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Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile has always seemed like the sort of guy that would get a kick out of having an album that he could call his own Blonde on Blonde or Exile on Main St., and luckily for him he’s at the perfect time in his career to go big. Wakin On a Pretty Daze is his first release that a significant amount of people are waiting for, after 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo acted as his sort-of-breakout. That album felt like the culmination of all of his earlier Lo-Fi Folk/Rock/Pop recordings, and he could’ve bowed out right then having made his ultimate album. But Vile grew up on records from Rock’s lifers, your Neil Youngs and your Bruce Springsteens, so that just wasn’t an option, and he instead chose to follow it up with his biggest and boldest statement yet.

While considerably longer than his other records, it’s a pretty lean take on a double album. Vile has eliminated any expected filler by picking his eleven best songs and letting them sit for a while. He unhurriedly lets them unfurl as he restructures and resets their chord progressions for as long as ten minutes. It avoids double album gimmicks, the two discs aren’t distinct from each other and the flow is almost too good, which makes the idea of getting up and changing sides seem more like an annoyance than an essential part of the experience. It’s best enjoyed as an uninterrupted singular album, that just happens to have the very welcome bonus of being pretty long.

Partial-title track “Wakin On a Pretty Day” is a gorgeous, perfect opener, deep acoustic strings are layered over rich electric tones during the song’s breezy chorus, all building to an outro solo that practically glistens. Along with the upbeat, ragged lead of “KV Crimes” it’s the first sign that Vile has grown as a guitarist. Every song has an instantly identifiable and excellent guitar opening, from the swampy distortion of “Girl Called Alex” to the Nick-Drake-finger picked chords of “Too Hard”. He makes amazing use of these stringed motifs, and you never notice the songs lengths. In one of his first interviews about the album he called it his Tusk, and while that’s not really a spot on comparison his outro solos are definitely on par with Lindsey Buckingham’s.

“Shame Chamber” features some of Vile’s most self-loathing and self-exploratory lyrics, even if the fun and sharp “WOOOO”’s present him as a limosine ridin’, jet flyin, kiss-stealin, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun! He’s made a big double album, one the Rock artist’s biggest indulgences, but he has somehow kept his tone personal and humble, even as he adds another flavour with “Never Run Away” the album’s clear pop single. Its killer chorus is almost as cute as the song’s video.

Vile’s Americana influences are still at the forefront of his sound, Wakin On a Pretty Daze was recorded on both coasts, but it’s full of sounds and influences from all over the giant country. “Air Bud” mixes heartland guitar licks with sunny synths; its outro could’ve been a whole other song. “Goldtone” could be the track that this album is remembered for, Vile sings some of his most evocative lines over its floating melodies, and maybe even clears up some misconceptions about himself: “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned, but I never as they say touch the stuff / I might be adrift but I’m still alert, concentrate my hurt into a gold tone”. He reveals to us what’s behind his seemingly laid back front, and tells us how he comes up with so many great guitar sounds. It’s an odyssey of a closer, with organ keys, and soft female vocals moving freely within it, creating a beautiful sonic radiance that shimmers along with Vile’s guitar strings.

It really begins to reveal itself after a few listens and the length begins to feel vital. Wakin On a Pretty Daze may wear the clothes of a classic rock double LP, but it stays true to Kurt Vile’s style, and it’s a joy to bask in his songs’ bright and pale sunshine for just that little while longer.

5/5

The Men New Moon

Over the course of four studio albums The Men have established themselves as one of Rock’s most versatile bands. After the gnashing Punk/Noise Rock of 2010’s Immaculada and 2011’s Leave Home, they gave up on sticking to one style per album. Last year marked a turning point in their short career when they released Open Your Heart, their most varied and emotionally bold album that was one of the year’s best. Their newest release New Moon follows just under a year after, and features songs that they have been playing from before even the 2012 album was released. It mostly presents a further mellowing of their sound, but then hits you with some of their harshest material. They commit fully to the abandonment of any concept of a constant thread within their music, and with no primary songwriter or lead singer to paint as a frontman the Brooklyn five-piece seem like a true band. Apart from their drummer, Rich Samis, every member takes a stab at singing, offering a variety of voices that range from great to capable.

This looseness has become The Men’s key component, and on New Moon they switch from fun Garage Rock grinding, to intense Krautrock oppression. The piano chords of opener “Open the Door” might make Leave Home mega-fans violently rage vomit over their record players. As it starts the album with more of a polite knock than a frame splintering kick. It’s a straightforward and pleasant acoustic song, which begins to make sense once it’s revealed to work as a build up to the aggressive radio rock of “Half Angel Half Light”. Which bursts with melody straight out of the gate, due to Nick Chiericozzi and Mark Perro heart-pumping joint lead vocals. Through a sunny acoustic guitar line and a verse-chorus structure that doesn’t waste a second, it conveys a love of radio rock that is as joyous as Jonathan Richman’s love letter to it.

A spirited refrain of “when your heart beats true” elevates “Without a Face”, and its harmonica blasts reveal a deep Folk Rock influence. Their east coast origins and Folk Rock leanings may welcome, encourage, and force comparisons to the Heartland Rock of Bruce Springsteen. But the brand of murky folk they play on “I Saw Her Face” is closer to the rawest albums in Neil Young’s long discography. The song’s front section is led by thick sluggish folk guitar and Perro’s harsh but tuneful croon. He harmonises wonderfully with bassist Ben Greenberg for the title line before the band snap into place for an excellent solo section and tempo bludgeoning outro. This aggressive form of folk rock is just another example of The Men’s music bearing a distinct love and reverence for the Classic Rock repurposing of The Replacements. Even The Men’s discography seems to be aping the sonic and melodic changes that occurred in the three short years between the releases of Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and Let It Be.

New Moon is a very American Rock and Roll album, and it unabashedly embraces this with the “Like a Rolling Stone” piano and harmonica on “Bird Song”, a ragged Rock and Roll Hall of Fame styled slice of Americana. “High and Lonesome” is a slow sunset instrumental that is perfect for the plains. It seems to be building to something but The Men pull and shred the rug from under you instead with “The Brash”, a punk rock vortex with disorienting grunge riffs and duelling guitar solos. Before you can regain your footing they hit you again with the compressed crash cymbals and melodic buzzing thunder of lead single “Electric”. As a digital album the switch from gentle country instrumental to bone rattling ‘pop’ is kind of a sharp and unexpected, akin to crashing into a canyon during a leisurely drive. But as an LP, with a pause and a change of sides separating the two tracks, “High and Lonesome” becomes the perfect wind down and “The Brash” the perfect kick off, causing The Men to score a victory for the vinyl record and in turn strengthen their classic rock ties. But when taken as a list of MP3s, the album’s sequencing is basic, and it could be listened to on shuffle without losing much.

The variety of songs is great but the lack of flow is kind of a disappointment, because it seems like The Men have a truly great rock record within them. The songs are excellent but New Moon feels more like a singles collection, rather than their version of The White Album or Led Zeppelin III. Nothing shows the disparity in the album more than its two closers do. The quick shot “Freaky” moves with a loose pop beat and peaks with a brief rich-toned guitar solo, but “Supermoon” is an eight minute noise rock odyssey with an oppressive thrashing sway that is stuffed with squealing guitar. It beats its way into your skull and brings the album to a punishing conclusion.

The Men may have mellowed their sound, but their capricious approach to rock has made them even more unpredictable than they were as a snarling-lung-hacking Noise Rock band. They seem to have an ‘anything goes as long as it Rocks’ approach when they’re writing their excellent songs, and on New Moon they keep you guessing at what style they’re going to channel next, as they do their best shambolic impressions of a million different types of rock music.

4/5

m b v

It’s going to be hard to take m b v as just an album; so many things have become part of its narrative during the 22 years of on/off anticipation since the release of My Bloody Valentine’s seminal Loveless. And to many it is just a narrative, as the fans that waited the full 22 years now seem to be a minority within their fan base. People have had a long time to discover My Bloody Valentine for themselves; maybe the 2008 reunion shows sparked their interest, or last year’s long promised reissues. But one thing’s for sure, whether you bought Loveless on its release day or picked it up in the late 2000s to ‘see what all the fuss was about’; Kevin Shields didn’t make his new album for you. Even though its recording process spans three decades, it doesn’t really sound like it could sit comfortably within any of them. Shields just took his time, locked himself away, and made an album that’s not aimed at any member of his expanding audience in particular.

The only thing overtly modern about m b v is its release method. It was dropped unceremoniously on their website on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, but clearly not unceremoniously enough because the website instantly crashed for three hours, trapping the album in limbo as the Indie Rock tweeters and Last.fm users made it seem like billions of people were clawing at the virtual record shop doors with their F5 fingers. It was probably closer to 10,000ish (which is still a potentially a hilarious over or under estimation) but the anticipation was infectious and the stories of people desperately trying to order the limited LP before they had to wait 20 odd years for a remaster, or buy the mp3s before Shields change his mind and junked the whole thing, will always be the penultimate chapter in the albums long story.

Many Brits stayed up to three in the morning just so they could confirm that m b v sounded like My Bloody Valentine before they went to bed, but the chatter lasted long past the hours of waiting for Kev to reset his router. There were the hyperbole prone first tweets, the questionably early full reviews, and the battle over whether to capitalise the song titles or not. Can lowercase song titles really be part of Shields’ agonisingly careful artistic vision? Or is there just a lazy intern at a recording studio somewhere? If it’s the first option then this intense struggle over whether to capitalise his song titles probably delayed the album by at least seven years. It seems like a deliberate stab at appearing casual, with Kevin attempting to hide his 22 years of obsessing over minutiae by pretending he couldn’t even be bothered to capitalise the song titles or think of a better name than the simplistic m b v.

By the time you finally had it sitting on your hard drive and ready to play it almost seemed weird that all of that attention and discussion was spawned by 46 minutes of music that most people hadn’t even heard yet. When you distance yourself from all of that, and listen to it enough to not think someone is knocking on your door when you listen to “Is This and Yes”, you can finally just take it as a My Bloody Valentine Album. It’s a much lower key album than Loveless, with no hooks as massive or assaultive as “When You Sleep” or “I Only Said”. But it’s just as sonically rich and the opening guitar strum of “She Found Now” repeatedly duplicates and vibrates into the ether. It’s a beautiful opener that’s mastered at a whisper, Shields sighs his lyrics into a stormy hum of distortion, and a weighty repetitious guitar thud replaces any percussion. It captures a gorgeous and relaxing sound that is just warped enough to ensure that your mind is never quite at rest. It’s a familiar juxtaposition and the opener begins a run of a relatively gentle first six tracks, a loose simple set of songs that find structure and form within the mix.

The guitar textures melt and crumble on “Only Tomorrow” and woozily sway through “Who Sees You”, as Shields’ airy vocals swirl between them. Bilinda Butcher’s airy androgynous purr drifts through the snappy beat and rippling slide guitar of “If I Am”, which ends with the tape reel being rewound into another dimension. Shields and Butcher have the same weightless singing style; they are loud in the mix but mumble, whisper and coo their lyrics. The light dance beats of “New You” are the only evidence of the last 22 years of music having any influence on m b v, but the opening guitar oscillation is a little “How Soon Is Now?”. It’s the albums most immediate and clear track, helped by a sweet vocal lead and a slow synth notes.

The albums final third throws away the gentle sequestered guitar tones for a more hectic and abrasive conclusion. The dance beats of “New You” morph into aggressive industrial beats after the panicked squealing guitar choir of “In Another Way”. “Nothing Is” is a hell broke loose instrumental that slowly cranks up the volume and lays waste with hypnotic repetition, its intensity fades out instead of stopping. Otherworldly closer “Wonder 2” shows that the jet engine comparisons have gone to Shields’ head. The fire alarm guitar lead and marching band snare sound as if they are being sucked into the engines of a thundering Boeing 757, and Shields’ vocals become unnerving calm as the suction pulls them apart.

m b v doesn’t sound like the flawless, painfully constructed, radical reinvention that you would expect to result from 22 years of work, but it’s a great album. It’s so similar to his previous work that it’s ridiculous to think that every second of those 22 years went into its production. There’s a great book to be written about its troubled recording process, but that would take away the fascinating mystery surrounding it and probably reveal a boring reality. My Bloody Valentine still sound like themselves and that is also to say better than the countless imitators that sprang up in their absence. It’s more of a companion to Loveless than an entirely new album, with songs that don’t appear fully formed. It misses and wastes a few of beats and can feel both too long and too short in different spots. m b v is not the landmark that Loveless was even if its arrival was greeted with a much bigger fanfare. It’s more of a resumption of My Bloody Valentine than a reinvention, and that definitely isn’t a bad thing.

4/5

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Foxygen’s debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, sounded like a record collectors fever dream. It was an anachronistic rush through blues, folk and British invasion music. With the help of Richard Swift, the duo presented their scatterbrain ideas with a showy overblown production that seemed to simulate several records playing at the same time. With nine songs and a playtime of 36 minutes and 39 seconds, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, their debut album, is only a touch longer than the kaleidoscopic EP, but the move to the LP tag seems to be more about maturity than length. Jonathan Rado and Sam France have settled their frantic minds, and have concentrated and become more judicious with their use of influences. It makes for a more singular record, and they save different styles for different songs, rather than throwing them around wildly.

The returning Richard Swift provides a more cohesive and lucid production, but it’s still thrillingly overwrought in places. Such as “In the Darkness” with its Sgt. Pepper’s horns and piped in crowd noise making it feel more like a transition than an opener. But it works, and shows Foxygen haven’t lost their disjointed charm. “No Destruction” plods along with poetic no-nonsense lyrics: “There’s no need to be an asshole you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” France sings them with a Bob Dylan-like inflection in his voice, a comparison that becomes undeniable when a harmonica sounds in. France’s voices cracks as he throws himself into the “someone who smokes pot in the subway / pot in the subway with me” line as the organ swells and shifts.

The similarly geography obsessed “San Francisco” has a sweet and warm vocal hook, and a delicate lead is sung over music box keys. The gorgeous refrain of “I left my love in San Francisco / That’s OK, I was bored anyway” becomes a subtle duet as the second line is sung beautifully by a female vocalist. They experiment with similar call and response vocals during “On Blue Mountain”. Which starts as soul song with a snappy drumbeat, but a liquid vocal hook starts a frenzied rock and roll descent as a choir shouts France’s lyrics back at him.

Lead single “Shuggie” is packed with a synth intro, piano keys, string sections, funk jam asides and crashing gospel choruses. It’s almost as perfect a showcase for their unbelievable production as the rich bass sound of “Oh Yeah”. The powerhouse bass grooves propel the song through an infectious shuffle and high harmonies, and a shout of “Freakout!” is answered by a flurrying guitar solo. The swagger flashing title track sees Foxygen at their most unhinged, a hiccupping vocal lead loses its mind as the song falls apart into a hard rocking fury. It has the same loud handclaps and violent energy as The Stooges’ “Shake Appeal”, and its effect resonate throughout “Oh No 2” as France slowly comes down during psychedelic vocal harmonies. The closer builds to a loud crescendo as it borrows the dramatic piano chords from “A Day in the Life”, but it ends with a brief and sweet piano verse from France that is more akin to “Her Majesty”.

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic feels more like a real debut for Foxygen, there are more actual songs on it, rather than the thrilling, extravagant messes found on the essential Take the Kids Off Broadway. Its cover art and sound both feel distinctly less homemade, and it gives you a clearer sense of the type of band that Foxygen are, and want to be. You can see an exciting maturity developing in their songwriting, but it doesn’t stop them from tearing rock and roll apart with their youthful energy.

5/5

California X

Listen to just one track from California X’s self-titled debut album, and you’ll probably be able to correctly identify several of their main influences. The fact that they are a power trio from Amherst, Massachusetts is almost ridiculous. Their music definitely has shades of Dinosaur Jr., the town’s first fuzzy-guitar-lead rock band, but they seem to have a taste in rock music that isn’t overly snobby or esoteric. They clearly love underground alternative rock but their sound has a wider ambition than many of the bands profiled in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life. It sounds like a dirty and more aggressive form of radio rock, a gigantic noise that can shake and destroy both garages and midsize festival stages.

Guitarist and vocalist Lemmy Gurtowsky has a name that carries a lot of weight in Rock and Roll, it’s either a bold choice of nickname or he has awesome/questionable parents. He leads his band with brash riffs, making sure every song hits you like a gut punch. The whole album thrashes and stomps, and Gurtowsky’s sludgey riffs form a smog that never lets you get your breath back. The distant, drowning guitar opening of “Sucker” kickstarts with bass drum sonic booms, and is scarred with buzzing guitar hooks. The thick riffs on “Pond Rot” rattle along with the snare, and splinter with melody during the verses. The defeatist refrain “I want a pond to rot in” is secondary to Gurtowsky’s fretwork. His vocals are distant echoes; they never transform him into a frontman as they remain part of the band, just another brick in their wall of sound.

The rapidfire crunching riff of “Curse of the Nightmare”, rumbles along with subliminal bass. It’s the album’s shortest song, and the band annihilate their instruments as they tear through it. “Spider X” explodes with excellent drum fills, and ends with a wounded outro solo that fades into light piano keys for a brief, possibly mocking, moment of tranquility. The poppy “Lemmy’s World” has melodic echoes of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, but it still shows their wealth of influences with a mammoth guitar bite on the chorus and a roaring solo from Gurtowsky. Crushing riffs and wailing leads fight for volume on the scrappy closer “Mummy”, and the thudding “Spirit World” breaks into a rousing gallop, before declaring victory with shredding guitar harmonies.

California X probably sound like their influences did when they were starting out, when they were having fun and writing simple songs, or when volume and distortion was a veil for J Mascis instead of his art form. All of their songs are based around a stonerish crunch, and there are few giant hooks, but their music is pure and full of life. Kids are always going to need music that they can slam beers to. They’re not looking to revolutionise music, they just want to plug in and play. They show a ton of potential of this tight eight song album, but they’d probably be happy to just be a rock and roll footnote.

4/5

Yo La Tengo Fade

Even as they close in on three genre-spanning-decades, Yo La Tengo’s soft but propulsive music is still effective, but, Fade, their thirteenth studio album, sees them attempting to keep themselves interesting. The band generally favour long albums, both in minutes and title length. Their two most acclaimed albums; 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, are both around the 70 minute mark. They are amazing but demanding albums that you have to live with for a while. At 46 minutes and a one word title, Fade, is their most streamlined release for years. Unlike their previous mammoth, sprawling LPs, it’s the sort of album that you could just throw on; an unintimidating abridged snapshot of Yo La Tengo’s work. It may go on to serve as the best introduction to their work.

Fade glimmers into view with “Ohm”, the gorgeous opener that unravels and ascends like a sunrise. Moving glacially as it reveals a deep, unassuming beauty within Georgia Hubley’s simple driving drumbeat and Ira Kaplan’s soft vocals and searing guitar lead. They maintain the fuzzy chords and blissful lyrics for almost seven flawless minutes, it makes everything glisten. It leaves you with a sense of melancholy during its long fadeout, wishing you could go with it as it dies out. It’s as perfect as an opener can get. The album almost climaxes with its dazzling and crashing waves, the rest of the songs are like “Ohm”’s ripples, as Yo La Tengo lets us watch the waters settle for another 39 minutes.

The song’s energy is only matched by “Paddle Forward”, a fuzzy rock song with a wonky and noisy guitar sound, Kaplan and Hubley sing the sequestered vocal hooks and melodies together. The remaining songs are generally slower and lower key. The mumbled bleat and light guitar chords of “Is That Enough” are accompanied by a beautiful string section. Hubley adds a sweet harmony to her husband Kaplan’s chorus, making it seem like a romantic moment between the couple. They try another style with the hushed motorik beats of “Stupid Things”, in which Kaplan flashes a measured guitar solo and sings some of his most overtly romantic lyrics. “Well You Better” is a tranquil pop song, built around a shuffling drum beat and James McNew’s airy bass groove. Kaplan sings the “baby make up your mind” hook in a subdued but fun way that translates the song’s simplistic joy.

Side two presents a sleepier and more patience set of songs as the ripples begin to die out. The rich acoustic strums of “I’ll Be Around” are laid over a droning groundbed, and “Cornelia and Jane” is a swelling Hubley fronted vocal piece, with light horns and fluid instrumentation. This section can be a slog if you’re not in the right mood. It’s kind of a gorgeous bore, which strengthens the argument that the trio’s albums don’t need to be 70 minutes long. But they pull it back and show their mastery in bookending albums with the slow burning closer “Before We Run”. Which surges with sparkling string hooks and triumphant horns, and lets you stay with it as it extends past Kaplan’s and Hubley’s fluttering verse duets.

Fade sees Yo La Tengo getting their breath back, and their style works beautifully in a shorter form as they consciously try and succeed in keeping their sound fresh.

4/5

When the cover photo of Natasha Khan’s third Bat for Lashes album, The Haunted Man, arrived in July it sparked immediate conversation. Which in turn generated arguments, as to whether people were reacting to it for the right or wrong reasons. The chatter may have been sparked by the visual shift from the dress-up spirituality of Khan’s second album Two Suns, or the And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out + Horse imagery of Khan’s debut Fur and Gold. But the real talking point seems to have been prompted by music news headlines, which promised a NSFW cover. People seemed to be disappointed that Khan isn’t quite naked enough in the Ryan McGinley-taken cover photo. Instead she is covered by frame of a naked man, who she is bearing the full weight of on her shoulders. The black and white image was paired with the release of the similarly naked track “Laura”, a piano ballad draped only in modest orchestration. The pairing seemed to anticipate a laid bare album. But the presence of the man should have been the focal point of discussion, is he the titular Haunted Man? Will this be an album about Khan’s relationships with men, and is the carrying of the man seen as a burden? Or will this just be the stripped down Bat for Lashes album that internet commenters seemed to believe Khan’s grayscale midriff suggested?

On Opener “Lilies” Khan seems to emerge from a darkness. She glides through bassy synth claiming she “was empty as a grave and ghostless was the end”. A desperate cry of “Thank god I’m alive!” breaks her from the despair. The cry might have been called over-saccharine if you couldn’t hear the vulnerable conviction in her voice, but it’s a triumphant moment. The recovery is prompted by the appearance of a man: “Appeared a figure of a man, waving upon the hill”. She returns to her relationship with men on the title track, Khan sings “Yes, your ghosts have got me, too. But it’s me and you”. The man’s problems and ghosts don’t dull her devotion, she carries them with her too just as she bears the weight of the man on the cover. She can and is willing to fix his problems, just as he in turn can be her salvation in “Lilies”.

In “Laura” Khan shows her belief that emotional honesty is needed to reach this kind of relationship. The title character seems to hide behind a public “superstar” facade, and feels indestructible: “When your smile is so wide / and your heels are so high / you can’t cry”. The face Khan’s character puts on results in her being desired by many “Your name is tattooed on every boy’s skin”, but she never reaches the life saving relationship that Khan describes in “Lilies” and “The Haunted Man”, and never will until she sheds the falsity, and demonstrates some raw emotional transparency. Khan provides this rawness for her in a stirring vocal take.

“Laura” is the lone song on The Haunted Man to match the cover image’s vulnerability, and despite being the lead single, it’s not indicative of the whole album. It’s preceded by the slow heavenly synth groove of “Oh Yeah”, which Khan sings with a sensuality that becomes clear once she expresses a desire for somebody to kiss her thighs. The album is as rich sonically as it is emotionally, with the driving percussion of “A Wall” preceding the delicate danceability of “Rest Your Head”, and Guitar strings provide a beat rather than a melody on the chorus of “Horses of the Sun”. An almost unbearably long snare roll accompanies the title track’s male choir, and when Khan finally returns and seizes back control, singing: “still I’m holding out my hand”, the payoff is glorifying.

But it’s Khan’s title and cover theme that give The Haunted Man its core. The balance and shared burden of two differing elements. The sensual electro songs need the raw piano ballads. They need to stand alongside and support one another, in order to make something more beautiful than either of them alone.

4/5

“This Record is for San Francisco” reads the inner sleeve of Ty Segall’s latest album Twins, his third of the year and god only knows which overall. This dedication is a likely title for the book that somebody will eventually write about the current San Francisco Garage Rock scene, a book that will hopefully clear up just how extensive Thee Oh Sees’ discography really is, and explain if it’s because time moves slower there that is allowing its artists to be seem so prolific to the outside world. It was almost 10 Months between the release of Segall’s excellent 2011 album Goodbye Bread and his first of 2012; the equally excellent Ty Segall & White Fence collaborative album: Hair. A time that is an eternity compared to the rapidity of his 2012 releases, but a gap that was broken up by the release of a Singles compilation. It seems to be an objective of Segall’s to overtake record shelves. After his next excellent album Slaughterhouse arrived in late June, released under the name Ty Segall Band and featuring his live band Mikal Cronin, Emily Rose Epstein and Charlie Mootheart, it began to look as if 2012 was going to be important in Segall’s history and even given its own chapter in that book I am imagining.

All eyes turned to Twins, to see if Ty could strongly finish out the 2012 Ty-logy, or the Ty-fecta, the Ty-angular, the Ty-ple Threat, or Ty Hard 3: With a Vengeance, whichever dumb name you prefer. It’s his first true solo album in 16 Months, but it’s not a return to the style of Goodbye Bread and is instead informed by the two 2012 records. Drawing from both the psychedelic edge of Hair and the harsh grit of Slaughterhouse, yet still drenched in Segall’s fun approach to music. “Thank God for the Sinners” begins with a psychedelic fade into a biting riff, Segall then throws in some blown out Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies and an anthem worthy chorus. “You’re the Doctor” continues the excellent chorus streak, with the repeated phrase “There’s a problem in my brain”, dark subject that becomes a great fuzz pop song.

The album name Twins suggests that Segall likes repetition, or that it’s simply a byproduct of being prolific. As “Inside Your Heart” is both the second song on Twins to mention doctors and the second Ty Segall of the year to name check its title phrase after Slaughterhouse’s “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”. But the melting machinery of Segall’s voice as he repeats the phrase is an electric kick into new territory despite the similarities. Brigid Dawson of Thee Oh Sees provides Segall with a serene psych vocal take on “The Hill”, the song builds in ferocity before a strangled guitar solo mangles any remaining shreds of serenity.

“Love Fuzz” is not as the title suggest a head down distorted power pop love song that Segall proves he is the master of on side A’s “Would You Be My Love”, but rather a seductive falsetto sung slow jam with a metallic groove. Segall continues the falsetto in the far more haunted “Handglams” what was just faux-sexy now seems maniacal, it leaves the same impression as the weighty stomp of “Ghost”. Every track has its twin, the two closers “Gold on the Shore”, an acoustic ballad, and “There Is No Tomorrow”, an end of the world love song, work best in succession. But it’s where Segall’s Twins motif fall apart that make the album interesting. It’s the least cohesive of his releases and the only real thread throughout the various power pop, slow ballads, and corroded rock songs, is the guitar distortion. It’s a miraculously fresh and interesting album which could have easily been comprised of the dregs of a creatively exhaustive year for Segall. Twins is his whole discography in short form, a dazzling mad rush through every type of rock song you can think of.

4/5

Tame Impala do not sound like a throwback band, they sound as if the 1960s and 70s bled into each other and never ended, that style of music never going out of fashion. In that world The Beach Boys’ ‘Feel Flows’ is the Psychedelic Pop hit it deserved to be, and numerous musicians managed to experiment with new studio techniques before acid fried their brains. Tame Impala are the logical continuation of early Psychedelia, John Lennon with pro-tools, they make a brand of Psychedelic Rock that has an obvious reverence for its influences, with no caveats about updating them.

By ‘they’ I mean Kevin Parker, in the studio Tame Impala exists almost entirely as a Parker solo project. Seeing him writing, recording and performing almost the entirety of their second studio album: Lonerism, and even snapping the photo which became the album sleeve. His solitary actions are represented in the perfectly apt album name. The albums back story conjures the romantic image of man alone desperately seeking the perfect sound, similar in more than name only to Kevin Shields.

Parker’s lone voice is duplicated to form a hushed choir on opener “Be Above It” and ringing synths invite you to slip into the albums wash.  It’s one of the many vocal tricks heard throughout the album, his voice is often double tracked and rarely remains in a single channel. It bounces and flows freely through the songs. He sings the melody of sweet pop song “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” with a bouncy energy that climaxes with stuttery synth guitar that is more an abstract spillage of notes than a guitar solo. The distinction between keys and strings is increasingly blurry within Lonerism. “Keep on Lying” features two guitar solos where you can actually tell that it’s still a string instrument, but they do however bookend an extended synth jam that you would swear a full band were playing, its bass groove is an album highlight. The jam is akin to the chunky synth inflected guitar riffs found in “Mind Mischief” and lead single “Elephant”.

The self imposed solitary has taken its toll on Parker, midway through the album he mournfully sings the titular line of “Why Won’t They Talk to Me” and when he states: “I don’t really care about it anyway”, it’s hard to believe him. Lonerism dwells on the lonely aspect of music, painting it as an art form that drowns out conversation, and that is best enjoyed with zero distractions. The experience of listening to an album on headphones is especially isolating, and it’s likely that the album is mixed with the intention of it being listen to this way, evidenced by song title “Music to Walk Home By”.

There are hooks and memorable moments threaded into the album, the sudden mid-song silence and distant Sitar or Sitar-like solo of “Apocalypse Dreams” make the song. Parker has as excellent ear for pop. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is his most brazen and successful attempt, but his transformation of the wordy phrase “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” into a singable melody is most impressive.

Lonerism is album that is just fun to be within. It’s a thrill to fade into the sound-scape and realise that it makes the world more beautiful when you listen to it to.

5/5