This week: Midlake return with their first album in a decade; Pictish Trail is back with more wonderfully weird pop; Young Guv delivers a third volume of jangly goodness; Liverpool band Seatbelts (ex Hooton Tennis Club) release their debut album; King Gizzard and Tropical Fuck Storm team for a new single; and Feelies offshoot The Trypes reissue Music for Neighbors.

For more new album reviews, Andrew takes on Rosalía, Oso Oso, Charli XCX, Hot Water Music and more in Notable Releases. More Basement-friendly news from the week: Hollie Cook, MushArcade Fire, and Flasher announced new albums, and Be Your Own Pet are getting back together at Jack White's request.

Just a reminder that there's an Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop that includes a selection of books, albums and merched hand-picked by yours truly, including preorders of Fontaines DC (on exclusive translucent red vinyl), Wet LegDestroyer, and more, plus classics from Pavement, LCD Soundsystem, Stereolab, Broadcast, Spoon and more.

That's plenty of intro, don't you think? Head below for this week's reviews.


ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods (ATO / Bella Union)
First album in nearly a decade from this Texas prog-folk vets is one of their best

For the Sake of Bethel Woods is the first Midlake in nine years and part of its reason for being is unique to say the least. Keyboardist and flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, who died in 2018, appeared to him in a dream telling him he needed to get the band back together. While other creative forces were already in play, it was definitely a sign. Jesse grew up in Bethel, NY which was home of the original Woodstock festival and a picture of Jesse's dad at the fest -- a still from the Woodstock documentary, actually -- served as the inspiration for the album, its title and artwork.

Whatever got them back together, it resulted in a terrific album. For the Sake of Bethel Woods is another gorgeous long-player, uniquely Midlake in their signature, highly orchestrated mix of '70s soft rock, prog, spacerock, komische, and folk. This is also the first time they've worked with an outside producer, the in-demand John Congleton, whose main role seems to have been decision-maker. “I can’t say enough just how much his influence brought our music to another sonic place than we would have,” said singer Eric Pulido. “I don’t want to record without a producer again. Part of that is the health of the band, because as you get older you get more opinionated and you kind of need that person who says, ‘No, it’s going to be this way!’ It’s hard to do that with your friends.”

As usual, the album sounds incredible, especially if you have a fondness for Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project, and it boasts one of their most memorable collections of songs to date, played with an energy not usually associated with the band. You wouldn't say "Bethel Woods," "Exile," "Meanwhile" or "Gone" rock, per se, but they've got real drive. I'd say this is Midlake's best since 2006's The Trials of Van Occupanther, and in some ways it's better. They keep the mossy earthtones and fondness for vintage synths, mellotrons, flutes and lush vocal harmonies, but mostly jettison the lyrical preoccupations with the lives of people in 1891, for the here and now and personal. For the Sake of Bethel Woods doesn't feel like a history lesson, it feels like a homecoming.


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Pictish Trail - Island Family (Fire Records)
Johnny Lynch returns with another wonderfully weird collection of off-kilter pop

Scottish musician Johnny Lynch has been recording as Pictish Trail for 20 years now, having put out his first album in 2002 on King Creosote's Fence Records. Island Family is his ninth album, give or take a few depending on what you count as an "album" and he continues to make music as if he's handing out CDRs, with seemingly no consideration for the general public. That is not to say this is an album of discordant noise, quite the opposite; Lynch has an innate way with hooks and earworm choruses. But he's a weirdo at heart who sees and hears the world differently than most of us. He's a pitcher that only throws curveballs and, like Bugs Bunny, while defying the laws of physics and Major League Baseball he manages to get it over the plate most of the time. Pictish Trail songs zig and zag with a mad scientists' zeal, Frankensteining drum machines and oboes, hip hop beats and metal guitars, orchestral prog and birdsongs, techno and folk, into catchy three-minute pop mutants. Island Family defies eras -- though Beck and Flaming Lips are a constant influence -- and imagines a secluded paradise free from time and space where bonkers songs like "Never Going Back" and "Nuclear Sunflower Swamp" are chart-toppers.


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Young Guv - GUV III (Run for Cover)
Another sparkling collection of jangly powerpop from former Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook.

Former Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook was on tour with his Young Guv powerpop solo project when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. He hunkered down in New Mexico and ended up stuck there for nine months, living with his bandmates in a solar-powered structure made of adobe and recycled bottles and cans. Spending the better part of a year at the foot of the Taos mountains, a serene setting in the weirdest year of most of our lives, proved inspiring -- he wrote two albums worth of songs there. “I was isolated, the world was in complete chaos,” Ben said. “I lost control of the routine that I thrive in. I worked on songs more randomly, only when I felt like it. I was hard on myself for not writing enough. Truthfully, I don’t even remember doing most of it. I was removed from the process, in a way, somehow alienated from my own creativity.” Like he did with GUV I & II two years ago, Ben is releasing III and IV as tandem albums within the same year. The first part is his best batch of Young Guv songs yet, 11 sparkling guitar nuggets that recall the peak late-'70s / early-'80s powerpop era. "Only Wanna See U Tonight," "It's Only Dancing," "Lo Lo Lonely" and "Couldn't Leave You If I Tried" sound like lost singles from a Yellow Pills compilation and get stuck in your head quick.


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Seatbelts - A World Inbetween (Rooftop Records)
Liverpool band featuring former members of Hooton Tennis Club mix a variety of UK indie styles on their debut album

Liverpool band Seatbelts formed four years ago or so by Ryan Murphy and James Madden who both write and sing and were in terrific 2010s band Hooton Tennis Club. They added a third vocalist and songwriter, Abi Wood, to the group and have been releasing a steady stream of singles and EPs since. Their debut album, A World Inbetween, collects the best of those, along with a few new songs, or as they say, "“some old, some new, some slanted, some enchanted." That's a reference to Hooton Tennis Club's very audible love of Pavement, and you still get some of that with Seatbelts, but with three singer-songwriters, they are working with a much broader palette, with sweeping, anthemic songs like "Citylines," "Another Passing Day," and "Inspiration For Robots," sidling up against snarky indie rock. There's room for all of it in this charming, tuneful World.



King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard - "The Dripping Tap" / Tropical Fuck Storm and King Gizzard - "Satanic Slumber Party" (Joyful Noise)
One jam session with two Aussie bands + a lot of hats yields two very different singles

Way back in 2018, Tropical Fuck Storm's Gareth Liddiard produced King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's excursion into boogie rock, Fishing for Fishies. The two bands hung out a lot together during this time and "after a long day recording and a few too many drinks," says TFS' Fiona Kitschin, "the Gizz guys and us all wore hats and recorded a very long jam, which we called ‘Hat Jam.'" That jam has now resulted in new singles for both bands. We first got King Gizzard's manic, 18-minute "The Dripping Tap," and then a week later Tropical Fuck Storm released "Satanic Slumber Party" that is co-credited to KG.

While the songs were born out of the same jam, it's pretty wild how much these two Australian groups made it their own. "The Dripping Tap" hits the gas immediately and doesn't stop, with chanting vocals and near-constant hammer-on flashy guitar flillegrees that send the song joyously flying into the sun. You can still hear those guitar parts and crazed beat in "Satanic Slumber Party," but Tropical Fuck Storm take things to weirder and much darker places -- their usual territory -- with Liddiard vocally sparring with Kitschin and Erica Dunn atop guitars, sax, synths and more. As Kitschin perfectly puts it, "It’s like ‘Love Shack’ by the B52’s except it’s evil."

Compare and contrast:



The Trypes - Music for Neighbors (Pravda Music)
Out-of-print compilation of tracks from this mid-'80s Feelies offshoot, featuring members of Speed the Plough as well, gets a welcome reissue for the band's 40th anniversary

When The Feelies went on hiatus after the release of their 1980 debut album Crazy Rhythms, the members played together in a few splinter projects, including Yung Wu, The Willies and The Trypes. The latter featured original Feelies members Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, soon-to-be Feelies bassist Brenda Sauter and drummer Stanley Demeski, plus Speed the Plough's Elbrus Kelemet, John Baumgartner, Marc Francia, and Toni Paruta. The Feelies' style of Velvet Underground-descended rock is still evident, but The Trypes added orchestration and other elements to make them distinctive.

The Trypes only put out one EP, 1984's great The Explorers Hold, but recorded lots of other songs that eventually saw the light of day on 2012 compilation Music For Neighbors, which added over a dozen more songs to the EP's original four. That double album was a one-time only pressing and went on to fetch for around $100 on the secondary market, so it's great that Pravda is now reissuing it to celebrate The Trypes' 40th anniversary. It's out now digitally and on CD, with vinyl to come later in 2022. It's slightly different than the 2012 release, too, with two songs recorded by the original Trypes during a 2017 reunion, plus demos, covers, and more. Those original four songs are still the best things on here, but any fans of The Feelies and the fertile Haledon, NJ scene of the early '80s will want to grab this.

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