Frank Alpine

For the past five years, Brooklyn’s Wierd Records label has been reviving the spirits of a very specific post-punk subgenre known as “coldwave” – a minimal, synth-led take on the bleak atmospherics of original goth icons like Siouxsie & The Banshees and Joy Division, made popular in France in the early ‘80s – through a series of releases from like-minded acts such as Frank (Just Frank), Led Er Est, Kindest Lines and Xeno & Oaklander. Their latest full-length offering, the self-titled debut from Frank Alpine (AKA former New Collapse and Boy Scouts Of Annihilation member Rich T. Moreno), puts a slightly different spin on their trademark sound. Whilst painting from the same basic palette (battery-powered keyboards, primitive drum machines) as his label-mates, Alpine’s images are covered in red splatters: this is the sound of X&O being dragged into an alley and robbed at knife-point by a sweating, shivering crack-head. Drawing inspiration from the sleazy underbelly of his hometown Los Angeles, Alpine’s claustrophobic Casio dirges bridge the gap between head-banging hardcore and Suicide’s avant-garde electro-punk, ritualistically hollering repetitive nihilistic phrases out into the void over droning synth tones and hi-BPM jackhammer beats. It’s fitting that this album is being released on Halloween; if ever someone made a horror movie where the psycho slasher turns up at an S&M club and butchers the dance-floor crowd, this would be the perfect soundtrack.

Listen: “My Feelings”  http://soundcloud.com/birdofprayers/my-feelings

Frank Alpine is out now on Wierd Records

Ten In Twenty

Ten albums that have been on the Foam Hands playlist this week, in no particular order, described in 20 words (or thereabouts):

1. Dominant Legs Invitation (Lefse) – Funky AOR synth pop from Girls guitarist Ryan Lynch and friends; not unlike Arthur Russell and Aztec Camera covering Chic. Listen: “Hoop Of Love”  http://soundcloud.com/creepingwave/dominant-legs-hoop-of-love

2. Arabrot Solar Anus (Fysisk Format) – Grinding, percussive post-hardcore from Norwegian avant-metal warriors. Like being inside a gas explosion on a spaceship orbiting the sun. Listen: “Madonna Was A Whore”  http://soundcloud.com/tigerfysisiskformat/rabrot-madonna-was-a-whore

3. Zola Jesus Conatus (Sacred Bones/ Souterrain Transmissions) – Spellbinding gothic operatics meet industrial electronic soundscapes and pounding tribal rhythms on Nika Roza Danilova’s mainstream-baiting third. Listen: “Vessel”  http://soundcloud.com/souterraintransmissions/vessel-zola-jesus

4. Rustie Glass Swords (Warp) – Glasgow youngster crams hip-hop, dubstep, wonky pop and techno into an absolutely huge – and equally essential – 21st Century rave epic. Listen: “All Nite”  http://soundcloud.com/rustie/all-nite

5. Fire! With Jim O’Rourke Unreleased (Rune Grammofon) – The best of O’Rourke’s many 2011 appearances, this time keeping up admirably with Mats Gustafsson’s psychedelic power jazz trio. Listen: Unreleased album preview  http://soundcloud.com/experimedia/fire-with-jim-orourke

6. New Look New Look (!K7) – Canadian husband-wife duo’s slick future-pop debut, referencing Aphex Twin’s lush electronic minimalism and Cassie’s seductive R&B in equal measure. Listen: “The Ballad”  http://soundcloud.com/k7-records/new-look-the-ballad

7. Strange Boys Live Music (Rough Trade) – Scrappy but endearing third album of stoned Stones swagger, produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, from Austin, Texas’ perennial garage-rock also-rans. Listen: “Me And You”  http://soundcloud.com/jackplug/strange-boys-me-and-you

8. Das Racist Relax (Greedhead) – Mixtape veterans’ first “real” album adds a surprisingly welcome commercial twist to the Brooklyn trio’s surreal, witty hip hop. Listen: “Michael Jackson”  http://soundcloud.com/transdreamer/das-racist-michael-jackson

9. Rangers Pan Am Stories (Not Not Fun) – Guitar heroics indie-style from San Francisco’s Joe Knight, subtly channeling prog-rock and ‘80s pop on this sprawling lo-fi opus. Listen: “Conversations On The Jet Stream”  http://soundcloud.com/fadermedia/rangers-conversations-on-the

10. Xeno & Oaklander Sets And Lights (Wierd) – Gloomy, minimal “coldwave” pop, created using little more than analogue synths and drum machines, from deadpan girl/ boy duo. Listen: “Open Walls”  http://soundcloud.com/theartof/xeno-oaklander-open-walls

Wet Illustrated : 1x1x1

As 2011 approaches the home straight, it’s hard to deny it’s been another great year for music, but one thing that hasn’t been represented particularly well over the past twelve months is the joyous youthful abandon that is meant to go hand in hand with rock ‘n’ roll. We’ve had soft rock, hard rock, heavy rock and indie rock; we’ve had punk rock in many different varieties, including moody (Total Control), epic (Fucked Up) and violently discordant (Iceage). But what little we’ve been offered in the way of carefree, upbeat, good-time guitar fun has been courtesy of bands like Wild Flag and Obits whose members are, frankly, old enough to know better. Thank goodness, then, for Wet Illustrated, the young San Francisco trio whose debut album 1x1x1 (pronounced “one by one by one”) captures that ragged, raucous spirit better than any other release this year. It’s a scrappy, poppy collection, whose thirteen tracks cover punk, vintage garage band R&B, country twang and a kind of twisted grungy psychedelia that sounds like someone has laced their weed with acid, all attacked with the reckless and unrelenting enthusiasm of a gang of speed-addled puppy-dogs. Recalling at times the frantic sprawl of Broken Social Scene or Sonic Youth’s art-damaged noise, and with echoes of the Pixies in the way singing drummer Robbie Simon gravitates toward a Black Francis-esque yelp, the group cover plenty of familiar ground, but it’s the more unexpected moments – the sudden down-shift in tempo during “My Head”, for example, or “Satellite Kids”’ motorik lock-groove – that really stand out.

Listen: “Gypsy Town”  http://soundcloud.com/truepanther/wet-illustrated-gypsy-town

1x1x1 is out now on True Panther Sounds

Moholy Nagy : Like Mirage

Alongside the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai, San Francisco’s Tarantel spent the latter half of the ‘90s – as well as most of the following decade – popularizing what became known as “post-rock”; now, three former members – Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (who also performs in the Alps), Danny Grody and Trevor Montgomery – have reunited as Moholy-Nagy for Like Mirage, a Phil Manley (Trans Am) produced album of blissful drones and repeating patterns that pushes the old blueprint in a less dynamic – but no less rewarding – direction. Named after Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the early 20th Century Hungarian painter and Bauhaus professor who was – fittingly – a pioneer in the medium of “light art”, the trio’s music is positively luminescent, with analogue synths bathing the listener in a soothing, warm glow while shimmering electronics, vapour-trail guitars and stately circular piano motifs work their hypnotic magic. It’s a soothing but engaging sound that recalls the cosmic ambience of ‘70s Krautrock godfathers like Cluster and Harmonia, but the record’s most exciting moments are its most lively: “Brute Neighbors” and “Migratory Birds” both feature Mi Ami/ Jonas Reinhardt’s Damon Palermo, whose metronomic live drumming drives the songs (gently) into the red and beyond, straight to the heart of the sun.

Listen: “Brute Neighbors”  http://temporaryresidence.com/mp3s/moholy-nagy-brute-neighbors.mp3

Like Mirage is out now on Temporary Residence LTD. The label has also just released Blue Hour, the new album from band members Danny Grody and Trevor Montgomery AKA  The Drift.

Raleigh Moncrief : Watered Lawn

If, like me, you spend an unhealthy amount of time studying liner notes and memorizing useless music trivia, you might know Sacramento’s Raleigh Moncrief  as guitarist in Marnie Stern’s touring band, as a guest on Hella drummer Zach Hill’s Astrological Straits album, or for his behind-the-scenes work on the Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca and Ganglians’ Still Living. Watered Lawn, Moncrief’s first solo record and debut offering for the Anticon label, is a quirky, accomplished collection that begs the question: why has such an obvious natural talent spent so long lurking in the background? Fusing whimsical folk and electronic production wizardry, Moncrief’s compositions are the sound of two musical worlds colliding; while the bare bones of his wasted, wandering song sketches recall acid-fried troubadours such as Syd Barrett and Skip Spence, they are held together with scattershot cut-and-paste hip hop beats and chopped-and-screwed multi-part harmonies that sit nicely alongside those of label-mates like Dosh and Baths. With fat bass-lines, shiny synths and West African guitar flourishes rubbing up against junkyard acoustics and Moncrief’s melancholy melodies, it’s a psychedelic, soulful mess, and one that occasionally threatens to spiral out of control; but with instrumental bangers like “Lament For Morning” revealing a pop sensibility, and album highlights “I Just Saw” and “A Day To Die” displaying the same balance of naked emotion and surreal humour as Why?’s Yoni Wolf, it looks like Anticon might just have uncovered another flawed genius.

Listen: “I Just Saw”  http://soundcloud.com/raleighmoncrief/i-just-saw

Watered Lawn is out October 25 on Anticon

Ten In Twenty

Trying something a bit different today… ten albums that have been on the Foam Hands playlist this week, in no particular order, described in 20 words (or thereabouts):

1. Tom Waits Bad As Me (Anti) – Typically stunning mix of gut-wrenchingly tender ballads and unhinged avant blues from America’s greatest living artist.  Listen: “Bad As Me”   http://soundcloud.com/antirecords/tom-waits-bad-as-me

 2. James Ferraro Far Side Virtual (Hippos In Tanks) – Synthesized sci-fi symphonies that imagine the sounds Brian Wilson would have made if he’d been a teenager in the ‘80s.  Listen: “Earth Minutes” http://soundcloud.com/fadermedia/james-ferraro-earth-minutes

 3. High Places Original Colors (Thrill Jockey) – Blissful, airy dream-pop, taken in a Panda Bear-esque dancier direction on Baltimore duo’s back-on-form third.  Listen: “Year Off”   http://soundcloud.com/thrilljockey/high_places-year_off

4. Rwake Rest (Relapse) –  Epic Southern sludge-metal masterpiece from Arkansas shit-kickers; heavy enough to make sure Mastodon sleep with one eye open.  Listen: “An Invisible Thread”  http://soundcloud.com/relapserecords/rwake-an-invisible-thread

5. M83 Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (Mute) – Jaw-dropping double-disc sixth album of epic, emotional synth pop and experimental ambience from French wunderkind Anthony Gonzalez.  Listen: “Midnight City”  http://soundcloud.com/m83/midnight-city

6. Dreamers Of The Ghetto Enemy/Lover (Temporary Residence LTD) – Slick stadium-ready alt-rock anthems with rousing Springsteen-like vocals; think Constantines and Explosions In The Sky teaming up to cover U2.  Listen: “Tether”  http://soundcloud.com/indigenouspromotions/dreamers-of-the-ghetto-tether

7. Office Of Future Plans Office Of Future Plans (Dischord) – Thrashing emo-tinged punk pop and math-rock from ex-Jawbox and Burning Airlines frontman and producer to the stars J. Robbins.  Listen: “Salamander”  http://soundcloud.com/dischordpress/office-of-future-plans

8. Oneohtrix Point Never Replica (Software/ Mexican Summer) – Dislocated ambient strangeness and the occasional rhythmic outburst on Daniel Lopatin’s sixth album of droning synth workouts.  Listen : “Replica”  http://soundcloud.com/mexicansummer/oneohtrix-point-never-replica

9. J.Cole Cole World: The Sideline Story (Roc Nation) – Rap’s next big thing makes good on early promises with a selection of solid self-produced beats and intelligent lyrics.  Listen: “Mr. Nice Watch ft. Jay-Z”    http://soundcloud.com/j-cole/mr-nice-watch-ft-jay-z-dirty

10. Modeselektor Monkeytown (Monkeytown) – Third album of bouncy techno and crunked up dubstep beats from the German duo, featuring guest vocals from Thom Yorke.  Listen: Monkeytown      http://soundcloud.com/modeselektor/sets/modeselektor-monkeytown

Real Estate : Days

 Days

There are a number of words that keep cropping up in relation to the music of New Jersey’s Real Estate, and none of them are particularly rock ‘n’ roll: gentle, familiar, easy-going, mellow… not exactly the kind of descriptions that are guaranteed to light the fire of excitement under your average 21st century indie kid. It’s a testament, then, to the trio’s mastery of their chosen subject that they find themselves three years and barely a dozen songs into their career with a loyal and sizeable fan-base waiting with baited breath for more of the same. Days, the follow-up to the group’s self-titled 2009 debut, doubles the size of their catalogue, but despite sanding down some of its rougher edges, Martin Courtney, Matthew Monadile and Alex Bleeker have left their winning formula pretty much untouched. Their music still has a shambling, effortless feel, with Monadile’s crystalline, overlapping guitar lines sounding like Johnny Marr jamming with the Feelies, and a healthy dash of big, echoing “whoa whoa” choruses; Courtney’s lyrics, meanwhile, still stir up a bittersweet (imagined?) nostalgia with their references to teenage crushes and the mundanities of suburban life. If Big Troubles’ similarly excellent Romantic Comedy offered a particularly effective modern take on the brighter  side of ’80s jangle-pop, then Days could be its melancholy – and slightly stoned – cousin, and in the likes of “Out Of Tune”, “Easy” and “It’s Real” the band have produced some of the year’s catchiest and most enduring songs.

 Listen: “It’s Real”  http://soundcloud.com/dominorecordco/real-estate-its-real

 Days is out now on Domino Recording Co.

The Stone Roses

Two words: holy shit!

From the band’s website:  The legendary four-piece – Ian, John, Mani and Reni – have announced two massive shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park on Friday June 29 and Saturday June 30, 2012. The dates will form part of an extensive world tour. The band have already been into a rehearsal studio to start work on the set-list for the one of the most eagerly anticipated reunifications ever.

Fingers crossed these shows are more Spike Island than Reading ’96…