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 | 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.