Indie Basement (6/10): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's a very solid week in Indie Basement with reviews of new albums from Kelley Stoltz, The Dream Syndicate, Shearwater, Yoo Doo Right, µ-Ziq , and former A Place to Bury Strangers bassist Dion Lunadon, plus a new single from Dummy. This is the best crop of records we've had in a while.
Over in Notable Releases, Andrew reviews new albums by The Range, Joyce Manor, and more. It was also a busy week for news. Glasgow's great The Delgados announced they're getting back together for their first shows in nearly 18 years, and there were new album announcements from The Charlatans' Tim Burgess, The Black Angels, Bonny LIght Horseman, Cass McCombs, William Orbit, and Air Waves.There are also retrospective box sets on the way from NEU! and Tall Dwarfs. Plus the indiest thing of all: I saw Kylie Minogue.
Visit the Indie Basement virtual basement in BV shop, which is full of vinyl, merch and more hand-selected by me, including that new Tall Dwarfs box set, plus new and classic albums by Stereolab, Broadcast, Talking Heads, The Clash, Kevin Morby, Spiritualized, Pavement, Horsegirl, Cocteau Twins, Wet Leg, Fontaines D.C., Redd Kross, and more.
Head below for this week's reviews...
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Kelley Stoltz - The Stylist (Agitated)
For his 17th album, Kelley Stoltz successfully adds '70s/'80s soft rock to his bag of tricks. It's a treat.
Twenty years and nearly as many records into his career, you might think Kelley Stoltz has dabbled in all the genres he's likely to, but his 17th album finds him trying on some new looks. For the most part The Stylist leaves post-punk, folk and '60s psych on the shelf in favor of the kind of pastel-colored rock and pop that was all over the radio in the early-'80s, by way of the melted modern dreampop currently found on "chill" Spotify playlists. He's always got the tunes, but The Stylist may catch you off guard when his reference points are Loverboy ("In the Night") and Steve Miller Band ("Change") instead of Echo & the Bunnymen and XTC. Of course, Kelley works at a very high level and knows how to turn cheesy synth sounds into velvety sonic fondue. That manifests itself best on songs that tilt back to '70s AM, like "Cold World," "Is There Anything Better Than This, Babe" and the wonderful, breezy closing track, "My Island." Kelly calls this album an "inbetweener," a bridge "out of one thing towards something I haven't fully grasped yet." What could Kelley do with reggae or tropicalia? Let's hope he sails further out to sea on Album #18.
Yoo Doo Right - A Murmur, To The East (Mothland)
Montreal trio craft towering, proggy, shoegazy post-rock on their second album
Named after a Can song, Montreal's Yoo Doo Right don't try and hide their influences, pulling much from krautrock, but also post-rock and shoegaze. This trio are mountain builders, carefully constructing massive monoliths of sound atop motorik rhythms, layers of skyscraper synths, burrowing bass and soaring guitars. "Say Less, Do More" is not only the opening song on the band's second album, A Murmur, To The East, it is also seems to be their credo. There's not a lot of singing on this album -- that first song is about it, actually -- but it's no less memorable without voices. Another mantra for this band might be "more is more," as the longest songs -- the Morricone-esque "The Failure of Stiff, Tired Friends" and epic closer "Feet Together, Face Up, On the Front Lawn" -- tend to be the best, allowing them to really get out there and explore the galaxy. This is one of those albums that makes you want to turn the volume way up, sit on your couch and let the waves pound against you till the neighbors complain. If it's loud enough you won't hear them complain.
The Dream Syndicate - Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions (Fire)
Paisley Underground vets' fourth post-reunion album is their best since their debut
The Dream Syndicate have now made as many albums since reuniting in 2012 as they did during their original '80s heyday. Unlike most groups who come back after a long absence, though, Steve Wynn shows little interest in recreating the past. Many would be happy for them to make More Days of Wine and Roses* but there's little Velvet Underground worship from these once kings of the Paisley Underground scene on Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions. ("Little" being a relative term, VU courses through Wynn's blood.) Wynn does still love the sound of the guitar and finding new tones within, but here he's filtering it through glam, prog and shoegaze. Ultraviolet is a garden of earthly delights for six-string psych lovers, from the twin EBow'd leads on "The Chronicles of You" to the textured atmosphere of "My Lazy Mind." Wynn also drops a couple of his catchiest songs in years with the sunny "Everytime You Come Around" and the slashing "Trying to Get Over." Wynn and the rest of the band seem invigorated and inspired throughout, making for what is arguably their best since their first (which turns 40 later this year). Here's to where they go next.
*They may not be interested in repeating themselves on record, but they aren't against playing their best album in full on tour.
µ-Ziq - Magic Pony Ride (Planet Mu)
Mike Paradinas returns to classic jungle breaks -- and Planet Mu -- for a very enjoyable trip
This is the stuff. Mike Paradinas is back with his first µ-Ziq album on his own Planet Mu label in 10 years, and it feels like a classic. As it it coulda been made 25 years ago. Jungle beats, warm, ambient textures, squelchy acid-house 303s and good vibes abound, whisking listeners back to the mid-'90s when jungle seemed to be inspiring everyone. Those chopped-up amen breaks still hold a power, and Paradinas knows how to pair them with lush soundscapes and melodies that will hit nostalgia buttons for some but in the right ways. Like last year's Scurlage, Magic Pony Ride was inspired by a family vacation and this time the Paradinas clan is on the record, with his daughter Elka providing vocals on three songs, including the record's most pleasing banger, "Galope." The family that plays together stays together, to misquote an old evangelical saying, and let's hope the Paradinas clan already have their next trip booked.
Shearwater - The Great Awakening (Polyborus)
Another gorgeous, elegiac record from Jonathan Meiburg
For his first Shearwater album in six years, Jonathan Meiburg was determined to not make a heavy album like 2016's Jet Plane and Oxbow, despite the obviously heavy times. “I felt hopeless,” he says. “And I didn’t want to make hopeless music.” To achieve that Meiburg went out into the real world and made field recordings that he and his Loma bandmate Dan Duszynski incorporated into new songs with help from Shearwater regulars Emily Lee and Josh Halpern. While touching on weighty subjects -- life, death, love, faith -- there is nothing earthbound about The Great Awakening. Songs "Xenarthran," "Empty Orchestra," "There Goes The Sun" and the rest of it soar in the clouds. Probably not coincidentally, the album was made while Meiberg was working on a book, A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey, which is about South American falcons called caracaras. Like those birds, the album is regal, beautiful, formidable and more than a little unknowable, but you are drawn to it all the same.
Dion Lunadon - Beyond Everything (In the Red)
Former A Place to Bury Strangers bassist charts his own sonic path on his second solo album
Dion Lunadon spent a decade as bassist in A Place to Bury Strangers, serving as the rock-solid backbone against Oliver Ackermann's noisey effects-laden guitar wig-outs. Now a solo artist, Dion gets to spread his wings. While he doesn't fly far enough from the nest -- fuzzed-out garage-psych -- to make the album title literal, he does head in some new directions. Pedal-to-the-metal, two-chord burners like "Glass Doll" and "By My Side" are second nature to Lunadon and ripple with high-voltage current but it's the detours that are the most interesting songs and the ones furthest out. "Elastic Diagnostic" is spare, raw and visceral, while "Goodbye Satan" flirts with seedy cocktail lounge rhythms. Still, innovation can be overrated. The undeniable "Living and Dying With You," moves beyond with sheer punk force and you'd best just get out of the way.
Dummy - "Mono Retriever" b/w "Pepsi Vacuum" (Sub Pop)
L.A. motorik shoegazers deliver two excellent songs and new sounds for the Sub Pop Singles Club
L.A. band Dummy are back with this 7" single that's out via the Sub Pop Singles Club. "Mono Retriever" is very much in the drone-and-groove style of last year's excellent Mandatory Enjoyment and will not make the Stereolab comparisons stop, but they do it oh so well. The real treat here, though, is the b-side. "Pepsi Vacuum" is pure atmosphere, with synthesizers that sounds like mist rising off a lake at dawn, with ethereal harmonies and a chill, inviting beat that lulls you into bliss before taking you over the top with crescents of noise. The two songs reference each other, musically, as well which adds depth to both.
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