TRACK | Peter Johnston RVA – Chaste Heart, Pagan Land

5/5 golden merles

Let us end the year here upon this arbitrary list with an entry that features a mite less dread and, instead, a bit of optimism and indeed rejoicing.

Despite the marching, somewhat ominous build on the drummed intro, there is soon unveiled within a great compulsion to do and be well.

Rarely do songs capture this drive. It is a rarity to maintain the dramatic sense of the sweeping within this sort of explicitly declarative phrasing. And it is genuinely endearing to contain a chorus of “Underneath it all, I’m having so much fun.

A great dichotomy there. You can see a semblance stylistically – but also in regard to content – with the kindred spirits of Stuart Murdoch and Jens Lekman. And it seems to me as though Peter is a more religious cousin of these indie rock luminaries, nevertheless politely kicking ass.

TRACK | Purple Mountains – Nights that Won’t Happen

5/5 golden merles

The bittersweet hyper articulation of this track is a confluence of it’s melody and meaning. But not only the melody, some sweetness is derived from the clarity, it’s own kind of joy.

Ghosts are just old houses dreaming people in the night / Have no doubt about it, hon’, the dead will do alright / Go contemplate the evidence, I guarantee you’ll find / the dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind

From David Berman’s Actual Air:

From Cantos for James Michener: Part II

The jets move slowly through the sky like they’ll never
reach Denver or wherever they’re going,

and I have the feeling that people are high-fiving nearby,

spontaneously, like a saloon brawl where everyone
suddenly starts fighting as if each man has
a preconscious knowledge of which side he’s on
when he enters a crowded room.

And this fight starts with a Polish joke that a man
at the bar begins to tell, but it’s not funny
as it concerns a stillborn child and an alcoholic
slain by the last European wolf, and even after
three hours there is no punchline in sight.

When he reaches the part where a Polish scientist
who has been navigating through millimeters of wilderness
discovers sub-atomic temples in a rust sample,
none of the men are listening,

they are thinking about their own childhoods

about the deep embarrassment of scoring on your own team

and the view from falling behind.

TRACK | viridian – Vichy Waters

5/5 golden merles

Whereas my favorite track on the album might be dwd001 (Because it did what it was supposed to. Because the introduction introduced. Because I heard it and knew that there would be others worthy of inspection within…), I think that Vichy Waters is the strongest display of what is on offer here.

And that is an excellent sense of melodic craft and structure within the texture of noise-lo-fi rock production.

Immediately, the guitar-lead and the vocal melody are built around the well laid drums and you are granted the soundtrack to your youth. That is, maybe, if you hear it at the right times, in the right places, at the right impressionable moment.

Or maybe also if the plaque of nostalgia hasn’t built a wall around your heart so hard only the finest hooks can pierce it. And, still, maybe even then. It’s as good as any of it’s influences, referenced by name (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Les Rallizes Dénudés) or otherwise embedded.

Give them your krona at an exchange rate paypal finds agreeable.

TRACK | Casey Wells – Archive

5/5 golden merles

Songs can suffer from overworking and mismanagement of resources. This is the opposite of that. There’s so much subtle detailing throughout outfitted to the 63 second run time that it probably punches at least 64lbs above its weight. Welterweights beware.

The cultural conditioning around genres (that I also am awash and dissolving within) here is present but the attention to the construction is orchestral and there is a rich/great breadth to the soundscape.

I am am a sucker for a bit of texture and field recording phasing in to the pop-core, and after revolving about the track, which helps to ground it in a place and time, and provides a context to err out of or embrace. but either way a nice stage to move on.

TRACK | Sweeping Promises – Hunger for a Way Out

5/5 golden merles

Ear worms are good for you, they eat out the wax on the way to your brain. What happens after is lost to us, all records vanish mysteriously after this phase. But I think it is likely good.

This thing is so well crafted it appears genetically modified by big pharma for the purposes of profit, no regard given to the side effects we’ve come to expect from any form of progress.

But also it is just extremely good pop-rock music: guitars tuned and struck properly, synths decoratively detailing the expanse. There’s not much slack in it. And that which is present is properly and quickly used to reel you back in.

TRACK | Smirk – Mind Temp

5/5 golden merles

I’m 5 or so EPs behind on Smirk’s oeuvre and it’s unfortunate. Mind Temp was on the prior mix and Cassette II is on the year-end list for 2020.

All the fundamentals of tone, texture, melody and structure are in place. And it’s a great relief to me having listened to much that has no sense of itself, much that has no regard for arrangement and harmony, much that does not capture a feeling, much that contains neither compelling doom-saying nor derring-do. Whereas this does.

It’s some Lo-Fi guitar pop, good and good for you. Do as I say, not as I do and go listen to the rest of the assembled tunes as well.

TRACK | KIEFF – Whatever

5/5 golden merles

These KIEFF demos come to us via the fine folks Smikkelbaard. Now would be the perfect time to post a link to KIEFF’s cover of Last Christmas. But I don’t want to. Do they know it’s Christmas? Who cares.

Whatever is recorded and mixed to a near perfect state of presentation. The bass line and guitar lead take the fractal structures of a few art deco struts and builds them into a verifiable sanctuary of a shack.

It is subtle, humble and better than it has any right to be, better than we could ever deserve. You can check shelter off the hierarchy of needs, the manger will suffice.

TRACK | Privacy Issues – Hold My Breath

5/5 golden merles

Privacy Issues’ self titled is some of the lo-est fi-est EP to come out of 2020, which is still relevant to us thanks to the nature of time progressing forward and rarely if ever backward, despite the desires of the regressive.

The guitar hooks interplay with that circular writing structure, everything guided by the minimal drumming, and all of this works alongside the very high quality vocal melodies.

It seems simple, but it isn’t. Or it is, but in the way that a diamond is simple: freely forming, found in dirt, but honed over millennia.

I bought the tape and I have no tape player. But someday maybe I will? Probably one can still be purchased from the goodwill for a few dollars and then fixed for a few dollars more.

TRACK | Death Lens – Witching Hour

5/5 golden merles

It is difficult to keep the bile intact as it populates the mold, all to be bound and set, maneuvering within the pop structure.

If you like The Cramps Psychedelic Jungle but despise this, I would wager that the nostalgia has rotted your brain.

Or you’re partial to The Stooges’ Funhouse but don’t see any redeeming qualities in what Death Lens are retching up here, well then something is off, and future assessment are brought into question. In my estimation your pure perceiver may be found untrue and needs calibration.

TRACK | Hair Peace – Summertime

5/5 golden merles

In the bleak mid-winter, let’s dwell on sunnier times discussed and celebrated in Hair Peace’s Summertime, as featured on their 2014 Summer EP. It has a melody like radioactive molasses. It compels you to have faith in the youths. It reminds you that verses and choruses can coexist in peace, hair peace.

That I am the only individual who has purchased this item (from the Bandcamp page, at least), is a kind of crime against humanity. Some CDs were apparently available at Bloomington, IN’s, wonderful Landlocked music, where I spent a good deal of student loan money at their various locations one hundred years ago.

It was Schopenhauer who said “Man can do what he wants but not want what he wants.” OK, But you should want this EP. It’s good. Contract it today.