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Loma

How Will I Live Without A Body?

    January 2023, Dorset. Snow is piled at the door, icy roads are closed, and Emily Cross is in a coffin. Not a setting typical for a rebirth. But for Loma, this is where they bring their band back from the brink. “It's like a demon enters the room, whenever we get together”, writer, singer and instrumentalist Cross says of the struggle to bring new Loma music into the world. Following the release of their 2020 second album Don’t Shy Away, Loma’s three members were cast around the globe and the band—not for the first time—entered a deep sleep. Multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Dan Duszynski remained in his studio in Don’t Shy Away’s central Texas heart, but Cross, a UK citizen, moved to Dorset, and writer and instrumentalist Jonathan Meiburg left the US for Germany to research a book. In the pandemic years, even being in the same room was impossible, and attempts to start a new record faltered.

    The following winter, in an attempt to salvage the record and the band, Cross suggested they regroup in the UK, in the tiny stone house—once a coffin-maker’s workshop—where she works as an end-of-life doula. With minimal recording gear and few instruments, Loma turned two whitewashed rooms into a makeshift studio, using a padded coffin as a vocal booth. It was a turning point. They scrapped much of what they'd made, letting a new place set a new course. The one-lane roads, hedgerows and dark skies of Dorset gave the new songs an ineffable but unmistakable Englishness. The band used the ruin of a 12th-century chapel as a reverb chamber—surprising hillwalkers who peeked in to find them singing to no one—and the sounds of Cross’s chilly workshop wormed their way into the recording: a leaky pipe, a drummer’s brushes on a metal lampshade, the voices left on an ancient answering machine.

    What emerged was How Will I Live Without A Body?: a gorgeous, unique, and oddly comforting album about partnership, loss, regeneration, and fighting the feeling that we're all in this alone. Many of its songs have a feeling of restless motion; faceless characters drift through meetings and partings, tangling together and slipping away. “I Swallowed A Stone” is like a nightmare with a happy ending; “How It Starts” and “Broken Doorbell” reflect on the challenge (and necessity) of wrestling with agoraphobia. Though the record nods to the trio’s separate lives— a German percussion ensemble, a pair of Texan owls, and the surf at Chesil Beach make guest appearances—the core of Loma's sound remains intact: earthy, organic and deeply human, anchored by Cross's cool, clear voice.

    Loma’s previous album, Don’t Shy Away, was galvanized by the unexpected encouragement and contributions of Brian Eno. This time, they found inspiration in another hero, Laurie Anderson, who offered a chance to work with an AI trained on her entire body of work. Meiburg sent her a photo from his book-in-progress about the once and future life of Antarctica; Anderson’s AI responded with two haunting poems. “We used parts of them in a few songs,” he says. “And then Dan noticed that one of its lines, ‘How will I live without a body?’ would be a perfect name for the album, since we nearly lost sight of each other in the recording process.”

    In the end, Loma’s efforts to reconnect with one another are the album's central focus: what do you owe a shared past, when everyone and everything has changed? “Making this record tested us all,” says Duszynski. “I think that feeling was alchemized through the music.” Alchemized, because How Will I Live Without A Body? is by no means a stressed-out record: an undercurrent of deep calm runs through it. But maybe ‘relaxed’ isn’t the right word. It’s more like a feeling of relief, of making it through a tough journey together.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Please, Come In
    2. Arrhythmia
    3. Unbraiding
    4. I Swallowed A Stone
    5. How It Starts
    6. Dark Trio
    7. A Steady Mind
    8. Pink Sky
    9. Broken Doorbell
    10. Affinity
    11. Turnaround

    Man Man

    Carrot On Strings

      When Man Man released its last album, “Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In Between," frontman Honus Honus (née Ryan Kattner) was in a state of unrest, oscillating between hope and cynicism. Perhaps fittingly, the album dropped during the pandemic, a time at which we could all relate. But, much like that bizarre turn of events, the ennui now seems so distant to Man Man. A revived sense of purpose washes through Man Man’s new album, Carrot on Strings, radiating a mix of calm and confidence. Kattner always embodied a wild-man pied-piper vibe: his melodic, unhinged art-rock was at once intriguing and angsty. He was so alluringly creative that you went along with it, even if you were never sure where Man Man would take you. Carrot on Strings is no less inventive, but its ethos is radical in context of the band’s two-decade career. “When I was younger, I would feed off of chaos. I would, you know, be upset and get drunk and smash chairs,” Kattner explains. “Now those chairs are in my head: It's less of an outward projection, more of an interior monologue.” The name “Carrot on Strings” came to Kattner while experimenting with the sound of someone munching on the vegetable, which you can hear in the cacophonous, similarly named song. It alludes to how success always seemed to dangle uncertainly before him, often just out of reach. But listen intently and you’ll hear a more content Kattner finding an uneasy peace: “Life, as far as I’ve known it, has always been side hustles. Would it be great if I could go into a studio and record for a year without figuring out how to finance it? Yeah, it would be,” he says. “But ultimately, I need to keep making music because art is an extension of my psyche. It’s how I have learned to translate the palpitations of my heart. Simply put, I’d go insane without it.” Growing up as a multiracial Hapa kid (half Filipino, half white) with a father in the U.S. Air Force, Kattner lived an itinerant childhood that included a few pivotal years in Germany, where he honed in on an appreciation for out there German cinema and art. His film obsessions and screenwriting background were crucial to Carrot on Strings. The album nods to the films of Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as much as Italo-disco, Randy Newman, goth rock, and avant pop. (Kattner continues to work in the film industry with an acting role in the upcoming horror-comedy movie Destroy All Neighbors, for which he also served as composer; music supervising season 1 & 2 of the Interview With The Vampire AMC TV series; and shopping around, with director Matthew Goodhue, a script he wrote that he describes as a Wim Wenders road movie on acid.) In a bid to not overthink anything - his last album took seven years to make - he recorded the bulk of Carrot On Strings in five days in Mant Sounds studio in Glassell Park, Los Angeles with “very chill” producer Matt Schuessler, who had worked on Man Man’s cover of Neu!’s “Super” for the seminal Krautrock band’s box set. The resulting album represents a newfound sense of self for Kattner, who finds himself inspired and at peace both personally and artistically in ways that eluded him for most of his first 15 years playing music. When, on Carrot On Strings, you hear Kattner croon humbly, or sing of the tension between his outsize stage persona and the thoughtful, soulful guy he actually is, you’re hearing Kattner liberate himself. “I first got into music to escape from myself,” he says. “And now, it sounds so corny, but I have zero doubt that music ended up saving my life.”

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Iguana
      2. Cryptoad
      3. Tastes Like Metal
      4. Mongolian Spot
      5. Blooodungeon
      6. Carrots On Strings
      7. Mulholland Drive
      8. Pack Your Bags
      9. Alibi
      10. Cherry Cowboy
      11. Odyssey

      La Luz

      News Of The Universe

        “I was in a dream, but now I can see that change is the only law.”

        With a credo adapted from science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, an album title from a collection of metaphysical poetry, and an expansion in consciousness brought on by personal crisis, guitarist and songwriter Shana Cleveland learns to embrace a changing world with unconditional love on 'News of the Universe', the new full-length from California rock band La Luz.

        'News of the Universe' is a record born of calamity, a work of dark, beautiful psychedelia reflecting Cleveland’s experience of having her world blown apart by a breast cancer diagnosis just two years after the birth of her son. It’s also a portrait of a band in flux, marking the first appearance for drummer Audrey Johnson and the final ones from longtime members bassist Lena Simon and keyboardist Alice Sandahl, whose contributions add a bittersweet edge to a record that is both elegy for an old world and cosmic road map to a strange new one.

        But is there any band in the world more suited to capturing the chaos of change in all its messy beauty than La Luz? Formed by Cleveland in 2012, La Luz is beloved for their ability to balance bedlam and bliss, each new record another fine-tuning of the band’s mix of swaggering riffs with angelic vocals borrowed from doo-wop and folk; a band so reliably great that it makes the huge step forward in confidence and sheer musicality that is 'News of the Universe' all the more formidable. Cleveland, also a writer and painter, has developed into a truly original songwriter with her own canon of haunted psychedelia. Yet if Cleveland has spent years writing songs about ghosts, what lurks in the shadows of 'News of the Universe' is nothing less than death itself. “There are moments on this album that sound to me like the last frantic confession before an asteroid destroys the earth,” says Cleveland.

        The powerful sense of openness that permeates 'News of the Universe' is at least partially due to the fact that it is a record made entirely by women—from the performing, writing, and producing all the way through to the recording, engineering, and mastering. Working with producer Maryam Qudos (Spacemoth), the all-female environment allowed Cleveland to feel safe tapping into difficult places and expressing hard emotions women are socialized to suppress.

        Unashamedly vulnerable, unabashedly feminine, and undeniably triumphant, 'News of the Universe' is another knockout record from a band so reliably great that it has perhaps led people to overlook how pioneering La Luz really are: women of color in indie music forging their own path by following their own artistic star into galaxies beyond current musical trends, always led by an earnest belief in the cosmic power of love and a great riff. Never is that more true than on 'News of the Universe', which might be La Luz’s most brutal record to date but also their most blissful.


        TRACK LISTING

        1. Reaching Up To The Sun
        2. Strange World
        3. Dandelions
        4. Poppies
        5. Good Luck With Your Secret
        6. Always In Love
        7. Close Your Eyes
        8. I'll Go With You
        9. Blue Moth Cloud Shadow
        10. News Of The Universe
        11. Moon In Reverse
        12. Blue Jay

        Iron & Wine

        Light Verse

          When the pandemic began, and the world shut down, so did the process of creating for Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam. In its place was a domesticity that the singer hadn’t felt in a long time, and although it was filled with many rewards, making music was not one of them. Reflecting on that time;

          Beam notes:
          “I feel blessed and grateful that I and most of my friends and family made it through the pandemic relatively unscathed compared to so many others, but it completely paralyzed the songwriter in me. The last thing I wanted to write about was COVID, and yet every moment I sat with my pen, it lingered around the edges and wouldn’t leave. This lasted for over two years.” The journey back began with a recording session in Memphis to record a handful of Lori McKenna tracks for the EP Lori with friend and producer Matt Ross-Spang. The cathartic experience reconnected Beam with his love for making music, and soon enough the paralysis had passed, and he was finishing lyrics and booking studio time for what would become Light Verse. Light Verse was recorded with engineer and mixer Dave Way at his studio Waystation high up in Laurel Canyon (with an additional session at Silent Zoo Studio with a 24-piece orchestra), with a host of talented musicians joining Beam: Tyler Chester, Sebastian Steinberg, David Garza, Griffin Goldsmith, Beth Goodfellow, Kyle Crane, and Paul Cartwright. And, Fiona Apple joined Beam on vocals for the duet “All In Good Time.” Beam lyrically once again takes focus on a series of both fictional and personal insights, filled with desperate characters and wide-eyed optimists, offering promise and a dose of heartache, tears and laughter, life and love. Taking stock in the album’s title, he jokes, “Light verse is a form of poetry about playful themes that often uses nonsense and wordplay, and it’s my first official Iron & Wine comedy album!…. Just kidding….”

          While true this may be Iron & Wine’s most playful record, Beam says the title mostly reflects the way the songs were born with joy after the heaviness and anxiety of the pandemic. Where recent records like Beast Epic or Weed Garden gave air to the disquiet of middle-aged frailty and brokenness, these songs trade that for the focus acceptance can bring. Moment by moment, they delight in being pointed or silly (or both) and attempt beauty over prettiness.

          Light Verse arrives April 26th, and it’s Iron & Wine’s seventh full-length overall and fifth for Sub Pop Records. Fashioned as an album that should be taken as a whole, it sounds lovingly handmade and self-assured as a secret handshake. Track by track, its equal parts elegy, kaleidoscope, truth, and dare.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. You Never Know
          2. Anyone's Game
          3. All In Good Time
          4. Cutting It Close
          5. Taken By Surprise
          6. Yellow Jacket
          7. Sweet Talk
          8. Tears That Don't Matter
          9. Bag Of Cats
          10. Angels Go Home

          METZ

          Up On Gravity Hill

            With time, we come to understand the way the joy of connection is mirrored by the void of loss, how the constancy of love is matched only by the impermanence of life, the simple idea that we could not create light if we did not risk the dark—we’d never need to.

            So it is with METZ, a band once known for blowing out eardrums with songs of joyous rage who have, over their past few records, begun exploring ways to turn abrasiveness into atmospherics, the evolution of their sound not only a reflection of the maturing of the band themselves but also of a changed world that demands nuance and compassion to comprehend and to survive.

            It was a journey already underway on 2020’s Atlas Vending, but one that reaches new heights on Up On Gravity Hill, where the Canadian trio creates a kaleidoscopic sonic world as tender as it is dark, aided once again by engineer Seth Manchester (Mdou Moctar, Lingua Ignota, Battles, The Body). Deep, detailed, and unyieldingly personal, it is not only METZ’s most powerful record to date but also their most beautiful.

            Still three punks from Ontario at heart, guitarist and vocalist Alex Edkins, drummer Hayden Menzies, and bassist Chris Slorach waste no time as opener “No Reservation/Love Comes Crashing” sweeps in like a wave, sonically and thematically setting the scene for the record to come. A dynamic song about feeling suspended in stasis, layers of dissonance melt into a restlessly heady outro marked by escalating crescendos of shimmering noise that reach for the stars—and is that a violin quivering brightly beneath those elegant swells of guitar, those charging drum fills, those intricate bass lines? It is indeed, courtesy of composer Owen Pallett; his presence an immediate indicator that METZ are thinking more cinematically than ever before.

            The change is partially inspired by Edkins’ work as a scorer for film and television and his pop-leaning solo project, Weird Nightmare, where, he says, he learned to write more intuitively, letting his emotions lead the way. But make no mistake: Up On Gravity Hill is a total band effort, the work of three musicians who have been playing together for over a decade, with all the trust that entails.

            For those who believe in the power of the rock band to exemplify the highest resonance of human connection, there is much on Up On Gravity Hill to lift the spirit, a puzzle worth repeated listening to unlock or just to get lost in again and again. Rather than the music being flattened into a single plane, the band explores “the space above the cymbals,” resulting in some of the most spacious, sympathetic, and accessible songs—could we call them pop?—of their career. If this seems contradictory, well, METZ has always been something of a contradiction. “We’ve never been heavy enough for metal or hardcore purists, but we're way too heavy for indie rock. We just don't have a lane—and that's okay. We exist outside the lines of delineation. I think this record is even more like that,” says Edkins.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: Thumping percussion and soaring guitars, beneath a shoegaze-indebted wall of sound and Edkins' snarling, harmonised vocal on top. It's an absorbing and perfectly paced punky blast.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. No Reservation / Love Comes Crashing
            2. Glass Eye
            3. Entwined (Street Light Buzz)
            4. 99
            5. Superior Mirage
            6. Wound Tight
            7. Never Still Again
            8. Light Your Way Home

            Shabazz Palaces

            Robed In Rareness

              Shabazz Palaces is masterminded by Ishmael Butler (Digable Planets), whose relentless drive to reimagine hip-hop – even as he enjoys his fifth decade on Earth – remains undiminished.

              When Robed in Rareness hit digital platforms in 2023, NPR Music called it “enchanting and subversive," while Pitchfork observed that “the futurism of Shabazz Palaces has always been interwoven with the past and present, their songs scintillating tapestries of old-school shit talk, proggy psychedelia, and melodic flossing. Robed in Rareness is draped in this multiplicity as Butler and a team of close collaborators swagger across eras of rap.”

              TRACK LISTING

              1. Binoculars (feat. Royce The Choice)
              2. Woke Up In A Dream (feat. Lil Tracy)
              3. P Kicking G (feat. Porter Ray)
              4. Cinnamon Bun (feat. Lavarr The Starr)
              5. Scarface Mace (feat. O Finess)
              6. Gel Bait (feat. Geechi Suede)
              7. Hustle Crossers

              Shabazz Palaces

              Exotic Birds Of Prey

                Shabazz Palaces is masterminded by Ishmael Butler (Digable Planets), whose relentless drive to reimagine hip-hop – even as he enjoys his fifth decade on Earth – remains undiminished.

                Exotic Birds of Prey furthers the modus operandi of Robed in Rareness: a respectful eye on the past, an embrace of an ever-evolving present, with its feet firmly planted in the future. Where Robed warped sounds like shoegaze and ambient music into the Shabazz Palaces multiverse, Exotic cross-pollinates these elements with twisted electro and funk vibes.

                TRACK LISTING

                1. Exotic BOP (feat. Purple Tape Nate)
                2. Angela (feat. Stas THEE Boss & Irene Barber)
                3. Myths Of The Occult (feat. Japreme Magnetic)
                4. Goat Me (feat. Cobra Coil)
                5. Well Known Nobody (feat. OCnotes)
                6. Synth Dirt
                7. Take Me To Your Leader (feat. Lavarr The Starr)

                Boeckner

                Boeckner!

                  Daniel Boeckner understands the grit and gravel that accumulates in the heart and that it takes an unwavering courage to crack through that clutter and burrow to the other side. And in Boeckner’s hands, that quest comes via post-apocalyptic synth and guitar heroism, a rallying cry for those always coming home through the scorched clouds. Throughout his work with Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, Operators, Atlas Strategic, and more, the iconic Canadian indie rocker recognizes that few feelings are more gratifying—more memorable, more generative, more abundant—than hope. But it takes getting the hell out of your own way. A culmination of that deep library of musical reference, Boeckner is set to release his first album under his own name: 'Boeckner!'

                  No matter where his genre exploration has taken him, there’s something about growing up in punk and DIY spaces that puts collaboration in Boeckner’s blood. Composed of a collection of intimately familiar elements, Boeckner! elicits the same thrill of young passion and discovery. It’s a jet-powered chase through a tech-noir cityscape—fueled by a dream and that special someone in the passenger seat.

                  That urgency and passion have always been a trademark of Boeckner’s, and writing on his own pushes those feelings further into the center of the scope. But while Boeckner may be the clear driving force behind the album, he’s not without collaborators for his solo debut. After meeting producer Randall Dunn while contributing to the soundtrack to the Nicolas Cage-starring psychedelic horror film Mandy, Boeckner knew he’d found the perfect counterpart for his solo debut. “I’d been a fan of his forever, especially the Sunn0))) records he produced,” Boeckner says. “Working with Randall really unlocked some suppressed musical urges, things that I enjoy in my private life but don’t normally weave into what I’m releasing—like occult synth, pseudo-metal, krautrock, and heavy psych influences.”

                  That base allows Boeckner to thoughtfully weave between emotional imagism and more grounded storytelling. Throughout the record, his imagery delves into science fiction, but it’s charged first and foremost by experience. The trio of Boeckner, Dunn, and drummer Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Fiona Apple) formed a sort of dark engine for the album, and Chamberlain’s ingenious approach of triggering a vintage Arp synthesizer simultaneously with each drum track helped Boeckner shape the record’s atmosphere. That tense futurism was influenced by Boeckner’s time staying in Dunn’s Circular Ruin studio, a dusky, electronic aura burned into every track.

                  By the end of the album, 'Boeckner!' eases from sci-fi epic into something more akin to a torched VHS copy of a John Cassevetes film, the chemtrails and nuclear fallout fading long in the distance. Like all good sci-fi, the emotion and pain hits home for the author and listener alike, and the genre flourishes bolster the human experience. In revealing more than ever before, 'Boeckner!' ratchets up the musical intensity to unforeseen levels and hopes to find some peace at the end of the journey.


                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Lose
                  2. Ghost In The Mirror
                  3. Wrong
                  4. Don't Worry Baby
                  5. Dead Tourists
                  6. Return To Life
                  7. Euphoria
                  8. Holy Is The Night

                  Omni

                  Souvenir

                    The music of Atlanta trio Omni has always swung fast and hit hard. And Souvenir, their fourth album and second for Sub Pop, packs their biggest punch yet. Inactive during the majority of the pandemic–the longest downtime in their history–they approached this recording with lots of pent-up energy. Guitarist Frankie Broyles, singer/bassist Philip Frobos, and drummer Chris Yonker converted their creative fuel into sharp, driving songs that land immediately, sporting chopping riffs, staccato beats, and wiry melodies.

                    Why does Souvenir sound so sharp? Because each track is a compact unit that stands on its own, reflecting the time and place in which it was created. That’s why Omni called the album Souvenir: it’s a collection of audio objects, a stash of musical miniatures. Think of it as a family photo album, a binder of rare playing cards, a shoebox holding precious gems.

                    Take “Plastic Pyramid,” the first song Omni wrote after coming out of lockdown. Filled with twists and turns, it’s a journey unto itself, charged by clanging chords, spinning rhythm, and Frobos trading lines with Izzy Glaudini of Automatic, with whom Omni toured with last fall. (Glaudini sings on two other Souvenir tracks, the first guest vocalist the band has collaborated with). Or take opener “Exacto,” a slicing web of intertwined guitar and bass. Its razor-fine notes and syncopated beats perfectly match pointillist Frobos lyrics such as “Exacto, de facto, concise, quite right”–a line that could well be an Omni mantra.

                    The precision and clarity of Souvenir comes from some new Omni developments. For one, this is their first album with Yonker as their full-time drummer, and his forceful playing adds exclamation points to every pointed moment on Souvenir. In addition, the trio worked with Atlanta-based engineer Kristofer Sampson for the first time. Sampson pushed the band to a higher degree of power, with Frobos’s vocals more upfront in his pulsing mix and the rest of the music leaping out of the speakers. You might notice that Frobos’ singing is a bit more emotional and even nostalgic this time around. In crafting his vocals, he was inspired by the early college radio rock of formative favorites like REM, the Cure, and Big Audio Dynamite–the kind of bands whose melodies could have been top 40 hits in an alternative universe. The lyrics on Souvenir are also by turns funny, absurd, and even cryptic. A wry humor has always coursed through Omni’s songs, and this time, it comes in shades of both dark and light. In “Granite Kiss,” an “astronomical” love story concludes with the hope that “we can decay together,” while in “PG,” a romantic walk in the park includes a rose-colored mugging.

                    Immediacy rushes throughout every moment of Souvenir, making it the band's most powerful album to date. Omni has truly crafted a musical keepsake–a set of songs that you’ll want to keep close, an aural memento you'll cherish for the rest of time.

                    STAFF COMMENTS

                    Barry says: Though Omni's sounds are clearly rooted in the gloomy mire of post-punk, Omni could never be accused of staying in place for long enough for it to stick. Though 'Souvenir' is decidedly more truncated and pop-forward than their previous outings, it's not a huge leap from 2017's brilliant 'Multi-Task' or 2019's 'Networker' in term of sheer inventive momentum.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    1. Exacto
                    2. Plastic Pyramid
                    3. Common Mistake
                    4. INTL Waters
                    5. Double Negative
                    6. PG
                    7. Granite Kiss
                    8. Verdict
                    9. F1
                    10. To Be Rude
                    11. Compliment 

                    J Mascis

                    What Do We Do Now

                      What Do We Do Now is the fifth solo studio LP recorded by J Mascis since 1996. This is obviously not a very aggressive release schedule, but when you figure in the live albums, guest spots, and records done with his various other bands (Dinosaur Jr., The Fog, Heavy Blanket, Witch, Sweet Apple, and so on), well, to paraphrase Lou Reed, “J's week beats your year.”

                      What Do We Do Now began to come together during the waning days of the Pandemic. Utilizing his own Bisquiteen Studio, J started working on writing a series of tunes on acoustic with a different dynamic than the stuff he creates for Dino. “When I'm writing for the band,” he says, “I'm always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I'm thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it's just what happened.”

                      Two guest musicians are playing this time out; Western Mass local Ken Mauri (of the B52s) plays piano on several tracks. Since J himself has some experience with keys, when asked why he needed a hired gun, he says, “Ken is great, and he plays all the keys. I tried playing some keyboards on the first Fog album, but I'm really only comfortable playing the white notes, so it's kind of limiting. [laughs] Nowadays, I could just turn the pitch on a mini Mellotron to play different sounds, but black keys just seem hard. For whatever reason, I just like banging on the white ones. Seems like it's harder to figure out how to stretch your fingers around the other ones.”

                      Mauri has no such qualms and plays all the keys very damn well. He sounds especially great on “I Can't Find You,” where he is Jack Nitzsche to J's Neil Young, creating one of the album's loveliest tunes. The other guest musician, Matthew “Doc” Dunn, is also prominent on this track. Dunn's steel guitar manages to both widen and soften the musical edges of the music, giving it a full classicist profile. Dunn is an Ontario-based polymath who J met through Matt Valentine. After J played on Doc's great 2022 Sub Pop single, “Your Feel,” he figured it was time for payback. Both Dunn and Mauri add beautifully to the songs here, helping to transform them from acoustic sketches into full-blown post-core power ballads.

                      What Do We Do Now is the finest set of solo tunes J has yet penned, and the way they're presented is just about perfect. Asked if he would be touring to support the album, J says he'll be doing some weekend dates, but he probably won't be putting a band together. And I'm sure these songs will sound great solo and acoustic, but the arrangements on this album are truly great and put a cool, different spin on Mascis' instantly recognizable approach to making music.

                      So, what do we do now? Not sure. But apparently, what J does is to make one of his most killer records ever. Hats off to him. -Byron Coley

                      STAFF COMMENTS

                      Barry says: Another gorgeous missive from Mascis, with his trademark melodies and swooning instrumentals perfectly floating beneath the calm drawling vocals of the man himself. It's always a more chilled offering, the solo album when compared to his DJR output but every bit the worthwhile counterpart. Lovely stuff.

                      TRACK LISTING

                      1. Can’t Believe We're Here
                      2. What Do We Do Now
                      3. Right Behind You
                      4. You Don’t Understand Me
                      5. I Can’t Find You
                      6. Old Friends
                      7. It's True
                      8. Set Me Down
                      9. Hangin Out
                      10. End Is Gettin Shaky

                      SLIFT

                      ILION

                        SLIFT’s ILION is a towering work of rock music, a steamrolling record that starts at the highest peak and never lets up. If that sounds overwhelming, trust that this Toulouse trio have you in good hands. Their third full-length feels massive and oceanic, merging the furious intensity of metal and the wigged-out guitar heroics of psych rock with post-rock’s epic sense of scale. ILION is the kind of music where you listen to it and think to yourself, “This came from only three people?” It sure did, and SLIFT’s utter ferocity is way more than a tempest in a teacup. It reaches outwards for miles and creates new zeniths within unforeseen horizons of rock.

                        SLIFT is made up of brothers Jean and Remí Fossat, and Canek Flores, who first met the brothers Fossat at school. After the band formed in 2016, they quickly made their 2017 debut EP, Space Is the Key, which merged stoner rock’s heaviness with the sugar-rush qualities of garage rock. From there, things only got weirder: The trio experimented with faster tempos and bongos(!) on the following year’s full-length La Planeté Inexploreé, and in 2019, their KEXP session recorded at the Trans Musicales festival in Rennes became a viral sensation, racking up more than 1.4 million YouTube views.

                        UMMON from 2020 represented SLIFT’s pivot towards the celestially crushing confines of psych-metal, marked by Remí’s rolling basslines and Flores’s relentless skin-pounding. But nothing in their catalog could prepare you for ILION, a huge and melodically dense record that at once recalls Godspeed! You Black Emperor’s perpetually uplifting surge, the passionate burn of post-hardcore legends …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Led Zep’s psychotic blues-rock mysticism, and the psychedelic swirl of Swedish greats Goat.

                        But reducing ILION to a list of reference points would be missing the point—specifically, that you have to sit down and experience this thing and let it take over your ear space. Over eight tracks and 75+ minutes, SLIFT unleash the fury with walls of guitar and multi-part song structures that make you feel as if you’re being taken on a true journey—from the pure oblivion of ILION’s title track and the abandon of centerpiece “Weavers’ Weft” to the intense climax of the epic “The Story That Has Never Been Told.”

                        But what is this journey? Joseph Campbell would be proud of the thematic path laid out before the listeners on ILION, which is named after the Ancient Greek word for the city of Troy and, conceptually speaking, picks up where UMMON left off. The band explains: “Where the two records differ is that ILION is about human emotions and feelings, whereas UMMON was telling an epic story with a distant view. ILION represents the fall of humanity and the rebirth of all things in time and space.” Heavy shit, to be sure—but fear not, because you don’t need a 12-sided dice and a copy of The Odyssey to get what SLIFT dishes out on ILION. All you need are two ears, an open mind, and the willingness to be truly blown away.

                        STAFF COMMENTS

                        Barry says: Though Slift's hefty slabs of guitar and off-kilter time signatures initially remind me a heavier Om (no bad thing), it's tracks like Nimh and the crushing title track that show how taut these pieces can get. Smouldering synths burst into action, rendering swathes of distortion and tightly coiled riffs around the intense percussive backbone before fading again into the ether. Brilliant.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. Ilion
                        2. Nimh
                        3. The Words That Have Never Been Heard
                        4. Confluence
                        5. Weavers' Weft
                        6. Uruk
                        7. The Story That Has Never Been Told
                        8. Enter The Loop

                        Iron & Wine

                        Who Can See Forever Soundtrack

                          Iron & Wine’s Who Can See Forever is an accompanying live record to the film of the same name. Captured at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, the soundtrack features nineteen songs from the twenty plus year career of singer-songwriter Sam Beam. Having found inventive ways to re-invent his catalog live over the years, Who Can See Forever offers new and fresh versions of Iron & Wine songs including “The Trapeze Swinger”, “Boy With a Coin” and “Naked As We Came.” The film - initially intended as a live concert film - evolved into a visual portrait capturing Beam during a creative outburst that earned him four Grammy nominations in four years. Like his music, the film touches on universally personal themes as Beam juggles being an artist, husband and father. Taken as one, the soundtrack and film are a fascinating first-time glimpse behind-the-scenes of Iron & Wine.

                          TRACK LISTING

                          1. The Trapeze Swinger
                          2. Boy With A Coin
                          3. Woman King
                          4. Thomas County Law
                          5. House By The Sea
                          6. About A Bruise
                          7. Sodom, South Georgia
                          8. Last Night
                          9. Monkeys Uptown
                          10. Wolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)
                          11. Grace For Saints And Ramblers
                          12. Dearest Forsaken
                          13. Glad Man Singing
                          14. On Your Wings
                          15. Passing Afternoon
                          16. Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car
                          17. Naked As We Came
                          18. Call Your Boys
                          20. Muddy Hymnal

                          Earth

                          Earth 2 - 30th Anniversary Edition

                            Did you know there are horses on the cover of Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version? There are at least three in the right hand corner, gathered inexplicably near a white canvas tent, a human possibly perched among its folds. As widescreen and vast as the cover may seem, those little details—the horses, the possible human, the faint wisp of white clouds—give it depth and wonder, something to which the imagination can return.

                            Did you know that the music on Earth 2—repressed now for its 30th anniversary, back in its original artwork, and accompanied by a riveting set of remixes that demonstrate the reach of what Dylan Carlson long ago called “ambient metal”—works much the same way? The surface is massive and obvious, the meatpaw riffs of Carlson and bassist Dave Harwell pounding and swiping and pawing at the speakers, a true bludgeon in three-dimensional sound. Listen, though, for the details in the corners, for the finesse beneath the force, and Earth 2 reveals new levels of depth and wonder.

                            The widespread impact of Earth 2 suggests that others have indeed been leaning in, listening to these minutiae and making something new of them. A masterpiece without many genre precedents, Earth 2 surely helped send doom metal down its more modern drone, ambient, and avant-garde avenues. Those descendants are obvious. Perhaps more surprising and gratifying are the ways it has influenced electronic music, modern composition, and even hip-hop by realigning our senses of tempo, time, and texture. Earth 2 engendered a rearrangement of expectations, regardless of preferred form.

                            TRACK LISTING

                            1. Seven Angels
                            2. Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine
                            3. Like Gold And Faceted

                            Earth

                            Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix

                              Did you know there are horses on the cover of Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version? There are at least three in the right hand corner, gathered inexplicably near a white canvas tent, a human possibly perched among its folds. As widescreen and vast as the cover may seem, those little details—the horses, the possible human, the faint wisp of white clouds—give it depth and wonder, something to which the imagination can return.

                              Did you know that the music on Earth 2—repressed now for its 30th anniversary, back in its original artwork, and accompanied by a riveting set of remixes that demonstrate the reach of what Dylan Carlson long ago called “ambient metal”—works much the same way? The surface is massive and obvious, the meatpaw riffs of Carlson and bassist Dave Harwell pounding and swiping and pawing at the speakers, a true bludgeon in three-dimensional sound. Listen, though, for the details in the corners, for the finesse beneath the force, and Earth 2 reveals new levels of depth and wonder.

                              The widespread impact of Earth 2 suggests that others have indeed been leaning in, listening to these minutiae and making something new of them. A masterpiece without many genre precedents, Earth 2 surely helped send doom metal down its more modern drone, ambient, and avant-garde avenues. Those descendants are obvious. Perhaps more surprising and gratifying are the ways it has influenced electronic music, modern composition, and even hip-hop by realigning our senses of tempo, time, and texture. Earth 2 engendered a rearrangement of expectations, regardless of preferred form.

                              The new remix set, Earth 2.23: Special Lower Frequency Mix, makes this clearer than ever. The Bug has taken a bit of “Seven Angels” and laced it with feedback and big bass, allowing grime luminary Flowdan to climb atop it with his dark, staccato visions. Responsible for many transformational records himself, Justin K. Broadrick of Jesu and Godflesh crawls inside “Teeth” to lash at it with punishing drum machines and sordid layers of new distortion, building it into some brokedown palace of industrial mayhem. Loop’s Robert Hampson makes good on the premise of ambient metal with his 30-minute hypnotic beauty, while longtime Earth cohort and longtime Built to Spill multi-instrumentalist Brett Netson seems to float the sound through a benighted graveyard on his clever “Teeth” revamp.

                              TRACK LISTING

                              1. Angels (The Bug Remix Feat. Flowdan)
                              2. May Your Vanquished Be Saved From The Bondage Of Their Sins (Robert Hampson Remix)
                              3. Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine (Justin K Broadrick Remix)
                              4. Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine (Brett Netson Version)

                              The Postal Service

                              Everything Will Change

                                Everything Will Change is a feature-length documentary concert film of The Postal Service’s performance at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA during their 2013 reunion tour. A collaboration between Benjamin Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (from Dntel), with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, The Postal Service released Give Up, their one and only album, in 2003. That record went on to sell over a million copies and most of the band’s fans never had the chance to see them perform live. In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Give Up, the band reunited to tour the world. Everything Will Change captures one of the nights when everything did change. 

                                TRACK LISTING

                                1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
                                2. We Will Become Silhouettes
                                3. Sleeping In
                                4. Turn Around
                                5. Nothing Better
                                6. Recycled Air
                                7. Be Still My Heart
                                8. Clark Gable
                                9. Our Secret
                                10.This Place Is A Prison
                                11. A Tattered Line Of String
                                12. Such Great Heights
                                13. Natural Anthem
                                14. (This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan
                                15. Brand New Colony

                                The Vaselines

                                The Way Of The Vaselines - 2023 Reissue

                                  The Vaselines have long been celebrated by musicians and music enthusiasts across genres and across the globe, including super-fan Kurt Cobain. Emerging in the mid-eighties under the wing of The Pastels’s Stephen McRobbie, The Vaselines came to define the sly wit and irresistible pop hooks of the era’s Scottish indie scene. Sub Pop's remastered reintroduction of The Way of The Vaselines is an opportunity for those already familiar with the Scottish band's brief career to delve deeper into their body of work, while those new to their music can experience firsthand why so many hold them in such high regard. Originally mastered from a cassette tape (and since remastered on much better equipment in the new millennium), The Way of The Vaselines compiles the band's two EPs (Son of a Gun and Dying for It) and their sole LP release (Dum-Dum). This 2023 edition is the first ever vinyl release of The Way of The Vaselines, which originally came out on CD in 1992.

                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  1. Son Of A Gun
                                  2. Rory Rides Me Raw
                                  3. You Think You’re A Man
                                  4. Dying For It**
                                  5. Molly’s Lips
                                  6. Teenage Superstars
                                  7. Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam
                                  8. Sex Sux (Amen)
                                  9. Slushy
                                  10. Monsterpussy
                                  11. Bitch
                                  12. No Hope
                                  13. Oliver Twisted
                                  14. The Day I Was A Horse
                                  15. Dum-Dum
                                  16. Hairy
                                  17. Lovecraft
                                  18. Dying For It (The Blues)
                                  19. Let’s Get Ugly

                                  Deeper

                                  Careful!

                                    You can’t get Deeper if you’re standing still. That’s intentional, says the Chicago quartet’s Nic Gohl. “Does it feel good when you’re listening to this song? Does your body want to move with it?” These are the questions he asked himself as he and bandmates Shiraz Bhatti, Drew McBride, and Kevin Fairbairn were writing and recording Careful!, their third record and Sub Pop debut. “I wanted these to be interesting songs, but in a way where a two-year-old would vibe out to it,” Gohl adds. “It’s pop music, basically.” That “basically” qualifier is working pretty hard, as fans of 2020’s Auto-Pain might suppose. On Careful!, they’re not reimagining their sound so much as testing its limits. If you want to, you can hear echoes of David Bowie’s Low in the snapping rhythm and gray-sky synths of “Tele,” but you can also hear a bit of Auto-Pain in the nailed-in, stippling lines being spit out by Bhatti’s drum programming and McBride’s synthesizer. “Fame” seems to stumble together and nearly fall apart, the dialed-up noise making the beat feel maniacal and a little invincible, the whole thing a series of short, snipped, autonomous gestures that are by now Deeper’s trademark.

                                    “Build a Bridge” pushes in the opposite direction, using a prickly guitar line to launch into big, smeary art-pop, its emotional palette clear, well-defined, and easy to latch onto. On “Sub,” Gohl sings above and below the melody like Ian McCulloch, bellowing and wondering and ruminating and rounding into swaggering confidence that the band rises to meet. It’s festival headliner music that still feels like it was written in a garage. That fraternal interdependence is near the center of Deeper’s music. The musical and lyrical devotion to mutuality makes this restlessly curious, stylistically broad album feels like the most coherent portrait of who Deeper is. Or, as McBride ultimately frames it, “Careful! is about looking out for one another.”

                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    1. Build A Bridge
                                    2. Heat Lamp
                                    3. Glare
                                    4. Tele
                                    5. Bite
                                    6. Pilsen 4th
                                    7. Sub
                                    8. Fame
                                    9. Everynight
                                    10. Airplane Air
                                    11. Devil-loc
                                    12. Dualbass
                                    13. Pressure

                                    Six Finger Satellite

                                    The Pigeon Is The Most Popular Bird - 30th Anniversary Edition

                                      Sub Pop is thrilled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Six Finger Satellite’s debut album, The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird with a brand new, fully remastered CD and double-LP reissue. Formed in 1990 in Providence, Rhode Island by J. Ryan (singer/keyboards), John MacLean (guitar), Peter Phillips (guitar), Chris Dixon (bass), and Rick Pelletier (drums), Six Finger Satellite quickly signed to Sub Pop for the Weapon EP, which got them their deal despite being a tongue-in-cheek take on the then-current grunge/alt-rock sound. Following Weapon, the band quickly jumped into making their debut full-length with Bob Weston (of Shellac, who later named a single The Bird Is the Most Popular Finger in honor of Six Finger Satellite).

                                      Released in 1993, The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird was the first release to truly capture the adventurous, biting spirit and sound of Six Finger Satellite. The album is a landmark of noisy, distressing post-punk, drawing influence from Gang of Four, The Birthday Party, and Wire while adding a healthy dose of the band’s own, unique sonic antagonism. Amongst the brittle rock tracks, The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird has dashes of ahead-of-their-time keyboard and studio experiments that became more prominent on the band’s later albums, presaging LCD Soundsystem, DFA Records, and much of the early-2000s post-punk revival.

                                      Pitchfork rightly called The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird "one of the best noise-rock records of the 90s," writing that "the transitions from silly to searing highlight Six Finger Satellite’s unpredictable and caustic approach… this was the first of several examples of them spurning underground trends, and their most exhilaratingly bitter pill to swallow.”

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. ..
                                      2. Home For The Holy Day
                                      3. ..
                                      4. Laughing Larry
                                      5. ..
                                      6. Funny Like A Clown
                                      7. ..
                                      8. Deadpan
                                      9. ..
                                      10. Hi-Lo Jerk
                                      11. ..
                                      12. Love (via Satellite)
                                      13. ..
                                      14. Save The Last Dance For Larry
                                      15. ..
                                      16. Solitary Hiro
                                      17. ..
                                      18. Neuro-Harmonic Conspiracy
                                      19. ..
                                      20. Takes One To Know One
                                      21. ..

                                      Sweeping Promises

                                      Good Living Is Coming For You

                                        Sweeping Promises’ members Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug say “Eraser” is “a malevolent creep – an overly ambitious, shadowy force who bears an uncanny resemblance to you. She watches your every move, mirrors your motions, and ultimately uses your voice against you without you ever noticing what she's done. She’s unchecked ambition, a paranoid girl Friday, an overriding impulse to reflect rather than project. She must be stopped at all costs.”

                                        Good Living Is Coming For You was recorded and produced by Mondal and Schnug in their home studio in Lawrence, KS, and follows their 2020 debut, Hunger for a Way Out, and their insistent 2021 single, “Pain Without a Touch.” Coverage for both quickly followed from the likes of Stereogum (Band to Watch), Pitchfork (Selects), and NPR Music, who raved, “Sometimes the best pop songs stick to the basics: no muss, no fuss. With the Sweeping Promises, they add some fuzz. The same way the Pixies wrote pop songs with a nasty sheen, this Boston post-punk band dirties up earworm melodies with a lo-fi charm. You can play spot the influence all over this debut: Young Marble Giants here, Kleenex/LiLiPUT there, some B-52s and Blondie for good measure. Lira Mondal has a voice that leaps and bounds with the enthusiasm of a bedroom performance, hairbrush in hand. But mostly, you can hear a band dream out loud…”



                                        TRACK LISTING

                                        1. Eraser
                                        2. Shadow Me
                                        3. Good Living Is Coming For You
                                        4. Connoisseur Of Salt
                                        5. Walk In Place
                                        6. You Shatter
                                        7. Petit Four
                                        8. Can’t Hide It
                                        9. Throw Of The Dice
                                        10. Ideal No

                                        Hannah Jadagu

                                        Aperture

                                          Fresh out of high school, Hannah Jadagu released her debut EP, What Is Going On?, a collection of intimate bedroom pop tracks recorded entirely on an iPhone 7, which was, at the time, Jadagu’s most accessible mode of production. An off-the-cuff approach to music making and instinctive ability to write unforgettable hooks belied the intensity of Jadagu’s subject matter. What Is Going On? confronted some of the nation’s most urgent struggles through Jadagu’s compassionate perspective. What Is Going On? built on the small online fanbase Jadagu had developed by releasing music on SoundCloud for years as she realized her growing passion for songwriting.

                                          Now, Jadagu is releasing Aperture, her first LP and most ambitious work to date. Written in the years between graduating from high school in Mesquite, TX and her sophomore year of college in New York, Aperture finds Jadagu in a state of transition. “Where I grew up, everyone is Christian; even if you don’t go to church, you’re still practicing in some form,” Jadagu says, laughing. “Moving out of my small hometown has made me reflect on how embedded Christianity is in the culture down there, and though I’ve been questioning my relationship to the church since high school, it’s definitely a theme on this album, but so is family.”

                                          As a kid, Jadagu followed her older sister – a major source of inspiration – to a local children’s chorus, where she received choral training. “I hated it,” Jadagu admits. “But it taught me how to harmonize, how to discover my tone, how to recognize and write melody.” The aching single “Admit It” is dedicated to Jadagu’s sister, whose love and impeccable taste have been a constant since Jadagu was a kid. The siblings were raised on mom’s Young Money mixtapes and the Black Eyed Peas (to whom Hannah credits her love of vocoder) but it was in the sanctity of her sister’s car that Jadagu discovered the indie artists who inspire her work.

                                          With Aperture, Jadagu faced the challenge of finding a co-producer capable of complementing her work without dominating it. Enter Max Robert Baby, a French songwriter and producer who captured Jadagu’s attention with his take on Aperture’s lead single “Say It Now.” The duo worked remotely, sending stems to one another via email, before meeting in-person for the first time at Greasy Studios on the outskirts of Paris. “When I recorded my EP, it was all MIDI, but in the studio Max and I worked with a ton of analog instruments,” Jadagu says. “Every track on this album, except for ‘Admit It,’ was written first on guitar. But the blanket of synths throughout helps me move between sensibilities. There’s rock Hannah, there’s hip-hop Hannah, and so on. I didn’t want any of the songs to sound too alike.”

                                          An aperture is defined as an opening, a hole, a gap. On a camera, it’s the mechanism that light passes through, allowing a photographer to immortalize a moment in time. For Jadagu, the word perfectly encapsulates the mood of her debut album. In the years it took her to complete, she faced moments of darkness, sure, but the process of making it was ultimately a cathartic experience, one she now shares with you. Let the light in.

                                          TRACK LISTING

                                          1. Explanation
                                          2. Say It Now
                                          3. Six Months
                                          4. What You Did
                                          5. Lose
                                          6. Admit It
                                          7. Dreaming
                                          8. Shut Down
                                          9. Warning Sign
                                          10. Scratch The Surface
                                          11. Letter To Myself
                                          12. Your Thoughts Are Ur Biggest Obstacle

                                          Debby Friday

                                          GOOD LUCK

                                            The usual boom-and-bust cycles of growing up -- breaking down, gathering the strength to get up, fumbling hard, doing it all over again - can feel unmooring, to say the least, but, and according to DEBBY FRIDAY, its tragedies and glories need savoring. Losing illusions, gaining expectations; getting deep into the private, soupy kaleidoscope of what’s possible and what’s futile -- GOOD LUCK, her debut, and supernovic, full-length album, is built on welcoming the journey’s complicated drops and mountain highs with something more like grace.

                                            Nigerian-born, then an emigré to bits of Canada - from Montreal to Vancouver to Toronto - DEBBY FRIDAY’s roamings through space and time really began when the sun fell. Nightlife was her emancipation from the toughness of home life, and she fell into it, body and soul, totally seduced. Raves til sunrise; house music in unknown basements and warehouses -- the lure of the party was the perfect escape. Things that feel good sometimes do fall apart, though.

                                            In 2017, after DJing for less than a year, nothing was going the way that she wanted it to go. So she gathered her things and embarked on what would turn out to be the first of a few of her coming-of-age stories. After making the decision to stop herself in her tracks, she pulverized new paths for herself forward. Late-night YouTube tutorials on music production led to an EP, BITCHPUNK, and BITCHPUNK led to her first public performances, and all that gave way to a second EP, DEATH DRIVE. Her art endowed her with the strength she needed to move on. “This is what I was born to do,” she goes. “It came to me so naturally and instinctively.”

                                            So what does it take to hone that power? Discipline - routines, rituals; an MFA, practices of writing and filmmaking, and music-making that guide a person from one day to the next - but something close to mysticism, too. DEBBY’S serious study of astrology, psychology, and philosophy allow her to move through the world, relate to others, and get closer to what’s inside her. She believes in what emerges. She believes in making the unconscious conscious. She wants to be in dialogue with the darkness. It’s why GOOD LUCK works like such a study in entropy. On the surface, you’ll hear smears of Santigold’s dub dazzle, the MIDI-crush of Death Grips, but less obviously the plaintiveness of directors like Eric Rohmer, or the grotesque decadence of later-era Sylvia Plath. (Juno Award and Polaris Prize-nominated composer Graham Walsh adds a sort of heft and pull to the genre-flexibility on parade here: think of it a little like Sevdaliza meets FKA Twigs.)

                                            Few do it like her, though, and GOOD LUCK spans from lucid, acid housey, high-BPM tracks to melancholia and darkness to striking falsetto pop with assuredness and aplomb. The album GOOD LUCK is being co-released with a short film of the same name, co-directed by FRIDAY and Nathan De Paz Habib (past work includes Eroica, based on Chino Amobi's novel of the same name). It’s a story of individuation. It’s a love story about a woman and her masked beloved, but outside of the accompanying-but-stand-alone visual, it’s all a willing, yearning investigation into what goes on behind the veil of sadness, of cruelty. Because knowing the darkness is the only way to understand the light, but also the greys and the blues and the in-between states. FRIDAY’s explorations in GOOD LUCK -- delving down into the muck of nuance - are a kind of courage.

                                            TRACK LISTING

                                            1. Good Luck
                                            2. So Hard To Tell
                                            3. I Got It (Feat. Uñas)
                                            4. Hot Love
                                            5. Heartbreakerrr
                                            6. What A Man
                                            7. Safe
                                            8. Let U Down
                                            9. Pluto Baby
                                            10. Wake Up

                                            Bria

                                            Cuntry Covers Vol. 2

                                              As its name suggested, the intimate and sultry Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 was always going to have a follow-up. Led by the brooding vocals of Bria Salmena, Cuntry Covers Vol. 2 is every bit as potent as its predecessor whose noir-inflected alternative country-rock stood in sharp contrast to the singer's commanding delivery as leader of post-punk revivalists FRIGS. Debuting the project in 2021, the languid, reverb-drenched Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 saw her artfully collaborating with multi-instrumentalist Duncan Hay Jennings and reimagining a carefully picked collection of Americana anthems.

                                              Vol. 2 pushes the envelope further and harder. Encompassing feverish takes on tracks by Gillian Welch, Paula Cole, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Robert Lester Folsom, Glenn Campbell – by way of Nick Cave – and the late, great Loretta Lynn, Bria’s deliciously dark approach shimmers through these six startling songs.

                                              Created during a break from Salmena and Jennings’ work in Orville Peck’s world-conquering backing band, Vol. 2 was recorded directly after Peck’s second album and Bria’s US tour supporting Wolf Alice. Embracing contrast, the sunny circumstances in which Vol. 1 was made were flipped on their head. Instead of a bucolic barn in the Canadian countryside, they recorded the new tracks in chilly Toronto, huddled together in their tiny makeshift home studio, with Jennings at the controls. They enlisted the help of local Toronto musicians Lucas Savatti (FRIGS), Simone Baril (US Girls, The Highest Order, Darlene Shrugg, Partner), Andrew Manktelow, and frequent collaborator Jaime Rae McCuaig.

                                              While Vol. 1 was Bria’s attempt at subverting country music’s conservative roots and primarily white and heterosexual agenda, here the emphasis was on experimentation. While Vol. 2 might be less personal, it’s just as idiosyncratic, with half of the reversions staying true to the originals and others taken to a different universe entirely. Building on the tried-and-true/bold-and-new duality of Cuntry Covers’ first offering, Vol. 2 delivers a deeper dive into the duo’s brilliant alchemy of traditional and contemporary reinterpretations. The added experimental flourishes, from dizzying electronica and pulsing bass to sax-driven soul, take Bria’s new EP into previously uncharted territory, signalling a thrilling new step in Bria’s adventurous evolution.

                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                              Barry says: Bria's first selection of covers provided the perfect synth-fuelled counter to some oft-solemn Americana classics, and this newest volume expands on that idea with some truly stunning selections, perfectly morphed into synthpop stormers from their original form, all coated in Bria's inimitable vocal style.

                                              TRACK LISTING

                                              1. Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
                                              2. When You Know Why You’re Happy
                                              3. Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)
                                              4. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
                                              5. I Dream A Highway
                                              6. See You Later, I’m Gone

                                              TV Priest

                                              My Other People

                                                Without a brutal evaluation of their own becoming, TV Priest might have never made their second album. Heralded as the next big thing in post-punk, they were established as a bolshy, sharp-witted outfit, the kind that starts movements with their political ire. There was of course truth in that, but it was a suit that quickly felt heavy on its wearer’s shoulders, leaving little room for true vulnerability. “A lot of it did feel like I was being really careful and a bit at arm's length,” says vocalist Charlie Drinkwater. “I think maybe I was not fully aware of the role I was taking. I had to take a step back and realize that what we were presenting was quite far away from the opinion of myself that I had. Now, I just want to be honest.”

                                                Having made music together since their teenage years, the London four-piece piqued press attention in late 2019 with their first gig as a newly solidified group, a raucous outing in the warehouse district of Hackney Wick. Debut single “House of York” followed with a blistering critique of monarchist patriotism, and they were signed to Sub Pop for their debut album. When Uppers arrived in the height of a global pandemic, it reaped praise from critics and fans alike for its “dystopian doublespeak,” but the band — Drinkwater, guitarist Alex Sprogis, producer, bass and keys player Nic Bueth and drummer Ed Kelland – were at home like the rest of us, drinking cups of tea and marking time via government-sanctioned daily exercise. As such, the personal and professional landmark of its release felt “both colossal and minuscule” dampened by the inability to share it live.

                                                “It was a real gratification and really cathartic, but on the other hand, it was really strange, and not great for my mental health” admits Drinkwater. “I wasn’t prepared, and I hadn't necessarily expected it to reach as many people as it did.” As such, My Other People maintains a strong sense of earth-rooted emotion, taking advantage of the opportunity to physically connect. Using “Saintless” (the closing song from Uppers) as something of a starting point, Drinkwater set about crafting lyrics that allowed him to articulate a deeper sense of personal truth, using music as a vessel to communicate with his bandmates about his depleting mental health. “Speaking very candidly, it was written at a time and a place where I was not, I would say, particularly well,” he says.

                                                “There was a lot of things that had happened to myself and my family that were quite troubling moments.Despite that I do think the record has our most hopeful moments too; a lot of me trying to set myself reminders for living, just everyday sentiments to try and get myself out of the space I was in.” “It was a bit of a moment for all of us where we realised that we can make something that, to us at least, feels truly beautiful,” agrees Bueth. “Brutality and frustration are only a part of that puzzle, and despite a lot of us feeling quite disconnected at the time, overwhelmingly beautiful things were also still happening.”

                                                This tension between existential fear born from the constant uncertainties of life, and an affirmative, cathartic urge to seize the moment, is central to My Other People, a record that heals by providing space for recognition, a ground zero in which you’re welcome to stay awhile but which ultimately only leads up and out. For TV Priest, it is a follow-up that feels truly, properly them; free of bravado, unnecessary bluster or any audience pressure to commit solely to their original sound.

                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                1. One Easy Thing
                                                2. Bury Me In My Shoes
                                                3. Limehouse Cut
                                                4. I Have Learnt Nothing
                                                5. It Was Beautiful
                                                6. The Happiest Place On Earth
                                                7. My Other People
                                                8. The Breakers
                                                9. Unravelling
                                                10. It Was A Gift
                                                11. I Am Safe Here
                                                12. Sunland

                                                Chad VanGaalen

                                                World's Most Stressed Out Gardener

                                                  2020 was a terrible year for gardening. It was terrible for peppers, it was terrible for tomatoes, it was terrible for the condition of the soul. But Chad VanGaalen somehow raised a garden all the same: carrots and sprouts and broccoli and a revivifying new album, all of them grown at home. He likes to eat directly off the plant, he says—"I get down on my knees and graze. It's nice to feel the vegetables in your face"—and the 13 songs on World's Most Stressed Out Gardener were harvested with just such a spirit: in their raw state, young and vegetal, at the very moment, they were made. What that means is that the Calgary songwriter's new album is a psychedelic bumper crop. A collection of tunes that does away with obsessiveness, the anxiety of perfectionism, in favor of freshness and immediacy — capturing the world as it was met while recording alone at home over a period of years. "Don't overthink it," VanGaalen told himself again and again, despite the push/pull love/hate of his relationship with songwriting. "I'm always trying to get outside of the song—but then I realize I love the song."


                                                  This is a record that gleams with VanGaalen's musical signatures: found sound, reverb, polychromatic folk music that is by turns cartoonish and hyperphysical—like ultra magnified footage of a virus or a leaf. Apparently, the LP began life as a "pretty minimal" flute record. (There's only a vestige now, on "Flute Peace"—one of three instrumentals.) Later it became an electronic record "for a while" and finally, "right at the last second," it "turned into a pile of garbage." The good kind of garbage: glinting, useful, free. Music as compost—leaves, and branches ready to be re-ingested by the earth, turned into a flower. Throughout these 40 minutes, VanGaalen floats from mania to solace to oblivion, searching for zen in all the wrong places. "Turn up the radio / I think we’re dead," he sings on "Nothing Is Strange"; or, on the inside-out rocker "Nightmare Scenario": "You’re stressed out when you should be feeling very well." The singer's mental landscape is rotting and redemptive, beautiful in spite of itself—and his soundscapes reflect this fertile decay. He has been influenced by his instrumental work on TV scores (Dream Corp's third season began this fall), but still "nothing can really replace the human voice,” he admits. Like Arthur Russell or Syd Barrett, it’s VanGaalen’s vocals that shine a path through the swampland—from the cello-lashed “Water Brother” to “Starlight”’s krautrock pipe-dream. These days, VanGaalen cherishes the privacy of the studio, the capacity to wander around, get distracted, and "move at the speed of life."


                                                  Whereas once he would obsess over mic techniques, now he puts the microphone in the same place every time—trying to capture a song quickly, the idea at its heart. He'll act on his infatuations—for the flute, a squeaky clarinet, his basement's copper plumbing (remade into xylophones for "Samurai Sword")—and then he'll try to get out, "veering away from responsibility," before he overdoes his stay. In the end, it's like gardening. You have to live with your horrible decision-making; the weather's going to fuck you if it wants to; and if you plant a hundred heads of broccoli, "now you gotta eat a hundred heads of broccoli—or watch them go to seed." But mostly VanGaalen just tries to be a deer: "I remember seeing some deer come out in the Okanagan Valley once," he says, "watching them wait for a sunbeam to hit a perfect bunch of grapes—and then eating them right out of the sunbeam. I'd recommend that."

                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                  Spider Milk
                                                  Flute Peace
                                                  Starlight
                                                  Where Is It All Going?
                                                  Earth From A Distance
                                                  Nightwaves
                                                  Plant Music
                                                  Nothing Is Strange
                                                  Inner Fire
                                                  Golden Pear
                                                  Nightmare Scenario
                                                  Samurai Sword
                                                  Water Brother

                                                  Lael Neale

                                                  Acquainted With Night

                                                    It is the simple thing that is so hard to do. This is the paradox that musician Lael Neale has lived within throughout her development as an artist. It is the reason she became enthralled with poetry. Poems are a distillation. Lael says, “this challenge to winnow away what is unessential is the most maddening and, ultimately, rewarding part of writing a song.” Lael’s new album Acquainted With Night is a testament to this poetic devotion. Stripped of any extraneous word or sound, the songs are lit by Lael’s crystalline voice which lays on a lush bed of Omnichord.

                                                    The collection touches on themes that have been thread into her work for years: isolation, mortality, yearning, and reaching ever toward the transcendent experience. Lael grew up on a farm in rural Virginia, but for nearly 10 years called Los Angeles home. Those years were spent developing her songwriting and performing in venues across the city, but the right way to record the songs proved more elusive. She says, “Every time I reached the end of recording, I felt the songs had been stripped of their vitality in the process of layering drums, bass, guitar, violin, and organ over them. They felt weighed down.” In a moment of illumination the solution presented itself: do the simple thing. In early 2019, in the midst of major transition, she acquired a new instrument, the omnichord, and began recording a deluge of songs.

                                                    Guy Blakeslee, who had been an advocate for years, set up a cassette recorder in her bedroom and provided empathic guidance, subtle yet affecting accompaniment and engineering prowess. Limited to only 4-tracks and first takes, Lael had to surrender some of her perfectionism to deliver the songs in their essence. The first song she recorded was “For No One For Now,” which calls to mind the agitated beat of driving fast on the freeway against the backdrop of the San Fernando Valley’s bent palms. The song contrasts romantic idealizations with the banality of folding sheets and toasting bread. It highlights her oft-thwarted attempts to enjoy the day to day while her mind wanders off toward the dream, the ideal.

                                                    While Lael returned to her family farm in April 2020, Los Angeles is a player on this album, and “Every Star Shivers in the Dark” is an ode to the sprawling city, the outskirts of Eden. One can envision her walking from Dodgers Stadium to downtown, observing strangers and her own strangeness but determined to find communion with others. “Blue Vein” is her personal anthem, a Paul Revere piece that gallops through the town as a strident declamation. It is an amalgam of thoughts, concerns, and lessons as she nearly speaks the words, unmasked by flourishes, ensuring the meaning cuts through. Normally a morning person, Lael recorded most of these songs in the darkening of the early evening, and so became Acquainted With Night.

                                                    STAFF COMMENTS

                                                    Barry says: Neale presents an album full of slow-rock melancholy, brittle honestly and down to earth observations, brilliantly wrapped in a shell of minimalistic instrumentation and flexible vocal performances. Sonically hypnotic and thoroughly enthralling.

                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                    1. Blue Vein
                                                    2. Every Star Shivers In The Dark
                                                    3. Acquainted With Night
                                                    4. White Wings
                                                    5. How Far Is It To The Grave
                                                    6. For No One For Now
                                                    7. Sliding Doors & Warm Summer Roses
                                                    8. Third Floor Window
                                                    9. Let Me Live By The Side Of The Road
                                                    10. Some Sunny Day

                                                    Loma

                                                    Don't Shy Away

                                                      On December 26th, 2018, Emily Cross received an excited email from a friend: Brian Eno was talking about her band on BBC radio. “At first I didn’t think it was real,” she admits. But then she heard a recording: Eno was praising “Black Willow” from Loma’s self-titled debut. He said he’d had it on repeat.

                                                       At the time, a second Loma album seemed unlikely. The band began as a serendipitous collaboration between Cross, the multi-talented musician and recording engineer Dan Duszynski, and Shearwater frontman Jonathan Meiburg, who wanted to play a supporting role after years at the microphone. They’d capped a grueling tour with a standout performance on a packed beach at Sub Pop’s SPF 30 festival, in which Cross leapt into the crowd, and then into the sea, while the band carried on from the stage—an emotional peak that also felt like a natural ending. “It was the biggest audience we’d ever had,” she says. “We thought, why not stop here?”

                                                      Following the tour, Cross went to rural Mexico to work on visual art and a solo record, while Meiburg began a new Shearwater effort. But after a few months apart (and Eno’s encouraging words), the trio changed their minds and reconvened at Duszynski’s home in rural Texas, where they began to develop songs that would become Don’t Shy Away. Loma writes by consensus, and though Cross is always the singer, she, Duszynski and Meiburg often trade instruments.  Meiburg compares their process to using an ouija board and says the songs revealed themselves slowly, over many months. “Each of us is a very strong flavor,” he says, “but in Loma, nobody wears the crown, so we have to trust each other—and we end up in places none of us would have gone on our own. I think we all wanted to experience that again.” The album that emerged is gently spectacular—a vivid work whose light touch belies its timely themes of solitude, impermanence, and finding light in deep darkness. Stuck / beneath / a rock, Cross begins, as if noticing her predicament for the first time. Then she adds: I begin to see / the beauty in it. 
                                                      A series of guests contributed to the absorbing soundscapes of Don’t Shy Away, including touring members Emily Lee (piano, violin) and Matt Schuessler (bass), Flock of Dimes/Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, and a surprisingly bass-heavy horn section. 

                                                      And then there’s Brian Eno. Loma invited him to participate in the mantra-like “Homing,” which concludes the album and sent him stems to interact with in any way he liked. He never spoke directly with the band, but his completed mix arrived via e-mail late one night, without warning, and they gathered to listen in the converted bedroom Duszynski uses as a control room. “I was a little worried,” says Cross. “What if we didn’t like it?” But it was all they’d hoped for: minimal but enveloping, friendly but enigmatic, as much Loma as Eno—a perfect ending to an album about finding a new home inside an old one.  I am somewhere that you know, Cross sings, above a chorus of her bandmates’ blended voices. I am right behind your eyes. 


                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                      1. I Fix My Gaze
                                                      2. Ocotillo
                                                      3. Half Silences
                                                      4. Elliptical Days
                                                      5. Given A Sign
                                                      6. Thorn
                                                      7. Breaking Waves Like A Stone
                                                      8. Blue Rainbow
                                                      9. Jenny
                                                      10. Don't Shy Away
                                                      11. Homing

                                                      Metz

                                                      Atlas Vending

                                                        “Change is inevitable if you’re lucky,” says guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins while talking about Atlas Vending, the fourth full-length album by Toronto’s METZ. “Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.” The music made by Edkins and his compatriots Hayden Menzies (drums) and Chris Slorach (bass) has always been a little difficult to pin down. Their earliest recordings contained nods to the teeming energy of early ‘90s DIY hardcore, the aggravated angularities of This Heat, and the noisy riffing of AmRep’s quintessential guitar manglers, but there was never a moment where METZ sounded like they were paying tribute to the heroes of their youth.

                                                        If anything, the sonic trajectory of their albums captured the journey of a band shedding influences and digging deeper into their fundamental core—steady propulsive drums, chest-thumping bass lines, bloody-fingered guitar riffs, the howling angst of our fading innocence. With Atlas Vending, METZ not only continues to push their music into new territories of dynamics, crooked melodies, and sweat-drenched rhythms, they explore the theme of growing up and maturing within a format typically suspended in youth. Covering seemingly disparate themes such as paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia, and the restless urge to leave everything behind, each of Atlas Vending’s ten songs offer a snapshot of today's modern condition and together form a musical and narrative whole. The song sequencing follows a cradle-to-grave trajectory, spanning from primitive origins through increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys all the way to the climactic closer, “A Boat to Drown In.” The lyrics speak to this arc as well, with the songs addressing life’s struggles all the way through to death, as Edkins snarls “crashed through the pearly gates and opened up my eyes, I can see it now” before the band launches into the album’s cascading outro. 

                                                        While past METZ albums thrived on an abrasive relentlessness, the trio embarked on Atlas Vending with the goal to make a more patient and honest record—something that invited repeated listens rather than a few exhilarating bludgeonings. It’s as if the band realized they were in it for the long haul, and their music could serve as a constant as they navigated life’s trials and tribulations. The result is a record that sounds massive, articulate, and earnest. Bolstered by the co-production of Ben Greenberg (Uniform) and the engineering and mixing skills of Seth Manchester (Daughters, Lingua Ignota, The Body) at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, METZ deliver the most dynamic, dimensional, and compelling work of their career. 


                                                        STAFF COMMENTS

                                                        Barry says: Metz have always provided a glimpse into the more uncompromising but undeniably tuneful side of indie-rock, and 'Atlas Vending' if anything cements them as one of the most necessary voices in modern guitar music. Brutal but balanced beautifully with more cohesive, melodic sections.

                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                        1. Pulse
                                                        2. Blind Youth Industrial Park
                                                        3. The Mirror
                                                        4. No Ceiling
                                                        5. Hail Taxi
                                                        6. Draw Us In
                                                        7. Sugar Pill
                                                        8. Framed By The Comet’s Tail
                                                        9. Parasite
                                                        10. A Boat To Drown In 


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