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Redd Kross

Beyond The Door

    Redd Kross invite you to explore Beyond the Door, an album inspired by the band’s “total commitment to having the best f*cking time we can have while we’re all still here” (what they like to call “the Party”). It’s a rock and roll record and a celebration of everything brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald love, from cultures both high and low. Musically, it’s guitars, bass, and drums topped with a generous portion of sweet vocal melodies often delivered with an ambiguous edge. Beyond the Door marks Redd Kross’ most collaborative record to date. Steven describes this evolution: “Jeff is still very much the driving force behind the compositions, but with more help from me than ever. Jeff and I haven’t shared this much of the writing and singing since Born Innocent in 1981.” Guitarist Jason Shapiro and drummer Dale Crover (Melvins, OFF!) are longtime members of the Redd Kross live band, but this album marks the pair’s recorded debut with the group. Mixed in Los Angeles by Steven McDonald, Beyond the Door includes notable guest appearances from Anna Waronker (That Dog), Geré Fennelly, Buzz Osborne (Melvins), and Josh Klinghoffer. Setting the stage is album opener “The Party,” a raucous cover of the Henry Mancini-penned title theme from a 1968 Blake Edwards film.

    The opening line of the song (“The party is groovy and everyone here loses control, yeah…”) is the perfect declaration Redd Kross want to make—and they don’t just mean some beer-guzzling teen hesher affair, either. The Redd Kross party is groovy, yeah… Just listen! Of title track “Beyond the Door” Steven recounts, “I started the track as just a fun glitter romp, and during tracking, Jeff decided to take a stab at writing the vocal melody and lyrics. Seems like an obvious way to work, but we’ve never done it before. From that came a tale of childhood obsession with demonic possession nurtured on TV brain junk food and the golden age of rock and roll, 1971–73.” On the surface, the album title is a playful reference to an Italian horror film the McDonald brothers watched as children, a loose rip-off of both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby that stars Juliet Mills of ’70s television program Nanny and the Professor. But like all things Redd Kross, it would be a sad injustice to stop digging there.

    No one knows what lies Beyond the Door… but we’re all in front of it. Inspirations as varied as K-pop, glitter gangs, embarrassed tweens, long-term relationships, a mysterious character named Fantástico Roberto, and much more all contributed to Beyond the Door, an album that lures the listener into Redd Kross’ secret club full of riddles and inside jokes, with the ultimate reward of the perfect pop moment! 

    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.” 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Brilliantly rhythmic dubbed-out beats, angular synth-pop and Moolchan's visceral vocal delivery. As dark as it is absorbing, 'Highway Hypnosis' is an essential addition to the scene, and an absolutely stunning listen. Top stuff.

    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.

      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

          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

          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.

            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.

              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.

                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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