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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.

        Hollie Cook combines her unique vocal talent and charisma to craft a dynamic strand of lovers rock with enduring tropical vibes, weaving a path from her West London roots to an arena of diverse collaborations, critically acclaimed records, and iconic live appearances around the world. Cook’s ability to surprise, delight, and progress solidifies her position as one of the most exciting voices in reggae, and this is clear on her third full-length and Merge debut, "Vessel of Love". Cook’s music career commenced at age 19, when family friend and punk trailblazer Ari Up asked Cook to join the raucous ’70s post-punk outfit The Slits for their reformation in 2006. Thrown into the deep end she thrived, and quickly cut her teeth with four years of back-to-back shows around the globe. Her talents recognized and nurtured, she then released her first solo album "Hollie Cook" in 2011, with a revered 2012 dub album follow-up, while singles such as “Milk & Honey” and “That Very Night” gained support from influential radio stations across Europe. After performing at The Stone Roses concert at Manchester’s Heaton Park at the personal request of Ian Brown, and her hypnotic performance on the prestigious Later…With Jools Holland, the way was paved for Hollie’s solo career. By the end of 2014, Jamie T had requested her support for his Alexandra Palace show and featured her on his track “They Told Me It Rained.” Cook had also unleashed "Twice" via Mr. Bongo Records, and with Mike 'Prince Fatty' Pelanconi once again aiding in the album’s conception, Cook confidently delivered her follow-up to a well-received debut. Hollie hit the road with both The Skints and Protoje, and lent her vocal talent to Quantic’s “Shuffle Them Shoes” single, which also featured on his 1000 Watts album. Acclaimed legendary producer Martin 'Youth' Glover (Killing Joke) is Cook’s most recent collaborator, lending his venerable production expertise to "Vessel of Love". Hollie Cook sits in good company on Glover’s impressive production list, joining Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, The Verve, Primal Scream, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode. Glover describes Cook’s songs as 'sharp lyrical observations and clever word play combined with an exquisite and informed pop sensibility.' Hollie Cook’s vibrant, spirited take on lovers rock radiates positivity, and with "Vessel of Love", expect to see her on top of the tropical throne of pop in 2018.

        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.

          Hallelujah Anyhow is the next studio album from Hiss Golden Messenger. Its ten new songs, penned by HGM principal M.C. Taylor, were recorded with Brad Cook, Phil Cook, Josh Kaufman, Darren Jessee, Michael Lewis, and Evan Ringel. Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Tift Merritt, Skylar Gudasz, Tamisha Waden, Mac McCaughan, and John Paul White provided vocal harmonies. From the desk of M.C. Taylor, July 18, 2017: I’m from nowhere. That’s the way I feel about it now, right at this moment. Music took me and made me and gave me a purpose and I built my world with it, and now my geography is a musical one, forever.

          And when I break, when I think about running as far as I can, I remember that there is nothing that does me like music, and I might as well be a poor man in a world of my own device. Hallelujah anyhow. Rhythm? I learned it over twenty years in the back of rented vans, in attics and back rooms—hard places to get to, harder places to get out of. And now rhythm is my clock and I live by it. We all do. But it’ll kill you if you’re not careful. It might kill you even if you are. Hallelujah anyhow. I see the dark clouds. I was designed to see them. They’re the same clouds of fear and destruction that have darkened the world since Revelations, just different actors. But this music is for hope. That’s the only thing I want to say about it. Love is the only way out. I’ve never been afraid of the darkness; it’s just a different kind of light. And if some days that belief comes harder than others, hallelujah anyhow.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          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

              2xDeluxe LP Info: 2LP deluxe edition is black vinyl album in uncoated double gatefold jacket with foil stamp & black dustsleeve + poster + cloud white colour bonus LP with a full album of demo versions + DL, this format is for Cargo Collective stores only.

              2xDeluxe LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              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.

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              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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