Posts Tagged ‘Merge Records’

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“Angie, are you tough enuh-uff/To let it go?” asks Mary Timony over her sugared electric guitar churn at the outset of Ex Hex’s latest, immortalizing a new rock’n’roll Angie with as much performative heartache and swagger as Jagger did, maybe more.

Ex Hex’s second album is about garage-rock thrust at its core, like prime Rolling Stones and their own debut Rips. Like that LP, it draws a through-line from the Shangri-Las to Blondie to Sleater-Kinney to, well, Ex-Hex. This time, though, pop-metal production shine adds a new meta-textual layer, conjuring visions of the CBGB Class of ‘76 upscaled to the arena rock of ’86, thanks in part to furniture maker-turned indie-rock production swami Jonah Takagi. It’s nothing but guitars, bass, and drums, but the sound is huge, bulked up with vocal reverb, choice pedals and amps.

Ex Hex have released the bizarrely glam new video for the track “Rainbow Shiner” from their latest album It’s Real, is out now via Merge Records.

The video’s animator, cult cartoonist M. Wartella, says of the project in a statement, “As artists, often our destructive tendencies come from the same place in our heads that creativity comes from, and that is what we aimed to capture in this psychedelic trip clip. Well, that and to rock your socks off! For real!!!”

From the album It’s Real, out now on Merge Records.

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Hiss Golden Messenger

Critically acclaimed indie band Hiss Golden Messenger just announced their anticipated new album Terms of Surrender, with a newly released single “I Need A Teacher.” The project led by gifted songwriter and storyteller M.C. Taylor, seamlessly fuses indie, gospel, and Americana sounds, and his catalogue has grown into a deep well of thoughtful, good-time folk to pull from.

“I Need A Teacher” continues this trend, with sharp lyricism, infectious melodies and harmonies, and a driving guitar line that steers the song along. According to a press release, ‘the video was shot during the statewide North Carolina Association of Educators’ Day of Action demonstration and features a glance into the eyes and faces of real teachers, children, and families that illustrate the humanity and what is at stake for our future.’

The new album features guest appearances by Jenny Lewis, Josh Kaufman and Aaron Dessner of The National, and was recorded at Dessner’s famed Long Pond studio in upstate New York.

Terms of Surrender will be released on Merge Records, September 20th,

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Fruit Bats, aka Eric D. Johnson’s alt-folk band and songwriting project, are preparing to release their first new album since 2016’s critically acclaimed Absolute Loser. The new record tilted, “Gold Past Life”, marks Johnson’s seventh studio effort under the Fruit Bats name and his third in an “unintentional thematic trilogy” of albums beginning with 2014’s EDJ, which he released under his own initials. Following those five years of political and personal chaos that maxed out with Loser, Gold Past Life promises a shimmery new beginning.

The third single, following the previously released title track and “The Bottom of It,” is a real folk-rock charmer. It’s called “Ocean” .

“This is a song about late bloomers, late discoveries, adult baptism, coming-of-age when you’re way past the right time to do that,” Johnson says. “About growing, I guess. And how a good love can help you do all of that. In short, this is a lovey-dovey song I hope you enjoy.”

“Ocean” begins in calm waters, with just some light acoustic guitar, before maracas and staggered baroque piano accelerate the tempo, just as Johnson is “watching it all tumble into view.” As is usually the case with Johnson’s realist yet romantic songwriting, “Ocean” is nostalgic without collapsing into melodrama.

Fruit Bats signed to Merge Records earlier this year following Johnson’s longtime “mega label crush” on the North Carolina mainstay. Gold Past Life is their debut on the label, and it’s out June 21st.

From the album Gold Past Life, out June 21st, 2019 on Merge Records.

Earlier this year, Apex Manor, aka vocalist and guitarist Ross Flournoy, made his commanding return with a single titled “Asked & Answered,” the opening track from his first new album in eight years, Heartbreak City. Flournoy says of the record, “Conceptually, the record really explores variations on the theme of rejection and the different ways people react to it, especially the isolation—either by choice or by circumstance—that can sometimes follow.” Flournoy, is joined by drummer Dan Allaire of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and bassist Rob Barbato, spent less than two weeks in the studio before completing the new album through live-in-studio recordings

Happy release day to Apex ManorHeartbreak City”, the second solo album from Ross Flournoy (of The Broken West) is available on CD and red Peak Vinyl in the Merge store.

Requiring less than two weeks of studio time to complete, it’s accurate to say that Heartbreak City was captured more than it was recorded due to the “everybody in the same room” live sessions featuring songwriter Ross Flournoy on guitar and vocals, Dan Allaire (The Brian Jonestown Massacre) on drums, and Rob Barbato on bass and production duties. The raucous result is a sonic spectacle that cleverly balances aggressive Dinosaur Jr.-esque guitars with dreamy synth work that’s reminiscent of The Cure, all mixed together with spirited instrumental performances, nuanced melodicism, and lyrics that swing wildly between being cryptic and being profound. In short, it’s everything there is to love about early ’90s pre-commercialized alternative rock but with a refreshingly modern absence of pretense or nostalgia.

From the album Heartbreak City, out May 31, 2019 on Merge Records.

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“An Obelisk” is the sixth album from Titus Andronicus, which finds the noted rock band under the stewardship of producer and legendary rocker Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, et al.). This trans-generational meeting of the minds has yielded the most immediate, intense, and unadorned Titus Andronicus record to date. Clocking in at a brisk 38 minutes and change, it is also the shortest. Recorded over six breathless days at Steve Albini’s world-renowned Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, An Obelisk presents the sound of Titus Andronicus, rock band, at its most irreducible, as monolithic as the album’s titular monument.

The official video for “Troubleman Unlimited” by Titus Andronicus, off the new album ‘An Obelisk,’ available June 21st from Merge Records.

The official video for “Tumult Around The World” by Titus Andronicus, off the new album ‘An Obelisk,’ available June 21st from Merge Records.

ex hex

When Washington DC power-trio Ex Hex reconvened to record the follow up to their searing 2014 debut Rips, they slipped into this mindset. “We wanted to open up the sound from the first record, which sounded pretty garagey,” guitarist and vocalist Mary Timony says. “Even in how it was mixed – really overly compressed. We wanted to take it back from being blown out and use really diverse guitar sounds, make it lusher and bigger. We were talking a lot about Mutt Lange.”

Specifically, they talked about Lange’s work on Hysteria, Def Leppard’s 1987 monster hit and one of the most fastidiously overproduced albums of all time. Given the dirt under Rips’ fingernails, and Timony’s rep as a classically trained guitarist who favoured difficult, mathy melodies during her time with Helium and Autoclave, on paper ‘Ex Hex x Def Leppard’ is a weird look. But It’s Real drops that perception with its first couple of punches – this is a muscular, furiously enjoyable record that mainlines brazen riff worship.

With Betsy Wright, who played bass and sang on Rips, stepping up to spar with Timony as a second guitarist and drummer Laura Harris keeping a tight rein on things, behind its day-glo exterior lurks a shared set of blueprints that ensured Ex Hex hit their marks. “It was super collaborative,” Timony says. “If something could be played better by someone else, we’d do that. The parts just became parts.”

 

Both guitarists took time away from Ex Hex before settling in to write It’s Real. While Timony toured around some Helium reissues, Wright issued an LP with her side project Bat Fangs that set out some signposts for what would follow. Its sound – righteous power chords, Gibson SGs and cranked Orange amps – bleeds into her writing here, bouncing off Timony’s more studied, punk-leaning work.

“I’ve been getting more into 80s metal,” Wright says. “I got really inspired by a lot of guitar players and tried to stretch my ability a little bit by learning a lot of solos – Randy Rhoads, Angus Young, a lot of the songwriting on the solo Ozzy stuff.”

But getting your Mutt Lange on in the studio is expensive and time-consuming. Ex Hex didn’t have an 80s budget for their 80s ambitions, so they had to improvise. Producer Jonah Takagi, who also helmed Rips, provided the meticulousness, while the LP was tracked at several locations, including sessions with engineer Ben Green at Ivakota in DC and in Baltimore with post-hardcore hero J Robbins at his Magpie Cage studio. During their stay in Maryland, that improvisation was facilitated with a room of amps mic’d up at all times, while helping hands also came from the nearby Big Crunch.

Timony and Wright are an achingly cool duo who have riffs and hooks to spare, and on It’s Real, Ex Hex have hit on a formula that works perfectly for them. “We started with: ‘What songs do we have?’ and went with whoever had ideas – it was pretty natural,” Timony says. “There wasn’t a lot of figuring it out.”

From the album It’s Real, out now on Merge Records.

An Obelisk is the sixth album from Titus Andronicus, which finds the noted rock band under the stewardship of producer and legendary rocker Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, et al.). This trans-generational meeting of the minds has yielded the most immediate, intense, and unadorned Titus Andronicus record to date. Clocking in at a brisk 38 minutes and change, it is also the shortest. Recorded over six breathless days at Steve Albini’s world-renowned Electrical Audio studio in ChicagoAn Obelisk presents the sound of Titus Andronicus, rock band, at its most irreducible, as monolithic as the album’s titular monument.

The official audio for “Tumult Around The World” by Titus Andronicus, off the new album ‘An Obelisk’ available June 21st from Merge Records.

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“In League With Dragons” is the upcoming seventeenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, scheduled to be released on April 26th, 2019, on Merge Records. Inspired by tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the album has been described as a “partial rock opera” with influences from noir literature.

The album was announced on January 28th, 2019. The announcement was accompanied by a live streaming event on Facebook and Twitch.tv, hosted by Wizards of the Coast. The band also released the first single from the album, “Younger”.

In League With Dragons“ surges with wild tales of revenge and redemption, heroes at a crossroads and great figures in decline” over its dozen new, John Darnielle-penned tracks, which “luxuriate in a wide swath of sounds, from shades of the ‘80s Athens scene to swathes of outlaw country and a few motorik meditations,” per a press release. “Younger” is telling evidence of the album’s eclectic genre-hopping, foregrounding the guitars that 2017’s Goths eschewed entirely and ending with a sax solo, of all things. The Mountain Goats frontman opined on the band’s latest in a characteristically sprawling statement, describing its rock opera-meets-high fantasy style as “dragon noir.”

The Mountain Goats are JOHN DARNIELLE, PETER HUGHES, JON WURSTER, and MATT DOUGLAS. They have been making music Together as a quartet for several years. Three of them live in North Carolina and one has moved to Rochester. Their songs often seek out dark lairs within which terrible monsters dwell, But thier mission to retrieve treasure from the dark lair and persuade the monsters inside to seek out the path to redemption. As Axl Rose once memorably asked in the son “Terrible Monster”: “Whats so terrible about monsters anyway” This is the question the Mountain Goats have been asking and pursuing since 1991.

On It’s Real, the group’s second album, Ex Hex’s commitment to larger-than-life riffs and unforgettable hooks remains intact, but the garage-y, post-punk approach that defined their debut album Rips has grown in scale and ambition. What started as a reaction to the blown-out aesthetic of Rips would test the sonic limits of the power trio and lead the band on a quest for a more immersive and three-dimensional sound. Vocal harmonies are layered ten tracks deep, solos shimmer and modulate atop heaving power chords, and the codas linger and stretch toward new frontiers of sound. On first listen, you might think you’ve unearthed a long-lost LP carved from the space where crunch-minded art rock and glitter-covered hard rock converge, an event horizon at the intersection of towering choruses and swaggering guitars.

Ex Hex were already one of America’s best guitar bands—but on It’s Real, their musical savvy has thrillingly combined with anything-goes curiosity, studio experimentation, and a dedication to refinement, resulting in an album that’s ready to be played at maximum volume.

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

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Mike Krol writes crunchy, windows-open, garage-friendly power-pop songs that unfold with maximum efficiency: His last album, 2015’s Turkey, blew by in only 19 minutes. The new, appropriately titled Power Chords is nearly twice as long, but there’s still never a wasted moment. In “I Wonder,” Krol teams up with Allison Crutchfield for a fuzzed-out, wistful, impressively grown-up look back on a relationship that was never meant to be.

Power Chords, Mike Krol’s new Merge release, It traces Krol’s journey back to punk rock, harnessing both the guitar technique and the musical redemption referenced in its title. He’s wielding the same influences—Misfits, The Strokes, early Weezer, Ramones—but turning up the gravity and the gain. Indeed, Krol has gone somewhere new; yes, he bludgeoned himself with over-analysis and self-loathing, but along the way he stumbled upon a trove of intricate guitar lines and artfully mutating melodies.

Music ruined Krol’s life. And then saved it. In chronicling that process, Krol has made his best record—painful, voyeuristic, and angry, but ultimately transcendent and timeless. It is the sound of Krol giving in to a force greater than himself, as though the chords are playing him rather than the other way around.

From the album Power Chords, out January 25th, 2019 on Merge Records.