TRACK | The Rebel – I Found You Amongst the Roses

5/5 golden merles

I Found You Amongst The Roses is, wonderfully, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The traditional folk form, bounding, plodding forward, with the simple electronic drum pattern, and the calming melody: it is all cover for what is coming.

The usual line and truism about a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down is applicable. There is here a valuable expanding of what is agreeable within the window of initial expectations.

When the Prince lyrics enter, the subtle warping becomes stark. The track deconstructs itself, the tempo distends, ultimately ending in field recordings and samples that bring further context to the unease.

But it all works so well that those drawn in through tradition leave with a greater appreciation for experimentation, their conceptions of ‘good’ ever so slightly extended. And that is a valuable endeavor.

TRACK | Protomartyr – How He Lived After He Died

5/5 golden merles

With “How He Lived After He Died” we have another finely tuned and balanced appreciation for content and form. Protomartyr have done it enough that at this point it does not appear to be a mistake. There’s clearly premeditation.

The ironically named All passion no technique is yet another (and the original) entry in which Protomartyr manages to properly render human expression in a compelling and expert manner.

“How He Lived After He Died” is another rendition that does justice to their own source material, a debt that always seems to perpetually reemerge with each rendering.

Apparently 21 songs were recorded in four hours and this was one of them. A fact that is at least as frustrating as it is impressive.

Being the 10th track of 17 feels buried, but in a good way. That is a confident placement for something this great.

TRACK | Pristine Hyur – Somebody Saves Us

5/5 golden merles

It is fairly difficult for me to be grabbed by the pure instrumental outside of an album stretch in which it acts sometimes as intermediary or accent between more explicit entries. I am suspicious of pure abstraction, of where it might otherwise be welcomed.

But here is a good example of the exception.

Many great tones are featured in their own right, elaborately worked and accented with field recorded pulsations that approximate speech but never fully realize it. Phases and segments seamlessly transition. It has a masterful pacing and craft.

There must be a coming together of such coherence that the style/form is so rich in detail and metering it becomes the substance itself. If that sounds damning with faint praise then I am not properly conveying the rarity of it.

I have a great appreciation for language. For me, a good line goes a long way. To remove this attribute altogether from a piece of music puts the work at a disadvantage. It’s not insurmountable but it is nonetheless appreciated with less frequency.

There is a great quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer about “Comforting the troubled and troubling the comfortable,” and, well, this becomes more difficult when dealing in abstraction. But I think that it also may very well apply here and that is no small feat.

TRACK | Lomma – T. Hanks

5/5 golden merles

Tube amp and tremolo powered revenge anthem that it is, “T. Hanks” is a lot of fun. If you’d like some reference points that are fundamentally inaccurate but broadly reasonable in comparison, there is a bit of Ty Segall, The Fresh and Onlys, and Kasabian in there. It is driving, garage-y surf-pop.

It’s a good track for when everything is falling apart and forfeit and no effort adds up. It is a bit of commiseration in a miserable era. And in its buoyant forms and affable uttering, does a good job of making this all seem more or less fine while proclaiming the opposite.

And while we know from… life that the squeaky wheel more likely gets executed at dawn, locked in an Ecuadorian embassy, or exiled to Russia, there remains inherent value in the logging of the complaint.

So what if the world is an unforgiving and hellish place and that every ounce of good is drained out in a vice, cut with chemicals, and then sold back to you at 10x the cost? We can still refine our critiques to be appealing and catchy. There’s some good resilience here in this track and in the lessons it provides.

[Something I didn’t notice until after selecting the track but may have been subconsciously seen: our projects were featured on bandcamp daily on the same entry a week back. That doesn’t need to be disclosed I just wanted to brag a little and am glad to be associated further in this linkage.]

TRACK | Dick Diver – Calendar Days

5/5 golden merles

In Calendar Days, jangly guitars usher the waves of overlapping melodies in the most politely unrelenting pop.

There is here a great raiding with reluctance. Somehow it is all done productively, without mercy, and within the interlocking melodies.

The narration seems almost to take place from an out of body experience, or at least some interval removed from the recollected proceedings.

The tone feels detached and emotionally well processed. The events are still close enough to recount in detail, but there has been a coming to terms.

It is hard to imagine more potent nostalghia outside of Tarkovsky pulling you by the lapels through the mirror. What a fine tribute to an era and stretch of consciousness.

TRACK | Wednesday – Cody’s Only

5/5 golden merles

Twin Plagues is an album I need to spend some more time with but it has already found a way onto the year-end 2021 list. Cody’s Only is a track that has easily & immediately caught me on it’s hooks.

Cody’s Only is indie rock/post-fi at it’s best: emotive in a manner that erupts without unremitting destruction, storytelling that allows for lessons to be learned.

One of the greatest qualities of the creative act is that it has the capacity to redeem all preceding experience and eventualities through the fabrication of something deemed good. I love the Tom Waits quote, “Everything you absorb, you secrete,” and believe it to be true.

I cannot figure out what I meant / by living all those ways I did

For me, when it is done well, in song or whatever medium, all preceding acts or events become an aggregated catalyst, good and bad, but contorted now to good. It is now reimagined into an artifact, or a testament, in an elaborate repurposing of existence.

Maybe we don’t deserve these kindnesses, but they are patiently scripted by Wednesday here. Forged of fragments, lyrically rich in both the processing and recollecting. And it is a very compelling grafting.

TRACK | Real Numbers – Only Two Can Play

5/5 golden merles

Find a way / to get away

With a tambourine of broken glass and a guitar hook like a beacon of light, we are graciously called to appreciate this post-punk pop tune. Reverb, cooing backing vocals, a moderately dread-filled recollection: nothing not to like.

Master rang / be back today
Busy yourself or be put on the shelf

There is a kind of artificial simplicity and directness involved in the testament, casual in its conveyances.

But it playfully strikes at the core of ones existence with its fidelity to the archival fermenting, the building and/or glacial erosion of the heart.

It is a catalog of the repetitions as opposed to the punctuations and the extremities, those are the aberrations. Logged here are the days in between that more accurately represent the whole.

TRACK | The Bird Calls – Never Better

5/5 golden merles

I found The Bird Calls on Various Small Flames’ lengthy and worthwhile 2021 Year-End “Songs We Missed” list. ‘ But, in snooping through that great gauntlet of articulation, I have taken to feature a different track off this very good album infernal harvest, “Never Better” (The album now also features on our gently belated best-of 2021 list).

Never Better is replete with quality lines that are themselves adorned in well-suited and gentle instrumentation.

To be direct, qualitatively it’s on par with Joyner, Smith, and Alex G. And methodically it operates in a somewhat similar manner, it’s storytelling coming as an elaboration upon punctuations of individual engagements, the accumulated sequence of a life shared, with keenly articulate larger philosophical assessments intermittently assigned.

Search lights dissolving from the sea to the shore / This is what I’ve been preparing you for / I was never any better

There are some tremendous turns of phrase within the lyrical construction of this track. A sound melody and a compellingly direct lo-if performance make it very much worthy of your attention.