TRACK | The Woolen Men – Head On The Ground

5/5 golden merles

The Woolen Men are Portland-based Oregonians who remind us that pop + punk need not be anything kitsch, that one can take some of the redeeming qualities of either and make a tremendous, infectious thing. Venerable and vacillating, the stakes are kept high, the form is relished, and it only seems intent on inflicting a moderate amount of damage.

The sirens of the synth gild everything, disintegrating it, opening the lane elegantly for when we’re cut back to bass and drum alone. And then the pronouncement: i hit a wall / but it wasn’t hard at all. It’s a convincing consultation or induction to the rumination, unadorned but substantive; blunt but never dull, a great and graceful cudgel.

Why do these two genres, pop and punk, so often combine to such supremely reprehensible results? Possibly, it’s the noxious hypocrisy of their purported intentions: one includes the implicit ideology of rebellion and the other has a cloyingly myopic fixation on the interpersonal or at-best abstraction. Not here, however. There’s a balance struck. An assembly of influences filtered through a prism of good intentions. It all comes across as earnest, a frank and alluring synthesis.

The vinyl is $10 from Woodsist.

TRACK | That Ghost – Moon And The Almighty

5/5 golden merles

Previously I’ve written on Ryan Thomas Schmale melancholic and gorgeous work under Myers Rooney, I Hope It Is Only a Room. “Moon And The Almighty” is an earlier, coarser garage rock track. It was provided to a defunct compilations project made by a defunct label that was funding largely defunct DIY venues.

A marching eulogy of a track, it burns and it is glowing. The vocals and instrumentation collude in a fine mist of metallic static. The unraveling is a spectacle, with vocalizations cruising along it’s descent, Death is coming / To take me soon. Transitioning, the passage moves to favoring yowling at the point of disintegration, embers still alight.

In contrast to the Myers Rooney To Bleed album, this conveys Schmale’s great range of evocation; there a drifting and gilding the expanse, here a measured writhing and smiting. A strong working songwriter that deserves a bit of your support if you are able.

There’s a new 2022 split with mr submissive also to check out.


5/5 golden merles

The introduction and embrace of imperfections in the recording mirrors the chaos in our midst, the ever-present unknown. And this represents cumulatively less kitsch than if it were refined or faithfully and tediously extracted.

This inclusion or allowance of these attributes is a means of conveying that discordance (via distortion, in echo, etc, however reverberating), it approximates these symbolic and the metaphorical misgivings. It is the appropriate representation of factoring in uncertainty into your model, of both your collected perceptions and their conveying through representation in auditory art. And with this admission present upfront —the prospect of erring around the margins, the looming suspicions, the muck and mire— the intention of the work becomes more honest and true, its testaments more convincing.

“Bloody” is a marginally mangled lo-fi clinic on how melody can successfully conspire with tempo under these carefully crafted circumstances. The oscillations swing between movements, flagging and then forceful, hesitant and emboldened. The doubt grounds the professing in a world that resembles our own.

It stands in contrast to corporate refinement. That which has the power and engine to polish style down to bone and yet with all its menacing, perfected honing comes away saying nothing at all. Maybe, largely, because if it had anything of value to add it would promptly undermine the unjust hierarchies that lead to its ascendance?

I don’t know. I like this song, I think it’s fun and has good style. Now people can easily approximate either interpretation in their bedroom — the bile and barrage of the single mic garage or recordings from a pristine sound-proofed void— for now wrapped in the symbols of the past, sand always shifting beneath us. These things won’t mean the same thing to people later. But it is made by people from relatively now and for people from relatively now and in my present subjective opinion it is very good.

TRACK | Dead Ghosts – Summer with Phil

5/5 golden merles

One of my favorite garage-surf records, Can’t Get No has a wealth of hooks and much nuanced noise in the murkiest depths of it’s of lo-fi production.

What stands out most is the labor involved in honing these complimentary tones and the stunning results from this joy of invention.

“Summer with Phil” is quietly ornate, teasing out melodies, amorphously coagulating and decaying. The passages are faithfully and formatively statured throughout, with consistency rising from the formidable 2010 s/t.

I have not spent enough time with 2020’s Automatic Changer, but will rectify this in the near-term. Can’t Get No has a few colored vinyl on the second hand market.

TRACK | Son Bou – Hundí Mis Labios En Los Suyos

5/5 golden merles

Son Bou’s 2013 self-titled EP is blazing indie punk from Barcelona, built of or on a small fire. In either case, they’re tuning to the flame. It holds the finest lo-fi hymnals and tempo shifts, the melodies keenly cut reliably across the set.

The lyrics for the selected track translated bluntly into English are about love, its cultural expectations and preferred collaborators. The arrangement is divinely shifting, hammering together a few fine forms that turn seamlessly along the axis. The velocity changes keep fresh and the variance between verses and are appended by a bridge of textural vocalizations. It is an excellent repeater.

The EP can be ordered from Barcelona for €6 or more + shipping from Hao!Discos. Alternatively Discogs has the 7″ for some very reasonable fees on a few that have made it to the US. Otherwise an absurdly reasonable Euro for the digital issue.

TRACK | Reading Rainbow – Stand Back and Take a Good Look (The Nerves)

5/5 golden merles

Off the superb Volar Records 2013 comp Under the Covers Vol. 2: A Tribute to Paul Collins, Peter Case, and Jack Lee (of the Nerves), Reading Rainbow’s version of “Stand Back and Take a Good Look” is more than a cover, structurally reengineering the track to great result.

It is a minimalist but dynamic adaptation: rolling hills of reverb careening and overlapping the dual vocal melodies, reciting the refrain as command. A bit of the coarseness has been refined formalistically, but partially reintroduced in the richness of guitar tone. It is a fitting tribute and feels like the hooks have only been honed over the elapsed decades.

The opening track, Grass Widow’s “Why are You Walking Out on Love,” also stands out as another especially constructive modification. A gateway to some great songwriting/songwriters, available for $7 from Volar.

TRACK | The Whines – Take Care of Yourself

5/5 golden merles

From Portland and off The Whines/Burning Yellows split of 2013, “Take Care of Yourself” is a haze of poignant concerns, fretful hooks and rock conveyed in a state of half combustion.

The song contains the kind of nuance and knowing one throws at another only indirectly, say in a song, for example. It is full of fundamentals, calculated decay and proactive ambivalence; much nuance and much heart.

The beseeching or bereaved refrain is a hook itself, among many. Balanced and imploring, the track is a tined and canny document. We’ve all been hit with worse.

TRACK | The Numerators – Dead

5/5 golden merles

“Dead” is Psych-Surf circa 2013. With a loping start that builds into a veritable gallop, the essential elements of the genre are soon assembled into a, to mix the metaphors, well-earned avalanche. Why didn’t I just say stampede, hm? No.

A little hard to place in the homestead: maybe equal parts garage and bedroom. It features a bit of the grit and pulp of either.

Full of texture and heart in a way that resonates with my cultural conditioning, the track reverberates in the manner only matter can seem to muster. By which, to add to the confusion, I mean energy condensed to a relatively slow vibration. But, fortunately, its output is one within the audible range of our lowly species, the decline of which the song itself laments and celebrates in equal measure.

When it pours from the speakers there is a comforting nuance to the noise, the distinction a product of tens of thousands of hours you and I have spent consuming similar external stimuli. And within all that experience, narrowing and selecting, “Dead” is plotted within the very narrow percentage of what I arbitrarily consider to be Good. Credulously, gullibly, naïvely I take it to be an earnest testament. And if it isn’t, so what?