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The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning (Pure Groove U.K.)
The best and most exciting new band I’ve heard in a good half-decade or more, this new London group (by way of Wales) is totally astonishing to the ears. One-fourth My Bloody Valentine, one-fourth Pixies, one-fourth Swerverdriver, and one fourth Husker Du, they just kill me, and will for years to come without doubt. Guitarist/singer Ritzy and bassist Rhydian Dafydd, and drummer Justin Stahley are the trio of one’s dreams no one thought possible any more, with just enough sneaky melody to spice up a gleeful, beautiful pummeling you’ll never get enough of. Wow wow wow wow — get thee to their myspace page and most of all go to youtube and watch their videos for “Greyhound in the Slips” and “Cradle” and bow down before their sheer energy and infectious kick in your ass. Nothing else today is even close to their league.
The Joy Formidable – First You Have to Get Mad limited edition live LP (Pure Groove U.K.)
Man, do I feel lucky to get this. If it is never reissued, this will be worth hundreds of dollars someday, because this band is flat out stunning live, and as great as they are on record, nothing could capture what they do onstage, and this is even more exciting than their studio work.
Rogue Wave – Permalight (Brushfire)
Make that four for four for Oakland’s killer post-punk popsters. Not the dancey record they claim in any respects outside of that song they are previewing on their myspace site (which is a fab song, nonetheless), this goes a long way to proving that Zach Rogue ‘s terrific pen is not drying up any time soon, and that the band makes enough subtle changes every album to never repeat themselves.
Sloan – Hit & Run digital EP (Murder)
Sloan is that rare band that thrills on first play, and then as you get to know the material, you acquire an appreciation for the craft beyond that immediate visceral impact. Even in this short-form, 14-minute burst, the veteran Toronto quartet demonstrate all four’s multifaceted writing/singing outlook forged over nine albums, serving up the piano and delectable acoustic delight of Jay Ferguson ’s “Midnight Mass” only two songs before Andrew Scott*’s breakneck, snarled, hard, quick, heavy guitar rock disillusionment, “Where Are You Now?” The sleeper, best track might be *Patrick Pentland*’s swirling, spacey, punchy, banged-acoustic meets heavy drums and chiming piano mini-masterpiece “It is Never,” which manages the same monster mood of John Lennon’s “Mind Games.” And the bookending tunes by de facto leader *Chris Murphy sit comfortably between these extremes, his honey-thick voice daring you not to sing along with such sincerity as “Oh Dear Diary,” with such typical tasty tunefulness you feel like you’re floating
Catherine Wheel – Ferment (Cherry Red U.K.)
I just finishing composing a long 1800-word set of liner notes for this reissue, of 1992’s greatest album hands down (and that was probably the greatest year for English bands’ releases out of the last 28, so that’s saying plenty!) so it’s been fun playing this absolute classic all week and obsessing all over it again. Easily grouped with other amazing Brit shoegaze bands, but in actual fact way too muscular and hard hitting to fit in snugly with them (a trait they shared with Swervedriver), Catherine Wheel frankly stunned on this LP, aided and abetted by producer Tim Friese-Greene , producer of challenging, esoteric post-rockers Talk Talk (in that band’s post weeny synth pop phase).
Lou Barlow – Goodnight Unknown (Merge)
It takes several plays to settle in; but with Barlow’s longstanding charms as a confessional singer, hooksmith, and disarming lyricist, fall one will. Whether his touching first foray into new daddyhood (is that an Elmo reference?!), “Take Advantage,” or the manifest maturity of “Modesty,” or the moody-mean “Don’t Apologize,” this backstage access to Barlow’s soul sunk in sneaky tunes sucks you in like Venus flytraps.
Mission of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light (Matador)
Going for the jugular, they burst from the gate with one of those Clint Conley classics of tuneful vocals, rapid riffs, and crashing Burma chaos: “1,2,3 Partyy” lifts the melody (and references the lyrics) of San Jose’s Syndicate of Sound ’s 1966 #8 “Little Girl” (memorably covered by The Dead Boys on 1977’s Young, Loud and Snotty) and drives it into punk frenzy! It’s his most exciting track since “Dirt” and “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate.” Roger Miller ’s angular, sinister “Possession” and Peter Prescott ’s pounding, noisy, heavy “Blunder” follow, making an early case that all three are clicking, writing and evincing vicious ensemble chops. And so it goes for nine more songs! Aren’t you glad they came back?
Visqueen – Message to Garcia (Local 638)
And though there’re copious guest stars such as Neko Case on five songs, the high-energy, up-tempo, elastic blast of Visqueen is *Rachel Flotard*’s kick-ass licks, her commanding thick pipes and compassionate lyrics (the many about her recently deceased father, whom she was taking care of, will choke you up), and *Ben Hooker*’s slam-banging. Man, it’s great to have them back!
For Against – Never Been (Words on Music)
Playing this record is to be sucked into another world, succumbing to its textural tenacity, so brimming with pocket passages of flickering luminous radiance and the coolest shade, dabbling in dissonance, light jangle, esoteric bass, hypnotic drums, and some of the most inventive guitar playing you’ll hear any year.
The Dimes – The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry (Pet Marmoset)
Portland, OR’s brilliant Johnny Clay chronicles Beantown’s history, spanning from rebellion , to abolitionist passions, to the 1872 Great Boston Fire, to the anti-Italian hysteria of 1921’s Sacco and Venzetti trial, to… my word! Hats off to one of the best/most entertaining folk-pop groups in years!
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