TRACK | Jason Hill – They Like Me, They Love Me

5/5 golden merles

Experimental LA pop rock from Jason Hill, “They Like Me, They Love Me” is a dreamy and delicately disoriented tune. Lyrically ponderous, an obsessive narrative yarn is delivered concerning personal presentation and the series stories that ultimately construct the self. The tale is told over some faded percussive gears and accented with a richly detailed accompaniment that allows the 4:45 runtime to feel positively tight. There’s a lot of pretty shimmer coinciding with the dreary divulging, everything broken up in an intriguing elaboration.

The tune has rightly captured the feel of an interrogation, including the competing of illusions and a progressively faltering devotion to a lie. A cello punctuates the middle movements as the rhythm guitar sways across the soundscape, dancing by itself on the periphery. Vocal layers clamber along the octaves, corroborating in the chorus half the time, probably contradicting elsewhere. All of that lumbers harmoniously along, graceful enough to warrant further study.

There’s a great warm wrath to it, derived from fermented fog and bottled in. The track was featured in Netflix’s The Confession Killer and written from the perspective of Henry Lee Lucas, “once suspected to be the biggest serial killer of all time but was really just a serial liar.” It stands up on its own, the wilted and creaking confessional, but you get the feeling there’s further illumination in the coupling of these spectacles. What’s the harm in hearing what they have to say?

TRACK | Smirk – Minuscule Amounts

5/5 golden merles

Some of the finest lo-fi punk you can gather in your basket, recently brought back to my attention by the Tr0tsky’s mixcloud show, “Pretend You Like It.” Criminally, I didn’t write on it yet, only mentioning one from the prior pile. Smirk’s 2021 EP has cornered the market on collapsible hooks, retracting into the deep fried tones, only to be strategically released upon closer inspection. It bites back.

An analgesic itself, the staggered overlap of the chorus and the tones & textures on these guitars make most other production look like a pile of puke. I shudder for those who can’t hear the nuance in the noise, this one is calibrated. Some field/sample elaborations round out this alternate dimension in which everything can be found in its right place.

Supporting music video is gorgeous and crafted with a commensurate amount of care to parallel the track itself. Digital for the cost of naming your own price. Or the vinyl is on a second pressing through Portland’s Total Punk Records.

TRACK | Goon – Angelnumber 1210

5/5 golden merles

Los Angeles’ Goon has delivered to us more hypnotically drifting, catastrophe cooing psych rock. The band is in a unique place, confidently contorting melodies and multifaceted textures around otherworldly tales. There’s much care and craft to its interlocking layers and marbled phasing.

From the first moments of the field recordings discordant rumble, then the turning into a steady spine of percussion, it carries itself forward into being with great assurance. The piece feels sculptural and fills the audible void by pushing in many directions. There’s plenty of subtle sequences and attention to detail, each caringly extracted from the aether and melded into the elaborated structure.

The language is casually cryptic or explicitly ambiguous: environmental, a gathering, on earth, belated or in dream. The point is the feeling and the sense of collaborating within a stunning phenomenon and in a world of possibility.

The vinyl is delayed a few months from shipping due to manufacturing shortages but there are digital, tapes, and assorted articles of clothing if you would like to affiliate your physical body with their audible output, all coordinated at the bandcamp.

TRACK | Cobra Man – Living in Hell

5/5 golden merles

“Living in Hell” is synth pop / electro-punk with a great sense of fantastical demiurge. It’s anthemic and apocalyptical, with a chorus that must redeem any perceived trespasses or misgivings punk purists might have about the synthesis of style. They’re expertly balancing a heightened humor and horror around two premier vocal performances, joyfully heralding our ongoing collapse.

In the dark times will there also be power disco? Can directly 80’s influenced music become self-aware and not have this result in the destruction of the world? Who cares. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a good mix of disco feinting at egg punk/devocore and all as a means to an end, all in the service of melody and evocation. Initially I was a bit put-off by the grandiosity and refinement. But it’s just too damn good. It rises to include those heightened elements while maintaining a palpable sense of impending dread that best embodies the cultural moment.

Spiritually a bit akin to recent p&p favorites LAFFF BOX, Cupid And The Stupids, –or any of the yolkier punks. The new 2022 Demos III from July are real exciting as well.

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.

TRACK | Vivian Girls – I Heard You Say

5/5 golden merles

It is mercifully easy to be absorbed in the cascading vocal harmonies of “I Heard You Say.” Its many graceful hooks effectively converge with a sense of punk dread and foreboding. And there is some real force of these coalescing influences.

The instrumentation is quietly elaborate for the garage rock genre, sneaking, rattling and smashing in support. There is much smoldering grit to the production. Everything collapsing through the phases into its right place, nothing extraneous just perfectly balanced.

Between Vivian Girls/The Babies, Cassie Ramone is one of my favorite songwriters. 250 days into this project, it is difficult to believe that I haven’t yet featured either and this is the remedy to that. It’s an oversight.

TRACK | GZ Grant – Bonds of Love

5/5 golden merles

Whether it’s Rules of Love, Hands of Love, or Bonds of Love, GZ Grant’s new single is in good company examining loves hidden facets and exploring its less celebrated aspects. Full of much aura and ache, it is psych-pop rock which questions the many-splendored thing.

Direct and undiminished lyricism gets enveloped in lo-fi texture, its merits heightened in the haze, while outlining the catch or comeuppance tied to ever being known. The language is borderline eternal pop fare, both classic and slightly alien: terms, conditions, a stage to assuage or embrace your fears.

There’s a lot to admire in the additional experimental and ulterior elements: a lead guitar line that chokes on its own distorted tail, the idiosyncratic hurl and hum of the lead vocal delivery, and the crystal chalice of a synth to help drown the remnants.

There is also an immensely admirable music video accompanying the single offering a rich tapestry of symbols and fine cinematography, depicting well the double-edged sword of it all. Give it a look / What’s the worst that could happen? Sacrifice a few moments of your freedom, youth and fortune to find out.

ALBUM | Pangea – Living Dummy

5/5 golden merles

Together Pangea’s Living Dummy (2011) is a classic garage rock album. Though they’ve had many fine singles since then, for my tastes, nothing is quite as dense with ideas or as relentlessly resourceful with its inspiration.

Maybe there is something wrong with my brain that this album remains more or less evergreen in its spinning. The variance and hooks, its balance of bile and sentiment, add up to such a lovely document. Think of how much better off we’d all be if this was what passed for a more mainstream branch of pop-punk. It has inspired many, but you know what I mean: household/pop culture level of mind-meme infestation.

It sits with Dead Ghosts, The Cowboys, and The Babies, in my memory of the era which is only (somehow, I don’t know) fairly recently being pulled apart from the present. One of my sister’s earlier memories is my mother pulling off to the side of the road to weep after The Eagles were played on the classic rock radio station. Luckily, I don’t own a car. So there will be no further self reflection on mortality and impending death.

On Living Dummy there is great value in the band’s pushing and perverting of garage rock with idiosyncrasy and heart, infusing life into the curdled maxims and anachronisms of person-with-guitar rock. As F. Scott F. put it, “It takes a genius to whine appealingly.” And that is essentially what is happening here.

Pangea are currently on tour with two California dates remaining at the Observatory and the Regent theater, then they’re off to Europe for a few months. The record is $7 digitally on bandcamp. Or you can stream it elsewhere, I assume, for $0.0014 per play, as rendered accessible by your favored cartel of thugs’ server farm.

TRACK | The Lentils – some people sure can leave a mark

5/5 golden merles

I am a fan of The Lentils and think Luke Csehak is one of the best songwriters working in the cesspool of innovation that is our common era. “Some people sure can leave a mark” is a track of great ambivalence, ruminating and rejoicing in the navigation of interpersonal alternate timelines, and of acceptance for the one we find ourselves enduring.

I would settle for being kind to myself / and just once deny the idol of my regrets

The track balances the interlocking plucking and melodic spirals well with the focused yet expansive subject matter. And the depths of the topic are sufficiently plumbed: the outsized influences of some brief instances and acquaintances, influential hinge points of inflection at which dramatic alternate directions might have been taken. There’s extensive scrutiny in the musings and the introspection is finely honed.

TRACK | Filthy Huns – Fake Ass Muthas

5/5 golden merles

In quick summation: From LA, released on the indomitable Not Not Fun, two albums removed from the common era.

“Fake Ass Muthas” is likely the first and last eight and a half minute track posted to this platform, so don’t get any ideas you epic/jam band freaks. But also take note, this is how you collapse time into a malleable unit.

Wonderous and empirically strange, the pacing and texture of this instance is something to hold up as an idol. Some kind of masterclass (…if that phrasing wasn’t recently besmirched by capital). But that isn’t without its risk. Just because it can be admired doesn’t mean it can be replicated or the right lessons learned or applied.

How does the orbit not collapse or dull around that digi drum over the prolonged runtime? How is anything ever in a stable state or find a form of homeostasis? It is an adaptive system which draws on ample resources and manages to remain inventive despite the glut.

The track always manages to tire of itself moments before the listener might and appropriately reinvent or contort the structure. One melody is relieved of duty and a well-textured instrument is replaced by a complimentary but stark alternate. Sounds simple. Isn’t.