Posts Tagged ‘Merge Records’

Hiss golden messenger let the light of the world open your eyes

Limited edition on black vinyl. North Carolina folk rockers Hiss Golden Messenger re-record two of their original songs, “Cat’s Eye Blue” (from their critically acclaimed 2019 album Terms of Surrender) & B-side “Standing in the Doorway” at Spacebomb Studios with contributions from their in-house orchestra.I t’s the latest in the Alive at Spacebomb Studios series.

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Released June 26th, 2020

M.C. Taylor: lead vocals, electric guitar, tambourine
Cameron Ralston: electric bass
Pinson Chanselle: drums, tambourine
Alan Parker: electric guitar
Daniel Clarke: piano
Angelica Garcia: background vocals
Kenneka Cook: background vocals
Erin Rae McKaskle: additional background vocals on “Cat’s Eye Blue”
Matt Douglas: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone

Violins: Adrian Pintea, Stacy Matthews, Meredith Riley, Treesa Gold
Violas: Molly Sharp, Wayne Graham
Celli: Jason McComb, Stephanie Barrett
String arrangements by Trey Pollard
Strings contracted by Treesa Gold

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The Mount Moriah frontwoman’s solo debut. streaked with warm, yet wistful, Americana hues, it glowed throughout 2018. we’ve fallen even harder for her follow-up, ‘eno axis’.

Sonically, it’s an album shaped enormously by the atmosphere it was recorded in – the crew’s synergy & positivity, the proximity & presence of a band in a room playing with intention. structurally, it’s a group of songs inspired by the colours & tones of open tunings, by the sacrality of space & instinct. Stylistically, it’s folk-rock leaning into its curious experimental side & moved by the spiritual rawness of classic soul & the simplicity of earnest pop.

Narratively, H.C. McEntire’s Eno Axis is about finding direction in the natural world, and following love. Sonically, it’s an album shaped enormously by the atmosphere it was recorded in – the crew’s synergy and positivity, the proximity and presence of a band in a room playing with intention. Structurally, it’s a group of songs inspired by the colours and tones of open tunings, by the sacrality of space and instinct. Eno Axis feels like a confident and mature step forward from her debut album Lionheart – in tone, arrangement, production, and spirit.

Stylistically, it’s folk-rock leaning into its curious experimental side and moved by the spiritual rawness of classic soul and the simplicity of earnest pop.

‘eno axis’ feels like a confident & mature step forward from her debut album ‘Lionheart’ – in tone, arrangement, production & spirit. for fans of courtney marie andrews, margo price. joan shelley, first aid kit, the be good tanyas.

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Releases August 21st, 2020

Produced by H.C. McEntire, Luke Norton, and Missy Thangs
Lyrics by H.C. McEntire except where noted

Performed by:
H.C. McEntire (vocals, guitar)
Luke Norton (guitars, keys, backing vocals)
Casey Toll (bass)
Daniel Faust (drums, percussion)
Nathan Bowles (banjo)
Allyn Love (pedal steel)
Mario Arnez (backing vocals)
Justin Morris (backing vocals)

Endless gratitude to Merge Records, Missy, Sarah, all our families and friends and animals.

We last heard from Torres, the musical moniker of Mackenzie Scott, back in 2017 around the release of her sublime third album, Three Futures. That album was in many ways an exploration of physicality, a lusty collection in contrast to the more cerebral tones of her break-out record, Sprinter. Some two years later, after finding a new home on Merge Records, Torres is set to make her next artistic statement with the January release of her fourth album, Silver Tongue, which was previewed this week in the shape of new single, Good Scare.

If Torres’ music up until now has existed largely inside Mackenzie, whether that be body or brain, perhaps Silver Tongue is a step into the wider world of connections, desires and other people. Take Good Scare, this is a track about embracing the fears, and resultant bravery, that come with infatuation, as Torres explains, using a caving analogy, the superman crawl: “when certain passages are too narrow, a person has to hold one arm against the body and the other above the head, all while trying to crawl forward. When you fall in love with someone, it’s scary like the Superman’s crawl, but you have no choice but to keep moving forward even though you have no idea what’s ahead of you”.

Good Scare is Silver Tongue’s opening track, a sort of leap into the unknown, chasing your dreams, without any sort of back-up plan in place, “you might give me a good scare for a minute there, but I’ll say “Well, I’ve seen that look from you before”, when you start eyeing all the exits”. Musically too, this is a fine return; the dense primal pound of drums rattles around the headphones, contrasted with bright guitars, warm electronic tones and Mackenzie’s prominent, gently distorted vocal, as arrestingly wonderful as ever. A welcome return from one of the world’s most fascinating musical voices, Torres might just be the sound of 2020.

Performed by
Mackenzie Scott: vocals, guitar, synths, drum machines
Erin Manning: Moog, synths
J.R. Bohannon: pedal steel
Bryan Bisordi: drums

“Silver Tongue” is out January 21st via Merge Records. 

It isn’t like Katie Crutchfield to slow down. For the past 15 years, the 31-year-old artist has been a member of four different bands, starting with the Ackleys when she was still in high school. The moment one project ended, Crutchfield always seemed hard at work beginning a new one, churning out an endless quality of music with bands like Bad Banana, P.S. Eliot, and Great Thunder.

In 2017, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfeld quite literally blew the music world away. Her record Out in the Storm, one of the best albums of that year, displayed a whole new side of the singer. Gone were the fortified bedroom pop of 2015’s Ivy Tripp, the rock-tinged freak-folk musings of her 2013 stunner Cerulean Salt and the brainy lo-fi recordings of her 2012 debut American Weekend. Out in the Storm sounds like its title suggests: loud, windy, chaotic and emotionally intense—a tried-and-true breakup album and a throwback to Crutchfield’s punk roots. While she was already beloved among indie circles, that release took her to the next level—new fans, considerable press buzz, a massive tour starring her and her twin sister Allison.

But 2018 was different. Crutchfield had spent years trying to quit drinking, but after a raucous European tour with Waxahatchee, she decided to commit to the decision. “I was telling everyone around me, ‘I’m just gonna take a break,’” she says “Then in my head, I was like, ‘I am done.’”. “For a while, I completely didn’t recognize myself,” she continues. “When you’re in kind of a bad way on tour, there’s just nothing worse than going on stage.”

The decision was part of a larger plan to slow down in general. Where she used to rush to process her feelings through songwriting, Crutchfield now found herself pausing to take care of herself first, to use therapy to work through her emotions before considering them as material for her songs.

 

Crutchfield’s fifth album as Waxahatchee, is the result of Crutchfield taking that time to breathe. It’s an album about seeking security in relationships, whether they’re romantic or platonic. Throughout, there’s a beautiful simplicity to Crutchfield’s writing. “When you see me, I’m honey on a spoon,” she sings on “Can’t Do Much,” a folky love song built on big, strummed guitar. There are also moments of self-doubt and weakness, the kind that cuts right to the big questions that hang over relationships like storm clouds. “We can try to let the stillness be,” she states cautiously on “The Eye,” “But if I spin off, will you rescue me?”

I feel like in the past I’ve been like, ‘You’re doing this and you’re doing that,’ like—pointing the finger,” Crutchfield says, jabbing the air. “At times, that’s been important and good for me to do. But with this record, I’m really pointing the finger at myself, and loving my people unconditionally.

In the past, the music Crutchfield made as Waxahatchee was defined by a kind of jagged quality—her soft vocals offsetting a crunchy, wall-of-sound indie rock (“chaotic and claustrophobic,” is how she describes her last full-length, Out in the Storm). But there’s a startling clarity on Saint Cloud, which traffics in a minimalist, Americana sound that makes Crutchfield’s voice sound naked in comparison to her previous work. “[My producer] Brad Cook was like, ‘We follow your voice,’” Crutchfield says. “He would help me build songs around the way that I was strumming, the way that I was singing. That was the first time a producer had done that. In the past people were either not paying attention or trying to shape it.”

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That clarity is also the sound of Crutchfield settling into a genre she admits, to some extent, she’s been fighting her whole career: country music. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Crutchfield was raised on artists like Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn, and she emulated them as a child. But when she discovered punk as a teenager, she rejected country in a fit of textbook rebellion.

“I began to fight with those tendencies, and I think that resulted in some really cool music on my early records—fighting with my more traditional sounding voice or saccharine melodies,” she says. “But I’m kind of reaching this point where I’m like, no, this is a really big part of who I am. And it’s always been a part of the way I tell stories and the people who influenced my storytelling. It’s almost like this weird self-acceptance.” The way Dolly Parton wrote about frustrating relationships—what Crutchfield calls her “fun, jaunty” approach to them—influenced the song “Hell.” Borrowing some of Parton’s over-the-top intensity from songs like “Jolene,” Crutchfield sings: “I hover above like a deity, but you don’t worship me.” “I wanted to write a song that’s a little bit psycho,” Crutchfield says. “Everybody feels that way sometimes.”

Nostalgia for the music she grew up with soon became a kind of general nostalgia for the South. A Philadelphia resident for nearly eight years, Crutchfield decided she was going to move back to Alabama and buy a house. “Then I got to Birmingham and realized there were a million reasons why I left,” she says. She ended up settling in Kansas City after spending long stretches of time there with resident and boyfriend Kevin Morby. “I live such a relaxed life right now,” she says. “We have a sauna at our house,” she says, laughing.

Talking about Saint Cloud, it’s clear Crutchfield has completely retooled her relationship with music and touring. “In the past I’ve been a pusher, just kind of rushing and compromising a lot just to get it done,” she says. “I forced myself to slow down.”

Every time you make a record, you have a vision, but it’s a bit of a crapshoot how it’s actually going to turn out,” she says. “You just get on the bus and hope it gets you to your destination. And I’ve never hit the bullseye more than I did with this.”

Saint Cloud, Crutchfield’s fifth album under the Waxahatchee alias out Friday, March 27th on Merge Records

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Dan Bejar’s Destroyer returned with their new album “Have We Met” via Merge Records. Have We Met caps off an arc begun almost a decade ago, when Dan Bejar released his landmark album Kaputt and entered the most accessible, acclaimed, yet no less eccentric chapter of his career. Informed by the claustrophobic atmosphere of our times, Have We Met is cerebral and absurd even by Bejar’s standards. Bizarre scenes and non-sequiturs abound. Bejar often sounds like a man slowly unravelling over greyscale, icy synth backdrops. But in the epic swell of “Crimson Tide,” was the first I heard from this album and is an immediate Destroyer classic! the new wave pulse of “It Doesn’t Just Happen,” or the sneakily catchy refrains of “The Man In Black’s Blues,” Bejar crafted apocalypse music that’s every bit as transporting as it is discomfiting.

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“Have We Met” settles into disquieting grooves and atmospheres by employing the sounds of 80s soft rock and adult contemporary in ways that often feel slightly off-kilter. However, while Dan Bejar may twist a traditionally comfortable sonic palette, it is never distorted to the point of being abrasive or unapproachable. Furthermore, his lyrics may grimly reckon with the ending of things hope, love, and life as we know it

Released January 31st, 2020
The Band:
Dan Bejar: vox, synthesizer
Nicolas Bragg: guitar
John Collins: bass, synthesizer, drum programming, granular synthesis

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In her new video for the cryptically titled “Too Big for the Glory Hole,” Mackenzie Scott of TORRES captures domestic solitude in her now-iconic cowboy boots. But Scott and the world seem light-years away from the “Dressing America” video, set in that same home. The sparse keys and solemn delivery of lines such as “Must be that God can take a joke / To make the one I like best the one I fear most” push “Too Big for the Glory Hole” into near-hymn territory. I wrote this song when I was living alone in the East Village, before I moved in with my girlfriend. I was lonely. It was recorded in Brooklyn last fall, but Jenna made this accompanying video on her iPhone in quarantine.

The song, partially influenced by Florine Stettheimer’s painting The Cathedrals of Wall Street, was recorded during the Silver Tongue sessions and featured on a free 7-inch included with the album’s Peak Vinyl edition. It’s available today on all streaming platforms.

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Released June 3rd, 2020, The single, “Too Big for the Glory Hole,” is out now on Merge Records.

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Although their existence was short lived, the arrival of Wild Flag in 2011 was a majorly exciting moment for Sleater-Kinney fans.

By then, the blazingly great Portland trio had been on hiatus for five years, leaving a crater-sized hole in indie rock behind. Wild Flag arrived as a super powered blast of fresh female energy from four women with a long friendship and a fiery chemistry.

Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss were joined by Mary Timony of Helium (and currently Ex-Hex) and Rebecca Cole of The Minders. They’re all players with impeccable pedigrees in underground rock, but their sum was much more than their parts. Together they created an exuberant album filled with charged, bouncy rock’n’roll missiles, equal parts punk and pop and classic rock.

With Timony and Brownstein sharing vocal duties, and Rebecca Cole’s new wavey keyboards, there was plenty of fresh ingredients in Wild Flag’s sound to both excite Sleater-Kinney devotees, while establishing Wild Flag as a force to be reckoned with on their own terms.

Official video for “Romance” by Wild Flag, taken from their self-titled debut, out on Merge Records.

Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (Helium), Rebecca Cole (The Minders), Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks)

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I’ve been following Fruit Bats for a few years now and as a fan, but when Eric D. Johnson released his seventh album under the alias last year, I blew through it a few times and swiftly forgot it ever existed. For some reason, it just didn’t stick. That is, until last week when a friend sent album opener “The Bottom of It” my way as a rainy day recommendation, and the record entered my consciousness once again, where it has been taking up space ever since. Gold Past Life is way groovier than anything Johnson has released before: It very often verges on ’70s disco or funk (the title track sounds like a Bee Gees song—full stop) or maybe even ambling folk-rock in the vein of The Byrds, whereas something like 2016’s Absolute Loser or 2009’s The Ruminant Band was more firmly planted in the indie-folk sphere. Gold Past Life is thoughtful and smart all the way through, sometimes cheerful and sometimes sad and always brisk—like a gust of wind slapping your face as you stare at the ocean, or a gentler cool breeze guiding you up a mountain on a long, peaceful hike.

Gold Past Life marks both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records that beganwith 2014’s EDJ(a solo record by name, but a Fruit Bats release in spirit) and hit a peak with 2016’s Absolute Loser They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been.

I find more to enjoy in each listen, and I only wish I had given it more credit last year upon its initial release. But, as they say, better late than never! the new record also features more keyboard influences and a range of guests including Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore, Vampire Weekend), Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and more.

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

When Fruit Bats announced its new album and signing to Merge Records late last year, singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson did so by “Getting in a Van Again.” The 15-minute mockumentary presented a surrealist view of the music industry, while teasing the very real themes explored on his album from last year “Gold Past Life” released in June 21, 2019.

“I know I said I’d be around this year, but here I am getting in a van again.”

According to Johnson, “Fruit Bats has been a cult band for a long time.” With Gold Past Life, he hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin’ on with a wider audience.

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Fruit Bats makes existential make-out music,” he describes with a chuckle. “But you’re also welcome to dive into it deeper if you want. Good pop music should be sublime like that.”

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Cable Ties, a trio from Melbourne, blasts a coruscating onslaught of punk mayhem, guitar scrambling madly in a scrubby, discordant fury, drums banging, bass pumping pick-driven clangor into the mix and, above it all, Jennie McKechnie wailing in an exposed nerve kind of way about apathy, sexism, LGBTQ acceptance, income inequality and activist politics. The sound is supercharged, ear-ringing, tight; the fast chug of the bass line in stellar “Tell Them Where to Go,” has a nearly tactile force, while the guitar howls like careening sirens. The easy thing would be to compare McKechnie’s vibrato-zinging vocals with those of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker or her verbal agility to Courtney Barnett, but the blunt force and agile violence of the music, brings to mind post-punk bands like the Wipers, Protomartyr and Eddy Current.

Cable Ties formed in the mid-teens and has one self-titled and a clutch of singles and splits in its catalogue so far. Far Enough is the first of this band’s albums to get a wide U.S. release, and it’s a doozy, no question. McKechnie may be the band’s focal point, but bassist Nick Brown defines Cable Ties’ ragged power. The rough-sawed churn of “Lani” starts and finishes with his abrasive, insistent bass playing that boils like magma under urgent, trilling vocals. Drummer Shauna Boyle is pretty great, too, banging out aggressive beats, that are passionate not sloppy, trance-like but never tuned out.

Band members are active advocates for women’s and LGBTQ rights. McKechnie co-founded Wet Lips, a Melbourne festival focused on inclusion of female, gay and non-binary musicians, and both she and Boyle volunteer for Girls Rock, an organization that promotes opportunity for women, trans and gender diverse musicians. Far Enough engages in these issues through the lyrics, especially in “Tell Them Where to Go,” where between murderous bass and clanging guitar chords, McKechnie sings about empowerment. “Are you stuck in your bedroom? With your stereo on? Thinking you’ll never play that way cos you’re too weird or too young/Why don’t you walk out your bedroom/and steal your brother’s guitar/ Go see the folks who took rock back from blokes and who get who you really are,” she wails, and you can see a hundred kids squaring their shoulders and heading out there.

Later, “Self-Made Man” launches an incendiary blow at the rich, skewering people who “work hard and don’t share,” in a hard bumping, intricately lyric’d song that vibrates with rage, and elsewhere “Sandcastles” pokes a rusty nailed prod at the politics that strangle otherwise well-meaning activist organizations. (“You don’t do anything because you know that people like you they just don’t do anything but tear each other down”). And right at the beginning in “Hope,” the band addresses boomer complacency on climate change, as McKechnie warbles, “My uncle Pete’s he’s complaining about the greenies, he says they’ve gone too far, I say Pete, they don’t go far enough.”

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And yet while not a moment on this album fails to engage in issues, the vibe is brash, celebratory, undeniably a gas. This is no over-earnest diatribe. It’s a series of party anthems about stuff that matters. One drum flattening call to arms insists that “Anger’s Not Enough,” and that’s right, there’s a lot more here. But it’s a really good place to start.

Released March 27th, 2020