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Sneaks

Highway Hypnosis

    Sneaks, a.k.a. Eva Moolchan, emerges from the male-dominated Baltimore-Washington punk scene, joining the resistance forged by queer black feminists who create, explore, empower, conquer, and play bass. Highway Hypnosis combines bewitching beats and invented words, to produce what Clash Magazine described as “stripped down hip-hop, skeletal post-punk, and extra-dimensional pop music.” Recorded at New York’s Silent Barn in 2017, Highway Hypnosis was co-produced by Carlos Hernandez (of Ava Luna), Tony Seltzer (Princess Nokia), and Eva Moolchan herself. A glimmering anthem shrouded in an atmosphere of darkness, her first single “Beliefs” drops its bass along with a call to arms for all non-believers whose mantra is assigned: “Remove your beliefs and start again / ’cause all I wanna do is start again.” Among laughter samples and charming vocals featured on the album lie one club banger, your little sister’s anti-meat school lunch protest song, a 55-second epic bass surprise, and a Jacknife Lee (Taylor Swift, Bat for Lashes, R.E.M.) production credit on “Hong Kong to Amsterdam.” 

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Limited green LP

    William Tyler

    Goes West

      I met William Tyler on a train going south out of London. He had a nervous and cryptic and welcoming aura and was the first Nashville native (there is such a thing) that I’d ever met. We both carried more than we could manage on that trip, and I realized later that his bags were full of books. Books about psychology, philosophy, the Civil War, and astrology. Books—I realize now as I write this—about measuring and deciphering the boundaries of kindness and cruelty. William and I bonded early in our relationship over Barry Hannah, a hellraising writer from Mississippi who practically reinvented the way that words could be assembled on a page. Like Hannah, William Tyler knows the South—as a crucible of American histories and cultures, an entity capable of expansive beauty and incomprehensible violence, often in the same beat.. In the music of William Tyler, the South is not apart from America; the South is America condensed. And like Hannah—and this part is important—William moved to California, where Goes West was written.

      William’s new record, Goes West, is the best music that he’s ever made. I’m sure of this because I know and love all of his music intimately, and this album moves me the most, and the most consistently. The first time I heard it was in the late spring in the Texas Hill Country, rolling between limestone and scrub. I was on a cleanse then—no alcohol, no drugs, no evil thoughts—and was astonished at the emotional clarity that the album held. Goes West marks a sort of narrowing of focus for William’s music; it sounds as though he found a way to point himself directly towards the rich and bittersweet emotional center of his music without being distracted by side trips. Perhaps this is down to the fact that William only plays acoustic guitar on the album, a clear and conscious decision considering that he is one of Nashville’s great electric guitarists. 

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Limited green vinyl LP

      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Mike Krol

      Power Chords

        Music ruined Mike Krol’s life. And then saved it. In 2015, Mike Krol found himself in the midst of an existential crisis. He’d invested everything to create the rock-and-roll life he’d always wanted, but he wasn’t sure the life wanted him back. Power Chords, Krol’s new Merge release, picks up where Turkey left off. It traces Krol’s journey back to punk rock, harnessing both the guitar technique and the musical redemption referenced in its title. To rediscover the power in those chords, Krol recorded for two-plus years in three separate locations (Nashville, Los Angeles, and Krol’s native Wisconsin). The record opens in a howling maelstrom of feedback: welcome to Krol’s crucible. After a stage-setting spoken-word intro, we find ourselves back in familiar Krol territory—aggressive and assertive, scratchy and raw, catchy as hell—but something has changed.

        The sounds have a new density—and so do the stories. Krol’s lyrics have always walked a fine line between self-acceptance and selfdestruction, but throughout Power Chords, they reveal a new sense of self-awareness. Of course, none of this is to say that Krol has mellowed. You might find a mea culpa or two, but Mike Krol will never be chastened. If anything, he’s out more for revenge than forgiveness, and if he’s grown, it’s because he’s grown bolder. He’s wielding the same influences—Misfits, The Strokes, early Weezer, Ramones—but turning up the gravity and the gain. Indeed, Krol has gone somewhere new; yes, he bludgeoned himself with over-analysis and self-loathing, but along the way he stumbled upon a trove of intricate guitar lines and artfully mutating melodies. It’s there in the chorus of “Blue and Pink,” the bridge in “I Wonder,” the entirety of the deliriously infectious first single, “An Ambulance.” 

        Hiss Golden Messenger

        Devotion : Songs About Rivers And Spirits And Children

          Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirits and Children is a limited-edition deluxe box set which includes remastered reissues of the classic Hiss albums Bad Debt, Poor Moon, and Haw as well as Virgo Fool, a rarities compilation that will only be available physically as part of this collection. Both the 4-CD and 4-LP sets are housed in a cloth-wrapped, foil-stamped slipcase and feature original iconographic artwork by Sam Smith, an exclusive foldout poster, full lyrics, and new liner notes by New Yorker writer Amanda Petrusich and MOJO editor John Mulvey.

          What struck me about Hiss Golden Messenger—and my absorption in these early records was instantaneous—is that Taylor’s songs are completely and unfailingly honest about how stupid and frustrating it is to be a person. But then, of course, he finds magnificence anyway: “Hallelujah anyhow” is how he put it later. Amanda Petrusich. “Even on his most raw and unadorned album, Bad Debt, or on his most troubled, Haw, Taylor is still striving for that next level. Sometimes the epiphanies arrive through lyrical graft; “I’m trying to learn,” he vows, emblematically, on “Sufferer (Love My Conqueror).”

          Sometimes, they manifest musically, as if the collective endeavour of a band can provide consolation, for both the participants and the listeners, in even the darkest of times. It’s these imperatives, I think, that have made me turn to Hiss Golden Messenger records more than any others over the past decade; Taylor’s issues are all too understandable, but his creative solutions to them are almost mystically uplifting to a non-musician like myself. His music articulates an untethered spiritual meaning, one which can make sense to those of us who have no coherent system of belief. On these albums, you can hear a mission, a compassionate vision, being improvised and fleshed out exponentially, as Taylor’s sense of community and his place in it grows with every release. Also, they really fucking swing”.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          4xLP Box Set Info: 4LP set is cloth-wrapped slipcase box with matte foil stamping. LPs in debossed jackets + lyric inserts + foldout poster.

          FREE SHIPPING This item has FREE UK shipping!

          4xCD Box Set Info: 4CD set is cloth-wrapped slipcase box with matte foil stamping. CDs in LP-style debossed wallets + lyric inserts + foldout poster.

          Hiss Golden Messenger

          Bad Debt - Deluxe Remastered Reissue

            Taylor recorded this spiritually devastating, austere antecedent to the widely celebrated Hiss Golden Messenger albums Haw (2013) and Poor Moon (2011) direct to a portable cassette recorder at the kitchen table of his pine-entwined home in rural Piedmont North Carolina in 2010. It was the dead of winter and the pit of the financial crisis, a moment when the dire ramifications of debt—in its economic, political, and personal senses—had assumed a rank immediacy and terror for many working people around the world, not least of all in the American South.

            Taylor, his one-year old boy Elijah sleeping in the next room, was compelled to chart the sacred valences of debt, doubt, and family in fresh ways, in the process stripping bare and reinventing his songwriting idiom. In his own words: Bad Debt comes from ten dense acres of oak, cedar, and apple trees in Pittsboro, North Carolina, directly south of the Haw River. The house where it was made was built in the early 1970s by a hippie cohort that settled along Brooks Branch; though this may sound like some kind of brag, I offer this to explain just how cold it was during the fall and winter when this record was conceived. Most hippies— except for the most famous one, of course, and probably a few others—are shit carpenters. The record is about my God: that is, whether I have one, and whether there is a place for me in this world. I don’t go to church, and I am not saved. I can party too. I can do a saxophone now and again, bang the drum. Bad Debt was my revelation, and there are many for whom I’ll never make a record better than this one. Ruminating on the riddle of faith, a firstborn son, and thorny existential questions large and small, the album laid the lyrical and compositional foundations for HGM’s critically acclaimed releases to come.

            Half of these domestic devotional songs appear elsewhere in the HGM discography in radically reinvented arrangements and permutations—Taylor’s writing practice revealed itself following Bad Debt as essentially iterative, the deliberate enunciation and re-articulation of koans—but they exist here in germinal, psalmic purity and economy, as unadorned and plain and perfectly ragged as the cedar floorboards in that Brooks Branch cabin. Bad Debt remastered by Chris Boerner at Kitchen Mastering. Artwork reimagined by Sam Smith (Lateness of Dancers). 

            After releasing two beloved full-lengths, 2012’s Swearin’ and 2013’s Surfing Strange, the Philadelphia band Swearin’ quietly put things on hold. It was due, at least in part, to the band’s main songwriters, Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride, ending their romantic relationship. But when the band found themselves in a room again years later, the conversation turned back to Swearin’. “Without any hesitation or inhibitions,” said Crutchfield, “we asked, ‘What would it take from each of us? What would we want to accomplish if we decided to be a band again?’”

            They realized that what they all wanted was to not just play shows, but to make a new record. They wanted to do something that reflected the people they’d become during those intervening years. Before long, Crutchfield and Gilbride had a new batch of Swearin’ songs, ones that meshed with the sound they’d originally developed together but boldly pushed things forward. Fall into the Sun is a Swearin’ record that doesn’t try to obscure the passage of time but instead embraces it. “Getting older, your tastes change, and what you want to do changes,” said Bolt. That can be seen in songs like “Big Change,” where Crutchfield says goodbye to Philly and the scene that she came up in, or in “Dogpile,” where Gilbride offers the line any aging punk can relate to: “By pure dumb luck I’ve gotten where I’m going.” “There was a lot on our minds, and it was a super fertile time to put a bunch of songs together,” said Gilbride.

            It’s true of the material found on Fall into the Sun, but it’s noticeable in the album’s production, too. Much like the band’s previous albums, Gilbride anchored the recording and producing of the record, but this time around, the band worked to make the process feel more collaborative than ever before. “I feel like this was the first time I could look at a Swearin’ record and say that I co-produced it, and that felt really good,” said Crutchfield. Listening to Fall into the Sun, Swearin’ is a more confident, collaborative version than the one people first came to know. Crutchfield and Gilbride always had an innate ability to mirror the other’s movements in songs, but here, they build a focused lyrical perspective across their songs, one that’s thankful for their past, but looks boldly toward the future. 

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            Coloured LP Info: Limited indies-only Coke Bottle coloured vinyl.

            Fucked Up

            Dose Your Dreams

              “I was sent an unfinished version of Dose Your Dreams so that I might contribute string parts. I couldn’t stop listening to the rough mixes I received. A friend asked me how the record was. I replied, “My God, Fucked Up have made their Screamadelica.” And psych-rock-groove it is. The drums mixed wide, propensity for drones, for delay pedal, for repetition, groove. The politics and aesthetics of hardcore married to an “open format” approach to genre. Elements of doo-wop, krautrock, groove, digital hardcore. “None of Your Business Man” opens the album in familiar enough territory, a saxassisted exit from an office space.

              But things get psychedelic very quickly. By the time the title track arrives, Mike Haliechuk is whispering, wah pedals are in full effect, and we’re wearing oversized t-shirts and pinwheeling. “Accelerate,” the lyrical centrepiece of the album, storms in like Boredoms on a bullet train and dissolves into a digital nightmare. The album closer, “Joy Stops Time,” finds Fucked Up at their most Düsseldorfian, nearly eight minutes of blissful motorik. At the center of it all is Damian Abraham’s scream—a man chained, a man tortured, a true protagonist. The effect is one of an epic, every chapter attempting its own narrative devices, its own genre hybridization—and it works, it works so insanely well. The drama unfolds like a miniature world of many parts being explored, a map being illuminated, location by location. As with David Comes to Life, there is a story here. David—who once came to life—is now indentured to a desk job.

              David meets the elderly Joyce who closes his eyes, opens his mind, and sends him on a spiritual journey. David embarks on his own metaphysical odyssey. He sees a stage adaptation of his own life. He speaks to an angel in a lightbulb. He sees an infinite series of universes as simulations within simulations. Meanwhile, Lloyd—Joyce’s lover—was sent, decades ago, by Joyce on the same odyssey, but was lost in the void. Lloyd seeks to be found and reunited with his lover. Where will David end up? Will Joyce and Lloyd be reunited? Dose Your Dreams—meaning: treat your dreams as you would a dream, allow yourself to be lost within them, allow them to open your heart and your mind, enjoy them as you would a drug. Reach out for my hand and pull me close. Owen Pallett. 

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              Featuring a collection of songs written with now-dormant experimental recording group Great Thunder while Crutchfield was also writing the Waxahatchee albums Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp, the original recordings have mostly faded into obscurity. Unearthing and reimagining them with producer Brad Cook at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin was a cathartic experience, she says. On the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Out in the Storm, Crutchfield found herself looking to take a sharp turn away from the more rock-oriented influences of her recent records towards her more folk and country roots.

              “I would say that it is a complete 180 from the last record: super stripped-down, quiet, and with me performing solo, it’s a throwback to how I started,” writes Crutchfield. “Overall, the EP is a warm, kind of vibey recording.” Some of the songs on Great Thunder, like “Chapel of Pines” and “Singer’s No Star,” stayed the same and will be recognizable to those intensely familiar with Crutchfield’s catalog to date, while closer “Takes So Much” was built back up on piano from the bones of the original version, surprising even the songwriter: “Until then, I didn’t realize how beautiful this song was.” As Crutchfield entered April Base to record, she became ill but opted to forge on, beautifully stretching her voice to its emotional limits. 

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: A much more stripped back affair from Waxahatchee, reduced to the constituent parts of Crutchfield's sound, and brought to the masses with the perspective of the previous few releases. A beautiful insight into the formative sound of one of our favourite artists.

              Eric Bachmann

              No Recover

                There was something sinister about Crooked Fingers, both the name of the project and the music that Eric Bachmann wrote at the helm of its ever-shifting lineups over 15 years. He retired the moniker a couple of years ago, but with his third album under his own name, the transformation feels gorgeous and final and irreversible: No Recover. The drunken louts and red devil dawns are a thing of the past now, monuments to a different time. Bachmann, husband and recent father, has some new lenses through which to view the world. But while No Recover is decidedly mellow and reflective, do not mistake it for the work of a relaxed, satisfied songwriter, sitting on some Georgia porch with a stalk of wheat between his lips, gently rocking a cradle with his foot and whistling an old tune.

                No, the Eric Bachmann of 2018 seems to view life with a sort of disgruntled maturity and righteous resignation. No Recover is both harrowing and beautiful, and its mellowness can be deceiving. The album is mostly just him, a classical guitar, some treated rhythm tracks, and otherworldly drop-ins from singer Avery Leigh Draut and guitarist Eric Johnson, Bachmann's old pal from their Archers of Loaf days. He's got a lot on his mind, only some of it pretty. The sunset on the album’s cover might be the end of a cruel world for the duo in “Jaded Lover, Shady Drifter,” who introduce No Recover; they feel like flip-side lovers, both sonically and lyrically, of the couple at the center of Bring On the Snakes’ “The Rotting Strip.” But that dark sentiment is quickly reversed with “Daylight,” one of Bachmann’s most stunning vocal performances ever: For a guy who earned his stripes by shredding his vocal cords in the ’90s, he sure can croon.

                And though the words cast some shadows—“fight for your life,” he implores—ultimately there is hope. “If you try, you can be loved.” Same goes, to a less direct degree, for “Waylaid,” the record’s jauntiest song, and a meditation on failure and love that leaves room for Johnson’s bright-but-mournful electric guitar to take center stage. But leave it to Bachmann to save the best for last: No Recover ends with one song for his wife and another for his son.

                Spider Bags

                Someday Everything Will Be Fine

                  Four years after releasing their Merge debut, Frozen Letter, Spider Bags return with an LP that ascends to new levels of aural punch and perspective. The years that elapsed between records were crucial in enabling that progress to take place. Recorded in Memphis at Bunker Audio by Andrew McCalla (who also engineered 2012’s Shake My Head), Someday Everything Will Be Fine leverages the limitations and glory of the Tascam 388, a vintage recording/mixing device that’s acquired a mythos via its association with legendary records by Dinosaur Jr. and others. Unlike the error-erasing editing software Spider Bags frontman Dan McGee has favored in the past, the Tascam’s charms are more immediate, and it has a visceral resonance all its own. Someday Everything Will Be Fine, which is about the importance of saying f**k it and dancing to a rock and roll record, is an album only Spider Bags could make. 

                  STAFF COMMENTS

                  Matt says: Phwwooar. Just what the doctor ordered to kick us up the be-hind as the week draws to a close. Nods to classic skater punk such as Dropkick Murphys & Rancid with some classic rock references and a touch of Van Morrison too... Fu**in' great name too - what's not to love?!

                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                  Coloured LP Info: Limited edition "bruiser" vinyl.

                  Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                  The Rock*A*Teens

                  Sixth House

                    Born in Cabbagetown, Georgia, the Rock*A*Teens carved their signature echo-wrapped, wounded-heart music on the edges of the Atlanta music scene more than 20 years ago. Led by songwriter and lead singer/guitarist Christopher Lopez, the band released a handful of reverb-drenched singles and full-lengths on the independent Daemon and Merge labels in the late '90s and early 2000s. Following their reunion at the Merge 25 festival and the reissue of their last LP Sweet Bird of Youth (Merge, 2000), the group returned to touring and playing live. Restless with the need to move forward, the band began writing and recording new music. Guided by a batch of home recordings and demos, Lopez, guitarist Justin Hughes, bassist William R. Joiner, and drummer Ballard Lesemann convened with Tim Delaney at Electron Gardens Studio and Rafael Pereira at Tribo Studios to shape their ideas into the glorious, bombastic new album Sixth House.

                    These days, Lopez and the R*A*Ts are turning towa rds a more refined approach to recording and performance while preserving their distinctly unvarnished lyrical and musical perspective. "In the past we hid behind walls of reverb, noise, production tricks," Lopez says. "We wanted these particular songs to stand in the light." On Sixth House, the gauze is removed—the anthems are illuminated, the ballads are clear-eyed, and the stories are in sharp focus. Mixed by Pereira and engineer Spencer Willis and mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service, the album features artwork by NYC photographer Chris Verene. Sixth House stands out as the band’s most musically distinct, vibrant, and soulfully rendered album of its career. 

                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                    Coloured LP Info: Limited, indies-only translucent green vinyl

                    The Essex Green

                    Hardly Electronic

                      Formed in Brooklyn in 1998, The Essex Green released four albums between 1999 and 2006. They became one of the few bands from the Northeast to be associated with the groundbreaking Elephant 6 Collective. Their unique blend of harmony-infused pop music culminated in the 2006 release of Cannibal Sea. Sasha Bell, Jeff Baron, and Christopher Ziter were last seen together in the late aughts, waving from their van as they bid farewell to Brooklyn. And then, the unthinkable: The Essex Green went silent. But why? Legal cannabis? Climate change? Bad oysters? Nothing so dramatic. It was a simple promise made among them to chase down their separate dreams: Baron to build a houseboat and navigate the mighty Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers; Ziter to return to his home state of Vermont and lead local fermentation efforts; and Bell to decamp to Montana to study elk rutting. Having achieved their goals or not, they vowed to break their silence in secret on the frigid waters of Lake Champlain during the blood moon eclipse of 2015 when the effect of the moon in Libra would be most powerful. Over the next two years, the three continued to meet and record in undisclosed locations. The result is Hardly Electronic, a music mapping of the trio’s personal journeys over the past decade. Fans will recognize The Essex Green’s signature sound in this work of wax: stacks of harmonies, upbeat melodies telling melancholy tales, layers of keys and sparkling Telecasters. Their time-honored custom of fusing obsession with spontaneity has been refined through experience and wisdom.

                      Hardly Electronic explores the evolution of old friendships, the sadness of losing touch, the inadequacies of technology, and finally, the desire for reconnection with songs like “Bye Bye Crow” and “Slanted by Six.” Themes of connectivity for the online generation are on display in the war cry chorus of “Don’t Leave It in Our Hands,” while songs like “Bristol Sky” and “January Says” hint at how the same technology-connected culture can create division and distance, even in the most personal of relationships. On the flip side, the wonders of technology (and jumbo jets) made the recording possible. With Bell living in Montana, Ziter in Vermont, and Baron on the river, finding ways to work together was challenging. The result is classic Essex Green sonic diversity

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: Coloured LP (MRG633LPC1) is with a matte jacket with Euro sleeve + red & orange swirl vinyl

                      Wye Oak

                      The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs

                      The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs—the triumphant fifth album by Wye Oak—begins with an explosion. For a few seconds, piano, drums, and a playful keyboard loop gather momentum; then, all at once, they burst, enormous bass flooding the elastic beat. “Suffering, I remember suffering,” sings Jenn Wasner, her voice stretched coolly across the tizzy. “Feeling heat and then the lack of it, but not so much what the difference is.” The moment declares the second coming of Wye Oak, a band that spent more than a decade preparing to write this record—their most gripping and powerful set of songs to date, built with melodies, movement, and emotions that transcend even the best of their catalogue.

                      Louder is the third record that Wasner and Andy Stack, who launched Wye Oak in Baltimore, have made while living in separate cities—she in Durham, North Carolina, he in Marfa, Texas. They flew to one another for a week or so at a time, hunkering in home studios to sort through and combine their separate song sketches. These shorter stints together produced less second-guessing and hesitation in their process, yielding an unabashed and unapologetic Wye Oak. The result is the biggest, broadest, boldest music they’ve ever made. Louder pursues a litany of modern malaises, each track diligently addressing a new conflict and pinning it against walls of sound, with the song’s subject and shape inextricably and ingeniously linked. The rapturous “Lifer,” for instance, ponders perseverance and survival in times of profound struggle. “Over and Over” finds Wasner alone at home, watching clips of violence abroad on repeat, her outrage outstripped only by her ineffectiveness.

                      The music—a sophisticated tessellation of pounded piano and loping bass, scattered drums and chirping synthesizer—is as complex and ponderous as the issues themselves. For all the struggles Wye Oak confront here, Louder ultimately reflects a hopeful radiance, with the parting sense that human connection and our own internal resolve can outweigh even our heaviest worries. 

                      STAFF COMMENTS

                      Barry says: Brilliantly driven synthy atmospheres dragged along by skittering percussion and Wasner's enchanting vocal offerings, Wye Oak give us cleverly anthemic pieces but missing all the pitfalls of the ever more common synth-driven indie rock. In parts brittle, but growing into spine-tingling crescentic anthems. Wye not?

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: double gatefold jacket w/ printed inner sleeve + beige/blue split vinyl

                      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                      CD Info: 4-panel wallet with booklet

                      On Room Inside the World—Ought’s third album and first for Merge—growing up doesn’t mean mellowing out so much as it means learning to pay attention, listening carefully and openly, staying somewhere long enough to really understand where you are. Recorded at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Silver Jews), Room Inside the World explores themes that have always concerned the band—identity, connection, survival in a precarious world—but with a bolder, more nuanced sound palette. Vibraphone, justly intonated synthesizers, drum machines, and a 70-piece choir suffuse the precise post-punk breakdowns that spangled Ought’s first two albums, giving rise to an emotional complexity that pushes their characteristically taut sound to greater depths.

                      Ought approached this record with newfound patience, constructing a (digital) moodboard to set their intentions: Brian Eno and Stereolab synths, the Mekons’ 1985 album Fear and Whiskey, and Gerhard Richter and Kenneth Anger’s sexy, fluorescent hyperreal all made it into the melting pot. “The process of everybody wading into each other’s subconscious was really excellent,” says frontman, guitarist, and lyricist Tim Darcy. Holed up in their rehearsal building, an industrial rock block (and sock factory) overlooking the Trans-Canada Highway, the band strove for greater detail and specificity than before while remaining true to the collaborative, intuitive writing process that yielded their earlier work. On Room Inside the World, Ought gnaw at questions that have hovered around their music since they first began playing: How do you live in this world without destroying yourself? What is it that we can do for each other to make the lives we’ve been given easier? Room Inside the World steps away from the nervousness and irony that characterizes Ought’s previous records

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: White LP 140g double gatefold jacket with matte coating, 12 x 12 in.

                      H C McEntire

                      Lionheart

                        H.C. McEntire, frontwoman of Mount Moriah, strikes out on her own with her debut solo album LIONHEART, a collection of songs inspired by the American South and a desire to reclaim "country" music from the hetero-normative, homogenous schtick of tailgates and six-packs and men chasing women. Stereogum describes her voice as "weary, wise, and bright as morning sunshine all at once," and that sunshine glows throughout the triumphant LIONHEART. "LIONHEART is personal: from recording it mostly at my house, to inviting close friends to play on it and put themselves in it, to the deeply autobiographical narratives of place and people," writes McEntire. "In music, there are no rules.

                        You make your own language. You can be both the Southern rock outlier and the twangy gospel conduit. You can be both the cherubic, honey-tongued innocent and the ardent punk. To get here - to find my lion hear - I had to become them all."For the album, McEntire collaborated with many of her favorite musicians, including Kathleen Hanna, Angel Olsen, Amy Ray, Tift Merritt, William Tyler, and Phil Cook, while remaining bravely devoted to her most authentic self throughout the process. LIONHEART was recorded during the first few months of 2017 with additional recording and mixing taking place on the run as McEntire toured the world as a member of Angel Olsen's band. “I learned a great deal about who I am and how to trust myself while making this record,” muses McEntire. “In general, the songs feel more country to me, in a sincere way. There’s gospel. There’s more pop. There’s no hiding

                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                        LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                        Escape-ism

                        Introduction To Escape-ism

                          Introduction to Escape-ism by Escape-ism isn’t a typical record. Oh, sure, it looks like one, with a label in the center and mysterious grooves etched on a sleek, black disc that glints in the light with a perverse air of knowing treachery. And sure, when a diamond needle is dragged through said groove, it shrieks and sputters with the familiar range of “rock ’n’ roll” sound effects: low-frequency bass, high-end hi-hat stutters, and a middlebrow voice that gasps and cries for love, justice, redemption, insurrection, everything. And yes, Introduction… reacts like a normal record to direct sunlight; it suffers silently until giving evidence of its agony with an awful “warp.” Its cover is even like a normal record jacket: glossy cardstock with a cool design, group name, song titles, record label information, and the like.

                          But this disc is different. It shouldn’t only be reviewed in the music press but in the “world affairs” column of a conspiracy-minded newspaper, on a hot-rod review TV show, or possibly at an important conference by a renowned astrophysicist. It’s that important! Why? Because it’s the first “solo” record by Ian Svenonius—of groups The Make-Up, Chain & the Gang, XYZ, Weird War, etc. and author of underground bestsellers such as The Psychic Soviet, Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group, and Censorship Now!!—and as such, it’s profound, prophetic, perverse, and poetic… It’s introverted glitter, violence against the state, obsessive desire; it stomps on convention, shreds constitutions, clobbers pre-conceived notions of what a record can be.

                          Yes, that’s right: a single-person performance by I F Svenonius—recognized by Performer Magazine as the “greatest performer on the planet”—Introduction to Escapeism is a bite into a one-banana bunch. A drum box, a guitar, a cassette player, and a single slobbering, sinful voice singing out… for a way out. Live, it’s a new paradigm of performance: raw, gestural, idiotic, sublime, revolutionary, poetic, faux naïf, unknowing, a drainage pipe that leads to who knows where. 

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Barry says: A visceral and unflinching record, dedicated to the beauty of simplicity, but imbued with a sufficiently nuanced delivery, and brilliantly skillful hand at songwriting. Eminently enjoyable, and comfortingly real.

                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                          Coloured LP Info: Limited white LP

                          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                          Mike Krol

                          Mike Krol Is Never Dead : The First Two Records

                            On Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records, we catch up with the past, that is. Indeed, Turkey, released in 2015, is Chapter 3 of the Krol saga; here, finally, are its long-lost predecessors. Self-released in 2011, I Hate Jazz was the opening salvo of World War Krol. Only 500 copies were pressed; they were given away to anyone who showed interest (and many who showed none whatsoever). Including Krol classics like “Fifteen Minutes” and “Like a Star,” the record has long been unavailable.

                            Trust Fund followed in 2013; its 500 copies sold out on the ensuing tour, fueling a mini-mania that would elevate it to cult status. This set includes both records on freshly pressed Merge vinyl; an illuminating selection of digital outtakes, demos, and B-sides; and a fold-out poster showcasing a selection of Mike Krol ephemera. “Like a Star” & “Fifteen Minutes” as performed by animated Mike Krol featured on Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe (2016). 

                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                            2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                            Waxahatchee

                            Out In The Storm

                              Out in the Storm is the blazing result of a woman reawakened. Her most autobiographical and honest album to date, Out in the Storm is a self-reflective anchor in the story of both Katie Crutchfield’s songwriting and her life. The album tells the story of taking control of a volatile situation, embracing flaws, and exploring a new sonic freedom. The album was tracked at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia with John Agnello, known for working with some of the most iconic musicians of the last 25 years, including Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.

                              For Agnello, it was Crutchfield’s voice that drew him in. “The first demo song I heard was ‘Fade’. The melodies, the way she sings it, the way she turns the melody, and the way she goes note to note is literally beautiful. Singers—you either have it or you don’t. She has it.” Agnello and Crutchfield worked together for most of December 2016, along with the band: sister Allison Crutchfield on keyboards and percussion, Katherine Simonetti on bass, and Ashley Arnwine on drums; Katie Harkin, touring guitarist with Sleater-Kinney, also contributed lead guitar. At Agnello’s suggestion, the group recorded most of the music live to enhance their unity in a way that gives the album a fuller sound compared to past releases, resulting in one of Waxahatchee’s most guitar-driven releases to date. “My experience working with John was genuinely life-changing,” says Crutchfield. “We had such a great connection right off the bat, and I really feel like he was always looking out for me.

                              He pushed me when I needed it, and gave me space when I needed it.” Crutchfield’s voice oscillates between effortless grace and commanding righteousness, taking the listener with her on an explicitly personal journey. Songs like “Hear You” and “No Question” are lyrically unapologetic and musically resolute, while the softer acoustic songs like “A Little More” and “Fade” let fear and melancholy seep through. But it is on the atmospheric “Sparks Fly” where we feel an essential redemption. “Sparks Fly” acts as an inner dialogue and marks the first time since the inception of Waxahatchee that any semblance of self-love has shone through. 

                              FORMAT INFORMATION

                              LP Info: Standard LP is black vinyl in uncoated jacket w/ foil stamp & black dustsleeve + poster + DL.

                              The descending motif of new wave synths, buzzing electro bass and sunkissed disco rhythms of "Give Me A Reason" signal the glorious return of Picadilly faves Ibibio Sound Machine and their second LP "Uyai". The album title (pronounced ‘you eye’) means “beauty” in Ibibio language and refers to the strength and free spirit of women in general and in particular, the courage of the women in lead singer Eno Williams’ family, to whom she often refers in her writing. The perfect clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West African funk, disco, modern post-punk and electro, "Uyai" is every bit as dynamic, danceable and infectious as its predecessor, while boasting greater variety and diversity in the songwriting.
                              The album opens with “Give Me a Reason,” a song about the 276 Chibok girls who were abducted in northern Nigeria in 2014 and remain missing to this day. A raw bassline, urgency and restrained aggression of the track mirror public feeling about the tragic incident. "One That Lights Up" offers a moment of repose in the midst of the body moving beats, opting instead for sultry and organic funk grooves with just a hint of dub. “The Pot Is On Fire” is a food dance celebrating the “happy place” when the food will be ready soon. Elsewhere "Quiet" introduces spiritual ambient, "Joy" bangs through Afro-electro and abrasive punk motifs and "Lullaby" fuses emotive vocals and delicate melodies with Streetsound rhythms. Folk stories, recounted to Eno by her family as a child in her mother’s Ibibio tongue, form the creative fabric from which the band’s unique musical tapestry is woven. Evocative poetic imagery and empowering messages set against an edgy, Afro-Electro soundscape give the band a unique space within the current wave of modern Afrocentric sounds sweeping across the globe.


                              STAFF COMMENTS

                              Patrick says: Building on the genre mashing majesty of their debut, Ibibio Sound Machine return with a diverse, danceable and dynamic sophomore LP which just about edges their debut. Amid constant changes of rhythm, focus and mood, the ensemble never comes close to a misstep or mistake, dancing comfortably into a bold future.

                              On November 11, we welcome Sneaks to Merge Records with the reissue of her debut album Gymnastics, which Impose called one of its favorite records of 2015. Check out "True Killer" now, and pre-order the album on CD or LP in the Merge store or digitally via iTunes. Sneaks songs are the mesmerizing post-punk incantations of Washington, DC's Eva Moolchan. Bass and drum machine underpin Moolchan's compelling vocals, and the music straddles several decades of serious minimalist fun to create her own unique niche of rock. "The songs came together pretty fast, very tongue-in-cheek," writes Moolchan of Gymnastics. "I was playing with how we use language and twisting the words of mundane slogans, ads, and repetitive symbols I was seeing while attending school." Sneaks is currently recording her sophomore album Hi Spirits with Mary Timony and Jonah Takagi, to be released on Merge in early 2017. While her music and lyrics are rooted in punk, Sneaks' live shows often provide the joy and release of a dance party. See the band on tour this fall, with more dates to be announced soon.

                              The writing of the songs that became Heart Like a Levee started in a hotel room in Washington DC in January of 2015 during a powerful storm that darkened the East Coast. At that time I was feeling—more acutely than I had ever felt before—wrenched apart by my responsibilities to my family and to my music. Forgetting, momentarily, that for me, each exists only with the other. How could I forget? Though maybe my lapse was reasonable: I had just quit my job, the most recent and last, in a series of dead-end gigs stretching back 20 years, with the vow that my children would understand their father as a man in love with his world and the inventor of his own days. They would be rare in that regard. And then—driven by monthly bills and pure fear— I left for another tour, carrying a load of guilt that I could just barely lift. But in that snowy hotel room I found the refrain that became my compass: I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road; but did I say I could find my way home?

                              STAFF COMMENTS

                              Barry says: Optimism clearly doesn't come too easily to M.C Taylor, but you might just be mistaken for thinking that he's made his peace with the world from this shining and cautiously cheery suite of lovelorn sonnets. Perfectly produced and heartfelt country-tinged acoustic odes, and minor-key stripped back melodies. Stunning.

                              East River Pipe

                              The Gasoline Age (Reissue)

                                Next in the Merge25 reissue series is East River Pipe’s 1999 classic The Gasoline Age.

                                East River Pipe (AKA F.M. Cornog) signed to a major label that folded before he released a note. But he kept his advance money and moved out of his tiny apartment in Queens and bought a house in New Jersey and, apparently, a car. Whereas previous East River Pipe albums focus on a solitary man who only breaks his loner streak for the love of his good woman, The Gasoline Age takes to the highway in a “Shiny, Shiny Pimpmobile.” Sometimes it’s a “Cybercar” for a “Party Drive.” He hits the town with “Atlantic City (Gonna Make a Million Tonight).” Imagines where his car has been (“14th Street Boys Stolen Car Club”) and takes it onto the New Jersey highways where he drops “Tenafly,” “Hackensack” and Routes 26 and 22 like an experienced pro. The music is still recorded on his home recording unit while his ambitions remain Phil Spector high and deep. The keyboards bleed into the jangly guitars and the over-compressed reverbed vocals. For the first time, Cornog sounds excited and relieved, alive and glowing.

                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                Andy says: Review from 1999: This is the sound of one man (F.M.Cornog), a guitar, a keyboard, a home studio and a bedroom. Bruce Springsteen used the same equipment to record "Nebraska", and it's not just the fact they're both native New Yorkers, but a similar sense of romance in the face of desolation permeates both albums. A drum machine, reverby acoustics, smouldering lonesome electrics....these songs have the classic simplicity and heartrending beauty of The Jesus And Mary Chain at their moodiest, whilst the landscape, lyrics and ambience are pure Brooce. Although home-made and lo-fi (and that 'studio' is a Tascam 388, as used by that other Bruce-o-phile: Badly Drawn Boy!) the sound is surprisingly deep, enveloping and rich (It's not scratchy and indie-schmindie; in a parallel universe this would be an international No.1 Record). But its status as one of Piccadilly Records' Albums Of The Year (1999) is really, as always, down to the songs. There's not one duffer. "Astrofarm" has an anthemic and meloncholy beauty that recalls The Stone Roses, albeit on smack! "Party Drive" (sample lyric: "Route 66 or 22, a joint for me, pills for you") sounds like Shane McGowan, crooning over a Springsteen demo and tells the story of a couple of friends getting wrecked whilst cruising the 'lonely highways'. "Atlantic City" builds and builds into an elegiac wash of sound and the prettiest guitar: it's 9 minutes of pure beauty. It is very sad, even lonesome music, but, as Kurt Cobain once said, there's a comfort in that. Sad songs say so much.

                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                LP Info: 180 gram vinyl. First time available on vinyl. LP includes coupon for full album download plus 10 previously unreleased bonus tracks also via the download coupon.

                                Versus

                                Hurrah

                                  Versus are a band from New York City. Their 4th full length album, recorded by the band in their NYC rehearsal space over the course of a year and a half. Songs that are delicate yet complex, weaving intricate sonic dialogues, flourishes of blissful noise mixed with gentle waves of soothing calm, while always staying true to their infectious pop roots.


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                                  This new album on @BurningAWitch is rather special, sonically and visually. As Barry says - ‘An album of shimmering… https://t.co/DEmd6oMzZ2
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                                  RT @ScottySlungLow: @johnharris1969 @PiccadillyRecs In the run up to Christmas, that booklet is to me as a middle-aged man what the Argos c…
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                                  Thank you for the kind words John. 🙌🏻 https://t.co/9HjorKgejC
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