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MERGE RECORDS

Mikal Cronin

Seeker

    Mikal Cronin releases Seeker, his fourth and finest full-length to date. Recorded live with a crew of close friends and engineer Jason Quever at Palmetto Studios in Los Angeles, it finds Cronin pushing his often devastating power pop into darker territory—from the isolation of “Show Me” to the desperation of “Fire” to the unadorned heartache of “Sold.”

    It comes with a backstory that feels like fate. Cronin writes:

    I was stuck. I’d had a rough few years. Relationships end, begin, and end again. I had to stay active, tour with other bands, make music through various other avenues—writer’s block is real and it can crush you, scratching at an itch you can’t quite get. I needed to clean up, to stop leaning on external crutches to get through the anxiety. I needed to grow the fuck up.

    I needed a change.

    I went to the woods, to Idyllwild, a small town in the mountains of southern California. I spent a month in a cabin there, alone with my cat, Ernie. It was so quiet and peaceful. I got weird looks at the store. I got bug bites that didn’t heal for months. I walked around a small lake a few times. I wrote. I took literally something that’s usually a hypothetical, something every artist thinks about doing. It worked: A large majority of Seeker was written and demoed there.

    But then I had to go, immediately. An arsonist had sparked a series of fires and the woods exploded. I saw the flames coming up the hill as I packed up all my instruments and recording equipment. Ernie hid under the bed and was the last to go. I got him in the car just as the police came up the street to help with evacuations. I ended up home in LA a few days early; a small blessing because I was losing my mind a bit.

    Once I was back, I was ready to make something. I needed help. I found Jason [Quever] and his studio. I collected as many friends as I could and brought them in to record live with me. I needed the energy of a group of people in a room playing together—a simple concept but one that I had never tried with my own songs. Most of the record is backed by Ty Segall’s Freedom Band. I play bass in this band. We had been touring and playing together for a long run over a few years, so it seemed natural to stick together.

    I aimed for nature. I wanted organic sounds. I wanted to bring you into the room. Jason and I talked about The Beatles’ White Album a lot when placing mics. I brought a charred pine cone from the woods to the studio, just in case it would help. Fire—specifically its cycle of purging and reseeding the landscape—is a central theme to the record. Death and rebirth.

    I was looking for something: answers, direction, peace. I am the seeker.



    FORMAT INFORMATION

    2xDinked Edition LP Info: Edition of 450.
    Exclusive translucent green + black swirl vinyl LP.
    Includes exclusive bonus 12" with "Arsonist" b/w "Tsinosra" pressed on translucent red + yellow vinyl.
    Numbered.

    Coloured LP Info: Indie stores exclusive on blue vinyl with matte gatefold.

    Little Scream

    Speed Queen

      On her third album, Little Scream offers a reflection on class and poverty in America. Speed Queen began as bits of prose written while touring her last album across North America—observing the slow entropy of the US, ruminating on her own low-income upbringing in a flyover state, and, as she says, “taking it all in from the privileged position of being a new Canadian.” In “Privileged Child,” she reminds wealthy people who like to adopt the style of the poor and working class that “poverty’s a feeling money just can’t buy.” On “Dear Leader,” she reminds those opposing migration that “when the waters rise, it’s gonna be you, Miami,” warning them that when they’re needing help, “…you will ask your God, but he’ll be busy getting risen, and the rich will be too busy buying stock in private prisons— that’s where they’ll send you for talking about socialism.”

      The biting commentary served with a sense of humour softens its presentation but doesn’t detract from its power. This is a theme throughout Speed Queen, where humour and warm heartedness prevail despite some of the darker subjects touched upon. Montreal-based Laurel Sprengelmeyer has been playing music under the moniker Little Scream since 2008. In 2011, she released The Golden Record, which Pitchfork dubbed “a stellar debut” and NPR called “an absolutely captivating record.” It was included in NPR’s Best Albums of 2011 list, and the New York Times evoked its “hints of the divine.” Her second album and Merge debut Cult Following featured guests including Sufjan Stevens, Mary Margaret O’Hara, and Sharon Van Etten. Little Scream is using the release of first single “Dear Leader” to raise awareness about the 1000 Cities initiative. “If 1000 cities adopt Paris climate accord standards, the world can still meet its global emissions targets,” Little Scream explains. “Most of us feel disenfranchised from international agreements. But all of us can get our heads around local involvement.” That kind of optimism in the face of harsh reality is a theme that has always run through Little Scream’s work, whether personal or political. Speed Queen is a powerful reflection of that hard-won hope. 

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Gold Metallic swirl vinyl in printed jacket.

      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Hiss Golden Messenger

      Terms Of Surrender

        Describing the Durham based Hiss Golden Messenger is like trying to grasp a forgotten word: It’s always on the tip of your tongue, but hard to speak. Songwriter and bandleader M.C. Taylor’s music is at once familiar, yet impossible to categorize: Elements from the American songbook the steady, churning acoustic guitar and mandolin, the gospel emotion, the eerie steel guitar tracings, the bobbing and weaving organ and electric piano provide the bedrock for Taylor’s existential ruminations about parenthood, joy, hope, and loneliness. And then there’s an indescribable spirit and movement: Hiss Golden Messenger’s music grooves. There’s nothing else quite like it. For over ten years, Taylor has spearheaded this prolific, perpetually evolving group. He’s toured and recorded relentlessly, earning devotees along the roads, deep in festival pits, and across the seas.

        “The work that I do requires me to be in a certain emotional place,” says Taylor. “My music depends first and foremost on being in a heightened emotional state and putting my vulnerability on display.” This vulnerability is also central to Taylor’s steadily growing fanbase, which continues to discover universal themes in his deeply personal work. The critical acclaim and attention for Hiss Golden Messenger and barn-burning performances on Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Seth Meyers affirm the emotional power of Taylor’s work.

        This raw emotion is especially apparent on Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album, Terms of Surrender. Terms follows Taylor’s journey through a tumultuous year of trauma and psychological darkness, hoping and working towards redemption and healing, and the conflicting draw of home and movement. “Another year older,” Taylor sings on album opener “I Need a Teacher.” “Debt slightly deeper. Paycheck smaller. Goddamn, I need a teacher.”

        Later, Taylor tracks the complex dynamic between father and grown son on “Cat’s Eye Blue,” singing, “Is this wicked word too bad to be spoken? You let the heart attack in. One taste and it’s broken.” He later pivots towards his relationship with his own daughter on “Happy Birthday, Baby.”

        Taylor says that he wanted to make Terms of Surrender “a wandering record. I wanted where we recorded it to mirror the searching spirit of the music.” Having written upwards of 40 songs in motel rooms, his studio in Durham, and a secluded cottage outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, 10 songs were chosen. Includes regular collaborators Phil and Brad Cook, Josh Kaufman, and Matt McCaughan and new friends like Jenny Lewis and Aaron Dessner (of The National).

        Hiss Golden Messenger songs create feelings to which devoted listeners attach their own meanings and memories with each repeated spin. Throughout Terms of Surrender, those feelings range from fearful to celebratory. But perhaps the title track with its refrain of “I’m gonna give it/ but don’t make me say it/ It’s one thing to bend it, my love, but another to break it” best summarizes the nature of Taylor’s work as a musician, father and spouse, and cultural communicator on this album.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: I was just having a discussion with Dave about how i'm obviously getting a little bit older, and my tastes are changing, veering more towards slightly miserable Americana ballads, but my appreciation for HGM has remained throughout regardless of my advancing years. It's a testament to his skill as a songwriter that he can continue to smash out such beautiful LP's without veering too far from the formula, but keeping things as transportive and dreamy as they are on 'Terms Of Surrender'.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Pressed on coke-bottle clear vinyl & includes a 22.75" x 33" foldout poster insert.

        David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights

        Bobbie's A Girl

          "It's moody - as in low, subdued," says David Kilgour of his new album, Bobbie's a girl. David Kilgour’s 11th solo album, Bobbie’s a girl is a quieter affair than fans may associate with the pioneer of New Zealand indie rock. “I tended to shy away from too much guitar playing for a point of difference and to mix things up for myself a little,” Kilgour continues. The style set in at the beginning of sessions, as he and the Heavy Eights (i.e., longtime collaborators Thomas Bell, Tony de Raad, and Taane Tokona) headed to Port Chalmers Recording Services with producer Tex Houston. “We have worked on these songs for a number of years now, so that’s different because I usually can’t wait to get them out,” Kilgour says. Why the delay? Like with the themes of the album, Kilgour doesn’t want to elaborate too much.

          “Everything’s related to the music and mood,” he says, “but I’d rather not say how. I like a little mystery.” Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls the ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground. Opener “Entrance” floats wordlessly on acoustic guitar, whose ringing chords slightly mask the deft fingerpicking beneath it. “Smoke you right out of here” picks up the pace, but “Crawler” rolls in like a storm, its organ and fingerpicked guitars creating an ominous sound until a chorus of “aaaahs” lightens the mood. Only four songs have lyrics. “I kind of wanted a rest from verbalizing everything, like listening to yourself going, ‘Blah blah blah blah…,” Kilgour says. The guitar quietly shimmering between channels, the music seems to speak more than the words. “Ngapara,” the closing track of Bobbie’s a girl, is his favorite song on the album. It’s a loping instrumental carried by thickly distorted guitars and heavy reverb. Like the rest of Bobbie’s a girl, it feels both a part of Kilgour’s previous work, and just outside of it

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Clear with opaque yellow & red swirl vinyl.

          Superchunk

          Acoustic Foolish

            Originally released in 1996, Foolish turns 25 in 2019. 

            From Mac McCaughan: Our original idea for an all-acoustic album was for it to be a selection of songs from all our albums, played in the style of an acoustic performance in a record store or a radio station, which we have done quite a bit of over the years (and documented on the first of our “Clambake” series in 2001). But with 2019 being the 25th anniversary of the Foolish album, it seemed weirder and more interesting to record an acoustic version of one whole album. I didn’t want this to sound like “acoustic demos recorded 25 years after the fact” or a band trying to “rock out” except on acoustic guitars, though to be fair we do some rocking out. Once we got into the process of learning how to play the songs on acoustic guitars—some of which we had never performed at all—it made sense to make this record its own thing altogether. When Foolish came out, people kind of freaked out that all the guitar sounds weren’t as distorted as they had been, and it was treated as a radical departure from what we had been doing. Which is funny listening to the original album now because it pretty much sounds like our other records. But I started thinking about the acoustic version of the album as “what Foolish would have sounded like if it were as different as people acted like it was.” So—we have guests, we have strings, we have piano, we have a saxophone! The songs themselves, extracted from the drama of the moment and what people wanted to write about then, are more applicable to Real Life than I thought they would be. Without the embarrassing angst of the 25-year-old, they are just songs about transitions, holding grudges or trying not to, letting go of things that aren’t healthy, moving through difficult situations and relationships and trying to be “normal” in the course of all that, even though there’s no such thing. We are lucky to have Allison Crutchfield, Matt Douglas, Peter Holsapple, Owen Pallett, and Jenn Wasner lend their great talents to the record and also lucky that Jon has an arsenal of small bells and a vibraslap.

            Acoustic Foolish recorded live by John Plymale at Overdub Lane Strings by Owen Pallett on “Like a Fool” & “In a Stage Whisper”. Guest vocals by Allison Crutchfield (of P.S. Eliot, Swearin’) on “The First Part” Guest vocals by Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes) on “Keeping Track” Piano by Peter Holsapple (of the dB’s) on “Stretched Out” & “Driveway to Driveway” Saxophone by Matt Douglas (of the Mountain Goats) on “Saving My Ticket” and “In a Stage Whisper”.

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            Ltd LP Info: LP is black vinyl in uncoated jacket with foil stamp detail+ LP3 coupon.

            Joyero

            Release The Dogs

              Andy Stack has rightfully earned a reputation as a generous collaborator and musical polymath, both as half of the beloved duo Wye Oak and on the road and in the studio with Lambchop, Helado Negro, and EL VY. As a multiinstrumentalist and producer, Andy has an uncanny ability to construct the precise musical architecture to frame and support unique and compelling voices. With his debut solo record as Joyero, Andy puts his own voice front and center. Written and recorded primarily in Marfa, Texas, during a transitional moment between records, cities, and relationships, Release the Dogs occupies its own liminal space between the natural and the man-made, between the structures we create to keep ourselves safe and the terrifying enormity that exists beyond them. Throughout the record, organic and electronic elements are seamlessly woven together into a single fabric that can be both intimate and explosive. The fingerpicked guitars of “After You” appear no more or less “real” than the processed drum machine beats on album opener “Alight,” just as the tarantula on the album’s cover appears no more or less “real” than the white wall on which it sits.

              The magic of the image, and the magic of the record, is in the way they are framed together. As with Wye Oak’s best records, Release the Dogs finds its own unique voice by holding opposing ideas and aesthetics in tension with each other, and inviting the listener to find their own answer. That tension comes through loud and clear in Andy’s voice, which is recorded so intimately that it sometimes sounds like it’s emanating from inside your own throat. “While you’re away, I wait outside the house / Lift an ear to every sound / I sleep all day like a dog whose master’s out,” he sings on “Dogs,” painting a vivid picture of the album’s titular animals as a symbol of both domestic stasis and what often lurks beneath it. Throughout Release the Dogs, the habits and rituals of domestic life begin to crack and fray under the questions we are afraid to ask and the truths we are afraid to acknowledge. After painting a picture of daily domestic tasks like gardening and baking bread in “Starts,” Andy concludes, “We live between the good and the bad dream,” giving voice to the ways in which the signifiers of domestic stability can, themselves, be illusions or fantasies.

              At times, Release the Dogs brings to mind the homespun world-building of Phil Elverum’s early-’00s work as The Microphones. At times, it brings to mind the deliberate introspection of Arthur Russell. It’s a cliché to say that a record “defies comparison,” but it fits here; not because of any self-styled aesthetic obtusity, but rather because Release the Dogs invites you into such an intimate and singular space that you can’t imagine it being anything, anywhere, or anyone else. Even as he constructs ever more complicated musical worlds, and even as he fills those worlds with big, complicated questions, Andy is still somehow making it all seem natural and effortless

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              Coloured LP Info: Indies-only orange swirl vinyl.

              Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              Gauche

              People’s History Of Gauche

                A People's History of Gauche, a collective catharsis of anger, frustration, and trauma through creativity. Jason P Barnett, Adrienne CN Berry, Mary Jane Regalado, Pearie Sol, and Daniele Yandel find their agency and joy through creating and performing music together in 36 minutes of groove-filled power punk. When asked about the genesis of the title of their Merge debut, Daniele cited this definition: A people's history, or history from below, is an account of events from the perspective of common people rather than leaders, the story of mass movements and of outsiders. It's a fitting title for an album that tackles such heavy topics as anxiety, capitalism and colonialization, and healing ancestral traumas, as well as dismantling and dissecting patriarchy, creating beauty in the face of oppressive forces, and resisting exploitation. These are vital songs manifested in a celebratory manner, created quickly through the group's self-proclaimed "Gauche magic." Recorded with Austin Brown (Parquet Courts) and Robert Szmurlo in Brooklyn, NY, and with Jonah Takagi (Ex Hex) in DC, A People’s History of Gauche marks the first time the band worked with people outside of their ranks, resulting in a fuller sound that boasts more intricate instrumentation.

                From the very first line of album opener “Flash”—“Light’s supposed to show the way, not over-expose it”—Gauche are here to compel us to dance while singing along about society’s universal struggles. Gauche undoubtedly make art, but their guiding tenet is craft. "When I say that, I mean in the sense that Art with a capital A is thought of as something rarefied, something outside the context of everyday life, outside of everyone's grasp or potential," expounds Daniele. "That sense of craft, of something you return to every day and is valuable because it is something you share in common with all people, is how I think of music. Well, good music at least." Gauche bring us music and movement and struggle and light, and now it is our job to dance! 

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                Deluxe LP Info: Limited opaque pink & white marbled vinyl LP plus exclusive 7" clear flexi disc.

                Deluxe LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                Love Language

                The Love Language

                  “A casually stunning work of one-man-band lo-fi indie pop. McLamb’s songs, a mix of moody piano ballads and bouncy guitar rock are aching love letters that combine the emotional directness of Big Star with the raw immediacy of Guided by Voices.” SPIN. From frontman Stuart McLamb: On The Love Language's most recent tour opening for Teenage Fanclub, we played for lots of fresh ears, many of whom came to the merch table after the show and asked, "If you had to pick one, which of your albums is your favorite?" That's a very tough question, like trying to pick a favorite child. While it's hard to call it "best," it's impossible to deny that our self-titled record is and will always be the most sentimental to me.

                  It's where it all started. A collection of demos posted every couple months on Myspace between 2007 and 2008 until we were signed to our first label, Portland, Oregon's Bladen County Records, who compiled them all as a full LP in 2009. The songs came effortlessly, and each one was recorded by a mobile multitrack recorder in various rooms (storage spaces, the back office of a record store, living rooms) throughout North Carolina literal hours after it was conceived. There's a freshness and vitality to these songs that I hope, but don't expect, to recapture again. It's the sound of a songwriter discovering their voice in real time. The record has been out of print on vinyl for a few years now, and I'm excited to reissue it with some slight updates to the original packaging with my friends at Merge Records! 

                  Fruit Bats

                  Gold Past Life

                    Gold Past Life marks both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records that began with 2014’s EDJ (a solo record by name, but a Fruit Bats release in spirit) and hit a peak with 2016’s Absolute Loser. They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been. “I wrote music to comfort myself,” says Johnson of those times. “It was a soothing balm.”

                    But these salves, these songs on Gold Past Life, also represent new beginnings the journeys that await after making it through troubled times. In fact, the notion of getting in a van to move on—literally and metaphorically—is exactly what Gold Past Life is all about. It’s about rejecting notions of idealized nostalgia (“Gold Past Life”) and the process of grounding oneself in the present, both geographically (“A Lingering Love,” “Ocean”) and spiritually (“Drawn Away”). Musically, says Johnson, “I put myself into a lot of scary situations last year.” He curated a set at Newport Folk Festival, participated in an artist residency as part of the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, and workshopped music at the PEOPLE Festival in Berlin. These experiences helped coax out new sounds and styles for Fruit Bats. Of course, Johnson’s falsetto still shines atop the bopping folk-rock of Gold Past Life.

                    However, the new record also features more keyboard influences and a range of guests including Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore, Vampire Weekend), Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and more. According to Johnson, “Fruit Bats has been a cult band for a long time.” With Gold Past Life, he hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin’ on with a wider audience. “Fruit Bats makes existential make-out music,” he describes with a chuckle. “But you’re also welcome to dive into it deeper if you want. Good pop music should be sublime like that.” 

                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                    Coloured LP Info: Aqua vinyl with a black vinyl 7”. Exclusive to indie stores only.

                    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                    Titus Andronicus

                    An Obelisk

                      Obelisk is the sixth album from Titus Andronicus, which finds the band under stewardship of producer and legendary rocker Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar). This trans-generational meeting of the minds has yielded the most immediate and unadorned Titus Andronicus record to date. Clocking in at 38 minutes, it is also the shortest. Recorded over six days at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, An Obelisk presents the sound of Titus Andronicus, rock band, at its most irreducible, as monolithic as the album’s titular monument.

                      Titus Andronicus is led by singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles, now flanked by longtime guitarist Liam Betson and the indomitable rhythm section of R.J. Gordon on bass and Chris Wilson on drums. An Obelisk is the first record to showcase this lineup from tip to tail, each track bearing distinctive fingerprints of each musician, their particular chemistry honed through extensive touring and rigorous rehearsals. Excepting the background vocals of Ralph Darden (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), no outside musicians were utilized, leaving ample room for the pummeling drums and slashing guitars to thrive under the notoriously economical hand of Mould. “Bob Mould is quite the role model to a guy like me,” Stickles confesses. “He has conducted his 40-year career with a remarkable level of integrity and loyalty to his own internal compass. He has often zigged when he was expected to zag, but the consistent excellence of his output has earned him the unconditional trust of his audience. What more could you want than that? What better way, for a guy like me, to learn to actualize such a vision than to get into the man’s workplace and do as he tells me to do?”

                      Tempting as it may be to label An Obelisk a “back to basics” effort, this is not a return to the band’s roots—this is an excavation of the dirt beneath those roots. An Obelisk also functions as a companion to A Productive Cough. Together, these records present a panoramic view of Titus Andronicus’ musical interests. An Obelisk has all the trappings of a classic punk album, though, to hear Stickles tell it, it is moreso an album about punk. “In a universe devoid of higher meaning, it is our responsibility to impose our own meaning upon it and to afford others the space to do the same. The true ‘punk’ must be constantly assessing and reassessing their own values and belief systems, lest they fall into the trap of merely pulling their identity off of the rack, in the manner of the snobs and meatheads they claim to oppose.” “The way in which an obelisk narrows as it reaches skyward reminds me of the way in which our system seems to consolidate power onto a smaller and smaller base over time,” Stickles concludes. “Whenever, wherever the sun shines, an obelisk casts a long shadow—An Obelisk is the story of one individual’s attempt to find a place for himself in that darkness.” 

                      STAFF COMMENTS

                      Barry says: Mixing the rawkous, booze-addled punk drawl of the Pogues with more modern distortion and dynamic activity was never going to be an easy task, but with legendary musician and producer Bob Mould at the helm, it was never going to be anything but exceptional. Heavy but reassuringly sludgy, 'An Obelisk' is a superb mix of all the influences that make modern punk so great. Top stuff.

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: Grey & black vinyl in matte jacket.

                      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                      Reigning Sound

                      Abdication... For Your Love

                        Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright found himself unable to refuse—despite his band’s tenuous existence at the time. “Several line-up changes had ensued after the original Memphis quartet disbanded, and I found myself considering the possibility of shedding the Reigning Sound moniker,” muses Cartwright. “I had decided to take a break to work on production for other people and write songs for The Parting Gifts, my upcoming collaboration with Coco Hames.” But now, Reigning Sound had an offer on the table, and there was no band. Besides Cartwright, the one constant of Reigning Sound’s previous three years was keyboardist Dave Amels, who was moonlighting in The Jay Vons, the Brooklyn soul combo formed by Long Island natives Michael Catanese, Benny Trokan, and Mikey Post.

                        Sometimes Amels would even pull double duty at gigs where Reigning Sound and The Jay Vons shared a bill. When The Parting Gifts released their outstanding album Strychnine Dandelion in 2010, The Jay Vons opened shows for them on a brief tour. A few months later, Scion came knocking. Around the same time, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who provided guitar for the Parting Gifts record, had just moved to Nashville and was busy putting the final touches on a private studio. “Dan was eager to do some work in the new studio in preparation for an upcoming session with Dr. John, and he offered us some studio time as well as his production assistance. Tentative arrangements with Nashville players evaporated one after another due to prior engagements or last-minute snafus. 

                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                        Coloured LP Info: Initial copies come on red vinyl.

                        The Mountain Goats

                        In League With Dragons

                          The Mountain Goats are John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, And Matt Douglas. They have been making music together as a quartet for several years. Three of them live in North Carolina and one has moved back to Rochester.

                          Their songs often seek out dark lairs within which terrible monsters dwell, but their mission is to retrieve the treasure from the dark lair & persuade the terrible monsters inside to seek out the path of redemption. As Axl Rose once memorably asked, in the song “Terrible Monster”: “What’s so terrible about monsters, anyway?” This is the question The Mountain Goats have been doggedly pursuing since 1991. They will never leave off this quest until every option has been exhausted. Thank You.


                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Barry says: As far as concept albums about gaming, i'm all in, and this one is lovely. It's a strange but perfectly formed beast, with smooth scales interspersed with fiery outbursts. Another wonderfully formed outing from The Mountain Goats.

                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                          2xColoured LP Info: 2xLP coloured + 7” is green vinyl album + black vinyl single in gatefold jacket + download (2000 only).

                          On It’s Real, the group’s second album, Ex Hex’s commitment to larger-than-life riffs and unforgettable hooks remains intact, but the garage-y, post-punk approach that defined their debut album Rips has grown in scale and ambition. What started as a reaction to the blown-out aesthetic of Rips would test the sonic limits of the power trio and lead the band on a quest for a more immersive and three-dimensional sound. Vocal harmonies are layered ten tracks deep, solos shimmer and modulate atop heaving power chords, and the codas linger and stretch toward new frontiers of sound. On first listen, you might think you’ve unearthed a long-lost LP carved from the space where crunch-minded art rock and glitter-covered hard rock converge, an event horizon at the intersection of towering choruses and swaggering guitars.

                          Ex Hex were already one of America’s best guitar bands—but on It’s Real, their musical savvy has thrillingly combined with anything-goes curiosity, studio experimentation, and a dedication to refinement, resulting in an album that’s ready to be played at maximum volume.

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Barry says: Ex hex return with their most incendiary offering yet. Blazing hooks and huge rock choruses, encompassing that huge 70's rock sound with all of the best pomp and stadium grandiosity chucked in for good measure. TURN IT UP

                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                          Coloured LP Info: Limited LP in matte jacket + pink & blue swirl vinyl (2700 only worldwide), this is for Indie stores only.

                          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                          LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                          Eno Williams, frontwoman of Ibibio Sound Machine, uses both English and the Nigerian language from which her band’s name is derived for the dazzling new album. Long lauded for jubilant, explosive live shows, Ibibio Sound Machine fully capture that energy on "Doko Mien", the followup to "Uyai". By pulsing the mystic shapes of Williams’ lines through further inventive, glittering collages of genre, Ibibio Sound Machine crack apart the horizon separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and future. That propensity for duality and paradox seems common in people whose lives span continents. Williams was born in the UK, but grew up in Nigeria, always steeped in her family heritage. She obsessed over West African electronic music, highlife, and the like, but was equally empowered by Western genres such as post-punk, disco, and funk.

                          The traditional Ibibio folk tale bobs over the waves of tuned percussion, chunky synth, and pinprick highlife-esque guitar, while Jose Joyette’s drums and Derrick McIntyre’s bass funk groove bring everyone to the dance floor. 'These stories won’t be forgotten. Feel the music: it speaks to everybody,' Williams says. 'We can travel back in time together, while convening on a futuristic, present tense. We hope that we can give people that reason to wake up, that one song to sing and dance and be happy.'

                          On their new album, Ibibio Sound Machine provide the perfect companion, ready to digest as much as possible and then further unfurl beauty and hope. They remember and honor the past and charge forward toward the future, all while intensely expanding the present.


                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                          LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                          Telekinesis

                          Effluxion

                            If Michael Benjamin Lerner has given us nothing more than an opportunity to nudge the word “effluxion” into the common vernacular, it is still a crowning cultural achievement. But he has given us much more than that. The fifth fulllength album he’s recorded as Telekinesis is perfect, unfussy power pop— romantic and hopeful and skittish and fresh and familiar, with hooks in all the
                            right places. He called the album Effluxion because he too found the word a little alien when he first heard it in passing, but it also captured the spirit in which the album was made. After Lerner largely traded guitars and drums for moodier synthesizers and drum machines on 2015’s Ad Infinitum—more OMD than GBV—Scottish indie-pop gods Teenage Fanclub invited Lerner on board as a touring member in 2017.

                            In addition to this being genie-lamp wish fulfillment for a devoted acolyte, playing those songs every night with his heroes brought him back to known pleasures. Effluxion is a back-to-basics album—not just in its reaffirmation of the sound and style that made Lerner an indie wunderkind a decade ago at age 22, but in the way it was created. Using the same now-discontinued MacBook microphone he used to record his earliest tracks, he holed up in the basement of his West Seattle home and put the album together piece by piece over the past two years, playing every instrument. While previous albums had former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla—who discovered and championed Telekinesis’ demos—and Spoon’s Jim Eno serving as producers and sounding boards and sidemen and general voices of authority and experience, Lerner wanted to do this one entirely on his own. 

                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                            Coloured LP Info: Indies-only green vinyl.

                            Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                            The cliché that circulated after the 2016 election foretold a new artistic golden age: Artists would transform their anger and anxiety into era-defining works of dissent in the face of authoritarianism.
                            Yet Bob Mould calls his new album Sunshine Rock.
                            It’s not because Mould—whose face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of alternative music—likes the current administration. His decision to “write to the sunshine,” as he describes it, comes from a more personal place – a place found in Berlin, Germany, where he’s spent the majority of the last three years. Here Mould would draw inspiration from the new environments.
                            “Almost four years ago, I made plans for an extended break,” Mould explains. “I started spending time in Berlin in 2015, found an apartment in 2016, and became a resident in 2017. My time in Berlin has been a life changing experience. The winter days are long and dark, but when the sun comes back, all spirits lift.”
                            These three years in Berlin would quite literally shed new light on Mould’s everyday mindset.

                            “To go from [2011 autobiography] See a Little Light to the last three albums, two of which were informed by loss of each parent, respectively, at some point I had to put a Post-It note on my work station and say, ‘Try to think about good things.’ Otherwise I could really go down a long, dark hole,” he says. “I’m trying to keep things brighter these days as a way to stay alive.”

                            That makes Sunshine Rock as logical a product of the current climate as any rage-fuelled agit-rock. Variations on the word “sun” appear 27 times in five different songs over the course of the album’s 37 minutes. To hear Mould tell it, the theme developed early.
                            “Sunshine Rock is one hell of a way to wrap up the busiest decade of my career,” he shares. “The autobiography, the Disney Hall tribute show, reissues of several albums from my catalogue, three current rock band albums, several world tours, and now this new album — I’m humbled and grateful to still be making new music while celebrating my lifetime songbook.”

                            STAFF COMMENTS

                            Barry says: The aptly titled Sunshine Rock is indeed another side to Mould, eschewing the dark undertones of his previous work, focusing on the more optimistic pop spirit that has always provided the counterfoil to his trademark gloom. Major-key resolutions to slowly-grown unease lifts the mood once again into shining summer haze. Exactly as accomplished as you'd expect from Mould, but a good deal more optimistic. Lovely.

                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                            LP Info: Black vinyl.

                            Neutral Milk Hotel

                            In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

                              Neutral Milk Hotel is Elephant 6 co-founder Jeff Mangum, Julian Koster (of Music Tapes), Scott Spillane (of the Gerbils) and Jeremy Barnes (of Beirut, A Hawk and a Hacksaw). In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the best-selling Merge titles of all time. In addition, annually, the album charts among the top vinyl titles sold industry wide in the USA. Originally released in 1998, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was named Best Album of the ‘90s by Magnet Magazine. Album rated 10.0 via Pitchfork at reissue (2005). 

                              Researching the Blues features 10 songs clocking in at just under 32 minutes. With songs written by Jeff and produced and mixed by Steven, the album is by far the band’s favorite record. Steve says, “It has the most singular artistic vision of any record we’ve done. It’s just 10 really fucking awesome songs that have the ability to move you in many different ways.” Founded 34 years ago in Los Angeles during the first wave of LA punk rock by brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald (then respectively 15 and 11 years old), Redd Kross cut their teeth opening for Black Flag at a middle school graduation party. Their debut recordings caught the attention of Rodney Bingenheimer, who quickly became a fan as he spun their Ramones-inspired songs like “Annette’s Got The Hits” and “I Hate My School” on the world-famous KROQ. In 2006, Jeff and Steven announced their reunion with the “classic Neurotica” line-up, joined once again by guitarist Robert Hecker (IT’S OK) and drummer Roy McDonald (The Muffs). Redd Kross have been playing to enthusiastic audiences at sold-out select shows and festivals such as the Azkena Festival; Coachella; The HooDoo Gurus’ Invitational, “Dig It Up”; All Tomorrow’s Parties; and Pop Montréal.

                              Hiss Golden Messenger

                              Poor Moon - Deluxe Remastered Reissue

                                Composed and arranged by Head Messenger M.C. Taylor at his home in the rural Piedmont mill town of Pittsboro and recorded with longtime collaborator Scott Hirsch in New York, California and North Carolina, Poor Moon offers a moving culmination of the spiritually-charged song cycle commenced on the critically acclaimed album Bad Debt. Treading a red-clay road between Bad Debt and Country Hai East Cotton in sound and sentiment, it is the first fully electric ensemble recording since the highly limited Hiss Golden Messenger live release Root Work in 2010.

                                Featuring contributions from Terry Lonergan, Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers; Pelt), Hans Chew (D. Charles Speer & the Helix), Matt Cunitz (Brightblack Morning Light), Tom Heyman (The Court & Spark), and others, Poor Moon represents both an elaboration and inversion of previous Hiss Golden Messenger efforts, proposing an America at perpetual sundown, wracked by devotion, wrecked by celebration. Named in homage to the Canned Heat track penned by the immortal Blind Owl, Poor Moon conjures the unsteady experience of soul at home in the wild, and it stands as a captivating document of Southern songcraft. Poor Moon remastered by Chris Boerner at Kitchen Mastering. Artwork reimagined by Sam Smith (Lateness of Dancers). 

                                Titus Andronicus

                                Home Alone On Halloween

                                  With Home Alone on Halloween, noted rock band Titus Andronicus [hereafter +@] celebrate the spookiest of the seasons by staring into the abyss and confronting the bone-chilling terror which lies at the haunted heart of our human experience. Bearing the justly feared catalog number MRG666, the 12-inch EP spans 31 minutes and features three tracks recorded concurrently with the group’s most recent full-length A Productive Cough, offering an autumnal tableau of dread and decay to complement its LP companion’s springtime visions of rebirth and new possibilities. The title track remixes A Productive Cough’s hardest-rocking selection, foregrounding its ominous strings and swelling organ and featuring a soulful new lead vocal from frequent +@ special-teams captain Matt “Money” Miller, while “Only a Hobo” plucks an oft-forgotten gem from the dusty corners of the Bob Dylan songbook to paint a grim portrait of hopes dashed and potential squandered. Eeriest of all is “A Letter Home,” which, across nearly 17 minutes and more than 1,200 words, drags the listener along for a harrowing descent into the darkness and proves definitively that this ceremony is no mere monster mash.

                                  “Death is not scary,” explains singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles, shaking off a cold sweat. “Everyone has to die, but not everyone gets to die surrounded by love with the satisfaction of a life well-lived. What frightens me, far more than ghouls or goblins, is knowing that I may yet face the former without the comfort of the latter. When it comes to that of which nightmares are made, a werewolf popping out of the bushes is nothing next to a life without love when it is too late to turn back.” 

                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                  Coloured LP Info: 12” EP orange vinyl + MP3 coupon. Ltd to 1,300 for world.

                                  When Escape-ism—nom de guerre of mythic rock ’n’ roll provocateur / theorist / revolutionary Ian Svenonius (performer, author, filmmaker, etc.) announced the imminent release of its second long-player, The Lost Record, it shook the foundations of the hermetic swamp / tundra known as “underground music.” In the music world, a “lost record” is the term for an LP that was passed over, unappreciated maybe not even released but is later discovered, unearthed, and celebrated by in-the-know tastemakers and canny connoisseurs. Many of our culture’s favorite records are “lost” records; once despised or unheard, they’re now in heavy rotation in the clubhouse and in the car. However, the process a record has to go through to be “lost”and then found again is arduous. It’s also quite risky, since most lost records are really just lost: tossed aside and forgotten forever. So, when Escape-ism—the most exciting group in the world announced its new and highly anticipated release The Lost Record, it created a commotion. For some, it seemed unfair for Escape-ism to jump ahead of the usual protocol and not go through the degradation that a historic “lost record” suffers: the endless time spent in a bin in the basement or a remote warehouse. Unshipped, unloved, unappreciated. But for Escape-ism, it seemed easier to circumvent the rigmarole and just get on with it. The Lost Record is a classic, destined to bewitch the minds, hearts, and dancing shoes of any rock ’n’ roll fan who happens to discover it, for as long as such creatures exist. Without the high-octane hype machine of the mind-control minstrels who hypnotize the hapless through the mass media, The Lost Record is bound for inevitable obscurity, but with its timeless tunes, poignant message, and innovative sound rediscovery and immortal status is equally assured! The Lost Record, being what it is, has enormous selling potential. Music enthusiasts will be thrilled to be the ones clever and kind enough to have rescued this platter from oblivion. It’s a no-brainer that The Lost Record will be both unfairly neglected but also enshrined as a pinnacle achievement for subterranean civilization. Listen to Escape-ism. See Escape-ism. Feel Escape-ism. Breathe Escape-ism. Live Escape-ism.

                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                  Barry says: It's true, everyone does a 'Lost Record' don't they, which more often than not begs the question, why did you lose it if it was good? I mean, if it's rubbish I wouldn't mind popping it on the seat of the bus whilst i get my book out, or using it to hold down my price labels whilst I write them etc. When things get confusing is when they're new records, but called 'The Lost Record' like this one from Escape-ism. Do they think it's going to get lost? Let's hope not because it's good.

                                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                                  Coloured LP Info: Clear swirl vinyl and ltd to 1,500 worldwide, this is for Indie stores only.

                                  Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                  Destroyer

                                  City Of Daughters

                                    2018 marks the 20th anniversary of City of Daughters City of Daughters is Destroyer’s second full length, originally released in 1998. 

                                    FORMAT INFORMATION

                                    Coloured LP Info: LP in jacket on uncoated stock + opaque red vinyl.

                                    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                    Various Artists

                                    I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats: All Hail West Texas

                                      Here is a 2LP cover album & companion piece to the podcast debut of I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, from Night Vale Presents in collaboration with Merge Records and the Mountain Goats. Premiering September 2017 and running through early April 2018, this unique bi-weekly podcast is a conversation music series focusing on the seminal Mountain Goats album All Hail West Texas, between Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead creator Joseph Fink with New York Times best-selling author John Darnielle, who is also the founder, lead singer, and songwriter for the Mountain Goats—and Fink’s own personal artistic hero.

                                      Together, Fink and Darnielle take the listener on a deep dive into the world of creativity and the duality of being an artist and a fan, both by sharing their own creative processes and music-geek obsessions and through immersive chats with other notable musicians and writers including best-selling YA author and music nerd John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan (Superchunk), as well as many special music guests such as Andrew Bird, Craig Finn, Laura Jane Grace, and Amanda Palmer, who offer up their own opinions as well as new renditions of songs from All Hail West Texas. This limited edition 2LP contains the full All Hail West Texas covers collection, introduced over the course of podcast season One. 

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      2xLP Info: 2LP is double gatefold with full album download.
                                      LP1 is opaque pink vinyl.
                                      LP2 is opaque blue vinyl.

                                      Titus Andronicus

                                      A Productive Cough

                                        Since debuting in 2008, Titus Andronicus [hereafter +@] has been conditioning faithful listeners to expect only the unexpected. With A Productive Cough, +@ has executed the most shocking departure yet—but only if, as ever mercurial singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles insists, “you haven’t been paying attention.” In a move that may infuriate the black-denim-and-PBR set, A Productive Cough sets aside leadfooted punk anthems in favor of a subtler, more spacious approach that pushes Stickles’ soul-baring songwriting to the fore, creating an intimacy between artist and audience with which previous +@ efforts had only flirted. “[+@] records have always had their fair share of ballads,” Stickles explains, “but they were always buried amidst a lot of screaming. Now, they are the cornerstones. Punk rock is nice, but it is but one tool in the toolbox from which I pull to achieve my artistic purpose, and that purpose has always been communication and validation. This time, perhaps I can more effectively talk to the people if I am not so busy yelling at them.” The mission of A Productive Cough is apparent from the first bars of opening track “Number One (In New York).” As a tableau of piano and dulcet horns unfolds, Stickles unleashes a breathless and unceasing 64-bar verse with subject matter as sprawling as the kitchen-sink arrangement, which grows to include sparkling guitars, twinkling bells, and uplifting choral vocals as Stickles searches desperately for the strength to carry on through an increasingly violent and frightening world. 

                                        Superchunk

                                        Superchunk

                                          When I listen to our first album now, other than cringing at some clams and the vocals and the juvenile attitude of the whole thing... what was I angry about? You'll have to ask 21-year-old me because in my memory, we were having fun. I hear the accumulation of our influences, which I suppose is normal for a first album—weaving all the things you loved up to that point into your own first thing.

                                          The Buzzcocks, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr, and Sonic Youth are all right there and what we were listening to. I was living in NYC finishing school when we made this record, so rehearsals and recording were all rushed. I'm surprised we knew this many songs well enough to record them. Twenty-seven years later, we still play at least three or four of these songs live occasionally (one of them all the time...), which says something good about a few of the songs, anyway! We got so much better as a band, and as songwriters, that it's hard to even see this as any kind of template for what Superchunk would eventually be, but it's definitely where we were at in 1989/90, Mac McCaughan. 

                                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                                          CD Info: CD & LP include an LP3 coupon to download the bonus Clambakes Vol 9: Other Music From Unshowered Grumblers – Live in NYC 1990 (11-track live recording from release week in 1990).

                                          A Giant Dog

                                          Toy

                                            Toy, the fourth LP from A Giant Dog and their second for Merge, shows the Austin quintet at the height of their powers. A solid year of road-dogging and woodshedding has made the band tighter than ever, the charging dynamo of Andrew Cashen and Andy Bauer's guitars in lockstep with the primal chug of the rhythm section Graham Low on bass and the recorded debut of Daniel Blanchard on drums. Singer Sabrina Ellis turns in another masterful performance, in equal parts brash, defiant, vulnerable, and raw.

                                            Lyrically, Sabrina and Andrew have a gift for making their personal frustrations and fuck-ups, fears, lusts, and addictions feel universal. While they have always given voice to the weirdos and creeps—showing that their peccadilloes and peculiarities are much more deep-seated and widespread they dig even deeper on Toy. “I feel I’ve revealed more in this album than ever before,” Sabrina confesses. Still, the band doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of catchiness or charm when tackling issues like aging, agency, and mortality. For proof, just look at “Photograph,” the sweetest love song about physical longing and enduring devotion to one’s lover, even as their body succumbs to the ravages of time.

                                            The band recorded Toy with Grammy-winning engineer Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, Cat Power, The White Stripes, Reigning Sound), and singer/songwriter/guitarist/wildman Cashen produced it. "Andrew as producer makes a lot of sense," Sabrina says. "He composes the songs and knows better than anyone what they should sound like in the end. With him at the helm, we've arrived at a raw, truthful, risky, and rangey album." Toy is also sonically huge, pulling from a range of influence s as diverse as Tinariwen and Thin Lizzy. 

                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                            CD Info: CD & LP packages include lead singer Sabrina Ellis’ handwritten lyrics + a photo of the band.

                                            The theme this time around is goth, a subject closer to my heart perhaps than that of any Mountain Goats album previous. And while John writes the songs, as he always has, it feels more than ever like he’s speaking for all of us in the band, erstwhile goths (raises hand) or otherwise, for these are songs that approach an identity most often associated with youth from a perspective that is inescapably adult.

                                            Anyone old enough to have had the experience of finding oneself at sea in a cultural landscape that’s suddenly indecipherable will empathize with Pat Travers showing up to a Bauhaus show looking to jam, for example. But underneath the outward humor, there is evident throughout a real tenderness toward, and solidarity with, our former fellow travellers—the friends whose bands never made it out of Fender’s Ballroom, the Gene Loves Jezebels of the world—the ones whose gothic paths were overtaken by the realities of life, or of its opposite. It’s something we talk about a lot, how fortunate and grateful we are to share this work, a career that’s become something more rewarding and fulfilling than I think any of us could have imagined. We all know how easily it could’ve gone the other way, and indeed for a long time did. Peter Hughes.

                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                            3xDeluxe LP Info: Cargo collective exclusive: Deluxe 3LP is limited edition and pressed on opaque red (LP1 & LP2) and tracklight green (bonus 12”), all vinyl cut at 45 RPM.

                                            It's a Myth is Sneaks' 2nd album. With little more than a bass, drum machine, and deadpan vocals, Sneaks, a.k.a. Eva Moolchan, makes minimalist music that takes up space - something she herself has made a point of doing in the male-heavy Washington, D.C., DIY punk scene that has been her home. Moolchan's compelling songwriting, along with the fervid energy of her shows, prompted breakout D.C. label Sister Polygon to release her 2015 debut Gymnastics, which Merge reissued in September 2016.

                                            It's a Myth builds on Sneaks' playfully stark approach to post-punk, which, as her hometown City Paper described it, causes listeners to go "from curious to provoked to hungry." Hungry, in part, because the new album clocks in at just 18 minutes of 10 taut, captivating tracks (but still a feast compared to Gymnastics' 14 minutes). It also adds Jonah Takagi and Ex Hex/Helium frontwoman Mary Timony, who recorded the album at Timony's D.C. studio. "She's got art in her brain," Timony has said of Moolchan. "Her brain is making beautiful stuff." Though it flows from influences like Pylon and Bush Tetras, much of that beautiful stuff is hard to categorize or compare to anything else. It’s herkyjerky and fluid all at once, childlike and yet deeply perceptive.

                                            FORMAT INFORMATION

                                            LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                            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? M.C. Taylor.

                                            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

                                            2xDeluxe LP Info: Deluxe 2LP is gatefold jacket + poster + single jacket (Vestapol) + obi wrap + download code.

                                            Modern Country is the fourth full-length album by guitarist and composer William Tyler and his first recorded outside of his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. It features an ensemble backing group consisting of multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, Blind Boys of Alabama), bassist Darin Gray (Tweedy, Jim O’Rourke), and percussionist Glenn Kotche (Wilco). The album was tracked at April Base Studios in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and finished in Nashville, recorded and mixed by Jon Ashley, and produced by Tyler and Brad Cook. While there is never a comfort zone in instrumental music, Tyler attempts to leave any perceived one behind with Modern Country.

                                            His first album for Merge, 2013’s Impossible Truth, found Tyler exploring the boundaries of composition for solo guitar in a manner that paid homage to everyone from Leo Kottke to Brian Wilson. It was an epic song cycle that veered from cathedral-like psychedelic hymns to pastoral folk melodies. In contrast, Modern Country finds Tyler exploring more focused melodic themes rather than ethereal wanderings. These aren’t pop songs, per se, but they are closer in spirit to Neu!, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and Bill Frisell. Primarily written while Tyler was on sabbatical in Oxford, Mississippi, where he stayed at the cabin of a family friend within a stone’s throw of William Faulkner’s house, Modern Country is a collection of songs about the vanishing America that still exists on back roads, in small towns, on AM radio stations. In an election year when so many certainties and assurances have vanished, Tyler doesn’t offer optimism or pessimism but rather a calm and measured commentary in our age of anxiety.

                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                            David says: Bit of a slow burner this one, it's worked it's magic on staff and customers alike and now barely a day goes by without it being on the shop cd player. Tyler, who also plays with Siver Jews and Lambchop is a guitarist who loops his tracks to create a multi textured sound that takes you on a gentle stroll through the Tennessee hills.

                                            Little Scream

                                            Cult Following

                                              Little Scream aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer says she began conceiving of Cult Following while visiting a friend in a small intentional community in northern Brazil. “People were running around reading auras, interpreting each other’s dreams, and ‘living on light’ instead of eating—which was as compelling as it was absurd. I became very aware of the entropy of belief. You could feel the magnetism of ideas take shape and pull people into their center like a black hole… a thing so filled with light that its own gravity means that none of it can escape.” That experience laid the groundwork for Cult Following, a lush, expansive. retro-leaning gem that straddles intimate fragility with bombastic dancefloor-ready songs. Right from the start, you know you’ve entered a universe with its own rules—dazzling, dark, and whimsical, not unlike Willy Wonka’s gated factory. From the candy-filled ballroom of “Love as a Weapon,” you are invited onto the comforting ship of the warm ballad “Evan,” only to find that “the waves are falling/ they’re falling in faster, and the ship has no master… here comes disaster!” When the shipwreck subsides, you find yourself in the dark depths of the song Wishing Well, where Mary Margaret O’Hara makes a stunning, subtle vocal appearance.

                                              Mary Margaret is one of several guests to appear on this record, along with Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, and Kyp Malone. Encountering them is not unlike having cameo stars within a film, but the world they inhabit is entirely Little Scream’s, and her voice acts as a tour guide through lush and sometimes terrifying sonic landscapes carefully constructed with her creative partner, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry. Cult Following is a record that deserves to be listened to from start to finish, with each song having been constructed to meld seamlessly into the next. There may be those who listen only to the record’s obvious catchy hit, but they would be missing out on the depth of stunners like “Wishing Well” and “Someone Will Notice.” Like a classic novella, you must pass through all of the record’s stages to fully experience a triumphant hero’s journey. 

                                              When it came time to make Ad Infinitum, the fourth Telekinesis album, drummer/songwriter/principal architect Michael Lerner found himself in a predicament. In just under five years, he had released three fantastic records - Telekinesis! (2009), 12 Desperate Straight Lines (2011), and Dormarion (2013) - each more ambitious than the last. He had toured all over the world, shared stages with great bands, and enthralled fans of his infectious, ebullient power pop. Newly married and happily ensconced in the home studio he’d assembled in his West Seattle basement, Lerner found himself asking the question that has haunted modestly successful bands down the ages: What do you do after the rock and roll dreams you had when you were 19 have come true? “I went down to the basement,” Lerner recalls, “and started playing the same chords I always play… I just felt like I’d exhausted everything I knew. I was not excited at all. I just could not make another power-pop album.” While many artists have made fruitful use of vintage sounds and production techniques in recent years, Ad Infinitum is a different animal. It feels less like a time capsule and more like a time machine. In the movie version of the story, Lerner would stumble on his way down the stairs, hit his head, and wake up in 1983, and the only way he could get back to the present day would be to make a record using available instruments. Then he’d wake in 2015 to discover he’d been in his basement studio all along. And the record he’d made in that strange dream state would turn out to be Ad Infinitum, the most ambitious and assured Telekinesis release to date. 

                                              On May 4, Mikal Cronin will return with MCIII. Marked by the lush arrangements, stunning melodies, and deeply personal lyrical work for which Cronin is now known, the album is also a deliberate attempt to simply “go big.”

                                              As he did on his self-titled 2011 debut and 2013’s MCII, Cronin arranged and played nearly all of the record himself, including the tzouras, a traditional Greek string instrument he heard and subsequently bought while on tour in Athens. There’s French horn, saxophone, and trumpet. There are mood-altering crescendos and heartbreaking turns-of-phrase, guitars both gorgeous and pugnacious. No longer satisfied with the sound of “just one string player,” Cronin arranged parts for a full string quartet instead.

                                              Portastatic

                                              The Summer Of The Shark (Reissue)

                                                First time pressed to vinyl, LP includes coupon for full album download, LP pressed to white vinyl.

                                                Portastatic's The Summer of the Shark will be available for the first time on vinyl as part of a monthly series of reissues to mark the 25th anniversary of Merge Records.

                                                Mac McCaughan, co-founder of Merge Records and frontman of the band Superchunk, began recording solo albums under the name Portastatic in the early 90's.

                                                Beginning with this album, Portastatic evolved from a lo-fi side project to become McCaughan's main focus throughout Superchunk's long hiatus in the early '00s. McCaughan wrote the songs on The Summer of the Shark in 2001 while Superchunk was on tour in support of Here's to Shutting Up, which was released mere days after the September 11 attacks and would be the band's last studio album for nine years.

                                                The resulting batch of songs was the last Portastatic album recorded almost entirely at home; it was also the most emotionally resonant, and musically compact collection to date. Recorded at McCaughan's home studio in Chapel Hill, The Summer of the Shark included contributions from Janet Weiss (Wild Flag, Quasi, Sleater-Kinney), Tony Crow (Lambchop), Margaret White (Versus, Matt Pond PA), Matthew McCaughan (Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger), Aaron Oliva, and John Plymale.

                                                Spin magazine described Buckner as “equal parts Bay Area bohemian and dust bowl traditionalist” and named Bloomed one of its best albums of 1994, while Pitchfork wrote, “It’s a traditional outsider-country record in the lineage of Townes Van Zandt. Buckner’s voice is all honey and oak, his guitar style elaborately twanging, his constant subject matter heartache.” Richard Buckner provides some background on the album: Bloomed was originally (erroneously?) released on an unnamable German label in 1994. I was living in San Francisco at the time, having just moved out of a residential hotel and into the 1906 hilltop prefab that adorns the cover. At the time, I was heading a band called The Doubters. We were playing high profile events such as The Covered Wagon Saloon’s Musical Barstools, but weren’t making much headway. We had been turned down consistently every year by SXSW, but I was somehow finagled in as an unannounced guest onto an already unofficial SXSW showcase created by Butch Hancock at his gallery in downtown Austin. There, I met up again with Lloyd Maines, who agreed to produce my first record. Maines and I met in Lubbock, TX, a few months later, where we worked with Lubbock musicians in a small recording studio walled in wooden shingles Sharpied with bible passages from various church groups that also enjoyed working there. It was 112°F the morning I arrived under the suspicious (Californians are merely B-grade yankees) gaze of downtown’s Buddy Holly statue. That first night there, it hailed so hard that heaven’s angry pellets were storming in under my motel door. It only let up for a few moments that first night, allowing me to run across the street to get a butter burger and fries to go. We finished four days later and I flew back to San Francisco, dismembered the band, and embarked on a tour that would last about 20 years (or a few days, if you count what I actually remember). Nothing’s changed. I’m still dodging the sky and busking to strangers.

                                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                2xCD Info: Includes a bonus CD containing 11 bonus tracks of radio sessions, live performances, and original recordings of songs that appeared on future releases.

                                                Vertical Scratchers is John Schmersal (ex-Brainiac/Enon, live Caribou, and Crooks on Tape) and Christian Beaulieu (ex-Triclops!/Anywhere). Their debut album is 'Daughter of Everything'. Simplicity was the inspiration: get in the van, rehearse in the van, tour in the van, stay mobile. “I have played in a lot of bands with complicated set-ups and implemented technologies,” says John. “I also do a lot of recording and editing on computers, so part of the desire for simplicity was about wanting things to be as organic and in real time as possible.” This impulse to keep things moving is reflected in the songs themselves. Most Vertical Scratchers songs clock in under the two-minute mark but often go in twice as many directions as your average-length song. Pop deception. Think the Kinks with a Buzzcocks brevity. Daughter of Everything was recorded live in Los Angeles at The Smell in September of 2012. The special guest appearance lead vocal from Robert Pollard was recorded at Waterloo Sound in Ohio by Todd Tobias.

                                                Friends and fans of The Love Language songwriter and frontman Stuart McLamb have learned to expect a lot, but rarely in a timely manner. Completing a triumvirate of spiritual transmissions spent lost (2009’s The Love Language) and found (2010’s Libraries), 2013’s Ruby Red exorcises the transient brilliance fostered by McLamb within the sheetrock walls of the album’s namesake artist space. Featuring over twenty musicians and straddling several time zones, The Love Language’s lone puppeteer borrowed heavier equipment, and held on to it longer. Initiated in a windowless unit at the fabled Ruby Red, several failed attempts and false starts at a songwriting spree landed McLamb and his engineer/case worker/boxing coach BJ Burton in Black Mountain, North Carolina, consuming every square inch of a carpeted bungalow located a few acres too close to their skittish neighbors. Soon after, Burton’s relocation to Minneapolis effectively thrust McLamb from their shared nest, helping Ruby Red discover its inherent propensity for flight. Ruby Red produces new standards for the Carolina pop songbook, finding The Love Language as an extroverted community art project made by responsible citizens of a loosely packed scene who know that McLamb will match whatever they contribute. The heartbreak is over. Now we’re getting somewhere.

                                                Stephin Merritt and Gonson deliver their lines with vim and vigor, particularly on “How Very Strange,” a mean-spirited look back at the implausibility of a relationship, batting lines back and forth—it could be a sequel to the Magnetic Fields’ “Yeah! Oh, Yeah!” (sample lyric: “I put a little heroin / In everything you took in”). Another top track is “Drink Nothing But Champagne,” in which Merritt gives his best impressions of David Bowie and Aleister Crowley, as he sings, “Children, drink nothing but champagne / It makes life shorter / Than drinking water” (and water’s mostly piss!). Merritt’s ode to double suicide, “Let’s Go to Sleep (And Never Come Back),” makes it sound like an adventure, while “Keep Your Children in a Coma” offers these words of wisdom: “You can’t let them go to school / For fear of bullying little beasts / And you can’t take them to church / For fear of priests.” His lyrics veer into territories few have the audacity to touch. There are fewer zombies and aliens on Partygoing than on the prior two albums, though there are plenty of songs about aging, death, heartbreak, rejection and austerity.

                                                Future Bible Heroes

                                                Memories Of Love, Eternal Youth, Partygoing (Reissue)

                                                Future Bible Heroes are comprised of celebrated songwriter Stephin Merritt (the Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, the Gothic Archies), longtime friend and collaborator Christopher Ewen (Figures on a Beach, the Hidden Variable and a popular Boston-area DJ) and Magnetic Fields pianist-singer-manager Claudia Gonson. The band released two albums, Memories of Love (1997) and Eternal Youth (2002), and three EPs, all of which they are repackaging as one large collection for simultaneous release via Merge on June 10 2013, along with their new album, Partygoing.

                                                Following their 2010 album Work, Adam, Bebban, Ted, Carl, and Eric headed out on their most successful tour ever and then returned home to their own pursuits. Families were expanded, side projects were launched, and homes outside of Stockholm were explored. When the time came to work on another Shout Out Louds record they wanted to return to the playful spirit that first brought them together ten years ago. Instead of “work,” they wanted to dance! Rather than rehearsing and then recording in the studio as they’d always done, everyone felt free to write and work on their own parts individually as Optica was taking shape. Also, the band worked with a string composer to achieve lush arrangements described by Carl as “Disney on drugs” and by Adam as “like warm mayonnaise.” Shout Out Louds took their time with these songs, recording for about 1.5 years in a small Stockholm studio and producing themselves for the first time with help from Johannes Berglund. A theme emerged and Optica was born, an album celebrating color and light from a band confident in its sound.

                                                “The forthcoming album is stacked full of the usual anthemic qualities we’ve come to expect from the group, whilst the quality of songwriting and production takes another bold step towards eternal greatness.” The Line of Best Fit

                                                “Maybe it's his former band's recent return that's got Eric Bachmann ruminating so hard, but the past, and what to do with it, seems of of particular concern to ex-Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann on Breaks in the Armor, his sixth LP at the helm of Crooked Fingers. "The Hatchet". Breaks' lyrical thumbnails of lost opportunities and forgotten friends can seem a touch too pathos-addled on paper, but drawn through Bachmann's lungs, they leave their mark. But even when Bachmann lays things out too bare, he'll slip scores of feeling into a line or two, leaving the listener with no doubt as to precisely which nerve he's intending to strike. "Much too much for us to turn back now," the guy who once screamed, "you've got it all wrong," sighs on "War Horses", the regret in his voice never far from the surface”.

                                                Pitchfork Review ……………. Eric Bachmann recorded Breaks in the Armor in Athens, Georgia at The Bakery with Matt Yelton (live sound engineer for the Pixies) throughout the winter of 2010/2011, enlisting the help of Liz Durrett on backing vocals. It’s a cohesive and diverse set of songs with less adorned and more direct and affecting arrangements. Beautifully understated, artfully phrased, and ultimately a paean to perseverance, the album seems to suggest that the breaks in the armor are more important than the armor itself.


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