Chuck Johnson is a Bay Area-based guitarist who has built up an impressive body of solo work over the last decade, moving from one quality label to the next: Three Lobed, Scissor Tail, Trouble In Mind. Refining and re-defining his approach to the guitar with each subsequent release culminated in last year’s Basalms. Showcasing Johnson’s mastery of the pedal steel, the record is a sustained work of soothing deep listening.
The young LA/Boston fourpiece Model/Actriz have previously aligned themselves with No Wave. While their noisy instrumentals do at times resemble that bygone punk era, the industrial-tinged sounds featured across their recent No EP flirt far more with actual dance music. 4/4 high-hats and martial-paced floor tom rolls provide the foundation as frontman Cole Haden’s guttural vocal runs take lead, shifting between gruff sing-speak and blood-curdling screams on a dime. Plus, if you can find some space in the pit, they make their disaffection pretty easy to dance to.
Seattle band Versing makes woozy and crackling power pop, ever so slightly askew. The group's members—Daniel Salas, Graham Baker, Kirby Lochner, and Max Keyes—met and collaborated at the University of Puget Sound’s KUPS radio station, and you can hear the world of college radio in Versing’s sundry songs. Together, the band synthesizes the breadth of their musical influences—a sprinkle of Pavement here, a pinch of Sonic Youth there—into something fresh and exciting.Their new single, “Call Me Out,” off the upcoming album Nirvana, exemplifies the band’s laid-back playfulness, along with the thoughtfulness and complexity of Salas’s songwriting. The track starts off with a rush of guitars and rolling drums, before settling into an octave-bouncing riff. It distorts as it hurtles toward its end, like a Weezer (or, more aptly Nirvana) song that, instead of trading off between soft and loud, just keeps getting louder. Lyrically, the song is a stitched-together patchwork of philosophical musings, with Salas singing, “Distal thoughts at last awoken," like the too-cool guy at the back of the night-time college class, holding a guitar.
The accompanying video is an off-kilter, frame-within-a-frame-within-a-frame shot of the band, made possible through the use of four iPhones and a DSLR jury-rigged onto a cardboard contraption. “I was inspired by David Hockney's The Jugglers, where he filmed the subjects from multiple cameras at the same time, then stitched them into one fragmented but still somehow cohesive shot," says Salas. "It seems to give the scene a heightened sense of depth and realness, and I liked the idea that more eyes could make a more complete picture—that having more people watching over your actions and calling you out when you screw up isn't necessarily bad, but actually useful."
“UFO,” the new song from Upper Wilds—a.k.a. Dan Friel, formerly of Parts & Labor—wastes no times with long-winded introductions. After a brief, and relatively calm, moment of static, the listener is hit with a wall of noise and a monumental riff. Anchoring the heavy, almost overwhelming backbeat are Friel’s melodic vocals—a lone voice bellowing out through the sea of sound.
Friel has this to say about the track: “'UFO has a big riff and is about space junk, which pretty much sums up the new album. It's built around a riff I've had kicking around since the Parts & Labor days, but really required a whole new context to properly stomp. Lyrically it's about the international Spacecraft Cemetery, and the love of solitude. The Spacecraft Cemetery is deep in the Pacific Ocean, at the farthest place from land on Earth, and it's got a fascinating history, both literal and literary."
Upper Wilds’ first album, Guitar Module 2017, comes out on September 22 via Thrill Jockey. Catch their record release show on Saturday, October 7 at Alphaville with E, Gold Dime, and Video Daughters.
Sometimes there's a light at the end of the banal. Sometimes, everyone feels lazy, angry, nervous, bored, empty—and, for Hypoluxo, on their latest extended play Taste Buds, "nothing's crazy" about feeling anything. Most of the tracks on the record occupy these commonplace spaces of stasis but channel the boredom typically found therein into a restelessness whose chiming indie guitar and gently driving bass and drum lines propel the Brooklyn fourpiece into a sonic territory just kinetic enough to be addictive—something so addictive that it feels edible if not appetizing. The charming baritone lyricism and driving indie guitar condense into something to be gnawed, something that can be enjoyed ambiently on repeat but whose audial nuances—from the twinkling horn on "Nevada" to the sputtering and dovetailing melodies on "Sometimes"—reward undivided attention to the artistry couched beneath common places and feelings that Hypoluxo indulge. Taste Buds makes for gourmet indie rock, and it's delicious.
"Seams" sweats. That is, Pinact's latest single off their upcoming full-length The Part That Know One Knows possess a distinctly pubescent quality—one evocative of burps and braces, frayed t-shirts and enamel pins. It's raw pop-punk, jittery and slurred at once, tripping over itself as it follows Gillies' sneering tenor, singing of something "splitting at the seams."
Shot in the Glaswegian threepiece's studio, the accompanying video depicts a rowdy performance inspired by Nirvana's legendary Paramount show in which partygoers crowdsurf and mosh, revved by Lewis Reynolds' rumbling drums and Gillies' jagged, high-octane guitar. With its attention to the physical signifiers of pop-punk—from the bandmates' disheveled mops to Gillies' low-slung guitar to the VHS grittiness of the footage itself—the clip discharges the sonic retromania of a teenage era into a bratty physicality, capturing a moment of sounds and gestures and bodies still lingering somewhere in the corporeal memory of the skin.
Though it was released in October of 2016, Fraternal Twin’s Homeworlding is a record for Summer 2017. The contented feeling of the album’s breezy guitar lines and sweet vocals is contrasted by the overarching sense of yearning—for truth? for acceptance? for peace?—conveyed by the lyrics and chopped-up compositions. “The day won’t come / until I’m ready for it / so I don’t beg,” sings Tom Christie on “Big Dipper." We live in a world of unresolved conflict, but as Christie ultimately concedes, we have the ability to make it happen—this is, when we’re ready.
In the “Big Dipper” video, premiering on AdHoc today, Christie strums, sings, and stares in a nondescript wooded area. Directed and edited by Jake Lazovick, the clip captures the record’s conflicted feeling with emotive shots and deft editing. At the song’s apex, the video juxtaposes a leaf floating downstream with a tight shot of Christie’s deadpan face beneath the sky, reinforcing the anxious contentedness of a life adrift.
There's a vastness that Cody Fitzgerald and company shoulder in "Gold Age," the new song off Stolen Jars' glint EP. From the very first organ chime to Fitzgerald's ecstatically hushed vocals, "Gold Age" communicates a subdued grandiosity in its artful sparseness. The streaky skyspaces of two landscapes—the pastel pink atop rocky soil and the chilly blue above an urban street at dusk—further convey this immensity in Jenelle Pearing's spectalur video for "Gold Age."
But this enormity neither weighs the song down nor crushes the glimmering moments that make Stolen Jars' catalog so precious. The skittering drum blasts, the impassioned yelps, and the syncopated guitar strumming all hint at microscopic imabalances that "Gold Age" elegantly glides across in its delicate agility. "Gold Age" retains a certain nimbleness, a nimbleness incarnated by Nora Alami's graceful spins and leaps in Pearing's video. Like the song itself, whose teetering instrumental elements seem to threaten a collapse as Fitzgerald's voice slides from a whisper to a yell, Alami's choreography nearly topples over itself: at one point, she appears to lose her balance before vainly attempting to prop herself up again.
Pearing's video, a companion to the visual album's track, dramatizes Stolen Jars' coming to terms with the sheer emotional force of its music. Quivering yet radiant, "Gold Age" swells into something more substantive than just visual and sonic surfaces, a synthesis of palettes more grandiose than the sum of its parts.