TRACK | Nick Normal – Rocket To Russia (Saved My Life)

5/5 golden merles

Dense and quietly devastating garage pop from Portland, Nick Normal’s “Rocket To Russia (Saved My Life)” opens with a David Lynch cameo and proceeds to bludgeon you with an inventive dredging of the interpersonal.

Lie to yourself / But please don’t ever lie to me

There’s a lot of rich, orthogonal storytelling put to work compiling an era, moving with assurance through the sequential reminiscences. Parsing the pastiche, it covers more ground than seems intuitively possible. The zonal telling is clobbered by some masterfully metered lo-fi tones.

TRACK | thanks for coming – losing touch (nyc)

5/5 golden merles

Direct and daunting in its indexes, “losing touch (nyc)” is a track about friends idly assuming divergent trajectories and how relationships either require continual maintenance or they stagnate, starve, or dissolve into thin air. It is a great conversational pop song about a lack of communication.

I wasn’t sure whether to feature the demo variation or the latter above with its assured layers of instrumentation, usually favoring the former for its sincerity and getting a bit closer to the moment the track takes shape. But nothing seems lost in the interim, and, alternatively in the latter, some phrasing is refined and the bass glows underneath.

There is an inspired octave shift that hones the verse and particularly the chorus hook. The modular orbit of the verse-chorus-verse syncs up solidly. It’s a heartrending and elegant track; it’s great.

TRACK | Milk Music – Twists & Turns & Headtrips

5/5 golden merles

Heartfelt and hanging on the knife-edge at all times, there is a fervor to the making that feels borderline heretical in “Twists & Turns & Headtrips.”

Much heart piercing sentiment and enough texture to make it seem real, this time. Formidable and fleeting passages that balance the content and form, momentum with purpose in contrast to so much other sound and fury lashing into the void.

The old world is dying, the new world struggles to be born, and the response to any social strife or environmental collapse is a further militarization of the police.

I was torn on a track to feature, mostly between “Headtrips” and subsequent song, “Who’s been in my dreams?” They’d sell the skin off your face / if the money was right / who’s been in my dream? With the tones and manic right-of-way approaching the likes of Television, The Violent Femmes, and The Cramps. If these are things you have and will again appreciate: go, conspire.

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 | 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 | 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 | Gorgeous Bully – I Can See

5/5 golden merles

“I Can See” is more fine fuzz-pop/shoegaze from Manchester’s Gorgeous Bully. Acting as the opener from 2017’s Great Blue, the track is a thermal buzz indented by a tale of self-imposed exile and exodus.

With much molt and murmur to it, it’s a mid-tempo sea of rich lo-fi texture and tone. If you are acclimated to the nuance in the noise, there’s a lot of good to be found in that hum of driving bass among the incisions of vacillating electric lead guitar and faded confessions.

Casettes are sold out from the esteemed Z Tapes but infinitely unlimited and agreeably intangible digital forms can still be got.

TRACK | Keel Her – Deadly Nightshade

5/5 golden merles

Keeler-Schaffeler makes often lo-fi, always a bit experimental rock and keyboard pop music. Keel Her’s tracks are dreamlike, gauzy forces and a recurring presence on mixes I’ve slung at friends over the last decade.

Previously I’d intended to feature the “Almost Finished (My Life)” demo variant but it had vanished from the readily linkable archives. Nevertheless, there is much other good in the prolific demo-ing and reimagining at the project’s bandcamp.

The “Deadly Nightshade” version listed above is again the demo or at least earlier, nascent form of the track. The track is composed of a grainy recitation of instruction over hazy layers of synth and folded tones, much luster, much refracting, and what seems an approximation of an ambulance. There exists another variation on a later album which is also strong, and which ads a bit of coherency to the vocalizations.

TRACK | Glittering Prizes – GP

5/5 golden merles

This Glittering Prizes blazing self-titled EP was created by Kevin Bell & Allie Torrance of Hamilton, Ontario. It reaches out to us from the good old days of two thousand and seventeen CE, an extremely negligible distinction along a geological timescale.

The EP is composed of a very fine set of highly undervalued, rampant lo-fi pop tunes.

My favorite track of the set is the opener “GP,” a sort of stereophonic blend of shimmering rhythm guitars, magnetic synths, and gently obscured vocalization.

The track is sacred, sharp and sinuous. You can purchase it here and somewhere in the region of 85% of that revenue will go to the artists. Or at the very least it will be sent to a PayPal address they may not have checked in awhile.