TRACK | Crime of Passing – Vision Talk

5/5 golden merles

Geographically in the world as it has been mapped, Crime of Passing are from Ohio. In the empire of aesthetic this s/t album sits near the capital, wherever that happens to metaphorically lie… probably not far from John Carpenter’s prison island version of Manhattan.

Right out the gate there is apparent enough texture and melody to be a strong contender for the year-end lists.
“Tender Fixation” is the lead single and a great, hounding track. But “Vision Talk” is the easiest revolver for me. If you gave me a hundred years I couldn’t make a single track with this much clarity that is simultaneously as dense and textured.

The tome includes plenty of chrome plated and finely calibrated tracks. Post-punk often loses its edge and some of it’s precision in the prolonged mire of continuing to act despite an acknowledged futility for doing so. But Crime of Passing takes those tones/aesthetic and shocks them back to life, keeping the complexity of the characteristics and sense of impending doom but also maintaining a bit of fire lit underneath it.

Both phasing and finely focused, it regularly, impossibly, rides the line between both decimated and decipherable.

TRACK | The Shifters – A Believer

5/5 golden merles

“A Believer” is a bit more Australian garage rock excellence from Melbourne’s The Shifters. Gradual and gracious tones that creep about the periphery, blossoming and cleaving to the meditative frame. Soldered together with synths, an incise track largely devoid of excess.

You can forsake all your earthly possessions and embrace the void with a nice, transferrable digital purchase that still benefits the band in some miniscule but not immeasurable capacity. And it includes a 21 minute live set as well in addition to the original couplet. The second-hand market has the wax disk for about $50 big ones.

TRACK | The Mystery Lights – What Happens When You Turn The Devil Down

5/5 golden merles

Ambition and rock music are not two things that readily go hand in hand. If they do, it is usually in a gruesome and unnerving manner. If they do it is in a way that gets diverted into purely worshipping form and/or disgusting commercialization.

When it goes wrong in the direction of marketability, you get the generic. When it goes wrong in relation to form, it ends up as math-rock’s hounding idiosyncrasy, which often gets lost in the pattern of its own making, as ornamentation for the sake of overelaboration, and makes a game of the grandiose at the expense of all else.

Surely that can somehow highlight the humanity underneath the approximation of machinery, directing perception toward the margins. But what a lot of faffing about to get to something you can just render directly.

The Mystery Light’s have a different kind of ambition. They’re convinced of their own sensibilities, and when they manifest it is like steel folded over toward a purest form of redundancy. They find a way to pay homage and derive creative works from the primordial soup of classic garage rock somehow without that long simmering bile becoming stale.

There is invention and resourcefulness. There is a craft and creativity to the process so far removed from the infinite covers and karaoke repetitions within the genre. Yet, in an era paranoid of feeling and fueled on derivations, it is easy to see them confused for reenactors. That would be a mistake.

TRACK | Jessica Lea Mayfield – Standing in the Sun

5/5 golden merles

I am occasionally susceptible to bouts of optimism. They afflict even the best of us from time to time. And within these moments I am vulnerable to the influence of works of art that seem to represent this rosier outlook… at least as long as the craft rises to meet the exposition and there is an undercurrent of tenable fallibility or impending collapse.

I would like to see you live / not survive but really live

My first exposure to this excellent album/track was during Mayfield’s 2014 Tiny Desk Concert. Brutal and succinct turns of phrases glide over the accomplished melodic core. Slight alterations or additions keep pace with and expand out from the traditional foundation. There are more than a few layers, the combined attributes of which are getting at something.

“Not survive but really live,” it bears repeating. What a sentiment and phrasing perfectly fit for modern America, in which the living reproach of daily life dehumanizes and deprives of dignity so thoroughly, framing every proposed alternative as by default worthy of consideration.

It almost begins to break you from that spell itself, and starts to expand the realm of the possible. To utter it, at least, is the first step. Both a positive gesture and an act to set us on the path of the gauntlet ahead.

The song embodies the personal struggle within the systemic. Our institutions mirror our infrastructure. At a certain point you stop rebuilding the same flawed, failed blueprints from the same rubble, take what components you can use, and attempt to build something better.

TRACK | The Cowboys – After Sunset

5/5 golden merles

Bloomington Indiana’s masters of tone were on their A game for this one. “After Sunset” is a cultured rumination on the merits of the night, its highs (the moon) and lows (everything else).

There are many convincing details in these numerous doubts, many cleanly laid out facts that act as foundation for the anecdote: …lawn darts, losing one’s self, the casual alienation. It feels like any given evening. And it has plenty of nuance that humanize the narrator and almost makes you believe it was written by a person, a rounded character, bounding about the same damned earth that you inhabit.

I am made of fire today / and I’m trying to think of things to say to you / after sunset

For me, volume 3 and 4 were the sweet spot for these refined midwestern ghouls. But there are many years to come, probably, and perhaps the dreary flagging of their early efforts will return when the polish of clons/flowers wears, burns, or melts off a bit, whatever the case may be.

I haven’t listened to Lovers in Marble yet. I’m too far behind. If everyone could just agree on a truce for 4-5 years, a nice détente, I’ll catch up on these releases.

TRACK | Datenight – Gone Tomorrow

5/5 golden merles

In the muck and bile of all that is, distractions can be a primary preoccupation for a preponderance of your existence. Good news then that Datenight is here to remind you, in stunning fashion, to just let it go.

Clearly recorded live / in the room, whichever one was available in Ben’s parent’s house, there’s much resonant synchronized thrashing and the band is tight. These coordinated exertions in the service of noise are criminally underrated. And I have not even yet arrived at their 2020 release, Is This Also It.

You fools, you feckless thugs, you can still purchase the thing off of Discogs, gently used for about $13 USD, assuming you live near enough to these superficially united states. When I get some more pennies in the piggy bank, I’ll do it myself. That is, however, a second hand purchase and doesn’t benefit the band. Buy the digital version that does.

TRACK | Dusty Mush – Faux Sabotage

5/5 golden merles

“Faux Sabotage” is a collapsing edifice of a track. Only the barest ingredients and essence remain. Whatever came before has been ground down into a few remaining functional base components. The song is approximately 93 seconds of rooting about the rich tones of rubble.

If the tones can be this rich, I apparently can be temporarily endeared to the greater abstraction. There is a point at which style can overcome most minimal thresholds for substance, if it has at least some posturing towards coherency for a few lines, found here toward the meridian, and the track ultimately does not overstay its welcome.

There was a very limited run of lathe cut Pizza Dischi physical forms. Apparently etched on CDs using machines from the 50’s, these are then played on a turntable with individually unique lo-fi buzz. No one at the moment wants to exchange them for monetary reward at Discogs. But the digital form is well worth your converting into Euro for our French friends in Melun.

TRACK | Hand Habits – Flower Glass

5/5 golden merles

“Flower Glass” is a work of not insignificant insight. The reliable and relatable lines pour out of the track, with inventive pacing and distinction, at the normal wartime speed of something under 20 kilometers an hour.

My first exposure to the album was walking into an ACLU/Planned Parenthood benefit mid-way through Hand Habit’s opening set, the crowd rapt in silence, as this track was played. Lots of good was seen that night from Van Etten, Beirut, Rossen, Morby, et al. But with distinction that moment is set apart in the gray matter.

Apparently there is a great breadth of material that has been written and recorded since this time. I have to catch up on Hand Habits releases from Sub Pop, Saddle Creek and a collaborative album featuring Angel Olsen composed of variations on the track “wildfire,” and donating the proceeds to the Amazon Conservation Association. There’s a lot I have missed and I am so far behind.

TRACK | Peace De Résistance – Boston Dynamics

5/5 golden merles

Bits and Pieces is one of the best albums I’ve run into in a few months. There’s a good amount of majesty present in the makeup, marbled and purring in its forms. It is unfortunately unusual to see melody and lyric pushing one another forward with such driven conviction.

Rarely is such rich and dripping style as intricately tangled in such an explicit text. Generally the songwriter starts with one and gestures toward the other: the melody takes primacy or the lyrical contents do instead. But once one is established, some small concessions are made toward the other, coherence and style ending up in an uneasy truce for the sake of the song.

But throughout this superb Peace De Résistance album, melody and message are either manifested simultaneously into the world fully formed or have been spliced apart repeatedly and rearranged back together in a kind of exquisite corpse of composition, obstructing any easy tracing of the lineage. However it happens, the delivery and production combine for the tracks to feel like an organic force of nature, the collusion obscuring the craft and leaving only an elemental entity to admire.

There is little room for misinterpretation, the many thesis have been clearly nailed. There is much disillusionment and a great detailing of the current external perfidies. We are entering an era of ideologies after a prolonged period of holy-admiration for markets. And in this moment it is refreshing to see such disgust for false impressions appear alongside a great appreciation for style and texture, alchemic and melded.

TRACK | Amy and the Angels – I Hate Being in Love

5/5 golden merles

Amy and the Angels’ “I Hate Being in Love” is essential 80s Punk/Avant/Art rock, recently reissued as part of a 2018 complication on Edmoon records.

A personal account of the trials and travails of the intimate sort, the lo-fi DIY aesthetic captures all the energy without any of the alienation which would be afforded by more gloss and polish. Excised from all of the studio-based hallmarks of the era, it sounds like a track of timeless garage perfection.

The immediacy and rawness of the accumulated individual details are built into highly captivating melodic phrasing. The melody always curves off at complimentary but orthogonal angles, elevating the construction of a surprisingly elaborate structure.

There is always one more twist or additional variance to raise the stakes: the additional rhythm guitar pushing the chorus, the backing vocals adorning the final outro refrain, the intermittent accents of cries/groans to express the ineffable objections. Across the relatively brief runtime expectations are regularly subverted and it is enriching. There’s just so much great craft to this thing.