Posts Tagged ‘Laura Harris’

Ex Hex: <i>It's Real</i> Review

Whoever Mary Timony’s singing to on It’s Real, Ex Hex’s sophomore follow up to 2014’s Rips, they’ve taken her on one dizzying rollercoaster ride. From start to end, It’s Real warps around “you,” more than likely the same person all the way through the record’s track list; Timony sings the same yearning for “you” on the opening song, “Tough Enough,” and on “Good Times,” “Want It to Be True,” all the way to “Talk to Me,” where Timony appeals to her nameless audience to grant her the simple courtesy of a conversation.

“If you shut me down, will all be lost in space and time? / I’ll wade into your stormy sea,” she croons, vulnerable but possessed of steely dignity. It takes immense strength of spirit to guide a boat over rough waters, and “It’s Real” charts a perilous course: The second track, “Rainbow Shiner,” soberly rings with implied violence, a document of triumph through “the black and blue.” If anyone wishes to make the case that Timony intends to address more than one subject, “Rainbow Shiner” is a good place to start; this song feels aimed at someone she’s breaking away from rather than someone she’s trying to get closer to. But maybe It’s Real, in keeping with its title, means to acknowledge complications of the heart. Maybe the one Timony got all the black and blue from is the same one she ran from shadows with in “Cosmic Cave.”

Following It’s Real’s unifying thread is a complex task. The music, granted, isn’t as complex, in the sense that the music itself requires no moralizing for engagement: It’s great, unqualified awesomeness soaked in ‘80s and ‘90s rock ‘n roll, echoing anyone and everyone from Joan Jett to Sleater-Kinney to Scorpions and even to Tsunami Bomb. But here rests the line of delineation. Folks who don’t appreciate an aesthetic planted firmly in the eras of grunge and Camaro rock likely won’t change their tune on hearing It’s Real’s stomping power-pop stylings (assuming they’re generous enough to give it a shot in the first place). People who read that description as a promise of Good Times, on the other hand, will embrace It’s Real as Ex Hex’s return to the modern day rock ecosystem.

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There’s a gentle hand needed to make music with as much edge as Ex Hex’s sound so tender through the crackle and buzz of distortion pedals and the confident strut-worthy boom of Laura Harris’ drums. In some cases, the music actually sounds reckless: “This illusion of love is coming to ya,” sings Timony on “Diamond Drive. “The dots are moving on, and the lines are keeping time.” Calling back to “You Fell Apart” from Rips, Timony starts pointing out the “creeps” catching up to her. She doesn’t want the driver to crash, but boy, she wants to get the hell away from the creeps as they swing around on chandeliers. Between the creeps and a crash, the latter sounds preferable. If you’re going to wreck a car, might as well wreck it with the volume cranked up.

But the key word in “Diamond Drive” is “illusion.” It’s used on a recurring basis over the course of It’s Real, not only in “Diamond Drive” but “Another Dimension” and “Cosmic Cave” Was the love between Timony and her listener real? Did she just imagine the whole relationship? “We hung our minds / on an illusion of our love,” she muses on “Cosmic Cave.” If it was an illusion, it’s a remarkably substantial one. She can’t forget the experience she had with this person, however good or bad they might have been. She went so far as to craft an album about those experiences, after all.

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Washington DC power rock group Ex Hex came onto the scene in 2014 with their excellent, loud debut Rips. Filled with big, raucous waves of guitar, the album embodied the type of rock ‘n’ roll that genre devotees were hungry for, which made sense; Mary Timony, founder of the influential ‘90s riot grrrl group Helium, helms the group alongside Betsy Wright on guitar and Laura Harris on drums. Their second studio album, It’s Real, which arrives March 22nd via Merge Records, along with the premiere of “Cosmic Cave” a guitar-shimmering single that Timony calls “Old style Ex Hex.” It’s lively garage rock with a bittersweet swirl of a chorus and cavernous-sounding embellishments, best experienced beyond the boundaries of headphones.

Timony and Wright explained that It’s Real found its form through the deliberate collaboration between the pair  their knack for continuous refinement feeding into their tightness in sound, execution, and their will to experiment. Whether it’s recording with ten amps at once or indulging in the weird effects of an old ‘80s headphone amp, Ex Hex are fully devoted to crafting the best sounds for blaring at maximum volume.

From the album It’s Real, out March 22nd, 2019 on Merge Records.

We’ve only been waiting a little over two years with bated breath for “Darkness Rains“, the third release from California’s Death Valley Girls; anxious only because after the promise of 2014’s “Street Venom” and the astounding “Glow in the Dark” back in 2016, it seemed like it could be a tall order to move the dial.

Well it may be a cliché to say a band is evolving, finding themselves, maturing if you will, but “Darkness Rains” finds Death Valley Girls reaching another level.

The third album can be a difficult hurdle for an artist; it’s the record where they discover what they are made of often writing from a clean slate. Just as Led Zeppelin’s third album or The Clash with “London Calling” found the iconic bands hitting their stride, “Darkness Rains” hits the target . The ten tracks here showcase a band that has a shitload of confidence in their writing and sound, shedding a touch of the fuzzy garage rawness of “Glow in the Dark” for a tighter, leaner more glammed out Stooges-proto-metal hell-spawn type of rock and roll.

Psychedelic haze, giant arena rock riffs, scuzzed-out wah-wah solos from Larry Schemel litter practically every song, with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden’s banshee wail leading wicked sing-along choruses. Bassist Alana Amram and drummer Laura Harris combine for a gut punch of a rhythm section.

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It’s gothic, it’s psychedelic, it’s hypnotic, it’s rock and roll. “Darkness Rains”is an omnipotent force and Death Valley Girls are on the cusp of something big.

released October 5, 2018