Albums of the week: White Fence and Martyrdod

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Two very different records duke it out for the title of this week’s best album release: in the red corner we have White Fence, the once lo-fi solo project of former Darker My Love front-man and Strange Boy Tim Presley, whose full band assisted, Ty Segall produced To The Recently Found Innocent (Drag City) harkens back to an age of innocence (!) that most of us – including Presley himself – are far too young to recall, spiking ‘60s Brit-beat inspired paisley pop with twisted folk melodies and mind-bending psych-rock; wearing the (blackened) blue shorts, meanwhile, we have Swedish crust-punk warriors Martyrdod, whose new Southern Lord LP Elddop distills all the elements toyed with on previous efforts (sludgy doom, pummeling D–beat, hardcore howls, blistering thrash riffage) into an all-killer 45-minute metal master-class that blurs the lines between sub-genres and will surely have head-bangers of all ages throwing their horns up in unison. Neither band are too concerned with breaking old habits – this is album number five in ten years for Martyrdod, and the sixth since 2010 for Presley – but right now they both seem to have their shit together to the point where it feels like they are at the top of their respective games. It’s fair to assume that fans of one might not necessarily appreciate the other, but check out White Fence’s “Like That” above and Elddop’s title track below and prepare yourself for the possibility that both might just tickle your fancy.
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Albums of the week

First world problems number 17,402: There are so many great records out this week I can’t decide which one to choose as “album of the week”. Oh no, boo fricking hoo you whiny brat. Well, guess what? There’s no need to choose! This is my blog and I can do what the Sam Heck I like, so here are my FIVE albums of the week. If there isn’t something here that tickles your pickle in some small way I think we’re pretty much over.

How To Dress Well “What Is This Heart?” (Domino/ Weird World)

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A Sunny Day In Glasgow Sea When Absent (Lefse)

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Steve Lehman Octet Mise En Abime (Pi Recordings)
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Donovan Blanc Donovan Blanc (Captured Tracks)

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Brandon Seabrook Sylphid Vitalizers (New Atlantis)

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Dub Thompson: Nine Songs

One could argue that California duo Dub Thompson exist in a bubble, which might not be a good thing if you’re talking about self-serving politicians or celebretard socialites but when applied to musicians is often something of a backhanded compliment. Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer appear blissfully ignorant to the fact that Big Black and Pere Ubu, say, aren’t exactly what you’d call natural bedfellows, or that given the chance This Heat and the John Spencer Blues Explosion probably wouldn’t play together all that nicely; likewise, if they care at all that their particular brand of in-jokey humour – titling their 8-song debut LP 9 Songs, thereby causing some reviewers (ahem) to waste half an hour scouring their computer for the “missing” track (not cool guys) – isn’t to everyone’s taste, they do a damned good job of hiding it. Anything goes in DT world, it would seem, even when it doesn’t, with genres and influences pushed forcibly together like pieces from opposing ends of a jigsaw puzzle, transforming the bigger picture into an abstract collage that is all the more intriguing for its perversion of the original guideline image. More often than not this tactic works surprisingly well: opener “Hayward” flits niftily between thrashy hardcore and sun-dazed psych; spacey FX are swathed in dub reverb and set to a thumping hop hop beat on the bluesy “Dograces“; “No Time”‘s reggae skank gear-shifts effortlessly in and out of motorik Krautrock; and “Mono” manages to straddle at least three decades of New York noise by marrying a skipping ESG groove and Sonic Youth guitar squall and birthing something that sounds very much like one of LCD Soundsystem’s scuzzier freakouts. With both members still in their late teens, it’s quite possible they won’t even know who John Peel was, but 9 Songs at times feels like one of the legendary DJ’s famously eclectic (and shambolic) radio shows, Pulos and Laffer insatiably absorbing any and all kind of new sounds and excitedly regurgitating them in a manner that lacks pretension or shame. Admittedly, enthusiasm alone is not enough to make a good band great, but for the most part Dub Thompson have made a fine record that sounds like music lovers playing for their own amusement, going off road without a map and not really caring where they end up, and to burst their bubble for having fun just wouldn’t seem fair.

9 Songs is out now via Dead Oceans; check out “No Time” below.
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Fucked Up: Glass Boys

Growing up within a scene that assigns as much importance to the passion and intensity of youth as the punk rock community does can be a painful process. In a recent Pitchfork interview, Fucked Up founders Damian Abraham and Mike Haliechuk confessed to feeling the pressure of writing and performing for fans whose expectations of their favourite groups tend not to extend far beyond a couple of solid studio records and a few years’ worth of incendiary live shows: a good hardcore outfit, they conceded, should hope to enjoy a decade at most in the spotlight before stepping aside to make way for the next wave of mouthy young guns – a predicted lifespan that if taken too seriously could easily turn into a self-imposed death sentence. How, then, does a band already three years or so past its expiration date go about proving that they’re not just churning out more music to pay the bills, and that they’re still relevant, especially when they’ve become the kind of globally successful career musicians the punk scene loves to hate? In the case of Glass Boys, FU’s fourth album proper and the follow-up to 2011′s monstrous hardcore rock opera David Comes To Life, the answer appears to come in two parts: they do so, firstly, by giving the people what they want, that being, of course, more of their signature triple guitar (brick) wall of sound and Abraham’s gargling-ground-glass growl; and secondly, by tackling the elephant in the room head on, with brutally honest lyrics that allude to the ethical dilemmas and life-changing situations that come with being cult heroes one minute and award-winning critical darlings and media personalities the next. As one might imagine, there’s some serious self-scrutiny going on: “I’m the reflection of a dream I had when I was fifteen“, Abraham barks on opener “Echo Boomer”, and whilst that’s probably not strictly true – it’s hard to believe as a teenager he ever envisioned himself touring the world with a band, let alone hosting Canadian TV’s premier alt-rock showcase, or starring with his wife in their own reality series – it sets the scene for the conflicted soul-bearing to come. When Abraham sings “We all get replaced, retconned and upstaged/ Life turns a page/ When we turn away the kids just aren’t the same” on “Sun Glass“, it doesn’t seem to be with any animosity towards the kids coming up from behind to steal his crown, but it isn’t exactly a sporting post-defeat handshake either; similarly, whilst a line like “We traded our moral high ground so they would sing along/ But is it so bad? Is it as dark as it seems?/ To trade a little purity to prolong the dream?” (“The Art Of Patrons”) feels like an admission of guilt, it’s pointedly not an apology: rather, it’s as if Abraham – a father of two – is taking the opportunity to justify to his audience – and himself – the more commercial decisions he has had to make in order to feed his family. Indeed, the idea of compromise seems to be central to Glass Boys, and not just in its lyrics: apparently Abraham’s original vision for the album – a 90 minute double featuring a disc of his own songs and another of Haliechuk’s – was rejected by the rest of the band, but if there’s any bitterness on the singer’s part it certainly isn’t reflected in the enthusiasm he shows for the ten tracks that make up FU’s most concise collection yet. The record’s 40 minute runtime actually works in its favour, cramming all the elements that make the group so special – the classic rock chops, the thunderous drums that belie the complexity of the proggy time signatures, the terrace chant choruses – into an easily digestible helping that is bite-size in comparison to the epic – and, let’s face it, exhausting – David. In resisting some of their more self-indulgent impulses, the group have made a record that follows punk’s original blitzkrieg blueprint more closely than any of their previous long-players, one that FU die-hards and punk purists alike will surely agree is one of 2014′s most vital releases. Twenty years after Kurt used Neil Young’s words to sign off for the last time, more people than ever subscribe to the theory that it’s better to burn out than to fade away; thankfully it seems Fucked Up aren’t ready to do either just yet.

Glass Boys is out June 3 via Matador; check out “Paper The House” and “Led By Hand” (featuring J. Mascis) below, and stream the whole album via Pitchfork Advance.
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Catching up…

I know you’re probably sick of hearing that I no longer have time to post as often as I’d like to, but even if I was still updating this blog five times a week I wouldn’t have been able to cover all the great albums I’ve heard since my 2014:Q1 recap a couple months back. Scan back over the last few pages and you’ll find tracks from new long-players by Little Dragon, Mac DeMarco, Wye Oak, Todd Terje, Young Widows, Future, Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks and The Body among others, as well as more in-depth write-ups of excellent efforts from Ought, Chad VanGaalen, EMA and Teleman, but those records are just the tip of a very big iceberg; to wit, take a couple of hours to check out the 30-or-so songs below from the best albums of the last two months and the next few weeks. 2014 really is shaping up to be a vintage year.

Sharon Van Etten Are We There

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Swans To Be Kind

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Total Control Typical System

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Tune Yards Nikki Nack


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Ben Frost Aurora

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Clipping CLPPNG


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Ninos Du Brasil Novos Misterios

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Lord Mantis Death Mask

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Timber Timbre Hot Dreams


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Parquet Courts Sunbathing Animal


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Cloud Nothings Here And Nowhere Else

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Owen Pallet In Conflict


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Protomartyr Under Color Of Official Right

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Survival Knife Loose Power

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Diamond Version Ci

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The Soft Pink Truth Why Do The Heathen Rage?

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Vanhelgd Relics Of Sulphur Salvation

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Tombs Savage Gold


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Sleaford Mods Divide And Exit


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Protect-U Free USA

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Peter Matthew Bauer Liberation!

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Hamilton Leithauser Black Hours


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Popstrangers Fortuna

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Amen Dunes Love

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Woods With Light And With Love

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Tomas Barfod Love Me

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Copeland Because I’m Worth It


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Sd Laika That’s Harakiri

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Wovenhand Refractory Obdurate

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Agalloch The Serpent & The Sphere

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Lykke Li I Never Learn


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Devon Williams Gilding The Lily

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Gold-Bears Dalliance

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Napolian Incursio


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Bremen Second Launch

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Teleman: Breakfast

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Having quite particular (read: “odd”) musical tastes, I have to admit to being completely ignorant when it comes to knowing what is actually popular among the young folk these days. Imagine, then, my surprise upon learning that London four-piece Teleman, who have yet to make any real impact on the indie rock blogosphere (is that still a thing?), and who seem to bear as much resemblance to the rest of the rubbish in the charts as I do to Ryan Gosling, have already chalked up a few minor hits on mainstream radio here in the UK. One such track, “Cristina”, opens the band’s debut album Breakfast and whilst the combination of bouncing Pet Sounds bass line and lazily chugging motorik beat is intoxicating enough to hook a music snob like me right away, I must confess to feeling some degree of bemused self-satisfaction that such an awkward, unassuming song might inadvertently end up, for example, as the soundtrack to one of my idiot colleagues’ drive home from work. Of course, we’re not talking “Common People” or “Take Me Out” levels of ubiquity here – those songs were overt anthems after all and “Cristina” is a much subtler affair – but with “geek chic” currently at the height of fashion, and a whole LP’s worth of tunes that are as catchy as they are cerebral, Teleman could just be onto a winner. Produced by godlike guitar genius Bernard Butler, who adds a space-age sheen that somehow vacuum-seals each separate element whilst managing to retain the songs’ inherent warmth, Breakfast is manna from nerd-rock heaven: buzzing keyboards and drum machines nod to Kraftwerk and Stereolab, front-man Thomas Sanders’ wide-eyed man-child vocals and swooping melodies recall English psychedelic staples like Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt and listeners will doubtless recognize the influence of Neu!, Pavement and Roxy Music among others on tracks such as the gliding “Steam Train Girl” (below), country-tinged “In Your Fur” and elegantly skyscraping “Lady Low”. For all their precision-tooled art-rock moves, though, it’s their knack for buoyant choruses and crowd-pleasing pop hooks (think Hot Chip minus most of their club-friendly tendencies and the ever-present ironic edge) that make Teleman one of 2014’s brightest British hopes. Yes, they may look and sound like the kind of kids that actually enjoyed science class, but even if at times they come across like the social misfits from The Big Bang Theory, it seems these four fellows may have succeeded in synthesizing the formula for making nerdy, brain-box rock popular with the cool kids and the masses. Clever stuff indeed, and an achievement – and a record – they can be proud of.

Breakfast is out May 26 via Moshi Moshi.
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Pink Mountaintops: Get Back

By turns full of piss and vinegar and heavy with misty-eyed nostalgia, Pink Mountaintops’ slightly schizophrenic fourth long-player Get Back could quite feasibly be sold as Stephen McBean’s “mid-life crisis album”. Started ostensibly as an outlet for the singer and an ever-changing supporting cast to explore ideas too weird to filter through his main group Black Mountain, the project’s previous releases have actually been relatively straight-laced – a droning folk raga here, a Velvets-inspired chug there – but whilst much of Get Back unsurprisingly revolves around punked-up variations on familiar classic rock tropes it also includes what is probably the most “WTF?” moment in McBean’s discography to date: album centerpiece “North Hollywood Microwaves”, a sonic splatter-fest of scrappy motorik drumming and skronking saxophone squeals, ends with a frantic, croaked three-minute rap from Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy that positively drips filth, covering anal sex, stomach pumps, crack-smoking Toronto mayor Rob Ford, polar bears and – as described in great and varied detail – the sticky subject of cum addiction. As far as potentially disastrous ideas go, it’s up there with buying yourself a sports car for your 50th birthday or drunk-texting your ex-wife’s new husband, but somehow it works, especially in terms of proving that McBean isn’t quite ready to slip into a life of sanitized middle-aged domesticity. Elsewhere, recollections of teenage kicks and “The Second Summer Of Love” – 1987, in case you were wondering – are set against the kind of Stones-worshipping boogie (“Sell Your Soul”) and sneering Kraut-punk (“Ambulance City”) Primal Scream have spent half a career trying to perfect, whilst “Sixteen” combines Springsteen power and Steinman pomp to anthemic effect. There may be few things sadder than a man clinging onto the glory days of his youth, but here McBean manages to relive his wild years with his dignity – and his rock & roll reputation – intact.
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Get Back is out now on Jagjaguwar; listen to “North Hollywood Microwaves” below.
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