Posts Tagged ‘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.

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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 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.

Hey, everybody. There are two new Hiss Golden Messenger songs out today: “Everybody Needs Somebody” and “Watching the Wires.”

2018 was a hard year–for myself and, as it turns out, most people that I know–and I was thinking a lot at that time about how to cope with what felt like an unnameable existential crisis: Run for the hills, or hug the nearest stranger? As it turns, I’ve been doing a bit of both. Singing these songs has been helpful to me.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to them. Maybe they’ll speak to you.

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The single, “Watching the Wires” is out now on Merge Records.

In October of 2015, I got an email from Amy Russell, the Director of Programming at Carolina Performing Arts. She told me about a celebration of Philip Glass’ 80th birthday planned for January of 2017 and asked if I would want to be involved somehow—and without knowing what that would entail, I just said “yes.” Soon she proposed pairing a symphonic performance of Glass’ Symphony No. 4, which is based on David Bowie’s “Heroes” album, with a rock performance of the Bowie album.

This was an exciting idea, but performing an album straight in its entirety always feels a little boring to me because everyone familiar with the record knows what’s coming next… but in Glass’ case, his symphony does not adhere strictly to the track listing of the original Bowie album, which meant that we didn’t need to, either. I was mostly excited about being able to collaborate with musicians I don’t normally get to play with, and to play this amazing music with them.

Three months later, David Bowie’s death hit everyone hard and we discussed whether to move ahead, but as 2016 progressed, Bowie’s music only seemed more important. When everyone I asked to take part said “yes” immediately even though the concert was a year away and we didn’t know what shape it would take it was a good sign.

Eventually, we settled on a set list that was a combination of Glass’ (which added “Abdulmajid” to the album’s tracks) and our own desire to hear Dan Bejar sing “Beauty and the Beast” and “Joe the Lion,” which Glass left off his.

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Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, and I got together once or twice to learn the songs because we knew we would only have one real rehearsal with the whole band. When DanWilliam Tyler, and Ken Vandermark descended upon Chapel Hill and Jenn Wasner returned from tour, we had a great day figuring out how to play these songs all together, and convened for the performance the next day in ornate Memorial Hall.

Halfway through soundcheck on the day of the performance, we learned that all water in the town of Chapel Hill was deemed unsafe to drink due to a water main break and a pump failure in the great Orange County water system. UNC campus had to be abandoned, and the show was cancelled. We staged a secret last-minute performance at the Pinhook (in Durham, where the water is always safe) just because we wanted to play this record, but the actual show at Memorial Hall was postponed by a month. So the recording you hear is actually our band reunion and the second-ever performance of A Merge Group. And the “Heroes” on the record is our version of Glass’ version of Bowie’s classic record. So much fun to play, and I’m glad there’s a document. From Mac McCaughan:

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Dan Bejar started Destroyer as a solo home-recording project in the early to mid-nineties. Exploring and overturning genres such as glam, MIDI, yacht rock, and even underground Spanish independent artists, Bejar was proclaimed “Rock’s Exiled King” . His is a body of work that consistently flouts convention in favor of musical leaps of faith, statements of purpose cloaked in subterfuge, and the joyous refrain of an optimist’s heart cloaked in cynicism.

Released by :Merge Records Release date: 8th February 2019

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Ex-Hex, the veteran Washington D.C. power-trio, released the second single from their forthcoming album, and it’s a riffy slice of glorious, focused pop. Ex Hex have released the music video for their new song “Tough Enough,” the opening track from their forthcoming album “It’s Real”, due out March 22nd from Merge Records. The riff-forward DIY sound from the Ex Hex trio in “Tough Enough” finds its match with the video’s fuzzed-out, basement-show setting and apocalyptic conflict. As they riff around its low-scale flash, it’s apparent that the power trio’s ability to utilize the noise around them is the true star of the video. The band explain in a statement that the single is “all about three-dimensional power chords interplaying with whammy dive bombs. It’s a song about turning on your tough switch and forging ahead through whatever storms are happening around you ’cause you have no choice.”

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

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In the first 15 seconds of his new video, Bob Mould tells the world: “Dictators, terrorists and tech companies have created an apocalyptic surveillance state. The Western world has fallen into a deep state of paranoia and disinformation.”

The video for Bob Mould’s new song, “Lost Faith” cuts to a scene of our protagonist, living in Germany, being interviewed by the media. From Mould’s paranoid point of view, all he can see are drones following him. And when the reporter asks, “What are you running from?” the music kicks in and Mould sings: “I’ve lost faith in everything / Everything, everything.” This could simply be the perfect song for our times, but what Mould does in “Lost Faith” (and elsewhere on his forthcoming album Sunshine Rock) is take the negativity and fear and locate the positive. “I know we all lose faith from time to time,” he sings. “You better find your way back home.”

New album ‘Sunshine Rock’ out Feb 8th, 2019!

Bob Mould is a legend, and his band Hüsker Dü informed a huge swath of music in the ’90s. These days, he is, in fact, living in Germany; it’s been a few years and he says he’s newly inspired. The new album is full of themes of sunshine instead of “black sheets of rain.”

Writing via email, Mould says of “Lost Faith” that “there’s a hint of migration, a dash of border security and a whisper of government surveillance, climaxing across the multicolored canvas of an abandoned NSA listening station perched atop the highest hill in Berlin. But at the end of the day, it’s a high-end music video for a catchy, inspirational, uplifting pop song.”

From the album Sunshine Rock, out February 8th, 2019 on Merge Records.

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Fuzzy garage rock has rarely contained this much wistful heartache. The previous album from Los Angeles-based musician Mike Krol, 2015’s Turkey, clocked in at just 18 minutes, but packed in a year’s worth of rambunctious potency. His new record, “Power Chords”, clocking it at nearly double the length of its predecessor, feels almost indulgent in comparison, but with its added running time comes a bit more thematic focus. Power Chords is a distinctly ugly record, but that’s part of the appeal. Though its sonic palette isn’t wide-ranging by any means, Krol’s grubby rock is better when its knees are scraped, eyes are bloodshot and heart is ripped open. Krol risks overshadowing his angsty songs with his thick, Stroke-like vocal filters, but they bring this angst to life by adding a dimension of teenage nostalgia with its bedroom DIY feel. While the sonics can feel tiresome after a while, Krol ends on a high note with his extremely muddy cut, “The End,” which is nicely offset with a piercing synth interlude.

“Hold me close / Don’t ever let me go / Cause I’ve been waiting / All my life for the moment / To tell you so / With a couple power chords / I’m gonna let you know / That revenge is better / When you come from down below.”

That’s the chorus of the first song, “Power Chords,” on my new album of the same name, which is released into the world today. Touring for my previous album, “Turkey,” ended in December of 2015, and by February of 2016, I found myself without an apartment, without any money, and had just ended a 3 year relationship. I put all my belongings in a storage unit in Glassell Park, and got a one-way ticket to Wisconsin to move back in with my parents. I was 31. Completely disillusioned and frustrated with “music as a career,” I began searching for the spark of what made me excited about songs in the first place. I sat in my old childhood bedroom, with a guitar in hand, trying to fall in love with music again. Eventually I saved up enough money to move back to LA, got a new place to live, met new people, had new experiences, and slowly but surely I started to compile the songs that would make up this album.

Music is a crazy thing. It can make you feel a range of emotions within a few seconds. It can transport your mind instantly back to a person, a place, a time, or a memory, as soon as you hear the first notes. Find something that makes you feel invincible, that gives you hope, and changes your life. To quote my press release, “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.”

Power Chords is much more lyrically mature and musically adept than your average garage rock record, and its teenage sheen might urge you to fanatically scroll the lyrics on your notebook or bedroom wall of choice.

“Power Chords” is OUT NOW on Merge Records: