New Music: Friday Roll Out! Ötzi, Royal Trux, Durand Jones & The Indications, Filthy Friends, Primer, Pool Kids

So Weezer is out with a new album and I tried to listen to it but I’m not the biggest fan. I understand they appeal to a wide array of fans but I think I’m all about the hits. I can’t listen to any one record of theirs straight through. There, I said it. There’s also this Ben Folds Live At Myspace album from who-knows-when that was released this week as well. Pass!!! Hate me if you want, I could give AF. But it’s Friday and we all know what that means.
Ötzi comes from Oakland, CA and/or partially originating on the east coast(?) Maybe, maybe not. Bassist Akiko Sampson is no stranger to music, doing a stint within the explosive Semiautomatic (along with Peechees/Rice/Ropstyle’ Rop Vasquez) who I championed for years because the three albums released were pretty badass. Now with this band, the saga continues. This time around, Akiko is found aligned with two like-minded individuals in drummer Gina Marie and guitarist K. Dylan Edrich.
After releasing an album and an E.P.’s worth of work the band drops the Part Time Punk Sessions E.P. which explodes straight out the gate with moody vocals, darkness surrounding the wals of guitar, and a punchy rhythm. All that in just the opening “Ballad Of Oiwa.” But then “Charms” take a different approach altogether. The track begins with some dissonant feedback before the trio grinds their instruments together where cacophony takes a backseat to melody and those structured rhythms. The moodiness continues on “Winter” where the band penchant for dark timbres is the dominant factor. It may seem morose and melancholic, but the band never wallows in it, allowing angry instruments to shift the rhythm slightly. The trio is far from remaining a one trick pony though, opening “Drought” with an expansive bottom end, seemingly taking listeners in one direction but heading into another. Part Time Punk Sessions gives listeners a clear dark path to where they might wants to go. I’m following the yellow brick road.

I’m not even sure where to begin here. Before even letting the first track by Filthy Friends play, I don’t think anyone except staunch indie purists can hate on ’em. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself without giving you something to actually sink your teeth into. This dirty group is comprised of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, along with Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 and The Fastbacks own Kurt Bloch. There’s a lot of pedigree involved here but is it worth its weight in gold or lead?
Filthy Friends just released Emerald Valley (Kill Rock Stars), the band’s sophomore long-player comprised of ten tracks and I’ve listened to it a few times, and while I tried, I really, really tried, I can’t get thoughts of R.E.M. out of my head. Mind you, I like R.E.M. I do but the song compositions do sound like R.E.M. songs fronted by Corin Tucker. There are moments when semblances of To Bring You My Love pop in and out circa 1995 (“November Man”). Some songs are pretty cut and dry (“Only Lovers Are Broken”) while others are attempts at something more grandiose (“The Elliot”). Emerald Valley isn’t something I’m probably going to go back to so in the meantime I’ll just wait and see if we get another Sleater-Kinney and/or R.E.M.

Does it even matter where Durand Jones & The Indications are from? Music is so…so… universal, things like location don’t seem to matter. The band’s dynamic punctuation of sound is clearly guided here by nothing short of the hand of God. A bit much? Eh, doesn’t matter because I’m just getting started here. Now while the Blues and classic R&B have made a resurgence last 20 years or so, beginning with Andre William bluesy skronk rock to artists like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and Lee Fields finding a new fan base, it was about that time for a young group to grab hold of the reigns. Yeah, that’s Jones & The Indications.
With the band’s second album American Love Call (Dead Oceans) life is going to change, for me at least. The five piece act, while obviously influenced, is derivative unto itself. The band’s delivery of its compositions is a mastery of groups that could possibly be twice their age. I’ve said it multiple times before but while comparisons are as cheap as a two-bit hooker, Jones has a voice as powerful as David Ruffin’s yet as sultry as Eddie Kendricks. That’s not to slight the rest of the band that has the ability to harmonize as well as any of their own influences and predecessors. The band’s own inspiration comes from a who’s who of magical artistry of decades past that ranges from the 50s to 70s era Soul. Utilizing guitars, drums, bass, horns, keyboards and strings(?), the strength of the band’s songs are formidable individually and together in one collection, unstoppable. The sweet “Too Many Tears” uses limited instrumentation wrapped mostly around just bass and drums, with slight keyboard work along with vocals and backing harmonies, while the piano-driven “Morning In America” shoots imagery throughout the country over a heavier rhythm section & strings. “Don’t Know You,” that’s where the horns & strings come in and you can’t help but dance even if you’re sitting down.
This band is all about music. Whether singing songs to a lover like “Walk Away” & “What I Know About You,” driven by harmonies, lovely keyboards and horns, or well, more songs about love on “Circles,” there’s just not enough of this band to go around. Durand Jones & The Indications’ American Love Call is what rock ‘n roll is about; freedom and expressive. This is the absolute best album released this year so far. No one’s going to be able to top or topple it.

It’s been well into 19 years since any new music surfaced from Royal Trux, that is unless you don’t count the live album Platinum Tips + Ice Cream, released back in 2017. The band (of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema) and has finally resurfaced since recommitting themselves in 2015 with a string of live dates. With so much time passing, is Royal Trux still the stuff of legend? Is the music standing up as well as previous releases? Well…
Trashy blues based indie rock is what Royal Trux has been known to pull from its instruments and on White Stuff (Fat Possum), it seems years of separation may have been good for them to breathe, reassess, and hit the studio once again for an experimentation in sound that’s all too familiar but refreshing. This album pulls the duo further into experimenting with lazy chord play, erratic percussion, incorporating more R&B influences, and letting each song find a life of their own. From the opening title track, you get a sense that yeah, the band is back and they’re taking no shortcuts. A catchy rhythm, guitars channeling in and out at clever distances, letting the song ride out, and adding in vocals although they may not have even been necessary. Either way, it’s marriage at first listen because curiosity will get the best of you. The song doesn’t prepare you for Hagerty’s frenetic guitar playing on “Year Of The Dog” but you’ll be glad it didn’t, coming at you with a melody you’ll want to repeat over and over. But it’s “Suburban Junkie Lady” that’s the surprise here, frolicking through old school 70’s rhythms while singing about junkies. Listeners are drowned in melody propelled by percussion and drums that hold the track together. The band’s signature lethargic vocal delivery isn’t something anyone’s ever had a problem with. Herrema’s vocals, singing in unison with Hagerty’s on the 2 and a half minute “Shoes And Tags” are welcomed. This is where things get…different though. Yeah, that’s that Bronx kid Kool Keith on “Get Used To This” where Herrema duets over a repetitive sound but it’s far from remaining repetitious. Halfway through White Noise you’ll realize the album is maneuvering into becoming a classic. “Sic Em Slow” funnels the band’s trashy sound further into R&B while “Every Day Swan” kicks out those fucking jams!
We’re all left without questions and full of answers. Royal Trux has surpassed even its own notoriety for creating amazing songs, one right after the other. White Stuff will always be and is the stuff of legend. Yeah, Royal Trux has just hit legendary status.

Trying to take a moment to assess the new Music To Practice Safe Sex To (Skeletal Lightning) by the Pool Kids, isn’t that difficult or distressing. But, and I must reiterate that “but” there because the band has a LOT of similarities to another group that came back after a brief hiatus in 2017. It seems the Pool Kids originally released this album back in 2018 and the label decided to reissue it. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and Music just might be that.  
That’s not to say the Tallahassee, FL trio (or quartet now?) is wasting anyone’s time though because the songs here are well manicured, clever, and sweet. Albeit, things are handled with a good amount of distortion, time and dynamic shifts which makes it all the more appealing. “Overly Verbose Email Series Pt. III” opens things with sweet harmonies before they explore a much louder sound space where bass ‘n drums aren’t swallowed up by wailing guitars that are handled by nimble fingers. The formula is perfected the further you progress, like “Borderline,” where dynamics shift at a most unpredictable rate and one can find solace between guitar notes. And did I mention Christine Goodwyne’s vocals and lyricism is captivating. From track to track you won’t find anything wrong here, in fact you’ll hear the band challenge itself like on “They Only Care Abut My Fills And Not My Feels.” Yeah, I’m digging the fills.
We all might not get something completely original from Music To Practice Safe Sex To but what you will get is a damn fine record that you can hit the repeat button to. They just might make you dig through the crates to find all those influential acts. I’m not spoiling it, you have to figure that out for yourself.

Lastly here, we’re taking a listen to Detroit’s Primer, which is the pseudonym taken by one Alyssa Midcalf. The project itself is apparently inspired by the 2004 time travel movie of the same name. I’ve never seen or heard of it but Primer’s synth-pop ways, directed through Novelty (YHS Records), fall in between darkened alleyways (“My House”) and a nostalgic 80s new wave (“A Broken Person’s Game”) where both sides of the spectrum are done well but it leaves me wanting. What exactly? I’m not sure but the pop sensibility she has (“Til I Die”) leaves me curious. Washes of keyboard, along with a synth bounce of notes keep it from falling between the cracks.
It’s difficult to find your place when others might subject you to a musical limbo of sorts, but I’m still left with feelings Primer could give listeners much more. She just has to look deeper to figure out what that is.