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This top ten list includes recent releases I’ve been digging lately. Each one can be streamed in full using the links in the text below. Enjoy!
Antiques – JWNS (Antiques)
When I first heard (then) Massachusetts-based Antiques’ barebones, four-track keyboard musings on their disjointed yet endearing 2006 debut Forgotten People Tread Water, they were a duo of Steve Vallarelli and Tim Griffiths. Two others eventually joined, and the foursome now operates out of Brooklyn, Cambridge, and Abeline, TX. They’re still lo-fi and raw-sounding on this fourth LP, with feedback-coated guitars now at the forefront. Recalling early Guided By Voices, songs like “Turn Me Loose” and “The Coffin” prove that JWNS also has plenty of hooks buried beneath the din.
The Born Again Floozies – The Voluptuous Panic and Earthquake Revolution (The Born Again Floozies)
Upon hearing this eclectic Indianapolis ensemble’s 2008 second LP With Street Music, I was flummoxed by their distinctive rhythmic set-up of tuba, trombone, bass drum, and – no kidding – a full-time tap dancer! With the addition of a turntablist, this fourth album expands their palette. Singer/leader Joey Welch plays guitar “apotement” style (i.e., like a piano), lacing his chords around Michele Long’s fancy footwork. The band genre-hops like crazy, from hip-hop/funk, to rootsy R&B/soul, to Radiohead-like dreamy pop. Unique and charismatic, yet again!
Brunt of It – All Aboard the Cannabus (Brunt of It)
This hardcore/ska seven-piece formed in 1995 in San Francisco, after the breakup of Hoodlum Empire (whose lead singer, Rob Rock, mysteriously disappeared and has never been found). They recorded an album (1997’s Safety Margin), but the lineup was revamped after gruff-voiced singer (Eric) Boofish moved to Rhode Island. Building on their 2005 follow-up Certain Uncertainty, the now Boston-based group’s fourth LP ramps up their ska influences more with the addition of a rollicking horn section. Along with thick guitars, tight rhythms, and thoughtful, often politically minded lyrics, Cannabus is (ahem!) “smoking” hot.
Gay Anniversary – New in Class 10” (Slovenly)
With this fierce foursome (formed by members of Bazooka) and their equally incendiary label mates Acid Baby Jesus, Greece seems to be the place to go these days for scuzzy, industrial-strength noise-rock. While ABJ’s roots are steeped in ‘60s Nuggets-influenced garage (don’t miss their terrific self-titled debut), GA’s pneumatic drill rhythms, distortion-drenched guitars and shrieked vocals seem like they’ve been spewed from the deepest, dankest bowels of the netherworld. Make sure you’ve got plenty of Advil on hand, because these 14 skull-shellacking minutes are a near-unbearable assault on the senses.
Good Times Crisis Band – Nine of Clubs (Australian Cattled God)
Not only is William Corsello general manager of Emo’s nightclub in Austin, TX, he’s also the singer/guitarist of this post-punk duo, with drummer David Hobizal. On this follow-up to 2008 debut Select a Gather Point, Corsello also plays bass, replacing Steven Mullins. Yet the band’s attack doesn’t suffer; in fact, the rhythms sound even springier. I compared them to Burning Airlines, Jawbox, Minutemen, and Mission of Burma – but Nine most often recalls Gang of Four, with Corsello’s scratchy, clipped Andy Gill-like guitar riffs zigzagging around his ambiguous, elegiac lyrics.
Kid Icarus – American Ghosts (Big School)
Perhaps due to its 68-minute length, or its spontaneous, unrehearsed feel, Scranton, PA “wayward home taper” Eric Schlittler’s 2002 debut Be My Echo didn’t knock me out. But I’ve come to like it much more since, finding its stark, visceral folk-rock refreshing. On this 2011 fifth LP, his Kid Icarus has evolved into a sturdier quintet. The driving opener “Hang Gliders” introduces their sound: Sebadoh/Sonic Youth-like fuzz-drenched, effects-laden guitars, crashing drums, and tinges of old West soundscapes. It’s much different than the debut, but still good!
Kultur Shock – Tales of Grandpa Guru, Vol. 1 EP (Kultur Shock)
Formed in 1996 by Bosnian Gino Yevdjevich, this Seattle-based sextet (whose members also hail from Bulgaria, Indonesia, and the US) has had a few lineup changes since I first heard them on 2004 third LP Kultura-Diktatura; this five-song EP follows up their 2011 seventh album Ministry of Kultur. Though not as stylistically diverse as Diktatura was, Guru’s Balkan punk/metal, supplemented by violin and sax, is still plenty fun. Yevdjevich’s madcap wail is like a Slavic-accented Jello Biafra, making songs like the instant classic “Stop the Disco” — and its accompanying video — a barrel of laughs.
Vancougar – “Love Like Mine,” “Guitar” (Vancougar)
It’s been four years since this Vancouver all-female foursome released their terrific 2008 second LP Canadian Tuxedo, so these two new songs are welcome as we await their third (already recorded but in need of a label). The organ-drenched “Love Like Mine” sounds like a punkier Best Coast, or a defiant ‘60s girl group, while “Guitar” is more out of character, with its atmospheric, reverbed guitars over beds of tribal drums. Best, marvelous singer Eden Fineday’s powerhouse, Bethany Cosentino-meets-Susanna Hoffs pipes reach nirvana on both tunes.
Wild Wild Geese – Sorry, Earth (Odessa)
Though I dug this Chapel Hill, NC foursome’s four-song 2009 Are You a Baby? EP, I somehow missed this debut full-length from 2010, which it preceded. As on the EP, Rob Ruin (AKA Dipatri) and Nathan Toben whip up dense thickets of fuzz-saturated guitars, anchored by the weighty rhythms of bassist Kent Howard (also of Americans in France) and drummer John Jaquiss (ex-Spider Bags, as is Ruin). Perhaps nothing is as irresistible as the EP’s “Ladders,” but driving tunes like “Stuck Inside,” “Rat King” and “Ain’t Dead Yet” ensure Earth still packs a potent punch.
Various Artists – All These Noises, Volume 1 (StarBeat Music/TJO Presents)
I stumbled upon this mostly-local compilation while searching for something else, but it’s flat-out fantastic! Outside of NYC’s all-female Plastiq Passion (whose “I Can’t Wait” is a highlight), I hadn’t heard any of these 20 bands, even though 16 are from NJ or NY (the others are from MA, CA and TN). And two – the lovely Bern & the Brights and rousing Those Mockingbirds – reside in my hometown of Montclair, NJ! But there’s stylistic variety galore, from Black Wine’s driving punk, to Shayfer James’s bouncy piano-noir, to Oh! My Blackbird’s harmonic folk, to Sleepless Saints’ La’s-like pop, to Doug Ratner & The Watchmen’s Clash-inspired rock. Bring on Volume 2!
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