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 | memory card – hook

5/5 golden merles

Memory card makes lo-fi bedroom rock in Birmingham, AL. This s/t set is full of poise and promise, hollowing out the heart for examples: playing back memories until the tape disintegrates / you don’t get to understand until it’s over with.

In “hook,” after some brief confessions, a quiet crescendo rises before the track decomposes back into the trailing synth that lurks at the root of all things. Friends of Elverum or Windowsill will probably feel in good company throughout the albums turns. There’s much compelling invention in the language, minimalist detailing, and deceptively simple drums with effective interworking.

Other highlights are “red w/ mila moon” and “dead of night,” the genres vacillating faintly in the service of greater effect. It’s a consistently built sequence with plenty of subtly shifting melodies and structures, intricate enough for some salience without any alienation. That all makes for some direct/conversational storytelling, thoughtfully crafted in a very unguarded and approachable document. The price is pay what you will.

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.