album reviews

Ty Segall | Sleeper                                                                                   Drag City   August 2013
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When we listen to this album, we are transported to your parents’ garage. We are sitting on the floor, slowmo-head banging to Segall’s pleasingly desperate voice.   But because we’re also on certain unmentionables, everything sounds like it’s also being played through a Walkman that’s slowly running out of batteries, creating a languid drag, a sort of sonic humidity that creates an overwhelmingly mortal effect. Our emotions slog through us as if for the last time.

Segall’s sad lyrics hit that ideal middle ground between too-perfect and unforgivably bad.  We of course don’t want too much cliché but we aren’t interested in literary songs either.  There’s nothing worse than lyrics that are too good. Lyrics should not be fun to read on their own.  They should be vague enough to require a human voice to breathe meaning and context into them.

At times Segall’s voice recalls T.Rex, and other times a Beatles-Dylan highbred. Such influences don’t eclipse his originality in the least but, instead, only prove he’s a fanatical student of his form. The suffering in his voice makes each composition feel like it belongs uniquely to the moment in which it is created (this singular hour in your parents’ garage), but also as if the song is about to fall apart at any second. There’s something deeply satisfying when it sounds like a band might not make it through the current track. We want them to ache their way through every bar, to take bruises for us. And when they do keep it together, and we see them make it to the other side, we feel we’ve all triumphed.  And that’s just track 1 of Segall’s “Sleeper.”  By track 9 the band is on its bleeding knees and we have become naked children, dancing with flowers in our hair and banging on paint cans with Mom and Dad’s tools.

review by: Karim Dimechkie

Wall of Ears | Perfect Organ Assembly                                                Broken Circles Records June 2013

Wall of EarsWhen I was a child, I would occasionally involuntarily enter a dream-like state during which I could not confirm that any of the body parts I saw attached to myself were actually my own. I would stare at my hands for hours, desperately trying to believe they were mine and not, for example, the hands of a rodent. Years later, I described this alarming health event to a psychologist. “Caroline,” he said, smiling smugly. “It sounds like you’ve simply experienced what’s known as a hallucination.”

It’s happening again, after listening to Wall of Ears’ Perfect Organ Assembly, the energetic, pretty, wacky avant-pop opus of Chris Lott & co. My body parts hang creepily. They twitch. They open and close and purge of their own accord. Especially my lips. So much of the imagery on this album is orally fixated. The mouth is a doorway that all the trouble passes through. In the opening track, “Heavy Hologram,” Lott sings of a slippery beast that bursts out through his mouth and rains blood. But elsewhere, amid the heavily layered vocals, trembling morass of synths and weird, textured sampling, the puking needs to be induced. It takes a “feeding tube/strung through your gasmask” to extract what’s withheld. In the dirge-like “Miss Earth,” he sings of the laugh of a person lost to him that catches in the mouth and echoes.

The album is sewn through with strange clatterings, malarial singing saw and vibraphone, ejaculative guitar, oddities on top of straight pop tonalities. But its sunny, nostalgic harmonies often border on regret. “All your words/used to have meaning/but they lost their cores/float unmoored” he sings on “Autosky.” And then he demonstrates it. The second half of the album devolves into a series of inversions of previous songs, reversed loops, backwards vocals resembling Lynchian tongues. The last track is a terrifying, spoken-word fairytale. The whole experience is gorgeously disorienting, a state in which words, mouths, bodies are moot. We’re a tangle of disassociated parts, an assemblage of organs. It’s unsettling and cool. Everyone should know what this hallucination feels like.

review by: Caroline Belle Stewart
CocoRosie | Tales of a Grass Widow                                                      Self Released
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Tales of a Grass Widow is the haunted dance party soundtrack of a lifetime. It’s what would happen if a group of hip and tasteful ghosts threw a dance party in an old and creaky house, strung hot pink crepe paper from the rafters and invited all of their gypsy friends to jam in the dusty living room amongst flickering candelabra ambience: As ghosts and gypsies alike downed invisible drinks, things grow sparkling and ecstatic. Everything expanding. Until it could only be contained by the nearby woods. This is where the fairies come in, chilling, piano and through dead tree branches. Until every single otherworldly party-goer is smirking and shaking their hips shyly, if not giving into violent shoulder shakes, in response to the unexpectedly haunting hip-hop beats.

review by: Cait Florez
Tony Molina |Dissed and Dismissed                                                    Melters Records Feburary 2013
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You’re sitting on your skateboard outside of a San Francisco convenient store in July*, drinking grape Gatorade and obsessively checking your phone for text messages from A Girl. You keep thinking you feel it vibrating in the pocket of your corduroys, but it’s always just a phantom buzz. A car drives by and someone yells something at you from the passenger-side window. You don’t hear what they say but you give them the finger anyway, just in case.

This is how I feel for approximately 11 minutes each time I listen to Tony Molina’s Dissed and Distressed. This album is earnest and heart-sleeved like a love-sick teenager. The songs are easy to listen to again and again, and not just because they’re all 90 seconds or less. Like kettle corn or chocolate-covered pretzels, they are savory in their cooperating opposites: scratchy-catchy, snarly-melodic, sing-along-lonesome, poppy-despondent, etc. This album is like a sleepy boat ride down a dream-scaped canal, where all the sharks are wearing hoodies under their denim jackets and the eels have all just come from a birthday party where there was face-painting.

*If you’ve spent any time in the Bay Area, or are at all familiar with funny-famous quotes**, you know that summer is typically the coldest time of year, so please take this into account when trying to imagine yourself into this scenario.

**i.e. ”The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”—Mark Twain

review by: Meg Freitag 

Warm Soda | Someone For You                                                               Castle Face Records March 2013warm soda
Oakland, California based group Warm Soda’s LP Someone for You seemingly tiptoes around you with their tight drums, warm melodies, and high-filter guitar licks, but at the same time lets itself be known by melding these into anything from catchy glam-anthems to the desert-rock-esque. Upbeat, new, but reminiscent of a particular late 70’s/early 80’s sound that I was unaware of until now, Someone for You is like a long summer drive ride with your feet out the window, the sun in your face, and your eyes closed behind your sunglasses.
review by: Payton Boyer
SOPHIE MOL | Bikes Bands Booze & Boys                    recorded by Bill Weita in his basement                                                 (Cleveland 2005)
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Your girlfriend’s in your bed, they’re serious, they’re concerned. Sophie Mol yells about sovereignty and sound like Russian hardcore if it tried to Ramone. Sex Drugs and Rock’N’Roll have a lot to do with Bikes Bands Booze & Boys, they want you to know they must hand out permission to their yous, all very imperative, commanding.Though I don’t think they could hurt me, I’d be afraid to cross them.The rhythm is just enough off to spot their hint of crazy, crazies don’t care about rhythm, even, maybe especially in a recording studio. They dream about shooting terrorists and sing songs about it in a capella, there’s a word for this somewhere that carves its own weapons out of stone and shoots down its dinner in a falling bloodbath every evening.I think it is “primitive.”review by: Christie Matherne
ATOMS FOR PEACE | AMOK                                                         XL Records February 2013
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Bite into this layered pound cake and feel the synthesizer juices drip down your chin. Stare wide-eyed at yourself in the harmonic mirror until your eyes can’t sit still anymore. Let the rhythmic faucet drip on the back of your neck until it has eroded a hole through your spine. The percussion gets into your nervous system, the haunting falsetto runs through your brain like a steroidal neuron. You’re going to want to sit down and absorb Amok like the measles, because there are rules for this sort of thing.

Some may complain about containment, but they are too impatient to be tattooed with the more subtle phantasmagoric pleasures. The palette is intentionally minimalistic: this album is painted with only pthalo blue and gray. A touch of burgundy to make you bleed. There’s a reason this isn’t Radiohead – don’t take a sip of absinthe and expect apple juice. When you listen, pretend that this is his version of a muted bassoon filtered through a glass of milk. Can you really mute a bassoon? You can’t, but Thom Yorke can.

review by: Rob Stephens

PARQUET COURTS | LIGHT UP GOLD                                     Dull Tools August 2012ParquetCourts-Light-Up-Gold

                                                

Solicitation is perhaps the most important value of the DIY aesthetic, for which made-ness, as both inventorying of what exactly something is made up of (per a list comprising the contents of a Joseph Cornell box) as well as in media res drama, counts as the art’s primary mode of expression. Parquet Courts are great solicitors. In fact, the mellow insistence of their suffering, their music’s skinned-knees delicacy invokes the month of Thermidor, one is free but definitely in danger of being killed by one’s next-door neighbor or best friend. Parquet’s hoarse navigation of a life spared judgement and spared a conclusion, is as the navigation of a long cobble-stone driveway by the woman who shows up on your door, asking for 4o bucks to help a group of ornery neighbors send letters to big-box stores condemning their massive amounts of E-waste. This is music for the beach, if the beach is tangled with sea-anemones that will puncture your foot if you don’t look at them when you step on them. I love Venice Beach, and if old Venice (not Santa Monica, because, as Parquet Courts holler in the album’s salvo, “Socrates died in the fucking gutter!”) ever wanted an anthem, quiet but noisy in its graphic depiction of its sun-roasted, video-game buzzing head, Light Up Gold is, and will be it for a long time. Therefore, I solicit you to solicit yourself with this music.

It’s an important step nowhere on the map of 21st century indignation, made easier and much funnier by gently massaging the revolting displeasure that comes with participation in a late capitalist society where, if you’re starving, lonely, poor, and misunderstood by your austere, worky-day kingdom, there’s likelier than not, an app for that.

review by: Matthew Moore

Purchase

METZ | METZ                                                                                      Sub Pop Records October 2012
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I can’t get off this album. My ears are singed. I broke all my furniture. Noise so thick you can grab onto it. That grocery store that played METZ had shopping carts crashing all over the place. I’ve never seen people throw milk like that. I buried the speakers in the backyard last night and the tombstone started on fire.

review by: Jeffrey Bruemmer

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