ALBUM REVIEW: The Lemonheads – Lovey (30th Anniversary Edition)

THE LEMONHEADS

LOVEY (30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION)

FIRE RECORDS

In 1990, Lovey was a huge step forward for Evan Dando and his Boston band The Lemonheads. It was their major label debut on Atlantic Records after releasing their first three albums in the previous three years. Those records were a collision of noisy melodic punk rock. Part Black Flag, part The Replacements. Co-founder Ben Daily had left the band prior to Lovey and that gave Dando the opportunity to rejig the band’s sound to more of a country and indie/alt-rock blend. 

This reissue has been superbly remastered to give Lovey a greater warmth and sonic richness, further accentuating the sense that this was the start of a new chapter for Dando. The album contains absolute classics such as ‘Half The Time’ and ‘Ride With Me’ as well as their version of the Gram Parsons’ ‘Brass Buttons’. The variety of Lovey is what really elevates it – with the alt rock swerves of ‘Ballarat’ and ‘Lil Seed’ and the tumbling remnants of their punk past on ‘Left For Dead’. It was a turning point for the band and one of the landmark early releases of 90s alternative rock.

The 2xLP/CD formats come with a deluxe book with expanded liner notes and unseen photos as well as an eight song triple j Live at the Wireless session from their tour of 1991. 

Chris Familton

Bats Galore… New music from within and around The Bats

Dunedin and indeed NZ music royalty The Bats have been pretty busy of late. They released their new LP Foothills last year, to wide acclaim, and earlier this month they also intriguingly released an instrumental version of the album on Bandcamp which gives a really interesting twist on the songs, allowing the rhythm section of perpetual motion and those sparkling guitars to take centre stage.

During the pandemic, Bassist Paul Kean and guitarist Kaye Woodward have formed a humble supergroup of sorts by teaming up with Alec Bathgate (Tall Dwarfs, The Enemy) and Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) to record a couple of songs of darkly hypnotic, underground psychedelia. Hopefully more recordings are on the way!

Robert Scott always seems to be working on something new and he’s teamed up with Dallas Henley to release Level Four, an album of low-key, mostly acoustic songs that wind through some lovely melodies. The 14 tracks feature bass, Omnichord, guitar, vocals and keyboards. 

NEW MUSIC: Gim Kordon – Betoni Kukkii

photo by Pia Koskimaa

Aside from the none too subtle nod to the Sonic Youth icon, this is a heavy slab of coruscating guitars, a rhythm section that twists and tumbles with a gnarled density and vocals that careen across the sonic maelstrom with a howling psych rock nihilism. Think Exterminator-era Primal Scream and you’re heading in the right direction with Gim Kordon.

Given they’re singing in their native Finnish tongue, I’ve got no idea what they’re singing but the the title translates as ‘Concrete Blooms’ and singer-guitarist Aleksi Pahkala explains that “Betoni kukkii is a story of how often life growing up in the suburbs is a roll of the dice, a struggle and trying to get by, but also of how a sense of community in even the roughest areas is so often the only thing that provides a sense of security.”

This is the return of the band, six years after their debut album and a sign of new music to come in 2021.

NEW MUSIC: Van Vleck – Morning Page

This recently released track by US group Van Vleck caught our ear with it’s mix of frantic post-punk and a dark gothic sonic aesthetic. It reminded us of everything from Black Angels to Interpol to Sisters Of Mercy in its insistency and doomy yet melodic riffs.

There’s not much else to report about the band, who appear to be a trio who used to operate under the name More and have released the one three-track EP, The Wait, as Van Vleck.

NEW MUSIC: Mt. Mountain – Aplomb

Mantra-like, hypnotic, fluid and rolling. That’s the first impression of Mt. Mountain‘s new track ‘Aplomb‘. It sits in the psych rock camp but it possesses a looseness that’s a defining factor in what makes the song so great. Propelled by some fine bass playing and guitar that is equally important as a rhythmic tool, singer Stephen Bailey intones lyrics over the Krautrock moodiness and warm cymbal splashes below.

The song is the first single from the Perth band’s forthcoming new album Centre (Feb 26th, 2021). The band have shared stages with notable down-under comrades like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and ORB, as well as a long list of international heavy-hitters including Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and Moon Duo.

FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2020

Despite the weirdness and social and political fracturing of 2020, there were still plenty of great albums that saw the light of day – and that light was a salvation for many. You can check out our Post To Wire (alt-country, cosmic Americana & dark folk) Favourite Albums of 2020 HERE and Favourite AU & NZ Albums of 2020 HERE.

Here are our 40 favourite albums of the year, ranging from alt-country to electronic, ambient to indie rock, post-punk to soul.

* Full disclosure – I worked on the publicity campaigns for the Golden Fang and Buddy Glass albums

40. Khruangbin – Mordechai REVIEW

39. Jessica – The Space Between REVIEW

38. Choir Boy – Gathering Swans

37. Buddy Glass – Wow & Flutter

36. Darren Cross – Keeping Up? REVIEW

35. Cinder Well – No Summer

34. Arbor Labor Union – New Petal Instants

33. Califone – Echo Mine

32. Shopping – All Or Nothing

31. Baxter Dury – The Chancers

30. Luke Vibert – Presents: Amen Andrews

29. Cable Ties – Far Enough REVIEW

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Friend Ship

27. Blake Scott – Niscitam

26. Thurston Moore – By The Fire

25. Makaya McCraven – Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again: A Reimagining

24. Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates

23. Brian Eno & Roger Eno – Mixing Colours

22. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling REVIEW

21. The Bats – Foothills

20. Suicide Swans – Through The Years

19. Bill Callahan – Gold Record

18. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is King

17. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

16. Neil Young – Homegrown

15. Rose City Band – Summerlong

14. Golden Fang – Here. Now Here.

13. Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today REVIEW

12. Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers REVIEW

11. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy REVIEW

10. James Thomson – Golden Exile REVIEW

On our favourite AU/NZ album of 2020, Thomson delivers his most accomplished work to date… ‘Sunday Girl’ is the closest Thomson’s got to a pop song, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ is smoky, winding blues, while ‘See The Wheels’ could roll on forever with its effortless groove. ‘Fatal Ribbon Highway’ is a dreamy slow dance, cosmic, heavy-lidded and sparkling and just one example of the diversification Thomson has brought to his impressive songwriting on Golden Exile.

9 Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

A new name for us and what a way to announce your arrival. Restrained songwriting with some exceptional lyrical content, Die Midwestern is built on poetry of the finest quality, delivered in a wonderful roughed-up country voice.

8. Moodymann – Taken Away

We couldn’t stop listening to this when it came out. Like a mix of D’Angelo circa Black Messiah, soul-jazz and futuristic electronic space funk. It was all in the rhythms, the breaks and the soul of it all. Deep hypnosis par excellence.

7. SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)

An album (and its follow-up UNTITLED (Rise)) completely of it’s time politically and socially, yet timeless in its blend of soul, funk, r&b, trip hop and more.

6. RVG – Feral REVIEW

Feral found them presenting a fuller sound with even greater depth and clarity in the guitars and the spotlight still firmly on Romy Vager’s declamatory yelp and melancholic musings.

5 Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions REVIEW

For us, Isbell was off his game on his last album The Nashville Sound but here he’s fully resumed his mantle of one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Lyrically and melodically there are gems galore right across Reunions. It was one of those albums that constantly inspired repeat listens throughout 2020.

4. Coriky – Coriky

Coriky are half of Fugazi (Ian Mackaye & Joe Lally) with Amy Farina (The Evens) and it’s the iconic DC band that they swerve closest to in the stop/start, quiet/loud dynamics and lyrical repetition, though it’s a less caustic, more intimate and organic vibe overall. Great drum sound on this damn catchy and gently visceral record.

3. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

The Irish quartet sought to find different angles to approach their second album after the success and touring of Dogrel. They were hugely successful too. Widening their palette, going for denser guitar textures and rhythms that dug deeper and with more insistency. The vocals were just as earnest if more detached, observational and aloof. The key success to the album was that they showed they weren’t one trick ponies and look to be in it for the creative long haul.

2. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways

Once again Bob brought the element of surprise with this immense piece of work. Bold, literary, graceful, funny and highly moving. We thought his muse may have taken an early retirement with the endless touring and American songbook albums taking up his creative real estate. But no, Bob was back, hunched over his typewriter, casting an eye over the last century of pop and political culture, weaving in heartache and devotion. Nobody can bring together universality and the minutiae quite like the master.

1. Young Jesus – Welcome To Conceptual Beach

An intoxicating blend of post-rock and indie rock that in my mind ranged threw up comparisons to Talk Talk, Lift To Experience, Talking Heads, Wild Beasts and Radiohead. This was an album that created a sonic world to escape to, with heady and evocative ideals and some incredible dynamics in the arrangements.

ALBUM REVIEW: Cable Ties – Far Enough

Cable Ties

Far Enough

Poison City Records

Cable Ties’ debut album introduced a band built on fiery punk passion and melodic post-punk intensity. Now, three years later, they taken that template and made the loud parts louder, the hooks catchier and pushed their visceral and primitive 70s rock shapes more to the fore.

Sonically, the band’s sound still recalls the stinging guitar leads and interesting song shapes of Sleater-Kinney and the brittle energy of Bikini Kill, but things are most interesting when they counter the short sharp bursts of punk energy with deep digs into repetition and heavy riffing. Krautrock insistency combined with the distorted wash of guitars on the seven minute Lani and the pummelling, deconstructed noise aspects of the equally long Anger’s Not Enough make for hypnotic listening.

Jenny McKechnie’s howls of critique and dissent still ring loud and clear, blending with the personal when she sings lines such as “My uncle Pete, he’s complaining ‘bout the Greenies, he says they’ve gone too far and I say Pete, they don’t go far enough.” She’s been writing political songs since she was singing folk songs in her bedroom but now she has the perfect vehicle for them. Far Enough is the sound of a band locked in total unison, taking chances and playing with righteous clarity. Anger is indeed an energy.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Sprints – Manifesto

‘Manifesto’ is the second Sprints track we’ve posted in the last few months and much like ‘Drones’, this one hits in all the right places. Wild guitar noise, mantra-like vocals and a rhythm section that knows its Krautrock and post-punk – taut and unrelenting, funky and tough. This is the title-track from the Dublin quartet’s new EP coming in 2021.

Of the song, singer and songwriter Karla Chubb says:

“Manifesto is all about control, and the seeming lack of it we have sometimes – control over our own lives, our own bodies, our own societies. Written during the time of the Repeal the 8th referendum in Ireland, it’s a call for equality. 

Life can feel like it’s unravelling around you. We see our countries fall in and out of economic crisis, we see the homeless crisis worsen by the day, we see the rapid rise of addiction and drug problems, and nothing is being done about, yet when it comes to telling women what they can do with their own bodies, that’s when people (the bigots) step in and show up? It baffled me.

 Manifesto is about turning your cheek to the critics and bigots and those who judge and doubt, to  try shake the shackles of everyday existence and mundanity and go carve your own path. “