Archive for the ‘MUSIC’ Category

Tropical Fuck Storm

“It’s a love song, but it’s about killing an immortal Nazi witch… so, I don’t know.”

Gareth “Gaz” Liddiard is sketching out a broad roadmap to “Maria 63,” the closing song on Tropical Fuck Storm’s sophomore album Braindrops. The “Maria” in question is Maria Orsic, an immortal Nazi witch who communicated with aliens via telepathy and was absolutely, positively real—at least to some far-right conspiracy circles. “She got plans for space propulsions engines from aliens telepathically, and she gave them to Hitler,” he says over the phone from his home in Victoria. “In the end, she was spirited away to Aldebaran, a planet a few light years away.”

On “Maria 63,” things turn out a bit differently: In disguise as her own daughter, Orsic flees to Argentina with the rest of the disgraced Nazis, and spends her years in exile until she’s assassinated by a Mossad agent posing as an interviewer; the violent conclusion is contrasted with repeated allusions to “Ave Maria,” that universal signifier for purity and devotion. It all adds up to what Liddiard declares, with pride, “the most convoluted love song in history.”

This devious sort of mindfuckery lays at the heart of Tropical Fuck Storm (or TFS for short), the psych-rock project Liddiard co-founded alongside his partner Fiona Kitschin in 2017 after their old beloved band, the chameleonic art-rock outfit the Drones, went on hiatus. With drummer Lauren Hammel (of Collingwood extreme-metal outfit High Tension) and guitarist Erica Dunn (who also slings riffs for the indie-punk outfits Palm Springs and Mod Con) in the ranks, Tropical Fuck Storm technically qualify as a supergroup. To that end, elements of their collective back catalog crop up on both Braindropsand its 2018’s predecessor, A Laughing Death In Meatspace: Hammel’s militant drumming, Dunn’s bristling, post-punk-inflected fretwork, Liddiard’s sardonic drawl, Kitschin’s piercing alto. But TFS’ was a chimera incubated in the dystopia of the here and now: a group reaction to all the environmental destruction (a subject Liddiard and Kitschin are very familiar with as survivors of the 2017-2018 brush-fire season, the worst in Australia’s history), inept bureaucrats, and fascist insurgencies plaguing the globe.

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“The first album is more political crap going on, more didactic shit,” he explains. “With this, I wanted to make an apolitical album—which is impossible. I structured most of the songs about being love songs. Whether they’re reliable or unreliable as a narrator, I don’t know. In the end, they end up being political and weird.”

That so many of their romps center around obscure conspiracy theories (consider the aformenetioned “Maria 63,” orA Laughing Death In Meatspace’s “Shellfish Toxin,” which is all about how the CIA gave fighter pilots decoy coins laced with a lethal shellfish toxin so that they could commit suicide if they were captured—allegedly) only buttresses their thesis further: in a post-internet, post-truth world, who’s to say what’s real and what isn’t?

“I find there’s a parallel with dadaism,” Liddiard explains. “That was all between the wars back in the early 20th century, and shit at that time was getting really ridiculous. The real world was so outrageously crazy, so satirizing it didn’t work. How can you parody Hitler? How can you parody Donald Trump? You can’t out-stupid stupid. Now we’re back at the same juncture, I guess, so it’s more of a dada thing. Instead of pointing out something going wrong, you just ape the shit out of it. We’re just dealing with the weird and ridiculous.”

released August 23rd, 2019

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For the better part of a decade, Baths‘ elegiac dance floor anthems have embodied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s adage about how first rate minds are those that can hold two opposing ideas in their head at the same time. His latest “Wistful (Fata Morgana)” masters this propulsive duality, balancing strobe light-ready BPMS with emotional pathos. It’s the sort of song a celestial deity would want play at the club after a crushing breakup. The mysterious nexus between loneliness and euphoria.

If the best pop music (and art) contains contradictions, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist born Will Wiesenfeld has mastered the art of combining profound sadness with sweaty catharsis. With his seraphic voice, he meditates on “cloudy harbor vapor,” a breeze forlornly running fingers through your hair, and the melancholy of having empty conversations with the wind. His loved one is “still out on a boat somewhere,” inevitably fated to never return. The only solace is the melody, the beat, and the song itself that allows you to drift off into the infinite distance.

released November 13th, 2019

Written, produced, & performed by Will Wiesenfeld

Record Store Day, the annual event celebrating independent music retailers, has announced special releases for Black Friday 2019.

Though separate from the traditional Record Store Day — which takes place in April — the Black Friday releases follow a similar theme of rare material usually available in limited quantities and almost exclusively on vinyl. This marks the ninth year organizers have unveiled Black Friday releases.

“Since 2010, the organizers of April’s worldwide celebration of the record store, Record Store Day, have worked to shift the perception of Black Friday as a mass-produced, low-as-you-can-go event,” declared the announcement’s press release. Organizers went on to note that Record Store Day Black Friday concentrates instead on “a list of special releases that highlight how great gifts from a record store can be, and celebrating the kick-off of the holiday rush at independently owned neighborhood businesses.”

Alice Cooper 'Billion Dollar Babies (Live)' LP + 7"

Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies Live
Originally released on a deluxe edition of Alice Cooper’s bestselling 1973 album, this concert from Houston, Texas features live versions of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’m Eighteen” plus a bonus 7″ featuring versions of “School’s Out” and “Under My Wheels” that were not on that aforementioned bonus disc. (6000 copies)

Alice Cooper, ‘Dragontown’

In 2001, Alice Cooper unleashed the 15th solo album of his career, ‘Dragontown.’ The release saw the singer embracing a heavier, more industrial-metal sound, while still maintaining the dramatic flair that made him a shock-rock legend. For Record Store Day Black Friday, ‘Dragontown’ will be made available as a limited-edition double LP on colored vinyl.

Bad Company, ‘Live at Red Rocks’

This live album captures Bad Company during a performance at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2016. The performance, which features Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes on guitar, was originally released as a CD/DVD set exclusive to Walmart stores. Here it receives a vinyl limited edition reissue for Record Store Day Black Friday, with only 1,500 copies available.

Cheap Trick, “Gimme Some Truth”

In a 2018 interview, Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander told UCR about his band’s cover of “Gimme Some Truth,” calling it a “great version” of the John Lennon classic. Here the track finally sees the light of day, featured on the A-Side of this limited-edition red vinyl 7” single. The B-Side is a live rendition of the holiday song “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” featuring a guest appearance by the song’s writer, ELO and Wizzard member Roy Wood.
Cheap Trick 'Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979' 2xLP

Cheap Trick, ‘Are You Ready or Not? – Live 12/31/79’

Recorded on New Year’s Eve 1979, ‘Are You Ready or Not?’ finds Cheap Trick delivering an electrifying performance at the Forum in Los Angeles. The recording, released here for the first time ever, features mixes taken from the original multi-track masters. Classic songs like “I Want You to Want Me,” “Surrender” and “Dream Police” are featured in this double LP set, along with the band’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” as they welcomed the dawn of the ’80s.

DevoDevo Live 
Back in the ’80s, Warner Bros. Records pressed up a special series of “Music Show” albums sent to radio stations for one-time-only airings. Rhino will now release the first-ever commercial vinyl edition of Devo’s WB Music Show as Devo Live. (The set, excerpted on the DEV-O Live EP in 1981, was pressed on CD in 1999 by Rhino Handmade.) (4500 copies)

The Doors, Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970
The group’s last ex-U.S. performance with the original line-up was first released in 2018, and now receives a debut release on vinyl. (11,000 copies)

Aretha FranklinThe Atlantic Singles Collection 1968
A sequel to last year’s singles box set, this volume replicates the four original singles The Queen Of Soul released 51 years ago, including “Sweet, Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone)” and “Think” – all in their original mono versions. (3000 copies)

Geddy Lee, My Favourite Headache
Available for the first time on vinyl, the sole solo album by Rush’s iconic bassist, first released in 2000. This pressing includes bonus instrumental versions of singles “Home On The Strange” and the title track, plus a special poster and download code. (5000 copies)

Dr John 'Babylon' LP

Dr John – Babylon

Get On Down reissue this unique record for Record Store Day Black Friday, which has not been repressed on vinyl in over 40 years. In keeping with the album’s hallucinogenic sound, it is presented on trippy splatter coloured vinyl,  After the release of debut record Gris-Gris, Dr. John found himself in a strange and awkward position. The US was deep into the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Martin Luther KingJr. and Bobby Kennedy were fresh in the public memory. Much like Sly and The Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Dr. John’s follow-up album Babylon would be a reflection of the chaotic and tumultuous time that he was living in. He and band dove deeper into the voodoo-inflected psychedelic rock and R&B of Gris-Gris, while touching upon elements of free jazz and Captain Beefheart-style avant garde. As with his debut record, production was handled by the legendary Harold Battiste, and much of the same session personnel who performed on it returned for Babylon, including Plas Johnson on saxophone, Alvin Robinson on guitar, and backing vocals from Jessie Hill, Shirley Goodman, and Tami Lynn. Babylon stands out as one of Dr. John’s most overtly political albums, and is a singularly murky and darkly entrancing record in his discography. A psychedelic swamp of apocalyptic lyrical content, drunk, disorienting experimentation, and a fascinating entry into Dr. John’s catalogue well-worthy of his expansive legacy.

The Hold Steady 'Four On Ten' 10"

The Hold Steady Four on Ten

The Hold Steady Four on Ten is the final four songs from the digital singles released throughout the last two years that has never been on a physical format.

Nick Lowe & Wilco 'Cruel To Be Kind' 7"

Nick Lowe and Wilco – ‘Cruel to Be Kind’

Nick Lowe’s ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ was first released as a single in 1979 and, thanks to the hook-laden chorus and Lowe’s signature turn of phrase, has never left our ears since.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the power pop gem, Yep Roc is releasing a limited edition 45 single of ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ for Black Friday 2019. The A-side features the classic single and the B-side contains Nick Lowe & Wilco performing the track together in 2012.

The Nick Lowe & Wilco cover of ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ has never been previously available in any physical format. The 45 single arrives on green vinyl and contains a digital download for both songs. was first released as a single in 1979 and, thanks to the hook-laden chorus and Lowe’s signature turn of phrase, has never left our ears since.

The Monkees, Christmas Party Plus!

Last year’s Christmas Party was a fine epilogue to The Monkees’ story, featuring newly-recorded songs written by Andy Partridge and Rivers Cuomo and posthumous performances by Davy Jones (not to mention Peter Tork’s final work with the group before his passing last February). This double 7″ EP, pressed on green and red vinyl, includes two versions of the Partridge-penned “Unwrap You At Christmas” (a radio mix and the former XTC mastermind’s original demo, featuring vocals from his daughter Holly); a Spanish carol, “Riu Chiu,” performed on The Monkees TV show; and the original mix of the 1976 holiday single “Christmas Is My Time Of Year.” (5000 copies)

Pretenders, UK Singles 1979-1981

To commemorate 40 years since the Pretenders’ debut single, a cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing,” this box set assembles the band’s first eight singles as originally issued in England. Includes the hits “Brass In Pocket,” “Talk Of The Town” and “Message Of Love” plus non-album B-sides and a recreation of a rare 1981 flexidisc. (3500 copies)

Pearl Jam 'MTV Unplugged 3/16/92' LP

Pearl Jam –  MTV Unplugged

Previously Unreleased On Vinyl: Three days after completing their first American tour, Pearl Jam headed to New York to strip back songs from debut album Ten, well on its way to becoming one of 1992’s top rock albums. For the first time on vinyl, relive all seven songs featured in the MTV Unplugged broadcast, includingJeremy, Even Flow, Alive, Black and State Of Love and Trust.

Lou Reed 'The Raven' 3xLP

Lou Reed, The Raven

The debut vinyl issue (on three LPs) of what turned out to be Reed’s final solo rock album, a star-studded interpretation of the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Includes cameos by Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi. (5000 copies)

Lou Reed’s 2003 album, and 19th solo album The Raven, is a concept album, recounting the short stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe. The album which features guest vocals from Laurie Anderson and David Bowie (amongst others) also includes different versions of two classic Lou Reed tracks – Perfect Day (originally released on his breakthrough album Transformer) and The Bed(originally released on his third studio album Berlin). This is the first time The Raven has been on vinyl.

U2 'Three' 12"

U2, ‘Three’

Originally released in 1979, ‘Three’ was the first commercial effort from U2. At the time, it was exclusively available in Ireland and quickly sold out the 1,000 copies of its initial run. As the name implies, the release featured three tracks: “Out of Control,” “Stories for Boys” and “Boy-Girl.” The former two would appear on the band’s 1980 debut album ‘Boy.’ All songs have been remastered for this special Record Store Day Black Friday reissue. Only 7000 copies will be released, each with an individual number.

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Purr began in 2017 as the second project from New York City born, raised and forever-based songwriting partners Eliza Barry Callahan and Jack Staffen. Today they announce the debut album “Like New”, produced by Jonathan Rado (Weyes Blood, Father John Misty, Whitney, The Lemon Twigs) which will be released on February 21st, 2020 via ANTI-Records.

The duo – who had previously captured attention releasing deft, stripped down, warm-toned pysch-pop under their names, Jack and Eliza – shifted to what naturally felt like their next musical gear. If Jack and Eliza showcased the songwriting prowess of a promising young duo (they are both still in their early twenties), then Purr lets Callahan’s and Staffen’s work bloom in the fertile ground of a fully realized soundscape. Purr builds upon an ageless, classic sound that at once looks at the past while leaning into their own, individual future – with Staffen’s and Callahan’s vocals humming at the center.

Like New was written in the band’s basement studio in downtown Manhattan, a repurposed storage space beneath a restaurant in the building where Callahan once lived as a young child—thanks to the goodwill of the very last kind landlord in New York City. In the territory of a New York City upbringing, Callahan sites her late close friend and old next-door neighbor, whom she met on the sidewalk when she was eight, the jazz guitarist Jim Hall, as her primary influence in music and life.

While the is band heavily rooted in New York City, the album was recorded at Rado’s East Los Angeles studio with and takes on a distinctly west coast feel which glows with a sunny warmth, whirrs with breeziness and is at times a little noir too. As Callahan and Staffen were working on the album opener “Hard to Realize,” they couldn’t stop hearing tubular bells in the full swell of the chorus. They rented a set from a nearby drum shop, only to learn upon their delivery that they were the exact bells used in the soundtrack for the 1933 classic, King Kong. As Hollywood ghosts swirl through Like New, Callahan and Staffen’s voices knit together forging at times what can eerily sound like one voice.

Callahan and Staffen write: “We wrote the songs that make up this album at the outset of a transitional and particularly uncertain moment in our lives. That early twenties tide change. New patterns took hold as we tried to hang onto old ones. The songs each have their own stories — but at the time they were collectively written, we were dealing with a push and pull between dependence on and independence from people we love, and coming to terms with our own self-expectations. We were resisting and (sometimes) accepting of the inevitable changes in our relationships and friendships, a moment, a specific and strange time in our lives…and, of course, in this… world. That thread was just naturally pulled through the songs.

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releases February 21st, 2020

Frances Quinlan has one of the most instantly recognizable voices in indie rock. As the lead singer of Philadelphia band Hop Along, she’s been at the front of two of this decade’s best rock albums, 2014’s Painted Shut and 2018’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Hop Along originally began as Quinlan’s solo project, but this week she’s announcing her first-ever solo album under her own name, Likewise (out January. 31st, 2020, on Saddle Creek Records). The first single, “Rare Thing,” is a real stunner and surely a harbinger of things to come. “Rare Thing” ropes in a host of new instruments that we maybe haven’t heard previously on a Hop Along release—synths, jammy keyboards, a harp, bouncy electro-beats. The song was written after a dream Quinlan had about her then-infant niece, per a press release, but it could really be about anybody’s journey to letting new love in.

Frances QuinlanRare Thing from the album “Likewise” out January 31, 2020

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Stef Chura has joined the ranks of musicians who’ve paid tribute to the late Silver Jews songsmith David Berman by covering his songs. Since Berman’s death back in August, lots of artists have put their own spin on his music with Silver Jews and Purple Mountains: collaborators such as Stephen Malkmus and Woods, longtime peers such as Bill Callahan and Dean Wareham, distant admirers ranging from First Aid Kit to Frankie Cosmos to Animal Collective.

Chura’s choice of material is “How To Rent A Room,” the opening track from 1996 sophomore LP The Natural Bridge. She had already been performing it live for a while but decided to record the cover in light of Berman’s death. In a press release, the Detroit rocker details her relationship with the song:

“How To Rent A Room” has always been one of those songs that I could never let go of. Ever since the first time I heard it it’s always been one of my favorite songs and remains one that imprinted me as a young songwriter. Now, in light of his death, the lyrics take on a new and much sadder meaning. At the time they seemed conceptual, but the line “Now there’s a lot of things that I’m gonna miss, like the thunder down country and the way water drips” is now a haunting and deeply poetic rendering of everyday minutiae and the texture of our lives that we don’t appreciate on a daily basis. The song seems nostalgic for a life he was currently living, and how important it can feel to mean something to someone. Or at least that’s my interpretation.

Stef Chura – How to Rent a Room Written and originally performed by David Berman / Silver Jews

Communication b/w Parallel

Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock aren’t related but you’d probably be left with that impression after spending any considerable amount of time around them. In a fateful joining of family friends—Isaac from Madison, Wisconsin and Raina from the tiny town of Viroqua (pop. 4,500)—they were introduced as infants and their relationship has not only persevered but transformed into its entirely own entity as Disq.

When I tell you this set re-energized me in the first symptoms of the week’s malaise to come, believe it. Listen, I didn’t grow up on no hard rock shit. I have minimal context for it, save for how They inject it into the mainstays of American culture to the point of ubiquity. I say that because my barrier to accessing all the sources Disq draws from proved to be no hindrance from processing how fucking hard these Wisconsin white kids go! I’ve seen hella Disq sets — marveling at how cool they are, highkey — but this set hit different for the incoming demise of my circadian rhythm. Disq blew them speakers out for damn-near 40 minutes, guns ablaze with tireless precision and a lingering self-awareness that’s never painful. The wink-wink quality of the banter does nothing to diminish how this five-piece pulverizes this rock ’n’ roll shit. Like, I’m sure I asked Isaac why he wanted to die when he wrote “I Wanna Die,” and I damn sure forgot what he told me. We ain’t know each other like that yet. Either way, I felt that shit and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that shit! Look, the way I feel about Disq after a set like this must be how washed-up Aerosmith heads feel on some “REAL ROCK ’N’ ROLL” shit!

Now, after hitting the road, the band will release a 7” titled “Communication b/w Parallel” as part of Saddle Creek’s Document Series, dedicated to highlighting artistic communities around the world that haven’t quite gotten the spotlight they deserve. And as much as Madison has been a breeding ground for the band’s creativity—a place to find inspiration—what also provides crucial context for both “Communication” and “Parallel” is this moment in time when the band is coming of age. Young people have unprecedented tools and technology for maintaining nonstop contact with far-flung family and friends, yet ironically both songs reflect a growing frustration with how ever-more difficult it is to truly find connection, understanding and intimacy in our lives despite devices and social media.

“Communication” is a big, crunchy power pop anthem, the type of song most bands work for years to produce. Both the song and its video—entirely conceived and produced by a group of friends, all iGen—speak to the ways we so desperately want to feel seen and understood yet so frequently misconstrue each others’ words and intent. Side B “Parallel” is immediately driven by Isaac’s stoically laconic vocal delivery that drones on until it blends seamlessly into a kaleidoscope of psychedelic sounds that evoke more contemporary galvanizers Tame Impala with production flourishes that recall Rundgren. It addresses the dissolution of a deep and meaningful relationship, and this universal experience of grief and loss is recounted by a voice attempting to ruminate on what it means to forge connections in a time when young people are completely redefining community in new and evolving ways.

Together, these songs encapsulate a dynamic band, grounded but ready for change.

Release Date: January 25th, 2019

“This album is about friendship, love and what it means to support one another,” Katherine Paul says of her new album. Arriving just a year after her debut record, “At the Party With My Brown Friends” redefines KP’s Black Belt Eagle Scout project. Where that first record was a snapshot of loss and landscape and of KP’s standing as a radical indigenous queer feminist, this new chapter finds its power in love, desire and friendship. At the Party With My Brown Friends is a profound and understated forward step. The squalling guitar anthems that shaped its predecessor are replaced by delicate vocals and soft keys, sentiments spoken and unspoken, presenting something shadowy and unsettling; a stirring of the waters. The end result presents a captivating about-face that redefines KP’s beautifully singular artistic vision.

Paul’s soft voice, washed by reverb, recalls the dreamscapes of Beach House, and there are reminders of Sharon Van Etten in the enveloping swells. The uniqueness of her voice, though, stems not just from her origins, but her uncanny ability to capture the heart.”

Black Belt Eagle Scout – “At the Party With My Brown Friends”

It’s hard to classify the sounds of Ada Lea’s “What We Say in Private”, as it mimics the playful intensity of Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me” on opener “mercury” before unraveling into Big Thief–like existential folk on the ensuing “Wild Heart.” The reason for this, perhaps, is Alexandra Levy’s scrapped plan to split the record down the middle between tracks she identified as “sun songs” and those she classified as “moon songs.” The result is a blending of the two on songs like “The Party,” which begins with an inherently lunar acoustic tranquility before the chorus’s glowing ambiance sets in around the two minute mark. More experimental elements shine through across the album via spoken-word postscripts, distorted vocal samples, ambient blips, and—her evident strong suit—lo-fi crescendos, for a truly unique feel.

Montreal, Quebec-based musician Alexandra Levy is also a painter and visual artist, and traces of her many creative abilities run throughout her debut album what we say in private, a beautifully colorful collection of profound pop songs. Throughout, she expresses feelings and thoughts that all humans experience behind closed doors and alone, but are conditioned to keep to themselves. This is reflected in the lyrics, the artwork, and the songs — together forming a public exhibition of deeply private matter. The album is a collection of raw, confessional, and at times messy emotions, presented to a society that can fear such realness, often favoring the uncomplicated, curated, and manicured.

“The Montreal singer-songwriter’s debut album uses heartbreak as the springboard for an innovative brand of indie rock that’s both fiery and introspective.

Ada Lea, what we say in private (Saddle Creek)

You may have seen Meg Duffy in the past, shining on stage as Kevin Morby’s touring lead guitarist. But with Hand Habits, Duffy has shown their own polished arsenal as a songwriter and their sophomore record, placeholder, dropped today on Saddle Creek Records. Hand Habits’ music gives rise to calming evenings and humble wanderings of the mind. Duffy’s sweet melodies provide a solace for a troubled heart and a salve for a heavy conscious. The gently operatic “What Lovers Do” and the wonderfully reprised version of “Yr Heart” are notable doses of what Hand Habits doe’s best: provide sheer comfort through song.

Meg Duffy describes the songs on their second full-length release, and first for Saddle Creek, as their most direct to date, crafted with clear intention.  Instrumentally, Placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today. Placeholder is another entry in the Hand Habits songbook, but it’s also a valuable testament of our time.