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I’m always pleased to get submissions, but it’s a little obnoxious when I get sent stuff that has no relation at all to the typical style covered on here – the biggest howler by far was “[BAND NAME REDACTED]*  draws upon an eclectic palate of musical styles dishing out a healthy dose of rock, pop and funk/rap. [REDACTED] sounds like King Crimson and Weezer adopting Elton John, renaming him Prince, and celebrating with a sunbeam of absinthe.”

Fortunately, there’s plenty of submissions like Brooklyn’s SLEEPIES – who actually understand what we cover here, and they understand how to crank it up and get weird (and wild. and world?). Anyway, this LP plies a blown-out, fuzz-laden 90’s style alt/noise rock that triangulates between DINOSAUR JR. and SONIC YOUTH’s more accessible moments. Fortunately, there’s plenty of submissions like Brooklyn’s SLEEPIES – who actually understand what we cover here, and they understand how to crank it up and get weird (and wild. and world?). Anyway, this LP plies a blown-out, fuzz-laden 90’s style alt/noise rock that triangulates between DINOSAUR JR. and SONIC YOUTH’s more accessible moments.

The Sleepies generally don’t take prisoners, as on opener “Cool Boy’s” buzzy stomp (which is somehow still catchy). This is when they’re at their best; some tracks dial down the intensity in favor of atmosphere, or something like that. Fortunately, there’s enough high-energy moments, like “Got A Way” and “Setback” which make up for the couple misfires that either go on too long “Waste Water”, or don’t go much of anywhere (“Weird Wild World”). Too many bands are content to wallow in the mire, or strip all the interesting jags from their sound in favor of pop sheen. Fortunately, Sleepies can handle both.

*It’s redacted both to protect the band from the repercussions of embarassing copy like this, and to protect you, my dear reader, from whatever the fuck that hideous combination of genres and artists actually sounds like. 

LISTEN: Soundcloud

BUY: 16oh

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RATING: 5.7/10

EndAnd are a Brooklyn 3-piece playing music that lands on the brawnier side of pop. The press info tells me they do ‘Noise Rock/Punk/Power Pop’ that’s ‘disarmingly human’…welp, I’ll give ’em ‘power pop’. I wouldn’t say it sounds like the PIXIES – it’s not willfully dissonant in the way Black Frank & Co. could be, and definitely not as weird. Nor would I say it sounds like GUIDED BY VOICES – though the basement-rock-aspiring-to-arena-glory tone may be there, it’s too put-together, too polished. They definitely don’t sound, as the one-sheet would like me to believe – like the Melvins or Nirvana – who the hell writes these things?

Anyway, the release is split into two halves: “Adventures of HiFi in Space,” which are studio recordings, and “Adventures of LoFi in Space,” a collection of DIY recordings. HiFi comes first, and is comprised of 5 songs. At times, like on “Commando,” the guitar work is interesting, and it’s undeniable that the musicianship on this album is better than the average rock release at this point. Despite its billing as ‘uncompromising’, the album seems very middling. It refuses to move too far in any direction at all, which basically makes it ‘the average rock release.’ It’s tuneful, but not to the point of instantly memorable hooks. It’s muscular, but not to the point of exciting you, or tiring you. It’s noisy, but carefully hemmed in to retain the pop edge – certainly not enough to go up against even a band like Wavves. It’s a very careful balancing act, but by covering all bases at once, it fails to make an impression on any one of those bases.

Fortunately, LoFi fares a little better. Things are more interesting than HiFi almost immediately. The first seconds of “Dawl” introduce a smear of guitar before introducing a track which could legitimately be read as GBV. “Legend” is an acoustic number which follows an ‘unplugged’ type formula, but makes interesting use of tape loops, or hiss, or something, i dunno – point is, the weird bed of sound they lay down is cool. “Sweet” is a short pop track with some nice guitar lines, and “When and There” is a strummer which is fine enough, I guess, but it definitely goes on too long. On the whole, the LoFi half is significantly more redeemable than the HiFi half, but I wish this band would take more risks – the entire endeavor feels a little too safe for me. Given that they were billed as “Noise Rock” and compared to, of all people, Jay Reatard, I was hoping for a little more firepower. Pitchfork will probably like it.

LISTEN/NAME YOUR PRICE: EndAnd Bandcamp 

RATING: 8.4/10

This record comes to us courtesy of the man himself, formerly of the BARE WIRES and the Zygoteens. It’s made of 5 tracks of catchy, jangly powerpop. It’s all really reminiscent of our previous favorites IMPO & THE TENTS – but with the punk end of things dialed down ever so slightly. Things kick off with “Groovy Intuitions,” which feature the big guitars and tinny, punchy drums I love ever so much. Mr. Widener keeps things moving right along with the title track, which is no less catchy, but certainly more efficient, at only about a minute-thirty. Overall, it reminds me of GENTLEMAN JESSE, but a little more exciting, a little more active, and certainly a little more fun.

If Side-A housed the hooky pop-nuggets, Side-B holds the more brittle, jagged numbers. “Enemy Dreams” keeps up with the same pacing, but is more aggressive, more on-edge – ditto for “Slime Walker.” These tunes aren’t quite as memorable as the other side’s, but there are great moments – the yelp and keyboard on “Slime Walker” are fucking awesome. “Groovy Intuitions” may be my favorite here, but they’d all be equally amazing in a live setting. Realistically – no track here is ‘weak’; there’s good ones and better ones. As a whole, this EP offers a lot of things that I really love in music – tunefulness, energy, and economy – Widener doesn’t waste a second of runtime, and this record won’t waste yours.

LISTEN: “Enemy Dreams” on Soundcloud

BUY: Fuzz City Records

RATING: 6.7/10

Memory Motel are a Reno, NV group, and judging by the name and the test-pattern aesthetic of the cover, you’d think they were a chillwave thing. Fortunately, they’re not – they play a hazy psychedelic pop spiked with electronic elements. This short little 7″ contains only two songs, the first of which is “Wasted Days,” which features spacey keyboards and gentle, chiming guitars. It’s all held together by a pretty cool drum loop – it’s reminiscent of BOARDS OF CANADA, but maybe with the DEERHUNTER guy singing…but imagine that guy didn’t suck so badly. It’s pleasant to listen to, and builds nicely to an actual riff without devolving into a smear of instruments, and without coming off like a gimmick. It’s a pretty solid track.

The B-side is called “Lost Souls”, which doesn’t quite work as well. The guitar part the beginning is built on is really nice, but the keyboards are relied upon too much – it feels about twice as long as it actually is. It feels very, very heavily influenced by Radiohead’s “Exit Music For A Film,” but there’s not quite enough going on here to keep my interest, though the whistling is nice. This band  does a good job of mixing electronic elements with non-electronic elements, and knows how to create a lush soundscape, for sure, but with time, the songwriting is sure to get stronger.

LISTEN: Wasted Days, Lost Souls

BUY: Memory Motel Bandcamp

RATING: 8.9/10 – TOP TRASH

Swedish punk sung in French reviewed by an American writer. Globalization’s nuts. I know maybe 10 words in French, so I’ve no clue what they’re singing about, but it’s fast, it’s catchy, and it’ll get you moving. The band makes use of keytar, giving them a really strong LOST SOUNDS vibe, but it’s not used as a gimmick or a LOOK AT US – it’s just another instrument, put to excellent use on tracks like “Remords,” shooting the track through with some awesome squiggly Atari vibes. The song instantly burrows into your skull, even if you haven’t got the faintest clue what it might be about. This 84 second rager is over before you blink, but this veers into the utterly inexplainable “Le Voleur de Chaleur.” This track opens with a minute-long ye-ye detour – FRANCOISE HARDY vibes abounding, before dropping into a wasteland of fuzz as the party is suddenly crashed by ripping hardcore. Next comes “Le Vague Noire,” a mid-tempo song adorned by spoken vocals. The Game Boy sonic aesthetic works here really well. The keytar is immediately recognizable and adds to the music, but also shares space with the guitar on tracks like “Questions.”

The point is: Keytars aren’t a novelty here. It’s used to the same efficacy as any other instrument, and all 6 songs on this are winners. This isn’t being put out by any label yet, but it ought to be.

LISTEN: Cikatri$ Bandcamp

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RATING: 7/10

As with any Jason Pierce project, it’s impossible to read about the album without hearing how medicine/pharmaceuticals played into the album’s creation. It’s standard practice to give the thematic backstory for the album, but I think at this point in Pierce’s career, it’s irrelevant – his concerns have been perennial and consistent. More relevant, though, is his statement that this LP was inspired by his experiences revisiting his masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (an album very near and dear to my heart) in a live setting. This definitely comes through – Sweet Heart is a colossal sounding record; every song seems to look out over vast expanses of space, governed by the drone-rock aesthetic he’s cultivated so well.

The usual Spiritualized pieces are all here – an lush, occasionally grandiose sonic sensibility, songs of lost love, broken hearts, etc etc, but it’s worth noting that this album is a step back from the embrace of pop sensibility found on Songs in A&E – nearly every track stretches beyond the 4 minute mark, and a good handful go on past 6. These seconds aren’t wasted at all, though – Pierce is utterly in control of every note and nuance on this record. It’s a testament to his maturity as both an artist and soundsmith, but it ends up being one of this album’s shortcomings. Though colossal, huge sounding rave-ups like the  9-minute “Hey Jane” sport epic crescendos and a great Lou Reed lyrical feel, but despite the massive quality, it feels oddly sterile. The surging energy is held back by the fact that everything is in its right place – there’s a diminished sense of excitement when we know it’ll all land on the ground in another minute, with nary a nick or scratch on the paint. Pierce’s records are impeccable specimens of musicianship, to be sure, but those epic builds lack the danger of bands like Boredoms or even his older Spacemen 3 material, which comes from feeling like the whole thing could unravel at any second.

This of course doesn’t mean that the song isn’t enjoyable to listen to – Pierce hasn’t ditched his love of pop hooks, he’s just painting on a larger canvas. “Get What You Deserve” is a good example of this – it’s my favorite track on the album, simply because it takes all that’s great about Spiritualized, but grounds them with a spacey, lysergic drone – capturing his present musical ethos with the Spaceman sensibility I love so dearly. “Too Late” is a slice of gospel grandiosity – beautiful, but it’s fairly similar to “Little Girl,” and it’s here where Pierce’s medical backstory becomes relevant – since Songs in A&E, his voice sounds frighteningly weakened, and I’m not sure how will his gospel-blues-pop numbers work in light of it. It’s a little worrying to recall his earlier work, and wonder if he could still convincingly pull off a sneering rocker like his greatest song, “Electricity” or “Come Together.” The frailty of his voice is a jarring contrast to the lush arrangements – though it could be looked at as a fascinating feature of the album, mostly it just makes me kind of worried – on “Headin for the Top Now” (which a great song, recalling Ladies and Gentlemen at its best, all snaky electric guitars and hypnotic grooves), he really sounds like he’s about to expire at the end of the take.

“I Am What I Am” is an awesome electric blues gem, hidden on side 2 – kick ass backup vocals, snarling subterranean drones – it’s here where his weakened, raspy voice is most at home. His patient repetitions are quiet, yet insistent. Overall, “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light” works best when Pierce lets his guitar do most of the talking – the solos here are awesomely knotty, with a vitality that’s definitely not found anywhere else on the record. It’s a little painful reviewing this – I want to love it so badly, because I love Spiritualized, but it’s just not what I used to love about them. The record is polished to an immaculate shine, but I find myself yearning for more moments like “I Am What I Am” – for some bit of muck to bubble up between the notes, bringing a tension into play – Pierce is clearly sick (whether physically or spiritually), and sometimes letting it out is the best therapy.

Casette Cover

RATING: 7/10

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came across this cassette by Montgomery, AL’s Japanese Women, but when I saw the cover, I expected ugly – and I definitely got it…in a great way. This cassette, released on Tapes of a Neon God (http://tapesofaneongod.com/) is 9 tracks and 18 minutes of gut-churning, groaning noise. Opener “A Baby Coyote” lurches out of the gate with a sea-sick slouching riff, before launching into a churning whirlwind, backed up by solid drumwork. It’s anybody’s guess what vocalist Weston is on about – his lyrics are buried in about 2 feet of fuzz – but I did catch the Black Flag-copping ending. So far, so good – almost reminiscent of a less cool and more misanthropic BRAIN F/

From there, the Women move into “Vulgar Tongues,” a mid-tempo tune built on dissonant chunky riffs and Weston’s broken glass and cigarette vocals. Though it’s reminiscent of a grosser A-FRAMES or SWANS, stripped of the lyrical satire or gothy melodrama, the song doesn’t make as much of an impression as the last one. The same is true for the next couple songs – though “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” opens with a cool, restrained creep, it descends into the same bashing concrete-block riffs. The rhythm work is solid, but the Women make a little too much use of the same sounds – though I dig the fact that the guitars on this sound like they were thrown out of a moving car, then re-tuned by a deaf man – I could use a little bit more variety, especially when songs stretch on for 2 or 3 minutes. Things pick up again with “Mayan God of Death Eats The Young Corn God,” which is abrasive, brash, and shitty in the best possible way. With guitars distorted and abused to almost sound like horns…fuck, this is what noise-rock ought to always be. Then it’s gone, closing with a slithering low guitar line.

After two more tracks of crash’n’bash riff’n’screech, “Bessie Rice and Ellie May” closes out the record with a thundering barrage out of nowhere, which evaporates barely 30 seconds later. The record simply vanishes – it’s like being lead around to different walls for 9 hours and forced to bang your head off of all of them. “Order” is an endurance test, despite the short runtime. There’s not really a bad track on here – though there are bits of filler in the middle, there’s moments of really great stuff.

LISTEN: http://japanesewomen.bandcamp.com/

BUY: http://tapesofaneongod.bigcartel.com/ $6 PPD

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