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2012 Record Reviews

Aqua Nebula Oscillator review

Aqua Nebula Oscillator
"Om Na Mio” b/w “Freak Out" 7”
[Who Can You Trust?]

Underground French psych band, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, are certainly capable of delivering a super sonic freakout. That’s pretty clear with the two archival recordings featured on this limited edition seven inch from the German label, Who Can You Trust? Records. "Om Na Mio” (recorded in 2004) is an edgy, six minute and one second psychic poke at the inner eye. I don’t know what this mantra is supposed to mean but sweetness and light it ain’t. “Freak Out” is pretty much that, but not in a good-vibe, trippy-dippy-hippie kinda of way. More like a “don’t eat the brown acid” kinda vibe.

PC Jones

Jayne Wayne

The Band in Heaven Sleazy Dreams EP 7”

The Band in Heaven
Sleazy Dreams EP 7”

If this is indeed the band in heaven, they’re missing Jimi Hendrix on guitar, John Entwhistle on bass, Ray Charles on piano and Rick Allen’s left arm on drums. (That was fucked up, I apologize). This band, Band in Heaven, is a Florida duo who create what some pundits are calling "nightmare pop." That tag is apt, although nightmare is a bit harsh—more like rolling dream music for a wired, but tired, washed-out brain that is susceptible to soaking up the distortion and fuzz of the subconscious.

The Band in Heaven's four song Hozac seven inch gallops off into the dreamscape with the driving, noisy "Sleazy Dreams". “If You Only Knew” continues the hypnotic barrage and “Summer Bummer” would make a bummer of any summer. The EP's closer, “Sludgy Dreams,” takes “Sleazy Dreams” and sludges down the tempo considerably. Like another link in The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Band in Heaven keep it simple, distorted and loud.

Chris Auman

Black Moth Super Rainbow Cobra Juicy

Black Moth Super Rainbow
Cobra Juicy
[Rad Cult]

Black Moth Super Rainbow have a history, it’s just that I didn’t know it. So I got my backstory like every other dude on the block: I looked 'em up on the Internet and found out things about them: geography and history and discography and their noms de guerre (if I can get French on you for a second). Now I don't know a whole lot more than I did before and who cares anyway, right? I know this Cobra Juicy record is BMSR's fifth LP and that they've had some line-up mixing ups. I also learned that, while I typically shy away from electronic pop, I don’t know what I was smoking, or wasn’t smoking, drinking or licking because this snake is juicy—Cobra Juicy! BMSR make mellow (although sometimes with an underlying sense of menace), gratuitously groovy music with breathy vocals featuring mostly electronically created sounds but also real guitars and other instruments. Possibly. "Windshield Smasher" gives me all that I want, subliminally in my sleep, although I'm not sure why I just said that. "Hairspray Heart" also comes with a promise of hypnotization and had me pantomiming a chicken driving a car. "Like a Sundae" is lovely and swirly and melty and the lush pop of “Psychic Love Damage” transports me back to a time and place, but I can't figure out what time and what place and while I was happy to go back and visit I'm also glad that I don't live there anymore. If any of this makes sense to you, get help (and get Cobra Juicy).

Chris Auman

Cafeteria Dance Fever Danceology

Cafeteria Dance Fever

It's the end of third period, kids, so it's time to bolt to the lunch room, grab a molded plastic tray, dab on a big old dollop of powdered mashed potatoes and a scoop of jello (with bits of canned cherries and pineapple in it), and get down with Cafeteria Dance Fever! These punchy Portland punks keep it snotty and out of tune, and like a good schoolyard flu it's catchy. They can rip through dang near 25 songs in two sips from a milk carton. This retrospective danceology titled Danceology has so many nonstop hits ("School Sucks," "I Got Rabbies," "Bile," and "Pig Sty") it would even make The Woodrows jealous. Ain't nuthing gonna bring this fever down.

PC Jones

Dark, Dark, Dark Who Needs Who?

Dark, Dark, Dark
Who Needs Who?
[Supply and Demand Music]

It’s dark, dark, dark. Sure, sure, sure, but not dark like evil. More dark like really bummed out. Nona Marie Invie writes lyrics from a deep dark place in her tortured soul. She's got a battered psyche which probably has a little something to do with her breakup with band co-founder Marshall LaCount in 2011. After a band time-out, the group subsequently repaired and repatched and moved on. As Fleetwood Mac can attest, this can pay creative dividends and Dark, Dark, Dark produces some well-crafted melancholy pop songs. While sunshine and rainbows do not abound, the jaunty horns and piano of the title track provide a bit of relief from the gloom early on. It’s short lived. “Patsy Cline” and "Last Time I Saw Joe" and the bulk of the album are achy breaky, break-up ballads that most of us can commiserate with, but for me only in small doses. [Dark Dark Dark]

Otis E. Lee

Dinero Sheep

[no label]

What would you get if you took a half pound of Meat Puppets and a cup of ZZ Top, mixed it together in a stainless steel bowl, threw in a dash of the politics of Boon and Watt, wring into it the blue collar of CCR and add a pinch of lightnin' quick, finger pickin’ blues? Well, you’d have made yourself a big ol' batch of delicious Dinero. This Colorado trio's head honcho, Mike Wing, has an ax to grind, fortunately for us that ax is stringed. "Concealed Weapons and Open Containers," "The Coyote Song," and "Some People Push Back" tap into a lot of the anger that exists in this country regardless of whether your state is red or blue. It's not just the Tea Party who's angry, some of the beer and whisky drinkers are pretty pissed too.

PC Jones

Flesh Panthers Quick and Dirty

Flesh Panthers
Quick and Dirty
[Cold Slice Cassettes]

Flesh Panthers play fast and loose with sobriety and good taste, which is to say, they have little of either. They are also not much concerned with production values as they have none, unless you consider no production a value. That aside, Quick and Dirty, their ten song cassette on Cold Slice, is a piece of pretty blistering punk rock that’s not only over the top but over before you have time to learn the names of the songs. Sounding at times like an amped up King Buzzo fronting the Germs, the Panthers always sound a little dangerous. It's like when that staggering schizo passes you on the street and for that second or two when you’re just inches apart, you’re really not sure what he’s gonna do or how you'll react, that's the vibe the Panthers seem to aspire to and obtain.

P.C. Jones

Forest Fools Daydreamer

Forest Fools
[no label]

These guys may be fools for wooded areas (copses, thickets, groves, pine barrens, etc,) but they are also quite foolish for lo-fi indie rock. Slow-paced, guitar-based songs with vocals that hang back and pontificate on the situation, that's the Fools stock in trade—I think they call it shoe-gazing music. Daydreamer features four tracks of slow jams and sadness. I think the songs may be a little under served by the quality of the recording, a flaw that is unfortunately compounded in the days of earbuds and shitty computer speakers (like mine!), but it's a promising start and it's good to know that the indie rock is alive and well in Philly. It was, after all, Benjamin Franklin who invented the genre with the creation of the glass armonica in 1761. [Forest Fools]

—Jayne Wayne

Fussbudgets Hogwash!

[Zenith Beast]

Fussbudgets were a late 80s San Francisco band that released low profile, hard-to-find, yet critically acclaimed cassettes—at least in the underground music scene of the time. Influenced by classic pop bands like Big Star and the Go-Betweens, Fussbudgets wrote songs that were surely right at home left of the dial. Hogwash! was the band’s first full-length and features twelve tracks equally split betwixt Larry O. Dean and Chris Lehmann who trade off singer/songwriter duties every other song. Very democratic. While this re-release (recorded in 1988-89) isn’t all college radio gold, Dean's for "For Crying Out Loud" and "Enjoy Your Attic" matches Lehmann's, "Something That We Heard on the Radio" and the dig on Talking Heads fans "Jacqui Digs the Heads”. Having two solid songwriters go toe-to-toe aided by the driving rhythms of bassist, Ned Doherty, is gonna pay dividends even if you have to wait 25 or so years to hear it.

—Chris Auman

Hot Lunch
Hot Lunch
[Who Can You Trust?]

Hot Lunch sound at times like an upside down cross between 60s acid rock and 70s heavy metal with short bursts of what I can only describe as something that might have shown up on an SST record in the 1980s. They stick to the hard rock genre for sure, but they cover a lot of the subgenres within (and by subgenres I just mean other hard rock bands—yes, Black Sabbath and Motorhead are subgenres unto themselves. Are too). And who doesn't appreciate a good hot lunch anyway? (The brown baggers, that's who.)

But anyway... what was I sayin'? Oh yeah, lot's of different influences goin' on with The Lunch. They're not afraid to go after a little bit of fantasy metal with "Lady in the Lake." "Handy Denny" get’s all Rob Tyner and MC5 on your ass. "Killer Smile" (released earlier as a 7" inch single on WCYT Records) gives me a Budgie vibe (and maybe a wedgie as well). "Ripped at the Seam" goes for a Sabbath riff but faster, and "She Wants More" channels Lemmy's "gimme-some-throat-nodes" approach to vocal delivery. The whole record is heavy from beginning to middle to end. It's just fuzzy, loud, blown out rock and roll with nasty vocals and equally nasty subject matter. Just like Mom used to make!

—Chris Auman

John Cale Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood

John Cale
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
[Double Six]

John Cale has made over 30 albums, has collaborated with a whole pile of notable bands and musicians from La Monte Young to Squeeze and was the co-founder of, arguably, the most influential band in rock history. I say arguably but only a douche would argue that VU wasn't, 'cause it was. And dude’s like seventy and still making some pretty ambitious music. Shifty Adventures in Nookiewood showcases a dozen Cale compositions exploring pop rock music and using the more modern tools at his disposal. Cale can’t resist the use of autotuner on “Mothra” and “I Wanna Talk 2 U” uses a fairly modern spelling style on the title. But I jest. The Welshman is capable of creating moving moments using various styles and maintaining a sense of humor. Who wouldn't want to have an adventure in Nookie Wood? Hell, I'd settle for Wookie Wood.

—Chris Auman

Landmarks Public House digital 7”

Public House digital 7”

If I am to believe what I read, the Landmarks band is a part of a larger collective known as Public House Sound Recordings which was formed by recording engineer, Dave Vettraino. This digital seven inch, while not measured in inches, covers a lot of musical space starting with the arcing jam of "Overflow". At its best the song aspires to the near perfection of Deerhunter’s "Nothing Ever Happened." At its worst it's just a damn fine tune with a driving bass line, Rhodes piano and swirling and clashing guitar lines seasoned lightly with minimal vocals. “Cuscutta” is slower and trancier with meandering vocals, another steady bass line and hints of xylophone and a not so subtle guitar with effects pedals at play. Represent.

—Jayne O. Wayne

Larry O. Dean Throw the Lions to the Christians

Larry O. Dean
Throw the Lions to the Christians
[Zenith Beast]

Chicago via San Francisco via Michigan poet/writer/musician Larry O’Dean has many accomplishments under his belt. He’s an award-winning poet, he’s a Poet-in-Residence for Chicago Public Schools, he’s worked with fellow Flintian filmmaker Michael Moore, he’s had his work translated into bunches of different languages and such—but enough of that press release stuff.

Throw the Lions to the Christians is a re-release of Dean's 1997 album. Dean writes straight-forward pop tunes that rock in the right places. His songs hearken back to the great singer-songwriter days of the 70s, and I'm not talking about your Fogelbergs and your Chapins or even your Lightfoots, but rather I refer to your Lowes and your Costellos. A little less angry than those fellows perhaps, but just as earnest. In fact, Larry sounds at times like Daniel Johnson in his more excitable moments. And there's always something to be happy about. Dean pens paeans to good days (“Well-Ordered Day”), humorous jibes at plastic surgery (“Nose Job”) and everyday topics that need a new look and a light-hearted spin without being too saccharine. [Larry O. Dean]

—Joey Germ

Mermaid Bones The End of Days

Mermaid Bones
The End of Days
[no label]

Fall 1989, the first time I saw guitarist Dave Gill: One night a groovy, now defunct, Hyde Park coffee house found room on the schedule for all the usual suspects. The rumor going around being, some radical noise guitarist is killing it, duo style, with an effects cat. Their operating moniker: !Glrnaap. So I glugged a slug from the jug, took a few tokes and made my way to the Fullerton el stop. When I got to the performance I wasn't late, but the show had already started. Some academic music school characters were considering how it would look on paper. Gill proceeded to set up his flea market light show, plug in a 25-watt practice amp, and level the room. The last audible remark I heard was a reference to frog sterilization. A few years later I would hear Gill perform more times than I can remember with the wildly popular and critically acclaimed Hog Lady.

And now this! The End of Days is an absolute masterpiece. Track 4 "December" is worth the price of admission alone. When the vocals kick in the result is nothing less than chilling. After a pause, the hook and riff will leave the most consummate of professional musician blushing with jealousy. Lead vocalist Sophia Anita possesses a huge voice. I don't know if the limited vocal range she tends to hover in is really that limited, or she just prefers to maintain the power there. This is definitely not daddy's little girl cooing lullabies. In any event, her ears produce juicy, hard-to-forget melodic lines. Track 2 is a whopper, clocking in at 20 minutes of brutal prog. Even after multiple listening, I'm still caught, not catching the razor sharp changes. The excellent minimal bass playing, Chase Carter, locks in and propels formidable drummer Brian Davy. This rhythm section provides an exquisite platform for Gill to launch into his signature extraterrestrial solos.

Word on the street is The End of Days marks the end of Mermaid Bones. I don't know what could possibly compel this band of once-in-a-lifetime collaborators to proclaim such a thing. What could possibly prevent them from performing from time to time, at least locally in their West Coast Bay Area region, I don't know... Whatever it is, I hope these kids can find a way to continue to make music of this caliber. Anyone with the slightest affinity for rock music deserves to give this a listen.

—Dr. Heironeous B. Naughty (has brain will travel)

Lecherous Gaze Bagagazo

Lecherous Gaze
[Who Can You Trust?]

Don’t know what a 'bagagazo' is but Lecherous Gaze is demanding that everybody do one. Maybe it’s a dance. I hope it’s not some sort of illegal drug or some sort of firework. At any rate, Lecherous Gaze makes such demands on the listener in the form of old school, hard rockin’ punk and metal music (just like grandpa and grandma used to play—seriously, rock is really old now). It’s dirty, loud, obnoxious and is no doubt delivered with lecherous gazes being cast about in every direction. If you like fast riffs and furious guitar solos, then by all means, do the friggin’ Bagagazo already!

—Stan Fogelberg

Nathan Xander self-titled

Nathan Xander
[no label]

Nathan Xander is a singer/songwriter from New York (by way of Chicago via Union City, PA). He writes songs that have their elements of country, indie and folk. They're songs about love and loss and those things you just might expect a singer/songwriter to write a song to sing about.

The trick to the singer/songwriter racket though, is to pair up good music with thoughtful lyrics that'll make the listener think that this singer/songwriter is writing and singing songs about the listener's own pathetic life. Xander happens to do just that on this, his self-titled third album. Lead off track, "I’ll Try To Be Good", is a great example of what I was just saying several seconds ago—it's sad, haunting, beautiful, universal and lingers in your brain. "My Forked Tongue", "Last Day of the Month" and all subsequent songs aspire to, and almost reach that pinnacle, but the bar was set too high. Nathan Xander's songs are simple but smart, sparse but with space and definitely get to the heart of matters of the heart.

—Jubson Jones

Panda Kid Scary Monster Juice

Panda Kid
Scary Monster Juice
[Already Dead Tapes]

Panda Kid is a one man band from Vicenza, Italy who bashes out batches of home recordings that will play well on blown out speakers. With a guitar (acoustic or electric), a couple drums, harmonica and maybe some keys, Panda Kid works out his lo-fi muse on fuzzy indie rock. The Kid rides alternate waves from track to track, surfing from island pop ("Surfer Girl") to catchy hooks ("Junkie Girl"), lush pop washouts ("Confidences") to short instrumental weirdness ("Panda in Space") all in the span of a ten track cassette tape. And not only that, Scary Monster Juice sports a 3-D cover. Take that James Cameron, you hack! [Panda Kid]

—Trapper John, D.D.S.

The Pear Traps Elsewhere EP

The Pear Traps
Elsewhere EP
[no label]

Whenever I set out my Pear Traps I usually end up catching apples. Despite being a relatively unreliable fruit snare (at least for pears, as I have explained), The Pear Traps are a reliable indie rock band from Chicago that play a mellow, laid back type of lo-fi music that puts one into a tranquil if slightly melancholy groove. It has been recommended to me that I listen to this four-song EP on a Sunday morning, which I have done. I’ve also listened to it on Friday and Saturday mornings as well, but I agree Sunday is best and my listening pleasure was greatly enhanced by the fact that the weather outside is quite sucky: rain, gloom, dark clouds, etc. A perfect day to be elsewhere.

—Muggsy "McMonster" McMurphy

Rambos Rock and Roll Monster

Rock and Roll Monster
[Grape Juice]

Rambos reached back a couple of decades for inspiration when they were constructing their Frankenstein monster of rock and roll... and that's as far as I can go with that metaphor. It's a shame too 'cause I really wanted to build up from the Frankenstein bit, but Rambos stick to a straight ahead rock sound—a bit like X, but maybe not as dark or poetic. They’re a little more light-hearted, a lot less serious—like Rambo. (Rambo was a fun guy too in his down time, when he wasn’t doing things that would make a billy goat puke.) Rambos write songs about monsters and vampires, Chuck Taylors and livin’ in the U.S.A. They lay those songs out with reverb, male/female vocals, rousing choruses and pun-based word play like in the tune “Poet Murder” (and I said they weren’t poetical, well shame on me. Shame on Muggsy).

—Muggsy McMurphy

Rhyton Self-titled

[Thrill Jockey]

Rhyton is an improvisational musical outfit—a jam band of sorts—a Brooklyn trio of like minds who lay out songs, riffs and free-form progressions with little or no pre-planned structural consideration. Organic and experimental yet never quite aimless and not like listening to your stoner next-door-neighbors wank ‘til dawn, although the five tracks on their self-titled debut certainly owe a debt to late-night bull sessions where this or that might be passed around to facilitate some sort of process. One would think anyway. “Stone Colored” meanders to the twelve minute “Pontian Grave” which may or may not be about a genocide. "Teké" abandons even the minimal outline of a plan, going in for effects over notes. "Dale Odalíski" further devolves into the primordial murk which allows "Shank Raids" to march into the fray with a purpose that might otherwise not seem so valiant.

—Jubson Jones

Robyn Hitchcock Chronology

Robyn Hitchcock
Chronology (The Very Best of Robyn Hitchcock)
[Yep Roc]

Robyn Hitchcock is one of those rare musicians that there just aren't enough of—or maybe there are. Maybe there shouldn't be too many like him. Maybe it would get a little too crowded in the pantheon of highly prolific artists with decades-spanning careers and reputations for producing consistently great work, even throwing in a classic album every five years or so. Maybe.

Chronology is Hitchcock’s current offering—no doubt just a placeholder while he continues work on some other musical project or another, with whatever group of musicians he's currently chosen to conspire with. The songs on this digital-only album display some of Hitchcock's best work, at least according to him—Hitchcock selected all sixteen tracks for the record—and I agree. With three songs coming from the Soft Boy's 1980 classic Underwater Moonlight, through his early solo recordings (including my fav "If You Were a Priest" from 1986's Element of Light) and work with the Egyptians and a reunited Soft Boys whose six minute "Mr. Kennedy" from 2002's Nextdoorland features an excellent double guitar solo that ranks right up there with the best of Television's Marquee Moon—proof positive that the boys did not get soft. Three more recent solo songs end the album including the beautiful "Full Moon in My Soul" from 2003's Spooked.

Chronology is as good an intro as any into the world of Robyn Hitchcock but it really barely scratches the surface of a remarkable career that shows no signs of slowing down. [Robyn Hitchcock]

—Manfred Lightbulbhead

Second H. Sam 4-song EP

Second H. Sam
4-song EP
[Shit Music for Shit People]

Samuele Gottardello is Second H. Sam. Does the H stand for Hand as in Second-Hand Sam? I have no first-hand knowledge one way or another. I do know that Gottardello is from Italy. I know that he is also the singer of the Hormonas from Venezia and Buzz Aldrin from Bologna. I know that he sings in a swarthy baritone voice akin to halo-bending, beat happener, Calvin Johnson. I know his music is stripped down to the bare essentials in instrumentation and recording techniques and that it was possibly performed entirely by himself. I know that this vinyl EP showcases four of his three minute plus songs of love, loss and springtime and that the cover for this seven inch was created by Turin-based artist Mattia Lullini. I just don't know what the H stand for.

Chris Auman

Sic Alps EP

Sic Alps
[Drag City]

I’m gonna use a cooking analogy to describe Sic Alps—an egg analogy in particular: Sic Alps are like cooking scrambled eggs. Bear with me here. It’s like when you’re making an omelet. You beat your eggs real good and then you pour them into a well-buttered pan and you leave them alone for a bit so they can cook up real nice and fluffy, but then at the last minute you throw a spatula in there and just mix them eggs all up. Now you got scrambled eggs and not an omelet. Still tastes good, but it’s different. Just as delicious, but maybe those eggs don’t look so prim and proper now.

Sic Alps have been cooking scrambled eggs for awhile now and (in case the first paragraph sailed right over your hair net) by "scrambled eggs" I mean slightly disjointed indie pop music. Some of the ingredients the Alps use would be recognizable even to the most entry-level prep cook. The Beatles are thrown in on more than one occasion ("Rock Races" for example) and the Velvet Underground are certainly essential to the recipe ("Thylacine Man"). Also part of a balanced breakfast is the endearing acoustic track, "Lazy Sons" (which sums up the role of sons everywhere); the rockiness of “God Bless Her, I Miss Her”; the jaunty joy of “Moviehead” and see if “See You on the Slopes” won't have you crying into your flapjacks. Serve hot and enjoy!

Chris Auman

Silver Jews Early Times 90-91

Silver Jews
Early Times 90-91
[Drag City]

This is for the hardcore Silver Jews fan out there 'cause these fourteen tracks take the term lo-fi and grinds it down a fi or two. The songs on this compilation come courtesy of the band's Dime Map of the Reef 7" and the Arizona Record 12" and even by early 90s (and Silver Jews!) standards this is some pretty rough stuff, but the album ain’t called Early Times ‘cause of the whisky they were drinkin'. Well, maybe it is. Whatever the quality of sound or total lack thereof, Early Times is simply a testament to the early, early stages of a group of hardworking “slackers” who probably drank too much but cared enough about music to not sweat the small stuff. Form a band now and learn to play later is the best model for good music anyway. All that said, music buffs and Silver Jews fans may rejoice at the release of this historic document, but repeated listening? Not so much.

Chris Auman

Southside Stranglers Devilled EP

Southside Stranglers
Devilled EP

Oshkosh rocks kosh b’gosh. Oshkosh's Southside Stranglers have a 90s sound that does remind one of Helmet in its driving, yet totally moshable rhythmic attack. It’s heavy, a little edgy and slightly menacing. The Devilled EP is damn near an LP with seven tunes tightly packed into just over twenty minutes. “The Blood We Bleed,” while perhaps not the best song title ever, is the standout track track for me. The packaging on this CD is simple and pretty cool. Can’t do that on an MP3. Nope.

—Muggsy McMurphy

Strange Hands Dead Flowers

Strange Hands
Dead Flowers
[Shit Music for Shit People]

Born in Bordeaux, the French psychedelic trio, Strange Hands, pimp their lo-fi brand of endearing jangly rock on their new twelve track LP, Dead Flowers. The Hands capture the spirit of the garage with tunes that can get poppy, "Bunny Slipper", intense "Love Illusion" and instrumental, "Dead Flowers" and uneasy, "Anxious Pictures"—a bad trip but in a good way. There's something about Strange Hands that remind me of the late great Southwestern American punk rock band Scared of Chaka—probably the low quality of the recording mixed with the high energy of the performances. Stellar cover art by Lucas Donaud.

Chris Auman

The Box “The Door” b/w “The Brain” 7”

The Box
“The Door” b/w “The Brain” 7”
[Plastic Spoon]

Vincent Bergier, former guitarist for French garage rock legends, Crash Normal is packaging his solo efforts into The Box these days. This two song 7” inch from Plastic Spoon records shows what Bergier is up to musically with two dark, brooding tracks. "The Door" opens with some imposing synths, a menacing drum machine beat and crackling tube amp as Vincent pontificates about god-knows-what in a barely audible voice. "The Brain" processes similar musical thoughts substituting a clean guitar sound to do battle with distorted guitar noise. The repetition is competing for the attention of your riff-addled mind. Bergier provides the cool and colorful cover art.

Chris Auman

Two Bit Dezperados/Beat Mark Split 7”

Two Bit Dezperados/Beat Mark
Split 7”
[Shit Music for Shit People]

Portuguese rockers, Two Bit Dezperados, provide the a-side for this split seven inch from the good people at Shit Music. “Blind” is their track and it's all rousing verses giving way to a raving, wordless chorus. It sounds like it was recorded in a damp basement with nothing but old tube amps and reverb. Just the way we like it 'round here. France's Beat Mark get the flip and they come at us with a bouncy, jangly pop tune that's got kind of a Feelies groove to it, if the Feelies had a female singer (or a singer who could sing in tune—no disrespect to the Feelies). Both of these bands feature women taking the lead on the mike and French artist Vanessa Fanuele provides the cover art this time around.

—PC Jones

Vermillion Sands 7 inch

Vermillion Sands
"Summer Mellody" b/w "A Sweet Bitter Winter" 7"
[Shit Music for Shit People]

The Italian band Vermillion Sands give us the two seasons on this 7" record. Vivaldi would certainly roll over in his grave and laugh (possibly outloud) at the thought of excluding fall and winter from any musical work concerning the seasons. But then maybe Vivaldi would've had the bread to kick in for a double seven inch. Yeah, that's true, he did die poor, but I was thinking more like when he was at the height of his popularity—like when Charles VI was all up on his jock. Well, that's ridiculous and a completely unnecesary digression at any rate. "Summer Mellody" is provided for the A side and it is bouncy and infectious and has a carnival-like vibe that would make it hard for Vivaldi not to smile and tap a toe along too. "A Sweet Bitter Winter" on the other hand, is also an upbeat number but in a garage/blues kinda way. I must confess, I have not a clue how Antonio V. would feel about it, but I like it.

—J.S. Bach

Vernon Selavy Stressed Desserts Blues

Vernon Selavy
Stressed Desserts Blues

Vernon Sélavy is the brainchild of Turin-based musician, Vincenzo Marando. The Italian singer/ guitarist/songwriter is somewhat of a human ShamWow when it comes to Amercian music—he seems to have soaked up twenty times his weight in old records, then wrung them out into his own songs of lost love and redemption. Channeling blues, 60s R&B and elements of southern gospel, Marando, via Vernon SéLavy, gives us Stressed Desserts Blues, nine tracks of stripped down picking, plucking, strumming and crooning. From the slightly sad swing of “The Way it Goes”, to the rueful “All The Sinners Burn” and the aching “Ballad of the Empty Hands,” Marando lets his influences and love for America's musical past flow like spilt wine into the shag carpet of the soul.

—Shroudy O'Turin

White Hills Frying on this Rock

White Hills
Frying on this Rock
[Thrill Jockey]

Don’t know where the White Hills are (the moon?) but apparently they’re on a planet or satellite rock where dudes like to zone out on gnarly jams (Earth?)—a planet where it's customary to grow some hair, keep your head down and riff. White Hills like to lay into it and stay there for extended periods of time. From the opening of “Pads of Light” (an epic space rock jam) they just roll it on out into a “Robot Stomp" in which robots dish out a repetitive mechanical beat-down for nearly twelve minutes (that’s three days in robot time). “I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on the Bone)" one-ups that in reaching for the 14 minute mark and making it. If you're prospecting in the White Hills, you're likely to hit a heavy lode, so grab a pick ax and a bucket, Klondike, and start diggin'.

Sammy Clemmons

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