It's another good week in Indie Basement with six albums on the plate: Yo La Tengo's best album in a while; the first album from Quasi (Sam Coomes & Janet Weiss) in a decade; a major step up for Dutch artist Amber Arcades; UK group The Golden Dregs' first album for 4AD; the latest from Aussie garage punks CIVIC; and James Chapman's fifth album as Maps.

Over in Notable Releases, Andrew listens to new albums by Paramore, Kelela, Liv.e, and more.

More Basement-related stuff from this week: The Sisters of Mercy announced their first North American tour in 15 years and BrooklynVegan is presenting the (sold-out) Brooklyn show, and I interviewed frontman Andrew Eldritch about that and more.

Plus: Das Koolies (4/5ths of Super Furry Animals) announced their debut EP; Depeche Mode detailed their new album Memento Mori; Chicago's FACS have a new album on the way; as do Django Django who shared five songs from it; The Reds Pinks & Purples also announced a new album (and still won't play NYC); and UK shoegazers bdrmm are now on Mogwai's Rock Action Records.

RIP Burt Bacharach, one of the greatest to ever do it.

The Indie Basement corner of the BV shop is stocked upcoming releases/reissues from Ivy, Sleaford Mods, Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach, Deerhoof, and New Pornographers, plus vinyl from New Order, Love and Rockets, Sparks, The The, Beach House, The Beths, Crime & The City Solution, Protomartyr, Naima Bock and more.

Head below for this week's reviews.

yo la tengo this stupid world

ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World (Matador)
A terrific album in one of the most consistently great discographies of the last 40 years

"We're not people who make radical changes." That's Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan talking to Kreative Kontrol's Vish Khanna this week about the band's new album, This Stupid World. If you're a Yo La Tengo fan, you know what Ira means. Together for almost 40 years, and 31 years with their current lineup, Ira, Georgia Hubley and James McNew tend to stay in their lane, an indie rock sound steeped in '60s Brill Building songcraft, '70s New York punk and '80s New Zealand DIY that's capable of gentle beauty, hypnotic drones, and ragged guitar solos, often all in one song. Sometimes they opt for a grander version of that formula, other times more minimal, but it's always distinctly Yo La Tengo. Though they have many great albums in their discography, these days they might be better known as a live band with setlists that reach deep into their discography with 20-minute jam-out excursions common. Some have called them Indie Rock's Grateful Dead.

Yo La Tengo doesn't throw any curveballs on This Stupid World, but they don't need to. This is nine examples of a band still in control of their sound, still within its bounds, but still finding new inspiration and corners to explore. More in control than ever before, too. Ira, Georgia and James produced, recorded and mixed the record themselves this time, learning from their past few albums working with Jim O'Rourke. It's a refinement of everything that's come before, but it also plays like a calling card. What does Yo La Tengo sound like? This Stupid World. There are the jagged, fuzzy pop numbers ("Brain Capers" and "Fallout," with its "bah bah bah da" backing vocals); krautrock inspired one-chord groovers ("Tonight's Episode"); feedback-laden slow-burn rippers; hazy shoegaze ("Miles Away"); and especially pretty songs sung by Georgia ("Aselestine'). Lyrically, as usual, they mix thoughtful ruminations on life, peppered with pop culture nonsequiteurs. This Stupid World may not offer any big swing innovations, but it's top tier Yo La Tengo. The real revelation is considering just how consistently great they've remained over four decades.


amber arcades barefoot on a diamond road

ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Amber Arcades - Barefoot on Diamond Road (Fire)
With the studio as the main instrument, Amber Arcades' third album is her most distinctive yet

When we last heard from Amber Arcades, aka Dutch artists Annelotte de Graaf, five years ago, she was releasing her second album which, like her first, leaned to the dreamy side of guitar-driven indie rock. Her third album reteams Amber with Ben Greenberg, who produced her debut, but this is a very different album. Made remotely with Greenberg in NYC and Annelotte in Utrecht (where her day job is in government law), Barefoot on Diamond Road is decidedly a studio album, full of grand orchestration, an arsenal of electronics and effects, and no concern for how it might be played live.

As that, it's a wonderfully immersive album, pulling you into its lush and at times dischordant universe. Among the highlights: "Contain," which sets harmonies against a bitcrushed and slowed-to-a-crawl backing worthy of Godflesh; gorgeous chamber pop number "Odd to Even"; "Life is Coming Home," which is almost all voice, but heavily treated voice (shades of Imogen Heap); the space-rocking "I'm Not There" that feels like it's being warped by 20 Gs; and a few songs that are clearly trip-hop inspired (the dizzying "True" being the best of the bunch). The album surprises at every turn and at 40 minutes never overstays its welcome. You can still imagine the songs on Barefoot on Diamond Road being played on an acoustic guitar or with a four-piece band, but in this case thank goodness they're not.



Quasi - Breaking the Balls of History (Sub Pop)
First album from Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss in a decade finds them with a fire in their bellies

When Janet Weiss' drums kick in on "Last Long Laugh," the opening track on Quasi's first album in a decade, it's a massive THWOCK followed by Keith Moon-worthy fills that crash into Sam Coomes' distorted organ. It's a sound, along with Sam and Janet's harmonies, that's distinctly Quasi. The album was a result of the pandemic, but fueled by everything that happened in the last few years, from Trump and Black Lives Matter, to the auto accident that broke both of Janet's legs and her collarbone. “When you’re younger and in a band, you make records because that’s what you do,” Sam said. “But this time, the whole thing felt purposeful in a way that was unique to the circumstances.” They recorded Breaking the Balls of History -- great title! -- in just five days and you can feel the fire in their bellies, whether it's the psychedelic lockdown terror of "Doomscrollers," the joyous pop of "Queen of Ears," the widescreen mellotron grandeur of "Gravity," or the riotous title track. This is vital stuff, a record whose 46-minute runtime only feels half as long, and gets better on replay. Good to have you back, Quasi.


the golden dregs album

The Golden Dregs - On Grace & Dignity (4AD)
The lovely 4AD debut by this UK group may fill your warm-and-sad quotient for the winter

Cornwall, UK singer-songwriter Benjamin Woods has been making dark, elegant pop as The Golden Dregs for the better part of decade, painting a rich, twilight-hued sonic tapestry that has gotten him comparisons to Tindersticks, The National and Leonard Cohen. He's got the voice for it, low and sonoros, and builds his arrangements around it and with a "sad bastard" / "beautiful loser" name like The Golden Dregs there's no question of his aim. After a few albums and singles, the most recent via UK festival End of the Road's house label, The Golden Dregs are now labelmates of The National having just released their 4AD debut. On Grace & Dignity is a fitting title for a record as well dressed as this, lifted by warm piano and strings and other very organic sounds. It might go without saying but there's an aching sadness deep in its bones, but Woods wears it like a warm blanket. As we head into the last month of winter, The Golden Dregs are a welcome mug of tea in front of the fireplace.


CIVIC - Taken By Force

CIVIC - Taken By Force (ATO)
Aussie punks' first album for ATO doesn't mess with their glammy, big riff pysch-garage formula

For their first album on big indie ATO, Melbourne's CIVIC have not altered their sound one bit from their smaller indie releases, delivering surfy garage punk nuggets inspired by actual Nuggets, Detroit protopunk and Aussie groups like The Saints and The Scientists. You know: big riffs, gang vocal choruses, perfectly sloppy solos, and heaps of attitude. If you follow the current Melbourne punk scene, it will not surprise you to learn that Taken By Force was mixed and mastered by local hero Mike Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), who keeps a raw edge while making things very listenable. Even if you don't listen much stuff like this -- and I listen to less than I used to -- it's hard to deny sneering rockers like "End of the Line," "Born in the Heat" and "Neighbor Sadist" especially when played very loud.


Counter Melodies

Maps - Counter Melodies (Mute)
James Chapman eschews vocals for clubby beats and seamless transitions inspired by DJ gigs

James Chapman had his sound as Maps figured out from his first single, 2005's "Start Something"; a hazy brand of electropop that is gothy but jubilant, ecstatic epics set to motorik beats and cathedral synths with Chapman's whispery vocals gliding atop. Counter Melodies doesn't rock the boat too much, but does incorporate club culture into this mostly instrumental set that was inspired by Chapman testing out new songs during DJ gigs. "It’s like a comedian trying out new material," he says. "I really liked the idea of tracks flowing into one another, like a continuous DJ set. As soon as that idea was in my head, I just worked really hard to make it happen.” Countermelodies does indeed feel like a DJ set, with tracks flowing into one another for a seamless 50 minutes of nonstop Maps. Chapman is in an especially blissful mode here, with airy keyboards washing over you like ocean spray while arpeggiations swirl around your head, and beats skitter below. There's not much in the way of vocals, apart from a lot of "Ahhhhhhhs," but "Heya Yaya," "Windows Open," and "Fever Dreams" deliver big hooks without lyrics.


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