Album Reviews 21/10/07

Crisix, The Pizza EP – Full Movie (Based on a true story) (Listenable Records)

Since the 1980s-underground days, Spain has been a top source of thrash metal, even if the output isn’t as consistently funny as Brazil’s, not to mention Chile’s. But these four guys are interested less in professional decorum than in instant relatability, and they get extra points for making this EP into a movie (speaking of that, what with lockdowns and whatnot, every band should be doing exactly that, a four-song video EP, rather than spending their hard-earned money on recording an extra six to 10 songs that are mostly filler). Musically this isn’t anything more innovative than a mashup of Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan, with the singer spending most of his time practicing his above-average drunken-pirate roar. So, right, nothing all that new, but the tunes did sit well with me. The videos are pretty funny, a fantasy chronicling of the guitarist’s past life as a pizza delivery guy; at one point the guys remake the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park (“Raptors In The Kitchen”) and it’s hilarious. A

Crown Lands, White Buffalo (Spinefarm Records)

My first tweet after this thing landed in my lap still stands: Who the flark are these guys? I bit on this one for two reasons: (1) I don’t think I’ve written up a single Spinefarm Records release, despite 90 million of them being pitched to me; and (2) this band was said to be a prog band. I assumed this would be cheap and stupid, but holy crow, a lot of this stuff is a cross between late ’70s Rush and Led Zeppelin III. Yeah, the singer sounds like Geddy Lee sometimes and Robert Plant at others, but — wait for it, you’re gonna die, I swear — this is just two guys. Big sound, though, nothing like what I expected from a record label that seems to deal mainly with black-metal bands whose logos are written in impossible-to-read font. Anyway, the drummer plays tabla and bongos when they’re unplugged, which is deeply organic of course, but when the guy jumps back on the drums he pulls off a pretty decent Neil Peart. If you’re into revival-arena-rock, you simply must hear this stuff. A+

PLAYLIST

• The next general-release date for music albums and assorted rock ’n’ roll whatnots is Oct. 8, so let’s just dive into this pool of fail by starting with Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow, the new album from Matt Maltese, an English singer-songwriter whose style “blends elements from indie-pop, indie-rock and chamber-pop,” in other words: he’s still trying to figure out what he’s doing, despite the fact that he’s already put out two albums, two EPs and a bunch of singles. No, I kid Matt Maltese, it’s not like chamber-pop isn’t just another way of saying shoegaze, an essential building block of all “indie-pop and indie-rock,” and whatever, he’s kind of popular in the U.K., which means he could basically put out a recording of himself and his dog eating boxes of cereal and all that’d happen is New Music Express would call it “essential listening.” OK, I’ve procrastinated enough, it’s time for me to drag myself kicking and screaming to YouTube to listen to this human’s new single, “Shoe.” Huh, in the video he’s buried up to his neck in sand, which I can relate to, as I am always buried up to my neck in bad albums. Oh how cute, it’s kind of like Beck meets Sufjan Stevens, but with no good music. Lol, you should hear his falsetto high notes. This is terrible, please toss this in the trash and bring me something edible, waiter.

• Next we have punk-protest-folk-whatever guy Billy Bragg, with his latest, The Million Things That Never Happened. Bragg’s most notable, sort-of-recent-ish moment came in 1998, when Woody Guthrie’s daughter asked Bragg to take some of Woody’s unrecorded lyrics and make music out of them, so naturally, instead of doing it himself, he collaborated with Wilco and Natalie Merchant and turned it into a giant cluster of people who weren’t good fits for the project, which released the albums Mermaid Avenue in 1998 and Mermaid Avenue Vol. II in 2000. Am I missing anything? Wait, ha ha, one time, when Bragg was in edgy-protest-music-dude mode, he dissed famous Popeye The Sailor lookalike Phil Collins for not being an actual political activist rock star guy: “Phil Collins might write a song about the homeless, but if he doesn’t have the action to go with it, he’s just exploiting that for a subject.” In other words, Bragg discovered grifting, and that makes him important, because, as everyone knows, rock ’n’ roll celebrities would totally save the world if people would just let them, am I right? So the single, “Ten Mysterious Photos That Can’t Be Explained,” is jangly and kinda dumb, like unplugged Clash but with an even higher level of blockhead-Cockney accent (think Ian Drury’s “Sex And Drugs And Rock & Roll” but boring and pointless). We all set here?

• Speaking of bands that don’t exactly know what they’re doing, look folks, it’s Toronto jazz-hip-hop-techno incels BadBadNotGood, with a new album, called Talk Memory! They’ve collaborated with the likes of Mick Jenkins, Kendrick Lamar and Ghostface Killah, and have also won or been in the running for snobby awards like Liberas, Junos and Polarises, but now my interest is piqued and I’ll stop the resumé riffing and go listen to the single, “Sending Signals.” Wow, this is nerdy, some proggy riffing led by the bass player, an eloquent but unlistenable mash of notes. Have fun with this, America.

• Let’s close with All Day Gentle Hold, the new LP from upstate-ish New York-based synthpop Porches. “Lately,” the single, is kind of like if Soft Moon had a decent sound engineer, and if that totally loses you, be thankful; there’s no need to bother with this.

RETRO PLAYLIST

Ten years back we go, when the new albums included Ashes & Fire from somewhat likeable Neil Young wannabe Ryan Adams, who back then was suffering from Ménière’s Disease, an ear problem that affects hearing and balance. At that point, fans thought Adams was done; he’d quit music a couple of years previous and married Mandy Moore. “The first few songs,” I said, trying to stay awake, “are slow folk-rock and/or Dave Matthews-ish, and they are not horrible, altogether sort of like Amos Lee’s last album.”

Another thing that happened that week was a show in New Hampshire, at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth. You remember live shows, right? No? Well, you do remember ’80s fashion-techno dude Howard Jones, right? Also no? Well, he was the one coming to the Flying Monkey. “He sang a song called ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ during the Reagan era,” I reminded you, “not knowing that things were going to get a whole lot worse.” Mind you, I said that in 2010. If I had known the 2020s were going to be this bad, I would have long moved to Iceland by 2011.

Per usual, there were two focus albums to discuss. The one I was actually psyched to hear was HanDover from darkwave overlords Skinny Puppy. Turned out it was basically a solo album from singer Nivek Ogre. It was OK, I though: “It’s sick, yes, but not completely off-putting, even while ‘Icktums’ explores what VNV Nation might sound like if they used hospital machines to make their sound.”

The other spotlight LP that week was one I’ve mentioned a million times, laptop-jazz ninja Mocean Worker’s Candygram For Mowo, which adeptly combined 1930s-’40s swing with underground hip-hop. I’ll say it again, this is an incredible party record, if anyone has a party ever again.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/09/30

Ian Jones, The Evergreens (Thin Silver Records)

The other week I took a trip up north, to maraud (I don’t just simply “browse”) an estate sale. Tired of all the CDs in my car, I tried to find a radio station. Something popped up, a really good rock-ish song, on a Christian rock station, WANH 88.3 FM in Meredith. I was awed by the tuneage, because none of it was bad (Brandon Lake’s “Come Out Of That Grave,” an epic mix of Kings of Leon/Killers, was really good). I say all this because mellow rock can be OK even if your taste in rock tends to be bad for you, like mine. So I submit this EP, made by a Seattle songwriter with a gift for evoking mellow-mode Eagles and things like that. It’s quite inviting, especially when Jones trots out his Conor Oberst imitation in the strummy “Liars Criminals Beggars and Thieves.” A

Aakash Mittal, Nocturne (self-released)

In India, Calcutta is now known as Kolkata. It’s not a place I’d picture as being particularly still, especially at night, and that exact vibe — or at least its musical sounds — is what saxophonist Mittal attempts to capture on this album. His accomplices in the trio are guitarist Miles Okazaki and percussionist Rajna Swaminathan, who plays the instruments that bring the greatest degree of realism, the mridangam and kanjira. The setting may be an Indian city of 4.5 million residents, but the volume raises and lowers itself to incoherent buzzings like any other hyperactive metropolis. My impression is that it’s mostly improvisational (“Nocturne III” being an obvious exception; there was definitely quite a bit of planning there), aiming for feel more than melody, but the latter can indeed be found here and there. Matter of fact, if your workday involves some subway time, you could be listening to a lot less interesting things. A

PLAYLIST

• It’s a new week of music releases, all coming out on Oct. 1, for your musical pleasure and/or disappointment! Looking at the formidable list of new albums, my attention — such as it is these days — was immediately drawn to True Love, the fourth album from Texas-based pop duo Hovvdy! I’ve never heard of these people, and in fact the only reason I even got into the weeds with them was that they use two v’s in their name, like Pitchfork-beloved rock band Wavves. No, I know Hovvdy is stylizing the two-v thing in a different way, but I like how they’re doing it more than the way Wavves does it. See how music-critiquing works, folks? Whatever, I shall endeavor to see if this is at all interesting henceforth, as the title track is available for advance order (you wish, Hovvdy) or pirate-listening right now, on my computer! Huh, this sounds like Ben Kweller except listenable, sort of an Americana vibe, Simon & Garfunkel-ish, like a non-annoying Radiohead doing a chill-down. I can deal with this more or less.

• Any band that was once drunk enough to name their band Illuminati Hotties has my unwavering support, which will totally remain unwavering until I hear some bad music from them, which I’m fully prepared for, as I have a handy barf-bag right next to my badass-looking gamer chair, right here! Wikipedia, which is always on the cutting edge of super-hip words, tells me the band is “a vehicle for the songwriting of producer, mixer, and audio engineer Sarah Tudzin.” Well, that’s certainly less obfuscatory than saying “get ready for some cool grooves from a super-weird chick,” which is what you actually get here, on the band’s new album, Let Me Do One More! There is a single, called “Mmmoooaaaaayaya,” and it starts out with a Primus riff reminiscent of the guitar theme from South Park, and in the video Sarah comes out wearing nothing but a black sports bra. It’s pretty cool, and then she starts making fun of stupid men who try to pick up girls by using stupid pickup lines or whatnot, and then it gets louder, and pea soup starts falling from somewhere up above, and soon enough Sarah’s making fun of the Democratic National Committee while getting pea soup all over her. Is it edgy? Yes, but it does not solve world peace, so in my expert opinion it is simply a rock ’n’ roll song, not the answer to mankind’s prayers.

• Hoo boy, what could possibly be next. Whoa, wait, look, it’s industrial-metal band Ministry, one of the few bands on this planet I can actually stand, and they have a new album, Moral Hygiene, coming to your music store, if those even exist anymore! Ha ha, remember when Ministry released the song “Antifa” a couple of years ago, and it made people angry? What’s that? No, not the time people got angry over all those millions of other things, this was a different thing. Let’s just drop it and go watch the video for their new song, “Good Trouble,” shall we? Ha ha, it’s so badass, look, there’s their singer, Papa Al Satan, with American flag sunglasses, and random video clips of riots and burning stuff. The tune is a mega-heavy grinding cacophony of metallic mayhem, it’s awesome, haven’t these guys broken up like five times now?

• Finally we have million-year-old prog-rock band Yes, with their newest LP, The Quest! Given that bass player and bandleader Chris Squire died a few years ago, I don’t think any band should call itself Yes, but whatever, sort-of-original guitarist Steve Howe is here, as is Geoff Downes and Alan White, but, spoiler, Jon Anderson still hates everybody and isn’t here. Starter single “The Ice Bridge” is pretty much like Rush gone New Age. Pretty silly, probably some leftover nonsense from their Close To The Edge album, but you might like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/09/23

Chet Doxas, You Can’t Take It With You (Whirlwind Recordings)

Minimally accessible but solid jazz album, a straightforward mixture of progressively minded post-bop loaded with curveballs, the 12th full-length from Doxas, a New York-by-way-of-Montreal saxophone guy. A guy who has some pretty cool friends, I should elaborate; the professed theme here is inspiration, most specifically thoughts that came up while Doxas was on tour in Europe with the band Riverside and wound up sitting in a van “with the cool kids,” Carla Bley and Steve Swallow. Bley asked him why he didn’t just form a trio, et voila, it was done, so this is Doxas with pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Thomas Morgan. The title track is as nice and friendly as it gets, and then comes the first of many self-indulgent moments in “Lodestar,” dedicated to Lester Young, one of far too many legendary saxophonists whose genius wasn’t enough to keep him from succumbing to self-destruction. Noisy noodling on “Cheryl and George”; some spazzy bumblebee-ness on “Soapbox.” Not something I’d recommend to anyone other than someone who really wanted to see inside Doxas’s head. B-

David Duchovny, Gestureland (Westbound Kyd Records)

No, you shut up, we’re doing this and that’s final. Yes, it’s the guy from The X-Files, and this is his third album. I’ll cut him some slack because he’s not one of the mega-famous Hollywood Vampires guys; he’s just a schmo with enough money and leisure time to make an album with some guys who probably help him clean up after pool parties. No, I kid, he’s still the man to all us alien-goth heads, and hey, the first song is almost OK, like Neil Young but with Mulder singing, and holy crow is the guitar solo awful, whichever one of these guys did this is a terrible human being. Ah, then there’s a mellow bit, “Holding Patterns,” boasting a guitar melody you’d imagine your uncle writing during off-hours from his accounting job. It’s kind of Tom Petty-ish I suppose — wait, “Chapter And Verse” is a monstrosity, maybe inspired by early Traffic from the 1960s. Good lord, I can’t take another minute of this. D

PLAYLIST

• Here it comes, Sept. 24, with a freshly baked basket of new album releases, some of which might actually be good — I haven’t even looked yet, because I am afraid to. When I check my Metacritic list, the “gig” acts are all in bold print, while the small fry are all non-bolded. I think it should be the other way around. Smaller acts should be bolded and more established bands should be in really small print, to give the smaller releases a chance to make a few bucks instead of all the money going to Eric Clapton’s mansion, or the Hollywood Vampires clubhouse, where the money is instantly converted to gold coins and sealed in a vault that’s guarded by a dragon that knows all the Beatles and Rolling Stones guys and just lets them scoop out piles of gold coins to buy a random Walmart or whatever for no reason at all. Anyway, I’m looking at the list and — um, guys? Why on earth is Flux, the new album from crazed shock-metal chick Poppy, not bolded? What, did they think I wouldn’t see that there was an actual cool album in the list just because it was in normal font? Poppy is a local Boston girl and had a sneak appearance a few months ago on the Grammys or whatever it was, and she makes Billie Eilish look like Marie Osmond. Talk about edgy; the only band she rips off as far as I’ve noticed so far is Meshuggah, meaning she makes music for breaking stuff, or at least she did until now. She was a bubblegummer at first, then she just wanted to freak people out, and now she’s back to bubble-pop, to go by the title track of this album. It’s basically Avril Lavigne but obviously influenced by A Perfect Circle. It’s pretty disposable, and it will definitely alienate all the fans that liked her gore-metal phase. Girl really needs to make up her mind.

• The guys in English reggae/ska band The Specials are all one million years old, but they still like to kick out the jams, or whatever I’m supposed to call it nowadays in order to fake that I’m young and can only speak in short-shelf-life crutch phrases. Yes, the same band that brought you “A Message To You Rudy” may be older than Neanderthal bones, but they know that protest music is important, especially in these final years of human existence. The band’s new LP, Protest Songs 1924-2012, is exactly what it looks like, a collection of old protest songs that tried to inspire people to Do Stuff to fight oppression and make our world a better place (no, there are no Justin Bieber songs on here). One of the covers is a drummy, rattley version of the Staple Singers’ 1965 tune “Freedom Highway.” It is not bad for a band whose members are so old they used to keep trilobites as pets.

• Oh how lovely, another album from an actor who probably should have stuck to acting instead of barfing random albums into my to-do list. This time it’s Caleb Landry Jones, with his second full-length, Gadzooks Vol. 1, which probably means I’ll have to deal with a Vol. 2 at some point. No, ha ha, I’ll just ignore it next time, but for now, sure, why not, let’s see if the guy who played Banshee in X-Men: First Class sings like a dachsund and whether or not the reviewers who gave his last stupid album an average rating of 7.5 were paid to do it. Hmm, this single looks interesting, “The Loon.” Oh geez, come on, it starts off with one of those French café accordions, so of course in the video he’s dressing up like a stupid clown, and then the song starts ripping off Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” We can mark this one as done, yes?

• Finally, it’s New York post-hardcore band Quicksand, with their latest album, Distant Populations! Album-opener “Inversion” is pretty cool, like early Mastodon but with Jane’s Addiction’s singer, you might like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/09/16

Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor, Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two Records)

Jazz drummer Altschul is staring down the barrel of 80 years of age in 2023. Before the great Covid rain delay, he’d been (and assuredly still is) considering wrapping up the touring period of his career, the prime of which happened during the 1960s, when he worked with such legends as Paul Bley and Chick Corea and gained some fame out of it. So we come to the fourth album of his experimental sax-bass-drums trio, following 2017’s Live In Krakow, which, like this one, finds the band noodling around with five of Altschul’s originals, again in a live setting but this time recorded in a location no one seems to remember (“somewhere in Europe,” read the liner notes). The first 19-odd minutes, encompassing two songs, are a skronk-and-rattle clinic, a sure-sounds-like-improv frontal assault that spazzes and subsides over and over, until it ends with sax guy Jon Irabagon spitting and slurping on his instrument in a display of (so some think) contempt for jazz wonks. “Irina” is a well-behaved beatnik-post-bop ballad, fit for power-guzzling gin; “Martin’s Stew” is a workout that’s terrifying in its power. Not for beginner listeners, put it that way. A

Armored Saint, Symbol of Salvation Live (Metal Blade Records)

I’m probably the least qualified music journo to be discussing this vaunted Los Angeles metal band. One of my old bandmates and I met them once and hung out on their tour bus. It was a bit awkward; there were no girls with them, and they were so bored we finally had to make an excuse to leave. Anyway, I found their music singularly unexciting, vanilla indie-metal thingamajigs falling midway between Savatage and Iron Maiden (that’s a pretty small niche, if you don’t know), so really, the most notable thing for me with regard to this record is that the band is largely the same as it’s been for 38 or so years, save for their original guitarist, who died in 1990, the year before Symbol of Salvation — the album performed live on this LP — came out. Like the other live album mentioned this week, the (European or U.S.) venue isn’t stated, but it sounds somewhat large. The songs are jaw-droppingly generic, some cookie-cutter Judas Priest here, a little Accept-ish rough-housing there. Anyway, a new Armored Saint live album, everyone. B

PLAYLIST

• The next general CD release date for most album releases is Friday, Sept. 17, so let’s dive right into the deep end of this week’s foul-smelling bushel of new music albums, starting with Moor Mother’s Black Encyclopedia Of The Air! Yes, there are albums coming out from much bigger names, but this album sounds like it might actually be interesting, unless it’s some black metal band from Finland, so let’s find out. Nope, Moor Mother’s real name is Camae Ayewa, she’s from Aberdeen, Maryland, and is one half of the Black Quantum Futurism crew, along with Rasheedah Phillips; she also helps lead the group Irreversible Entanglements. She’s a musician, poet and activist, and her last album, Circuit City (released in 2020), dealt with “housing inequality, private ownership and institutional racism.” Given all that, I assumed this new record is super cool off the bat, but for due diligence’s sake I went and listened to the teaser track, “Obsidian.” Very much intended for hyper-urban tastes, it features edgy Alabama-based rapper Pink Siifu canoodling with Ayewa, their voices drenched with Death Grips and Oz-Munchkin effects, over a glitch-noise beat. It’s cool and largely inaccessible for normies, let’s just leave it at that and continue.

Lindsey Buckingham is of course the original genius guitarist for arena-pop superstar band Fleetwood Mac! He has created many many yuge and tremendous hits for people who don’t buy albums unless all their friends like them, but he did have a moment of ignominy in 1979, when he took over all control of the Tusk album, but no one else in the band really cared because they all hated each other anyway. The result, as we all know, was Fleetwood Mac’s worst album ever, and Buckingham has been busily making up for it ever since, even now, when he refuses to have anything else to do with the band. His new album is self-titled and features the single “I Don’t Mind,” which is pretty cool, quite the indie vibe, although it doesn’t really deliver much of a hook. His guitar emulates a mandolin, just like back when Jimmy Carter was president, in case that affects your buying decision. By the way, guess what, he was just here in the area recently, on Sept. 12, at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, so this is all a little late, but it’s his fault for going on tour before his new album was out. So tough cookies, Lindsey Buckingham, maybe work with me here next time.

• I’ve always loved everything about Melissa Etheridge except for her music, so it’s been a slightly strained relationship, given that her job is to make good music, not make people think about heavy stuff. But because she’s kind of an activist, she does make me think about heavy stuff, so I’ll listen to the title track from her new One Way Out album, because, oh, I don’t know, just because, whatever. Say what, looks like this is an old song she never got around to recording until now. It’s got a grunge-rock edge, like, imagine if Pearl Jam wore generic T-shirts with bald eagles on them and had Melissa Etheridge as their singer, this is what it’d sound like.

• We’ll end all this horror with Local Valley, the new album from José González, whom I really only know from his time singing for mildly trip-hoppy band Zero 7. The album opener “Swing” is of course mellow and only half-there, an upbeat beach lullaby to drink pina coladas by, pretty nice escapism.

RETRO PLAYLIST

Let’s go back to 13 years ago this week, when I was still all aflutter over shoegaze heroes Raveonettes, who were releasing four free digital EPs over the course of the coming months. The one they were releasing that week included re-dos of songs like “Dead Sound” (as an 80KIDZ remix, not that a remix was necessary, because the song is fine without one), the rather sucky “Aly Walk With Me” (Nic Endo redid that one) and “Lust,” as remixed by Trentemøeller. It was a nice gesture of them, and I’ll leave it at that.

The featured albums that week included Seattle emcee Common Market’s Tobacco Road, in which emcee RA Scion “gleefully expends terawatts of energy trying to put the Seattle hip-hop scene on the map,” oddly enough by being as townie as he could, that is to say most of his callouts were in-jokes. I failed to see the need for it: “Scion, in his shoulder-shrugging Lupe Fiasco voice and baseball-card-in-the-bike-spokes flow, gives an opaque shout-out to the Virginia Tech killer, scolds his townie brethren in code, then bawls for his lost Kentucky boyhood, not necessarily in that order of sequence or importance.” Blue Scholar beat guy Sabzi was on board with this high-end but a little too ’90s record, “whittling out rinky-dink gospel/blues/jazz samples and whatnot.” If this is all new news, you didn’t miss much.

There was good news, though, in the form of goth-losers-turned-steampunk-winners Abney Park’s Lost Horizons. If we ever have geek conventions again, you’ll definitely want to check these guys out: “moderately grindy industrial with fiddle and a Loreena McKennitt chick doing the enchanted fairy thing.” Closing track “Post Apocalypse Punk” is “the most interesting slice of this pie, with its layer of steam-engine clatter and whatever other appropriate samples they could drum up.” HG Wells would wince at this noise, but it’s still a lot of fun.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/09/09

Josie Cotton, Pussycat Babylon (Kitten Robot Records)

Well look at this, post-punk royalty in the house. Cotton made her big splash in 1982 with the single “Johnny Are You Queer,” a tune that had originally been done by the Go-Go’s, and Cotton’s version became part of the whole ’80s punk canon, later appearing as background vibe on the soundtracks to Jackass Number Two and Valley Girl. Since then her Kitten Robot record label has released stuff from such diverse bands as CrowJane and Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe. But enough LinkedIn-style fluff, the business at hand concerns this full-length, which is basically Son Of Johnny, if you’re just trying to mark this as read and move on to Amy’s movie reviews. Cutesy girl-pop with only the mildest of edge, all retrofitted with noteworthy samples and beat-age, this is stuff that’d work fine at your ’80s throwback pajama party. “Recipe For Disaster” is a darker shade of the aforementioned vibe, slightly goth in fact; “Hi, I Like You” is the punker, something that might come out of KT Tunstall’s suddenly becoming obsessed with Lake Of Dracula. A

Inglorious, Heroine (Frontier Records)

Hey man, I think I’ve been pretty cool about not overloading this space with hard rock releases from ’80s-hard-rock bands, considering that I used to be in one of those crews in the olden days. I know, hard rock is basically dead, but ― and we’ve been over this before, of course ― I consider myself duty-bound to check in with what’s “going on” with the bands that still cling to the genre, which ― and you should know this ― still sells plenty of records basically everywhere in the world except for America and the twin prison colonies of Australia and New Zealand. There are still old-school arena-metal bands in the U.K., like this five-man operation, who’ve tabled here a collection of cover songs, most of which were originally done by famous divas like Whitney Houston (“Queen Of The Night”), Christina Aguilera (“Fighter”) and Alanis Morissette (“Uninvited”). But this is a dude singing, and he sounds like David Coverdale from Whitesnake. Can you picture Whitesnake doing a hilariously annoying cover of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You?” Good, then we’re done here. B-

PLAYLIST

• The next date for most album releases is this Friday, Sept. 10, meaning we are definitely done with summer, just kiss it goodbye. I hate everything about that, but I shall soldier on, as the air begins to have a slight nip, and my summer non-grumpiness slowly gives way to general impatience with basically everything. I usually write this section two weeks in advance, so for all I know we are back in lockdown or have been invaded by aliens, so anything you see here does in fact hinge on society functioning normally. OK, I can’t keep a straight face about that last bit, nothing’s been “normal” in this culture since 1946 or so, but let’s pretend, for the sake of getting this column finished and into my out box, and since there are Santas in the malls already, let’s start with a band called Sleigh Bells, from Brooklyn, New York! But wait, they are not a band of holiday elves who love working at building toys, they are a boy/girl noise-pop duo, which means that I should automatically like them, unless they suck. Their new album, Texis, is their fifth full-length and their first since 2016’s Jessica Rabbit. Singer Alexis Krauss used to be a schoolteacher, and her side thing is activism, specifically toward the aim of making people aware of ingredients that are used in personal care products. Would you want to know what ingredients are used in your wintergreen-plum hand soap, or are you more like me, not caring which smelly, weird and unnecessary chemical finally puts me in the hospital for good? All right, the first single, “Locust Laced,” sounds a lot like Birthday Massacre, and since no one but me has ever heard Birthday Massacre, I’ll explain: think of ’80s-pop band Missing Persons, unless you’re not old, in which case I can’t help you with a handy reference, because all your music is basically unlistenable dreck. No, I’m kidding, think of all the songs you hear on that TV show Stranger Things, except it’s a lot better and there’s a dude playing a Metallica guitar now and then. Something like that. Make sense? No? OK, then we can continue.

• This is embarrassing, I actually didn’t know 1960s-girl-group mega-queen Diana Ross was even still alive, but sure enough, there she is, with a new album, called Thank You! Hmph, thank you indeed, even the slightest thought of Diana Ross sets off an earwom in my brain, so now all I’ll be thinking about for the next week is the line from whatever stupid song, “My world is empty without you, babe,” with that stupid skronky saxophone, thanks for nothing. Whatever, the album’s title track is a shapeless, formless blob of Foxwoods glitz-pop, nothing too strenuous, but what do you expect from someone who’s 78 years old. If she had William Shatner sing a duet, I would buy it.

• Speaking of wicked old people, Dark Matters is the 18th studio album from British pub-punk band The Stranglers. Did I mention that they’re old? Because they used to be punky and yelly, but the jangly new single “And If You Should See Dave” sounds like the theme song to some 1960s B-movie about a guy who turns into a turkey every full moon. You know, something like that. I can’t relate to this tune at all.

• Yikes, we’re done with this week’s rundown, except for one last thing, another pub-rock band, except this one isn’t as old. Yes, it’s Australian dumb-bunnies Amyl and the Sniffers, with Comfort To Me, their new album! The single, “Guided By Angels,” is like Courtney Love but more punk, like a drunk X-Ray Spex, but with a lot of rhythm. Anyone with ears would love this song, I mean literally anyone.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/09/02

Kazemde George, I Insist (Greenleaf Music)

There’s something of a precedent for this album, at least in an inspirational sense. In 1960, jazz drummer Max Roach released We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, a set of five songs intended to be performed during the centennial celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963. Impossibly, more than 50 years since, the equal rights struggle is still mostly a political battle that’s far from resolved. This, then, is George’s own musical thoughts on the matter, submitted in the — as I’ve noted a million times now — now-hopeless hope that art will inspire humanity to finally stop being idiotic about obvious things. But putting the intent aside, this is a really nice Barcalounger-jazz record from the sax player, leading a group for the first time under the auspices of Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf Music label. Beautifully engineered, these mellow pieces form a crystal clear pond of dive-right-in ambiance. George is definitely a sax player to watch, as his terrific soloing attests, and vocalist Sami Stevens is a treasure, scatting and crooning her way around most elegantly and with an original, unstressed sound. I’d recommend this to anyone. A+

Foghat, 8 Days On The Road (Select-O-Hits Records)

The only original Foghat member in this band is drummer Roger Earl. Singer Dave Peverett died years ago, and so did their lead guitarist, Rod Price (Fritz Wetherbee would want me to mention that Price died in 2005 in Milford after a household mishap). Who cares about the bass player, so that leaves the 70something drummer, like I said, and a bunch of other arena-rock pros, all of whom put up a good enough live front. This record launches with one of my fave overlooked oldies, “Drivin’ Wheel,” then gets into the goods, resurrecting the version of “Road Fever” from the original Foghat Live LP that put them on the map; only thing that’s missing is the energy you could literally feel wafting out of the giant-ass crowd (this all has more of a club vibe). Obviously for Foghat completists, if there are any still alive, and if that’s you, you’ll be psyched to learn that they’re playing at The Big E in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 19. B

PLAYLIST

• Jane, stop this crazy thing, it’s September, and on Friday the 3rd new albums will appear as spam choices in your friendly streaming service, that super-friendly app that has totally never happily handed over the list of all your personal music choices to marketing data companies so that they could estimate your age, relationship status and economic privilege level and know what ads to send you, because there is no way that you are just viewed as a mindless consumer-bot by the Sentinels of the Big Tech matrix. No, I’m not kidding, everything’s fine, did you know that when you use the free wi-fi at Target, they track you through the store and make notes about what products you look at so they can fine-tune their email spam, no, I’m joking, seriously, oh look, there’s a squirrel, um, I mean a new album, called Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, from U.K. experimental rapper/actress Lil Simz! Her career has had a lot of help from famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon and trip-hop band Gorillaz; she opened for them during the 2017 Humanz Tour, and they’ve guested on each other’s albums. The single, “Introvert,” starts with an orchestral part that’s bombastic and Wagnerian, then settles into a pedestrian, almost-trip-hop beat over which Simz lays down some fluttery grime-ish bad-assery. The tune takes itself way too seriously, but whatever, you might honestly love it, and that’s your right!

gg bb xx is the fourth album from Los Angeles synthpop band LANY, and it is on the way, which is actually good news, because they’re nowhere near as horrible as so many Top 40 bands are today. In fact, the new single, “Up To Me,” is like a cross between Above & Beyond and Boyz II Men, really chill but vocally rich. At the rate these guys are going, this LP will probably reach No. 1, I’m serious.

• Ha ha, look folks, it’s Nevada-based sort-of-rock band Imagine Dragons, with a new album, called Mercury – Act 1! Yes, that’s right, they didn’t break up, that was only a rumor that surfaced when one of the guys said he wanted to spend more time with his family. I know, drat the luck, am I right? To me, Imagine Dragons are basically the Dane Cook of modern ringtone-rock, sort of like if Coldplay and Ed Sheeran had a baby that stuck to whipping out the Millennial Whoop in every one of their stupid songs and only cared about appealing to 11-year-olds who have smartphones, despite the Surgeon General’s warning about smartphones lowering preteen IQs by one point every week they’re used. No, I kid, so, moving on, the new single, “Wrecked,” is a chillout song, an amalgam of Bon Iver, Coldplay and Seal I guess.

• We’ll wrap up the week with Senjutsu, the latest album from arena-metal stalwarts Iron Maiden, who are from England! Fun fact, and I don’t know if this is some sort of publicity stunt or whatnot, but the band’s singer, Bruce Dickinson, apparently contracted Covid-19 even though he was vaccinated. As always, I hesitate to believe anything a rock star says, because usually it’s just a prank to get media attention, which I personally refuse to provide, oh wait, darn it, I just did. The tire-kicker single, “The Writing On The Wall,” is southern-rock-ish, like the Outlaws, except with Bruce Dickinson’s voice. The video is a cartoon about some motorcycle dudes and some guy dressed like the Grim Reaper and there’s a dragon-shaped nuclear bomb; none of it makes any sense, par for the course with this band, whose visuals were always dumb.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/08/26

Sophie Du Palais, Endurance Of Pain Is The Power Of Being (Abstrakce Records)

There’s always room at this desk for techno, especially if it’s coming from someone who’s involved in a rising European niche. In this case it’s a German woman who’s part of the “contemporary Dutch electronic underground,” who also goes by the name Vrouwe Fataal, which means “femme fatale” if I’m getting this right. She’s billed as a Miss Kittin type, which makes sense upon first listen to “Glazed Disco Ball”; she sounds as drugged-up as Kittin did on any of her old stuff, although the epithets Du Palais babbles are of course in Dutch, and there’s more solidity to this blooping beat. But that’s skipping over a tune, specifically the album’s first tune, which is more on a Mario Brothers tip, cheesy but OK overall. It isn’t until “Boys Tears” that we hear her really get sleazy and industrial, though not to the extent you may have heard from Die Form, who are completely crazy (in a very good way). A

Briars of North America, Supermoon (Brassland)

This world/hipster trio, comprised of two long-lost cousins and one of their friends, was formed when the cousins, who never saw each other aside from two family gatherings for funerals, were forced to hang out together at the behest of one of their dads, simply because they both lived in Brooklyn. Odd as it looks, I think my “world/hipster” lumping makes sense; there’s Bon Iver-style moonbat ambience going on, but it’s pleasingly different, because one of the guys is a student of traditional and ancient forms of singing from places such as the Caucasus, the Mediterranean and the rural U.S., so the lyrics are often unintelligible but captivating. Their biography stressed my ADD to the max, but my takeaway was that they’ve done some world traveling to provide a sort of New Age service, soaking TED talks and other gatherings in their peaceful, well-heeled tuneage. Some really nice Americana on “Chirping Birds,” and witch-haunted chanting on “Ambient Condor.” Very creative stuff. A

PLAYLIST

• Tomorrow (or whenever, depending on which day you picked up this newspaper) is the 27th, a Friday, when the latest albums come out in a disorganized spill, all of them praying that some smarty pants snark-volcano like me won’t notice them trying to sneak into the record stores without getting a thorough, richly deserved paddle on the bottom for being horrible. We’ll kick off this week’s nightmare journey with New Jersey-bred Auto-Tune bling princess and RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, her fourth. She is of course a product of Instagram, YouTube and all that gunk, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have a preteen living in your house, chances are you’ve been subjected to such dross as “Without Me,” her first sexytime-pop hit, or maybe her mindless “Closer” collaboration with monstrously overrated boyband Chainsmokers. Either way, you have my sincere condolences, and hey, chin up, maybe this stuff will be palatable, even though she left my beloved Astralwerks record label to go to Capitol Records, meaning she’s nowadays just another tool of Lucifer. The first single I ran into was “Can’t Have Love,” a typical hip-hop-tinged madrigal that —‌ wait, no, that’s a G-Eazy song that came out in June, never mind. So the title track is —‌ wait, it’s apparently a music-film double-whammy, and there are only snippets. If there’s anything that brings out the monster in me, it’s when there’s nothing but snippets. But wait, it’s not empty-brained pop, she’s taken this ridiculousness to a whole new level, a dramatic, epic movie thingamajig that’s like a cross between Game Of Thrones and the even more awful Outlander, like Halsey’s a very pregnant queen of someplace or other, and the film bit is headed up by Trent Reznor. Some people will find this all really great, and I will simply deal with that in my own way, like always.

Turnstile is a pretty cool arena-punk band from Baltimore, and no, they’re not some sort of annoying Dashboard Confessional emo trip. “Alien Love Call,” the single from their forthcoming new album Glo On, finds them indulging in less punk and more arena-rock. Gone are the vocal tracks that sounded like they were recorded in someone’s bathroom; there’s almost a Jane’s Addiction thing going on in this mildly fascinating slow-tempo tune. I don’t like the guitar sound, but again, it’s OK overall. And it’s not emo at all, which is all I ask in life.

• There’s also a fourth album from Scottish synthpop band Chvrches, Screen Violence. I’m absolutely sure I liked what I heard from them before, whatever it was, but either way, the words “Scottish synthpop” should make any ears over the age of 40 prick up a little, let’s admit it. Whoa, these guys are playing to win this time, because guess who’s the feat in the new single “How Not To Drown?” Yes, you’ll die: It’s Cure singer and verified crazy person Robert Smith! This is all goth-y and epic, with a big chorus bit, and in the video Robert looks like he hasn’t combed his hair in two months. You’ll love it. I sure do.

• Finally, we have indie-folk/folktronica due Big Red Machine, with How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last. Guests include Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes and Anaïs Mitchell, whose turn on the sleepy, rather draggy single “Latter Days” is Norah Jones-ish. Nothing folktronica on this tune, but who knows, you might totally love it.

Retro Playlist

Today we’ll go back exactly 13 years ago, to 2008, apparently the year my little column first came into being. I’m not wildly proud of those early days, par for my course. But it was a beginning, and there were plenty of targets. Metallica, a band that was, at the time, busily engaged in making people forget they were pretty cool, was releasing Death Magnetic, and it was necessary for me to find out how much I could insult the single “The Day That Never Comes” (it “sounds like that dumb Bob Seger wedding-reception tune they barfed out a few years ago”) without incurring the wrath of our editors. But I’m still here, and you can plainly see how much worse I’ve gotten since then. Salud.

Anway, there were two focus albums in play, like always. One of them, Tito Puente and His Orchestra’sLive at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival, was, of course, essential listening for jazz nerds who think jazz festivals are a fun time (I can’t imagine anything more boring than a jazz festival, except for maybe a librarians-only mud-wrestling match). And I said so: “It’s amazing, finding the King of Latin Music going nuclear at the Super Bowl of jazz, his hands and sticks moving up through the gears of his timbales in the run-up to an animated rendition of ‘Para Los Rumberos’ (Punte’s universally familiar salsa tune, the one that invokes Vegas-bound jetliners the way bread bespeaks butter).”

The other one wasn’t nearly as good, a two-CD mix from then-constant Pacha Ibiza house-DJ fixture Behrouz, titled Nervous Nitelife: Pure Behrouz NYC. The first CD “[starts] off with King Street Crew’s old-school ‘Things U Do 2 Me,’ a tiresome warmup that’s only missing a voiceover describing a Florida timeshare and sleepy videotape of golfing.” The big spazz-drop is OK, Roberto Rodriguez’ “Camera Obscura,” with “its finger-snap rhythm slowly turning feral under a funky but agile soft-shoe stutter-step layer.” Really the only reason I wrote about that rather trite record was because I had ignored Oscar G’s amazing Nervous Nitelife: Miami past the point of its still being “hot and new,” an error I still regret to this day.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/08/19

Anika, Change (Sacred Bones Records)
Collection of self-indulgent, googly-eyed runway-model-pop confections from a pan-European girl who apparently believes there’s a huge audience for the random superficial thinkies of a privileged former political journalist who — get this, you’ll never believe it — thinks the world is a little messed up at the moment. Behold what the Warhol/Bowie aesthetic has led us to in the ringtone era: a retro take on the overhead-speaker ambiance heard at overpriced clothing stores at the mall, which, I suppose, really did need a break from the usual soft-pedaled, blippy house-techno; I mean, if you want someone to pay $250 for a blouse that cost 30 cents to produce, your average customer would probably be more hypnotized if one of the songs from this absolutely unnecessary album were playing in the background. Take “Finger Pies,” for instance, in which Random Mononym croons her flatline-brained Nico imitation over a Velvet Underground loop that’s trying so hard to sound ’60s-artpop-authentic you almost feel obligated to dance to it for a second so it’ll shut up. Right, just what we need in a time of insane debt, plague and climate catastrophe: vacuous, tuneless retro garbage delivered by a fashion-victimized chick in gold lamé thigh-high boots. Utterly detestable. F

Cinema Cinema, CCXMDII (Nefarious Industries)
I know for a fact I’ve covered these guys before, but my crack team of unpaid pizza-gobbling interns can’t seem to find it, and I keep getting too distracted by internet nonsense to ever find it myself, so we’ll start from scratch with this sixth album from the experimental art-punk act, comprised of two cousin bros (one on guitar/voice, the other on drums) from Brooklyn. I know I liked what I heard from them before; these guys are hard-edgy and, of course, weird, as we hear on opening track “A Life Of Its Own,” an 18-minute thingie that’s totally Throbbing Lobster-esque, like Swans but with a New-Age slant — there’s a flute (or sample thereof) throughout, you see, not played very well but nevertheless redolent of a tranquil (if claustrophobia-triggering) forest. Elsewhere we have things like “Cloud 2,” a discombobulated noise jaunt that might make you think of an all-analog Battles; and “Crack Of Dawn,” which is pure crackpot-improv. It’s all very “meh” really. C+

PLAYLIST

• Friday the 20th is barreling down on us, tumbling head over heels, clutching fresh new rock ’n’ roll albums in its hands while it tries not to smash into a telephone pole and laughs at us for being bummed about the summer ending in like 20 seconds. Yep, before you know it, there’ll be plenty of things to hate: spiced pumpkin decorations at Hobby Lobby, co-workers lying about how much they love autumn, and everyone’s favorite: 4-foot Santas at Target, standing in piles of fake snow even while most people are still in their flip-flops and Rick & Morty T-shirts. There is nothing I can do about any of that, other than hold your hand and gently remind you that you’d promised yourself for the last 10 years that you’d move to Tallahassee, so it’s all your fault, but, along the way, cheer up and eat your watermelon-flavored Airheads while I tell you about the awesome new albums you can buy or pirate or whatever! I know you could use a laugh right now, what with lockdown talk making the rounds even as you prepare to make that dreaded trip to your closet to dig out your North Face jacket and snowshoes, so let’s discuss hipster-black-metal idiots Deafheaven and their new album, Infinite Granite! Wow, the new single “Great Mass Of Color” is a mixture of cut-rate Killers and government-issue shoegaze — hahahaha, I knew they’d drop the black-metal pretense sooner or later! The YouTube comments on this song are priceless: “Deafheaven but make it whirr but make it Morrissey”; “When your friend goes to college for a year and comes back home with a Flock Of Seagulls haircut and a tattoo of the infinity symbol,” stuff like that. So the results are in, folks: Ho ho ho, merrrry pumpkin spice, the people hate you, Deafheaven! They really, really hate you!

• What other unspeakable tortures lie in wait for me today — oh no, this is too funny, it’s Gestureland, another new album from former X-Files actor David Duchovny! My sides are splitting, guys, I’m telling you. What, did people actually buy his last few albums? Ahem, shall we investigate the new single, “Layin’ on the Tracks”? Hey, I don’t want to either, but duty calls. Ack, ack, the music is trite, absolutely dreadful, kind of like Neil Young but without the stupid screechy guitars. His voice is what you’d expect from him and his adenoids. Even if you’ve never played guitar before, I could teach you to play this song in 10 minutes and you’d break into a boss-level guitar solo out of sheer boredom. Why is this man doing this to himself, seriously?

• I don’t even wanna look, gang, what could possibly be next? No way, it’s semi-retired child star Debbie Gibson, with a new slab o’ vinyl, The Body Remembers! Ha ha, remember when she got into a slap-fight with other-former-child-star Tiffany in the Sy-Fy classic cinematic treasure Mega Python vs. Gatoroid? The only possible direction from there, of course, was down, so she’s been doing Hallmark movies, like 2018’s Wedding Of Dreams, which was about, oh, who cares, just bask in all the rich and delicious schadenfreude while I inflict the new single “One Step Closer” on my poor head-bone. Whoa, wait, she’s pretty hot in this video, and the song is sort of afterparty-techno, like Miss Kitty meets Janet Jackson. It’s OK!

• We’ll end this week’s musical water-boarding with Love Will Be Reborn, from Canada-pop lady Martha Wainwright! The title track isn’t bad, sort of Christine McVie/Fleetwood Mac-ish, if I’m being honest, not that I’m feeling so inclined.

Retro Playlist

Way back we go, once again to 2007, a year whose biggest events included Microsoft releasing Windows Vista and Office 2007. I’ll bet half of you readers are still using Office 2007, given that it didn’t require a subscription you had to buy and download from “the cloud” (I’m really, really sick of hearing about “the cloud,” aren’t you?). But let’s not wander too far; there were a few albums up for dissection that week, exactly 14 years ago, in these pages. The most notable one, an album I actually kept in my car’s cubby for a long time, was Bluefinger, from Black Francis of the Pixies, a band I dubbed “the ultimate anti-Fleetwood Mac, a jumbled train wreck of notes, pretty/unpretty voices and bar-band guitars that sucked in every unwary soul who got too close.” The best part of this rather good LP, I said, is “when he gives himself a do-over of the boys-choir chorus that Surfer Rosa’s ‘Where Is My Mind’ mismanaged, this on the new album’s ‘Angels Come to Comfort,’ whose out-of-nowhere fadeout is one of the most stirring things you’ll hear all year.” It really is a terrific song.

Elsewhere, there was Benelux-based DJ Sander Kleinenberg, with a two-CD set called This is Sander Kleinenberg. Ah, the good old days, when the house-techno record labels all had me on their lists, and I was up to my ears in sexy-cool beach music intended for velvet-rope clubs where all the fashion-model/scientist kids would drink until they danced and grope each other like lobsters in a supermarket tank. This wasn’t my favorite house album of all time: “By and large,” I said in an Exorcist voice, “fans are into his earlier releases for their funk, of which there’s plenty at the outset of the ‘Left’ half of this collection, but the tracks are all over the joint, sometimes getting bogged down in arrhythmic ambient bloviations that stay a little past their welcome.” I gave it a C+, which is my way of hinting that I probably Frisbeed the album out my car window at some point.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/08/12

Lex Leosis, Terracotta [EP] (self-released)

This female alternative hip-hopper is a long-board enthusiast from California by way of Canada, and her passive-aggressive flows have made her a real up and comer. Two of the songs (the Billie Eilish-ish “Won’t Wait” and the flighty-bassline-powered “Wanted”) were produced by Rainer Blanchaer (Drake, The Weeknd), who became a constant in her life during lockdown. If he’s into her, that should be plenty excuse for you to give this a shot. A

Wavves, Hideaway (Fat Possum Records)

Nathan Williams runs this San Diego indie band, a trio you’ve almost assuredly heard about before. The narrative he’d like us critics to front is that although he’s still the same kid who had an ecstacy-and-Valium-fueled meltdown at a 2009 Barcelona rock festival and had a remarkable streak of hooky beach-garage noise-pop broken by a too-glossy major-label attempt, he’s now old enough to have finally figured out that, oh gosh, just like anyone else ever born, he’s his own worst enemy. Did you enjoy that little Pitchfork-ish segue? I didn’t, so let’s see if the band sounds noise-grunge awesome, like in the old days, or kind of commercial emo, like in the more recent past. Gack, what the heck is this, “Sinking Feeling” is kind of twee, isn’t it? “Thru Hell” sounds like Hives after their moms forced them to get haircuts; “Honeycomb” sounds like commercial jungle meant to entice hipsters to eat Corn Flakes. Ack, ack, all set with this. C

PLAYLIST

• Even though it is a Friday the 13th, Aug. 13 is the next general-record-release Friday. I’m totally sure that bodes well for what awaits me when I check my list of things to review, and I won’t be disappointed. In fact, it is the only Friday the 13th of 2021, so I’ll probably get a double-whammy dose of awful, but, subject change, did you know that historians and folklore often have drunken brawls over whether the superstitious fear of Friday the 13th is actually based on the date of the Last Supper or the arrest of the Knights Templar in 1307? For me, I will attribute it to the release date of the new Willie Nile album The Day The Earth Stood Still, because I have to talk about it right now and I have no idea who he is. I don’t feel too bad about it, because the 73-year-old alt-folk singer-songwriter actually is pretty obscure, as well as being a philosophy major from Buffalo, New York. Please hold while I try to find an angle on this, if there even is one. OK, Wikipedia wants to Rickroll me into looking up some band called the Worry Dolls, but I won’t, let’s just say that his obscurity and six-year hiatus after getting sued or whatever in 1981 has made him into one of those “only cool, edgy musicians know about him,” being that Loudon Wainwright III, Roger McGuinn, and members of the Hooters and the Roches have helped him make albums. Stuff like that instantly brings out my cleverly hidden inner skeptic, but let’s have a go at “Blood On Your Hands,” which is guested by Steve Earle. It’s a boring old-school blues-rocker that someone like Jimmy Barnes would have thrown in the trash, meaning this Friday the 13th is probably just getting started being a Friday the 13th for me.

• Watch me perform critic magic with the following bon mot: Devendra Banhart & Noah Georgeson’s new album, Refuge, should just be considered a Devendra Banhart album, because Noah Georgeson is his constant producer. Of course, being that this is an ambient album comprised of slow techno loops and no vocals, I wouldn’t want it to be considered part of my legacy either, if I were Devendra Banhart, and I would definitely blame the really stupid video (big, gross snails crawling around on old Greek statues and generally being slimy and yucky) on Noah Georgeson. Thus, folks, the power of being a famous artist: If you have an urge to make a really pointless career move, always have someone else around to hold the bag.

• After releasing nine records, somewhere along the line this year, alternative-country singer-strummer Suzie Ungerleider got tired of calling herself Oh Susanna, mostly because one of her wine-mom friends finally got around to telling her that there’s a complicated racial history behind the song “Oh! Susanna.” So now she is Suzie Ungerleider, whether or not the critics will spell it right (some of them won’t, just to be jerks). In an act of quiet desperation, her new album is titled My Name Is Suzie Ungerleider, which will probably fix everything (it won’t). She’s originally from lovely, sparkly, rustic Northampton, Mass., but is now Canadian, but I will forgive her for that and listen to her new single, “Baby Blues.” I’ll try to be nice: The tune is sleepy, boring and hookless, and her voice is a cross between Dolly Parton and Lisa Loeb.

• Last but not least is British electronic musician Jungle, whose new album, Loving In Stereo, is coming out tomorrow. Despite his name, his style is electronic neo-soul, and the single “Talk About It” is actually really cool, like a Covid-mask-muffled amalgam of ’70s stuff like Bee Gees and Cornelius Brothers. You should check it out.

Retro Playlist

Exactly 14 years ago, this space was, if I recall, something of a catch-as-catch-can fricassee of random reviews. This was way before my stream-of-half-consciousness Playlist segment came into play, and come to think of it, some of this stuff may have ended up in one of the New Times newspapers or someplace else, but either way, let’s first revisit my magma-hot take on Humanity Hour 1, an album that had just streeted from legendary German hard-rockers Scorpions “(or is it just ‘Scorpions’ with no ‘the’, the original riddle of the Sphynx).” I was a bit fascinated with the fact that the band had fallen from the heavens by then; they were managed by Lieber & Krebs, who also handled Aerosmith and most of the other arena-rawk bands of the ’70s and ’80s, but suddenly here they were, “slumming it” on Universal Records. The results? Well, I noted, they were back. But “OK, not as super-far ‘back’ as [they were situated] when Michael Schenker had to cut elementary school classes so he could go into the studio and lay down the lead guitar heroics of ‘Speedy’s Coming,’ but … no, not as ‘back’ as the Animal Magnetism album either, you remember, with ‘The Zoo’ and all.” I’ll stop: basically they were back to doing tedious “No One Like You”-ish ballads, about 12 or so years after they’d become extinct. So I gave it a C+ grade (in principle it deserved lower, really).

That week I also riffed a bit on an album I rather liked, Victorious, from the Swedish band The Perishers. I loved basically everything I was sent from Nettwerk Records, and these guys were the types to spend “countless torturous nights writing their material, resulting in the sort of regal air that most indie bands try to fake through ‘experimental’ shock and awe.” Turned out to be their last album, much the pity. Sigh.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Album Reviews 21/08/05

Occurrence, I Have So Much Love To Give (Archie & Fox Records)

I usually don’t go for tunes that sound like Postal Service, with those cheesy 808-ish beats that are no more technologically fascinating than the first Donkey Kong video game. But in this case there’s a lot of layering at times, and it’s not always a Nintendo-fest either —‌ wait, let me start over, because the Figurine-ish title track that opens the album, with its Donkey Kong beat, a thing that to me always comes off as insincere anti-flamboyance, is the least appealing to me, and it does get a lot better. It’s the third album from an odd little crew of college grads with families and professional day-gigs that suck up 99.9 percent of their time, so the goal here isn’t to dump everything and open for Killers or whatnot. But that really wouldn’t be out of the question, being that they sound like a modern-day Blondie of sorts (singer Cat Hollyer is a dead ringer for Debbie Harry), and they do have a slight penchant for buzzy noise-rock (“The Preferred One,” which actually gets really pretty as it marches along). This one’s a grower, well worth your time. A —‌ Eric W. Saeger

Lauren Jenkins, Miles On Me Part 1 (self-released)

Texas-born and Carolina-raised, Jenkins has toured since she was 15, so I’m told. She’s still a small fry at the moment, having played a role in an Eric Roberts movie and clocked in on one or two other actress-things. There’s been a Today show appearance, and a lot of big magazines and newspapers, I’m told, have touted her as an artist to watch and such. The sound on this self-made album is top-drawer, like, I can tell by the drums, which sound big and splashy, totally radio quality. I know what you’re wondering, but I’ve tried to avoid that: Her music is basically Sheryl Crow-ish, and her voice sounds just like Sheryl Crow. There’s of course nothing wrong with that, on paper, but I’d venture to say that I’d prefer a Sheryl Crow soundalike to try something other than country-tinged Sheryl Crow radio-pop, savvy? I mean, the songs are fine, and other than Sheryl Crow’s music, I’ve never heard anything like this in my life. We cool? B-

PLAYLIST

• Oh noes, we’re into August already, somebody make it stop, or those precocious 13-year-olds who run the fish-and-chips takeout stand at York Beach are literally going to close up and go shopping for edgy backpacks for school! No, I say! I absolutely despise August, the month that’s just basically one giant Sunday, because you know that there’s not a lot of fun and laziness and whole-clam baskets remaining on the clock before dreariness and drudgery and snow set in and turn us all back into our true people-hating Gollum selves. But enough babbling, I must drop my growing desperation and get to business, because I am a buzzing chatbot in the entertainment matrix, and my assigned task is to tell you what albums to buy when they come out on Aug. 6. (The truth is that you shouldn’t buy any of them, really; if you really cared about yourself you’d only listen to old John Coltrane albums and four-hour classical streams through YouTube or whatever, but it’s your ears’ funeral). So let’s get busy, my corporate-enslaved darlings, let’s start with The Apple Drop, a new album from Brooklyn-based experimental-post-punk loons Liars! This trio is signed to Mute Records, which automatically spells awesomeness, of course, but in the case of the single “Sekwar,” your idea of awesomeness would need to be predicated on an ideal of Tom Waits leading 10 or so guys in a crazy but not unlistenable chant about cave gods or something. Some of you would actually like it a lot, is the scary thing, but that’s OK.

• Famous famous-person and unfunny comedienne Barbra Streisand is now a spritely 79 years old, so, like the giant grackle-monster Rodan, she must emerge from her cavern of Smaug gold and lay an album-egg, for the benefit of people who buy albums solely for the purpose of annoying themselves. This new album is called Release Me 2, but don’t get excited, ’90s-girl-group fans, I’ll bet that the “2” in the title refers to a sequel to some dumb album called Release Me. Yup, there it is, thanks Wikipedia, these are previously unreleased songs that would probably sound acoustically marvelous if the strains were bouncing off the walls of your great-uncle’s Marlboro-smelling wood-paneling. The first Release Me featured tracks recorded between her 1967 Simply Streisand and 2011 What Matters Most albums, but this one cast an even wider net (1962-2020), for instance a Babs version of Carole King’s “You Light Up My Life” that’s nasal-screamy and basically bad for you.

• Next we have country music human Chris Young’s Famous Friends, whose title track is based on an “ironic” trope, that his friends in Skunk County or wherever he’s from aren’t really famous, even though the song is ironically co-sung by famous person Kane Brown. It’s standard fare, like take any Toby Keith song, put it in the microwave for 20 minutes and serve. Nevertheless he played it at the ACM Awards, whatever that means.

• Our last thing to look at this week is Lingua Ignota, classically trained in the vein of Zola Jesus I assume, given that this thing here says she’s into industrial and noise rock. Sinner Get Ready is her newest upcoming album, and I’m sure I’ll love it, so off I go to the YouTubes to listen to the single “Pennsylvania Furnace.” Yikes, OK, look at this video, she’s in a sheer white angel dress, jump-cutting around in a field. Slow mournful craziness. Talk about gloomy, crazy and nutty, I shall pass on this, thanks.

Retro Playlist

I spun the dial on the Way-Back Machine as hard as I could, and look, it landed exactly 14 years ago this week, in 2007! I cared about a lot of different genres back then, including, well, every genre, even unbearable vintage wingnut-jazz. Like the newbie I was, while reviewing the Charles Mingus Sextet’s Cornell 1964 (a live album that had just been discovered at the time), I played it safe: “Jazz has unsubtle similarities to booze,” I babbled; “Miles Davis is brandy on ice in relation to the watered-down umbrella drinks of ’80s-era Ramsey Lewis and the egghead-banter martinis of Dave Brubeck.” Well no duh, I say to my 14-years-ago self. I was obviously trying to avoid the subject at hand, namely trying to review a too-hardcore post-bop record, but I did man up and hint to readers that this particular version of “Sophisticated Lady” was “disjointed.” In the end, though, hoping to keep Mingus fans happy (by the way, I don’t care about pleasing them or anyone else anymore), I added “[T]imid newcomers have sufficient opportunities to get acclimated, such as the readily accessible blues of ‘So Long Eric’ (referring to sax/flute/clarinet legend Eric Dolphy, who plays throughout this album).” If you’re still timid about records like this, my advice is to stay that way.

Also that crazily long-ago week, Euro-goth/industrial blockheads KMFDM had just released Tohuvabohu, which I found uninspired (“‘Super Power’ is the sort of jump-the-shark moment that makes longtime fans hustle for the exits”). As well, Aughts-indie bands were at their peak of being horrible (You Say Party We Say Die’s Lose All Time was Romeo Void for dummies), but I did actually like New Young Pony Club’s Fantastic Playroom, as their tunes were “party-girl singalongs over New Order guitars welded in place by matching synth lines,” so I said “most of this record is instantly likeable, putting between-craze Billboard pinups like Franz Ferdinand to shame” (like that’s a challenge).

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

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