hog (with his wife Christina Martinez), as well as Heavy Trash and the defunct Honeymoon Killers, no matter what you may think, Spencer’s name does indeed require respect. With his latest outfit, Jon Spencer & The HITmakers, Spencer has returned to his roots, when the tracks he created were musically dangerous, as he experimented with sound and delivered it all with finesse. Spencer Gets It Lit (In the Red Records) follows up last year’s Spencer Sings The Hits, Spencer’s first solo release.
While Spencer’s solo release was received with half-hearted receptions, The HITmakers still touts members Sam Coomes (Quasi) and Bob Bert, while also including Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi). Let’s get one thing straight though, Sings The Hits was a really good album and expectations from some are much too derivative. Ok, this time around though, Gets It Lit is a dirtier release and as I mentioned previously, takes things back to when the fucked up vibe & experimentation was needed in a landscape strewn with blandness. The opening “Junk Man,” has that hip-shaking boogie with Coomes single-notes playing melody wrapped around his own wailing distortion of his keyboard, it all matches the loose prowess of Spencer’s guitar and heavy percussiveness. But it’s “Death Ray” that fully transports listeners to somewhere completely different. The trashiness, echoey vocals, stormy keys, loud and brash guitars, and Spencer exclaiming to “HIT ME WITH THAT DEATH RAY!” Yeah, this is a revitalized Spencer giving us all everything we ever wanted and didn’t know we needed. Like a John Hughes film, this is getting interesting.
“Worm Town” takes a little bit of a different approach as the band hits us with that funk as Spencer offers a baritone delivery of “Twinkle twinkle little star, I tried to run but I didn’t get far” offering up his inner Cash-meets-Waits vocal delivery before telling us “I gotta get down to Worm Town.” The band capitalizes on the rhythm, as it repeats over and over but never becomes repetitious. Put this group of musicians anywhere and yeah, we’re getting that stuff that makes it rough and is more than enough tossing limits to the wayside. You’ll be all in on the frantically paced “Strike 3,” where you’ll be oddly deceived at first before the band moves around with its captivating rhythm, raising levels here and again, leaving a rapturous bug out in its wake.
Was a four-year wait for the new Spencer Gets It Lit really worth it? Well yes, yes it was worth it, and the quicker you acknowledge that the better off you might be.
One of the best feelings had is discovering something you’ve never heard before and just sitting in stunned silence. It’s much like that moment I discovered a band and connected them to a label guy and things just steamrolled from that point on. I won’t mention the band’s name, but they became “Popular” and I was all but a footnote; a forgotten and ignored moment in history. But I digress. This is a different kind of discovery, as just a fan of music.
You’re only remembered for your last release but with years blanketing the space left between albums, people aren’t always quick to remember. With a fresh start The Hudson Valley, N.Y. group Battle Ave has been touted as a dream-pop band but the group isn’t so easily categorized. The outfit has just released its 3rd full-length release, I Saw the Egg (Friend Club Records), and it’s the group’s first release in 7 years. But you’re probably not interested in the past at this point so, so in the here and now, Battle Ave offers up an album that’s quite unique. Musically, the band shares no similarity to anyone, but aesthetically, it does. Through the band’s 11 songs, it delivers dizzying hazy song structures with lazy drawls of vocal deliveries. The songs are compelling, as they seemingly drift but with forceful direction. Oh the irony of it all.
Its lo-fi, hi-fi indie rock is riveting with a mid-90s quality for a new generation of music aficionados. Instruments collide into one another on the 2-minute opus that is the title track, as vocals, with gradual-like slackness, hover all around it. The keyboards when meshed with guitars, are everything. There’s a dynamic edge at one point that calmly takes over. Battle Ave combines electric & acoustic guitars, loads of effects, percussion, and drums, not always at the same time but it gives listeners a different view of what the band from Hudson Valley has to share. “Maya” incorporates all of that as well as a MIDI string arrangement and expounds upon it. It shows Battle Avenue doesn’t always have to cover its songs in guitars and sometimes that’s a challenge in itself.
Some of the group’s greatest moments are filled with a slathering of guitars although they don’t always overpower the song. “Fool” has every instrument skipping hand-in-hand with one another allowing its percussion an active role in the song from start to finish. But there’s also power in the band and “Temple” clearly dictates that. The rhythm is precise and strengthened throughout the song, as the band allows for dynamic shifts as guitar feedback lingers along, with vocals that play with those dynamics as well. The melody is contagious, and you won’t be able to stop tapping your foot after just one listen. There’s so much more here to break down but the closing “Tower” at almost 6-minutes bursts at its seams. Dual guitars, horns, beautifully layered rhythm, it all works. Almost too well.
I Saw The Egg is an interesting release, a captivating release that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard but there’s a familiarity about it. It’s stunningly orchestrated throughout with scattered rhythms and band interplay. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year so far.
As we enter a new era of music, we always reflect back on the past. There’s a fascination with nostalgia and all the past decades had to offer. Some things never go away though, we’d like to think so but it just reinvents itself and is distinguished by another name. Music listeners will always gravitate to the familiar. Synth-pop has maneuvered throughout the past few decades through the mainstream as well as the counterculture. From Kraftwerk to Depeche Mode, from Ultravox to Neon Indian; the list has grown steadily as the years have passed.
New York City duo The Tempers are included within the mix of next-gen synth-pop and it seems both Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper fully embrace what they’ve manifested within the temperament of their band. They’ve just released their fourth album as The Tempers, and New Meaning (Dais Records) is aimed to prove the duo has what it takes to be noted as more than just a synth-pop group. Don’t misunderstand though, the duo embrace the new wave subgenre, it’s the art they create here that should be noted.
When the group is at its most vulnerable on “Secrets And Lies,” as the Golestaneh laments through a haze of synths, electronic rhythms, and guitars, the band’s pop sensibilities are dominant, layering vocal harmonies quite exquisitely. At first listen one may think the song may have been fitting as a b-side somewhere else but it’s a welcomed breath of fresh air giving us a different look to the group and its driving sound. But you’ll still greet songs like “Unfamiliar” with considerable appreciation. It’s slightly masked as something different as the bassline opens, slinking through before synths take hold, turning up a notch, goth-like with tear-jerking reminiscence, completely embracing the chaos. The more one listens the more it seems calculated, but it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s brilliant in its delivery. The throb of “In And Out Of Hand” is addictive and its warm embrace is something you may never want to let go of. Much like a junkie always returning to his next fix. Play and repeat.
It’s “Song Behind A Wall” though that seems dangerous. The bassline masks Golestaneh’s razorblade delivery and before you know it, you’re left slashed attempting to stop the bleeding. There’s repetition without being repetitious. It’s mesmerizing. The closing “Sightseeing” walks a fine line between synth-pop and dance culture, never comfortable in just one but having dual citizenship in both. It’s loud and cocksure in its delivery but don’t get it twisted, it’s well worth it.
Tempers seem to have found a new lease on life since 2019’s Private Life, and that’s ok because it seems many of us have, spending the last couple of years zombified. But make no mistake, there’s a reckoning coming when you play New Meaning, an album rife with passion.