Indie Basement (7/22): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
New York City is in the midst of a weeklong heatwave, making electric bills soar and this writer drop some cheesy lines, but Indie Basement is just as hot with this week's very cool new albums: Ty Segall goes acoustic, The Sadies release their final album with the late Dallas Good, TRAAMS return after seven years with help from Protomartyr's Joe Casey, and Thor Harris invites a bunch of friends (including Zola Jesus and Marissa Nadler) to help make a dub album. Plus: relive the lofty heyday of '00s hipster Williamsburg with a reissue of Liars' 2001 debut.
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew has you covered in Notable Releases with Rico Nasty, Flo Milli, Joey Bada$$, and more. If you're an only child like me, you need more and more I shall give: Pulp might be reuniting; Robyn Hitchcock announced a new album with lots of cool guests; so did Engineers' Mark Peters; and Flaming Lips' are giving Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' the deluxe box set treatment.
The Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including new albums by Kevin Morby, Belle & Sebastian, Porridge Radio, Spiritualized, Wet Leg, Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Mercury Rev, Aldous Harding, and King Hannah, not to mention classics from Kraftwerk, Sparks, Spoon, Stereolab, Broadcast, LIlys, Pylon, The Cribs, Goldfrapp, Oasis, Echo & The Bunnymen, Slowdive, Roxy Music, The Libertines, and more.
Head below for this week's reviews.
Ty Segall - “Hello, Hi” (Drag City)
Ty Segall goes (mostly) acoustic and plays almost everything for a true solo album
Got to give it to Ty Segall, he goes out of his way to never do the same thing twice. Or at least twice in a row. “If I were to be completely honest with you, I wish the twists and turns could have been more extreme,” he recently told Relix. “I’m actively trying to get outside of the universe I’m comfortable writing in. I want to broaden it.” After last year's gleaming, synth-centric Harmonizer and 2019's guitarless First Taste, Segall is in a decidedly quiet mood with "Hello, Hi," that puts acoustic guitars in the spotlight and in a similar universe as 2013's Sleeper and 2011's Goodbye Bread.
Akin to his early albums, Ty played almost everything on “Hello, Hi” and nearly half the record is just him and his guitar. His voice is very much an instrument here, multi-tracked into lush harmonies that recall the mid-'60s heyday of David Crosby's various groups. "Cement," "Good Morning," and "Blue" are among Ty's most delicate and sweet creations. They're just as compelling as his wild and loud jammers. On that note, there are electric guitars here, just usually without fuzz pedals stomped on, but Ty couldn't resist letting loose at least once. The "Hello, Hi" title track is a real ripper with unhinged solos, crusty riffage, and gonzo Keith Moon fills to give you that fix until his next record or live show. The best songs fall somewhere in-between those extremes, moody folk rockers "Looking at You," "Saturday, Pt 2" and "Distractions" that close out the album with power and finesse in an engaging state of chill, as part of Ty Segall's ever-expanding universe.
The Sadies - Colder Streams (Yep Roc)
The Sadies' final album with the late Dallas Good send him off with one of the best albums of their long career
Dallas Goode tragically died in February but The Sadies, the long-running Toronto band he led with his brother Travis, had already completed their new album the previous fall. He'd also already written the bio for the record. "Do any bands make their best work this far along in their career? I can think of artists who still make great music after all these years, but their best? Yet, here we are and that’s what I’m accusing us of. I think it’s our best but I’ve been wrong before. All I ask is that you listen to a few songs and decide for yourself what it sounds like. If you like it, you’ll know what to do. But my description of the music would just be punishing for the both of us."
It's too soon to make a judgement, but Colder Streams is no doubt a wonderful record and certainly one of the best in the Sadies' formidable discography. Made with Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry in the producer's chair, it finds the Good brothers at the top of their game, crafting melodic, lightly psychedelic rock that, more than anything, recalls early-'80s college rock from the L.A. Paisley Underground scene and the post-REM janglepop diaspora.
Even if Dallas' spectre wasn't hanging over this, it would be hard to ignore the regret-tinged, autumnal vibe of songs like "All the Good" where they sing "It’s too late to turn around / No need to reflect on the past / Nothing I can say will slow it down / So If you don't want to know, don't ask," amid melancholic mandolins and minor key harmonies. The album even closes with an elegiac instrumental, "End Credits," that plays like a final chapter or ride into the sunset. We lost Dallas Good too soon but Colder Streams is a helluva way to go out.
Liars - They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top reissue (Mute)
It's the first in Mute's Liars reissue campaign
While Liars began as part of the early-'00s NYC post-punk revival when a whole bunch of bands simultaneously seemed to discover Gang of Four, Pylon and PiL's Metal Box, from the start they stood head and shoulders above the pack of angular guitars. Literally: frontman Angus Andrew stands around 6'6" range and cuts an imposing figure in the Nick Cave tradition. Liars' shows felt dangerous, like a pile of oily rags left by a radiator decorated with vintage Christmas lights. They could go off at any moment. Unlike most of their dirty-haired compatriots in scene, Liars were quick to mutate and have over the last two decades continued to make terrific, challenging and danceable rock that still feels dangerous.
Mute Records has just launched a reissue campaign of Liars' whole catalogue, starting with their debut album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, which was originally released in 2001 on Gern Blandsten. This was Liars at their most trad post-punk, but few records evoke those days of lawless warehouse parties as well as this. You can smell the sweat on "Mr. Your on Fire Mr," "Tumbling Walls Buried Me in the Debris with ESG," and "We Live NE of Compton" that have the nervous, wordy, snarky energy of cheap rent, cheap drugs and lots of free time. You can't go back but this still sounds great.
Thor Harris - Doom Dub II (Joyful Noise)
The onetime Swans and Shearwater member pays tribute to dub icons Lee Perry, Mad Professor, King Tubby and other masters of the form, with help from Zola Jesus, Marissa Nadler, and more
"Almost every music geek and musician loves late 70s Dub," Thor Harris says. "If you tell anyone you need help making a Dub record, they will beg to be part of it."
Thor released Doom Dub in 2020, a record featuring Yoko Ono, David Yow, Ben Frost and more, informed by King Tubby, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood and other masters of the form but with his own unique perspective. The "dub" part was clear but as for "doom," he says, "t’s not looking likely that we humans are going to last much longer. The 6th extinction is well under way." The album was released March 20, 2020, by the way, when the craziness had only started to kick in.
Two years and lots of craziness later, Thor is back with a sequel and this one features Marissa Nadler, Zola Jesus, Mike Watt, composer Lawrence English, Serbian pop-folk singer Marina Tadic, Thor & Friends bandmate Sarah “Goat” Gautier, and Adam Harding who helped "mix and mutate" the first volume as well. Made during lockdown -- most song titles are variations of "Day __ of Quarantine" -- this is dub of the dystopian post-punk variety, with bone-rattling bass, sizzling, echoey percussion and tape effects, not to mention oceans of reverb and requisite splashes of melodica. Much of it is on the ambient side, but there are some killer cuts too -- "Day 447 of Quarantine" (ft Zola Jesus), "Sean Cook Dub" and "I Miss You So Much" -- that could be snuck into a set at a soundsystem party in Kingston. Bring on Vol III.
TRAAMS - personal best (Fatcat)
Dark UK post-punks' first album in seven years features Protomartyr's Joe Casey and more
It's been a long time since we've heard from UK band TRAAMS whose last album was released in 2015 and last single was out in 2017. “I couldn’t really write, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything musical. I’m pretty sure I didn’t pick up a guitar for 2 years,” frontman Stuart Hopkins said. “I was waiting for that feeling to come back.” While the band never officially broke up, they were in deep, indefinite hiatus when Hopkins began playing around with a few unfinished tracks in late 2019 and got the spark back.
Then of course the pandemic hit, which gave him and his old bandmates time to revisit and reconnect, and when lockdown restrictions began to lift they started working on new music. But meeting up in each other's apartments meant playing at much lower volumes, which radically altered the direction of the band. "We had to re-learn how to play together,” Stuart said. “It was really quiet and considered, whereas before it’s always been obnoxiously loud. All the things we’d usually relied upon – bass and drums locking in, guitar feedback, shouted words – were no longer applicable in this new way of writing. After our initial reservations, it was incredibly inspiring and freeing.”
The result is personal best, which still finds them plotting a droney, motorik route, but into more simmering, hushed territory. They invited a few others along for the ride, including Protomartyr's Joe Casey (who lends his distinctive howl to album standout "The Light at Night"), Liza Violet of Menace Beach and Soffie Viemose of Danish band Lowly. Even at lower volumes, TRAAMS still manage to evoke eerie landscapes.
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