TRACK | Woolen Men – Why Do Parties Have to End?

5/5 golden merles

New materials from Portland’s Woolen Men is always a welcome sight, having previously written incoherently about “On Cowardice” and “Head on the Ground.” After the two year hiatus, they remain one of my favorite presently living outfits, with much reliable hook and clamber in these lo-fi rock pop tones and phrases, some sweetness and perennial dread.

The text originally by Napalm Beach and concerns the temporal, with particular respect to the indivisible nature of time and perception; that linear curse. We’re left behind or simultaneously continuing onward at differing trajectories from the absent/dead — however you want to look at it. The single’s a tribute to some departed friends. Parties and lives collapse of their own accord in the semi-planned obsolescence of existence, all perception seemingly tied to one orb spinning around another at particular, reliable orbits. The pacing of which, having always operated under these auspices, seems very important to us, and the rut of this rotation rules our lives.

Woolen Men always stretch beyond the generic spoils of melody and interpersonal indistinction, building tiny pocket universes. There’s wallowing, sure, but it’s articulated, idiosyncratic, worthy of peering at or visiting often. We are lucky to remain within the same timeline. It’s $1 for the digital track, the hope of more tracks to come is included at no cost.

TRACK | No Knuckle – HALO

5/5 golden merles

No Knuckle’s “HALO” is richly textured, guttural Oregonian rock n’ roll and proto-punk. The track is a record of loss and lament, processed with the much escalating style that warrants your attention. It is equal parts sharp, wrought and fraying over the four primary phases of amorphous hooks, all combining in elaborate invention.

The subject is an examination of the death and decline of those in your immediate periphery, of family, both lost and those left sharing in the loss. It is processing grief and making a difficult event into a beautiful record of the occurrence, an act that reconfigures its presence in your life. Our lives are made up of such moments: some recollected in fixation, while all the others obliviate, the artistry allowing for reframing.

The repetition of the chorus is earned, after digging into the details: your brothers wayward gaze, the apparent untethered presence of the recently departed. There’s a great weighting to the variations and their sequence before and after in the differing methods of narration. It is valuable to have this darkness told and healthier than the disassociation and derealization we mostly pass through these passages under the veil of. And, regardless of all that, it rocks. Digital’s $3, Vinyl is out now on LA’s Tomothy Records.

TRACK | Guitar – Double Down

5/5 golden merles

“Double Down” is freshly forged Portland-based lo-fi garage and post-punk. A slightly disoriented rendition of what you’ve come to expect: the atoms scrambled up, the collider coughing up something new. The work is recoiling from structure and form a bit and thereby moving closer toward tone and feeling. It feels singular despite the common pallet. It unravels for a couple minutes before snapping back into a likeness for what you might favor.

The album didn’t immediately burrow into my skull on the first pass when I saw it come up at the esteemed and endlessly reliable tegosluchamPL. But a second pass as the closing track on‘s recent Verspannungskassette #40 finally got it through the thickness and had me excitedly searching “guitar” in google like a jackass for a bit.

What should rock music sound like in a geriatric oligarchy? It’s a tool, as always, but one of escape or commiseration? In Guitar’s self-titled you can have a bit of both. From where I sit —fleeing one price gouging to another, within a gauntlet of diseases, no prospects or future— it feels like a good approximation: the sound of disillusionment compounding. There are plenty of bits where the melody and traditional structure is subverted, detuned and driven off the cliff or into a pit. And ringing truer because of it. And with plenty of cohabitant reference points for footing. And the work is overall stronger for it, ending with this, the most approachable track, “double down.” In a class of them it would be voted most likely to succeed, but, in god’s name, at what? It is the most at ease with expectations and a great tune, bigger within the context of a really good set.

The cassette is out on Spared Flesh Records.

TRACK | Mo Troper – I Fall Into Her Arms

5/5 golden merles

Mo Troper is returned with another fully fledged set of lo-fi power pop aches. The warp is strong and the warble can be counted on with lead single “I Fall Into Her Arms.” It plumbs the murky depths of the duality of love, wherein the dichotomy of finding true acceptance is considered: now i’m not afraid to die / now i wanna stay alive.

Flame and fuzz provide the context. Timelessly, the plasticine vocal core glides above the static and soft room ambiance, imparting to me, subjectively, as a different human, a feeling of ambivalence despite the explicit text affixed above. The track delivers on capturing that particular sort of hopefulness and queasiness, the kind that comes from ever really considering anything at length, weighing the opportunity costs of the leap, and committing to the bit of existence. But also ultimately coming down on the side of the earnest and heartfelt as the only proper guide amidst the chaos and malaise.

The full document drops into our laps on the 2nd day of September and Violet/Violet swirl versions of the vinyl exist with some fun perks on the Lame-O Records storefront.

TRACK | Woolen Men – On Cowardice

5/5 golden merles

Speaking of Portland-based tributes to storytellers, here is Woolen Men with one for the late great actor and writer Spalding Gray. There are many killer phrases exclaiming and examining within: even ten thousand hypocrites / is not an invincible army. A good sequence heaping and revising proverbs in a style befitting the man paid tribute.

The style is a deliberate weaving of bass and lead around the era, the tube amps inflecting the post-punk, active-punk and perpetual pop. In the fills and phases, there’s sensible problem solving and strong arrangements throughout, more metered and measured attention to detail from the Oregonians. It’s a careful blend of viscera and philosophizing with much empathy for the listener.

do you want to stay cool forever / or do you want to burn with love? / each choice has its punishments / each choice has its own reward.

$10 for the vinyl of Temporary Monument from Woodsist. I am so far behind, haven’t spent a minute with 2020’s Outta Reach or the other 2020 single’s club releases yet but looking forward to that period of time.

TRACK | The Taxpayers – As the Sun Beat Down

5/5 golden merles

“As the Sun Beat Down” is an immense opener and laudable origin story, “God, Forgive These Bastards” Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner (2012). Superb storytelling with Punk and experimental jazz elements, but beyond the genre, it has fury, fervor, and utter conviction.

A fierce tribute to a friend, embellished in ways that get at the broader truth underneath the reporting. A Plato to Henry’s Socrates, like every post-mortem project, it does emphasize to the outsider the importance of ensuring your own legacy while there is time. But, damn, if your influence works by other means, social and immediate, or whatever the case may be, you would be fortunate to find as impassioned and eloquent an acolyte. It’s a stunning set and exciting monument.

If you want the vinyl it’s like $100 bucks. Or a far more fiscally responsible $4 digital dollars in the format of your choosing.

TRACK | The Lavender Flu – Demons In The Dusk

5/5 golden merles

Experimental psych and folk rock from Oregon, The Lavender Flu’s “Demons in the Dusk” finds the lugubrious periphery of rock to be a haunting and inviting sector. And they offer great returns residing and mining this quarter comfortably immediately before collapse.

The album as a whole is consistently wailing and receding, working within its own internal logic that promptly consumes the listener. But “Demons In The Dusk” is probably the foremost hook, the crown jewel of a barb that easiest draws you in. It rewards your patience with a strange, strangled style, then an uptick of treble and trembling in the end.

As we hurtle unapologetically toward a new dark age, estranged from the storied ends, adrift and listless, it suits us well. At least the paths run parallel. Craven and composed, it saunters to the threat of annihilation, an easy going end that specifically omits a mea culpa, “The Lies that you breathe / will follow you.”

4 sides for 30 wending tracks, the double vinyl is around.

TRACK | Quasi – In The First Place

5/5 golden merles

Quasi’s “In The First Place” is a harried track about the shifting of perceptions, time’s capacity for altering values and melting dreams into mud. It is plainly spoken and pursuant to the mounting dread.

The rocksichord and strings loiters about craning their necks at the existential crash. The drums shatter and shrapnel about the air. I like the way it all feels, and admire all that undergirds the summoning and conveyance of this doubt. It’s a great and hearty disillusionment, a compassionate ache.

In the lyricism we find that the novelty of any given thing fatigues rapidly, each goal is met with either a prompt dismissal of significance or the unraveling of imposter syndrome. If one set is achieved, the next must be focused upon. Even after a series of unqualified successes, there is always the proving, temporally, that you haven’t lost it, that you can still do what was previously accomplished. I don’t know of a practical solution for this, but its lovely commiserating.

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 | 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.