Bill’s Indie Basement (8/2): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy August! It's a good week in the basement: Ty Segall goes dual drummer on First Taste (is it his best album yet? Maybe!); Kelley Stoltz announces his 10th album and shares the terrific first single; Australia's Possible Humans give traditional indie rock a good name; Fucked Up's Ben Cook channels Teenage Fanclub on his new album as Young Guv; and Glasgow's Spinning Coin are back with an ambitious new single.
If you need more new record reviews, Andrew's got you covered in Notable Releases, and if you need more Basement-approved music there's: Girl Ray's great new (and new wavey) single; Australia's Parsnip are pretty special; New Pornographers and Plus/Minus are back; Seefeel are going to tour this fall; and this Kinks Arthur box set looks sweet.
The drums hit you immediately on "Taste," the opening cut to Ty Segall's new album First Taste. They are bigger, crazier, more awesome. ("Yes, this is how all rock drums should sound!" is a thought I thought, perhaps even out loud.) What it is, actually, is dual drummers. For this album, the Freedom Band's regular man behind the kit, Charles Moothart, is joined by Ty, who is no slouch, on a second kit. With Ty in your left ear and Charles in your right, their twin-engine percussion really kicks First Taste into overdrive, whether it's in loping Can mode, mathy jazz, or one of the many massive riff King Crimson-style jams on the album. First Taste might be Ty's best album to date.
First Taste is also Ty's most varied album to date, incorporating all manner of instrumentation, including koto, recorder, bouzouki, harmonizer, mandolin, saxophones and brass and more. The mandolin, which may be the best thing to happen to Ty Segall in ages, comes into play on three of the album's best songs: the groovy, laid back "The Arms"; the playful "I Sing Them" that has an infectious "la la" falsetto hook and some crazed recorder-playing; and the absolutely killer, album-closing "Lone Cowboys" which starts very mellow but builds quite a head of steam over its four-and-a-half minutes.
There's also the two-part "When I Met My Parents" which are short, krauty and wigged out; and "Self Esteem," which sounds like a late-'90s Stereolab b-side, all uptight tropicalia with unhinged horns. He even holds your attention on the a cappella "Ice Plant" that features some harmonic help from Shannon Lay and is a contender for secret best song on the album. Ty and the Freedom Band sound especially dialed in this time and you can tell this album must've been fun to make. It is certainly fun to listen to as loud as you can get away with. Those drums!
Ty Segall & The Freedom Band are doing extended residencies where they're playing First Taste in full (if Ty is not singing behind the kit I'm gonna be upset), along with full-album performances of Manipulator, Goodbye Bread, Melted and Emotional Mugger. The L.A. one is underway now and they'll be in Brooklyn in October.
Kelly Stoltz has been making music professionally for 20 years now, having released albums on Sub Pop, Third Man and Castle Face, but almost always doing it himself, playing all the instruments and recording them at his own analogue studio. A real musicologist, Kelley wears his influences -- '60s psych pop and early-'80s post-punk/new wave -- on his sleeve but always manages to put his own spin on it. He's gearing up to release My Regime, his 10th album and second for Spanish label Banana & Louie. It's out September 20.
The first single is "Turning Into You," a shimmering, synthy pop song that could've fit right in on a KROQ playlist from 1983, nestled in between The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" and his heroes Echo & The Bunnymen's "Never Stop." Kelley is a master of perfect little production touches, like the handclaps that propel the second verse. This one's got a great slinky bassline and, like most of his songs, a stick-in-your-head chorus.
Melbourne band Possible Humans self-released their debut album, Everybody Split, earlier this year and if you didn't hear about it then it might be because they only printed 200 copies. But those 200 people all told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on. It was going for crazy money on Discogs and almost nobody had heard it. Thankfully, in stepped Trouble in Mind who have just reissued Everybody Split in a much larger pressing and have put it on streaming services, too. Nice story, but is it any good?
Yes! Possible Humans make complex but easily digestible indie rock with a dark streak running through the center. While this is their debut album, they've been together for seven years (there have been singles and live cassettes) and the songs on Everybody Split sound road tested, honed, and full of explosive dynamic shifts, close harmonies and compelling arrangements that keep the listener engaged, even on lengthy jams like the 12-minute "Born Stoned." The album opens with two of its best songs: the seething "Lung of the City" sounds like the distillation of 40 years of Australian rock, from The Go-Betweens to Midnight Oil to Paul Kelly, Gun Club and beyond; and "Aspiring to Be a Bloke," a melancholic slow-burner that really showcases their skill at melodic left turns and searing guitar-work. Like their contemporaries Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's debut, Hope Downs, Everybody Split makes a great case for the continued relevance of trad indie rock, especially when it's being made by a group with something to say.
When not making hard-hitting, expansive punk rock with Fucked Up, guitarist Ben Cook crafts sparkling guitar pop as Young Guv. Ben describes Young Guv as "people-watching in a foreign country in the morning, trying not to cry from the overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness" and you definitely get those happy-sad feels on songs like "Luv Always" and "Didn't Even Cry" on Young Guv's new album, GUV I. I would describe Young Guv as reminiscent of the early-'90s when everyone was suddenly namechecking Big Star and we got artists like Matthew Sweet, The Posies and Teenage Fanclub. This is lush stuff, thick with honeyed harmonies, and layer upon layer of jangly guitars. You can tell Cook is a Britpop fan, too: "Exceptionally Ordinary" owes more than a little to The Stone Roses' "Sugar Spun Sister" and I'd be shocked to learn he wasn't thinking of Oasis' "Supersonic" when laying down drums on "Every Flower I See." Like Tony Molina, Cook treads a very fine line between homage and pilfering, but his skill, charm and enthusiasm win out.
Glasgow band Spinning Coin's debut album, Permo, was one of my favorites of 2017, a record that followed in their hometown's jangly indiepop tradition of The Pastels, Joseph K and Teenage Fanclub. They're back with a new single, "Visions at the Stars," which will be out August 30 via The Pastels' Domino imprint, Geographic. While Permo proudly wore its rough edges, "shambolic" is not a word I'd use to describe this ambitious, rather sprawling single which shows off some impressive musicianship. There is still a loose, jazzy (even jammy) vibe, though. “It's a celebration of the cosmos, and its infinite, ever-changing nature," says the band's Sean Armstrong who wrote and sings this one. "It's about how music came into my life like a wind blowing me around, and helped me to travel, and see things that inspired me to change the way I live.” It's a lovely song and hopefully there's more on the way sooner than later.