by Dan Goldin (@post_trash_)
Welcome to FUZZY MEADOWS, your home away from home where we recap the past week in music. We're sharing our top ten favorite releases of the week in the form of albums, singles, and music videos along with the "further listening" section of new and notable releases from around the web. The number rankings are fairly arbitrary and we sincerely recommend checking out all the music included in this feature. There's a lot of great music being released. Support the bands you love. Spread the word and buy some new music. *Disclaimer: We are making a conscious effort not to include any one artist in the top ten on back-to-back weeks in order to diversify the feature, so be sure to check the "further listening" as well.
1. BAMBARA | "All The Ugly Things"
Bambara have come a long way. The Brooklyn via Athens trio have been making an impressive racket for the better part of a decade and while we’ve always been a fan of the band’s demented noise, they’ve never released a record quite like Swarm. The band’s first two releases were raw, punishing, and without much concern for anything else. Swarm changes everything. It's still seething with harsh noise and dark discontent, but there's a balance, and for the first time, nothing is buried in the mix. Reid Bateh's vocals have never been the focal point of any Bambara song in the past, hell, they generally felt more like an afterthought, but on Swarm, his voice is clear. Deranged and slurred... but clear, and with that Bambara have become one of the best band's the city has to offer.
Swarm owes a great deal to a depraved Nick Cave influence, though the writhing squalor of their record is a thing of creative beauty. There's a dirty Western charm to Bateh's howls, but it's the claustrophobic post-punk noise dirges that really pull you in. It's the type of record you wish Iceage would make, but who needs them when you have Bambara. "All The Ugly Things" video captures the tension of the trio's music in a literal sense, as Bateh is pulled around while those around look on with indifference. It's not cool to care too much... it's only one of the year's best records... but whatever.
2. COLD PUMAS | "Fugue States"
There's something special to be said about a record label you can blindly trust. When Faux Discx release something new, I'm interested (at the very least) and obsessed at best. That trust hasn't let me down for about five years running, and it all began for me with the one and only Cold Pumas (coincidentally, the band's own Dan Reeves actually runs the label). After a slew of great and yet under the radar releases from Faux Discx over the past few years (Fall Seattle, Teardrop Factory, Sex Hands, Monotony), the prodigal sons have returned. Cold Puma's dedication to the perfectly executed fusion of krautrock and noise pop made their full length debut Persistent Malaise a benchmark for modern motorik punk. It's been four years since that record, but one listen to "Fugue States" and it's immediately clear they haven't missed a beat. The song comes from the band's sophomore record The Hanging Valley, one of our most highly anticipated releases of the summer (due out July 1st). The song captures Cold Pumas in head-splitting hypnotic mode, locked-in with machine like precision and a healthy passion for Devo and Can, There's a lot to be said for the band's ability to make repetition sound so vibrant, but their own description of the record is too good not to share. An excerpt below, but read the full "bio" as you pre-order the record here.
"The long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s best-in-show 'Persistent Malaise' offers at least 33.3% of its buffet to shimmering, inward, mulch-heavy ballads — ‘A Change of Course’, ‘The Shaping of the Dream’, ‘Murmur of the Heart’ — showing a sensitivity that inevitably does nothing for the craft beer revolution. If truth be told, the remaining 66.6% threatens to look equally indifferent when served on a wooden board or beside a miniature stainless steel plant pot of hand-cut triple-cooked fries, but such is life. "
3. MRS. MAGICIAN | "Sleep It Off"
San Diego surf punks Mrs. Magician have a new album, Bermuda, coming out later this month and the singles have been promising. It seems the band are up to many of the tricks of their debut, writing dark and often disturbed songs with sunny vibes and earworm hooks, but those released so far show growth in added instrumentation, sharper dynamics, and a genuine focus toward power-pop. Strange Heaven, the band's debut remains a favorite and I can't wait to hear Bermuda in full.
The singles from the record have been great, but it's their recent b-side "Sleep It Off" that has me hooked. The surging surf punk ripper was released as part of Swami Records' Record Store Day compilation, Hardcore Matinee, a fantastic collection of unreleased San Diego punk past and present as only Swami can provide. For anyone familiar with "the Swami sound," it's an unrelenting treasure trove from start to finish, a "budget punk" collection of 22 bands with exclusively new recordings including Hot Snakes, Octagrape, Pinback, The Sultans, Rob Crow, Plateaus and more. Compilations can be complicated, you just might not like every band on it, but Hardcore Matinee plays with perfection in short welcome bursts. Mrs. Magician's submission, "Sleep It Off" is a definite highlight, a caustic trip of sunburnt bummer punk. Its hard to believe this is an "outtake" from Bermuda, but I suppose the anticipation grows...
4. BLESSED | "Feel"
Blessed's music is intricate and hard to pin down, it shifts left when you imagine it will go right, and second single “Feel” uses space and structure to their advantage as much as it does staccato riffs, stampeding drums, and piercing noise. THE GUITAR TONES ALONE IN THIS SONG… phew, it’s nearly too much, and yet it’s actually pretty minimal in execution. Inspired by the art rock past and present, from Can to Ought, Blessed have a sound routed in natural complexity that digs its own path of art punk brilliance. The band bounce around like a pinball on “Feel” pulling the intensity out from under the listener at the most unexpected of times only to feed to back in blistering riffs and ominous howls. These guys are onto something special and the proof is in the puddin'... or the music. Either way, consider me fixated.
5. COUGH | "Dead Among The Roses"
I'll be the first to admit that a good majority of the time, Cough isn't my cup of tea. There's something about real guttural and bellowing vocals that only work for me in best case scenarios a la ISIS (the band, not the terrorist organization). Cough's latest single however, shows a different side of the Richmond doom band, a softer, gentler side... but let's not get carried away here, we're still talking doom metal. It's been about five years since their last record, but they have returned, aiming to make a run for the Dopethrone. Sly comparisons aside, Cough are channeling Electric Wizard on their latest and who better to produce the record than Jus Osborn, doom metal's patron cult leader.
"Dead Among The Roses" is massive doom of the highest variety, blending the genre's slow monolithic riffs with psych rock deviations in the vein of Black Sabbath and of course Electric Fucking Wizard and their peers Windhand (who share a bassist between them). Void of deep howling barks and gargantuan death roars, Cough are traveling the bone rattling dirge of doom with an explorative edge, crawling through anguished and distorted melodies into slow drip solos and lumbering dread. Hit the bong and zone out, there are far worse ways you could spent the next eleven minutes.
6. ARBOR LABOR UNION | "Mr. Birdsong"
Some folks say the best songwriters are birds, there's much to be learned from observing and listening to their melodies... but there's also Arbor Labor Union (fka Pinecones), the Georgia quartet whose music sounds just as instinctual. "Mr. Birdsong," the latest single from the mystic post-punk band's upcoming Sub Pop Records debut is a sprawling stoner punk mantra. It's hypnotic and engaging, muscular and wise, and there's an endless quality permeating throughout, driven by hard-nose punk and an other-worldly psych groove. We've been fans since the band spent the summer out on the road with Gnarwhal a couple years back, and much like their live show, Arbor Labor Union's music is at it's best when fully locked in - motorik rhythms creating a backbone for the guitars and vocals to let loose with rock n' roll abandon. They're blurring the lines of angular post-punk with an organic Southern psych twist, howling toward the moon, forever moseying on forward.
7. LADY BONES | "Terse" EP
Expanding upon last year’s Dying, Lady Bones' Terse offers impeccably tight stabs of post-punk, sludge pop, swampy noise rock, and Pixies indebted indie punk all swirling together in perfectly nuanced harmony. Built on the combination of Sean Gilston’s (guitar/vocals) wavering raw vocals and corrosive riffs with Jeremy Jackson (bass) and Egon Ryan's (drums) impressive polyrhythmic pummeling, Lady Bones roar through a sea of influence from those twangy finger-picked melodies to grizzly punk shredding, creating a heavy yet introspective set of pop songs at its core. Sometimes it's not about the destination but the ride that gets you there, a sentiment the trio understand all too well in the jagged structures as they simultaneously build and destroy. Take "Horror" as an example. The pounding rhythm dances around the guitars before nearly dropping out altogether with a stuttering collapse. That signature twang offers a momentary calm, but before you get a chance to catch your breath they've stormed back in with unwavering sludgy pop brilliance. It's disorienting, it's fun, it's a must hear EP from one of Boston's best kept secrets.
8. FLORIST | "Tiny Desk Concert"
Florist's music is gorgeous, honestly delicate, and highly personal: three qualities that make the band perfect for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. Emily Sprague's heartwarming songs are sparse and contemplative and there's something special about watching them performed in an intimate setting. Her lyrics are confessional and raw, baring her emotions for the world with humble simplicity and beauty. It's out in the open which makes the cozy confines of Tiny Desk the ultimate session to capture Florist at their most endearing. Let go, and let Florist work their magic.
9. HOODED FANG | "Dead Battery"
Hooded Fang have traded in the infectious garage pop of the fantastic Gravez into something a bit more deranged, a bit more experimental. "Dead Battery" and their upcoming album Venus On Edge are still upbeat, still chaotic, but there's an electric pulse shining down around them and the band's skittering sound has adopted a dance punk charm. Call it "disco punk" or "noise pop" or any other descriptor you want, but let it be known, Hooded Fang have an indestructible determination. Things are getting ever more tangled, more complex, and more electronic and the result is triumphantly disorienting, but their seizure inducing hyper-activity is more focused than ever as they adapt their layered insanity for the dance floor. Hooded Fang is intellectual future punk for the overstimulated generation and they're more than comfortable bouncing off the walls.
10. WRONG | "Wrong" LP
Do you wish that Helmet still made rough post-hardcore in the vein of Meantime? They don't, but Wrong just might be the band for you. The Miami based quartet just released their full length debut, a big bruising record of unapologetic "alternative metal" or whatever you might like to call it. Here's what we know... it's mean, gnarly, and dense as slab of steel. The band features former members of Torche and Kylesa, a pedigree that should ring radiantly to anyone invested in heavy music these days, but Wrong are too brawny for the former's sludge pop or the latter's psych influences: their brand of noise is straightforward pummel... though the occasional break for melody goes a long way.
ANIMAL FACES "In The Way" | HORSE LORDS "Truthers" | HAYBABY "Blood Harvest" EP | USA NAILS "I Am In A Van" | ANGRY ANGLES "Things Are Moving" | BICHKRAFT "Sleeves at Farewell" | THE HUNCHES "Pamela" | SUMMER CANNIBALS "Simple Life" | SCOTT & CHARLENE'S WEDDING "Delivered" | THE GOTOBEDS "Brass Not Rash" | BAD BREEDING "Bad Breeding" LP | TOMORROWS TULIPS "Walk Away" | PSYCHIC HEAT "Elixir" | KING KHAN "Children of the World" | TERRY "Don't Say Sorry" | ALL PEOPLE "Fearful / Sick" | NIGHT IDEA "Easy To Lie" | PSYCHIC TEENS "Winter Grey" | IGGY POP "Sunday" | MOUNTAINS AND RAINBOWS "How You Spend Your Time" | MALE GAZE "Lesser Demons" | SONIC YOUTH "Theme WIth Noise" | VISHNU BASEMENT "Musp" | MISERABLE "Uncontrollable" LP | ODONIS ODONIS "Nervous" | GREYS "Candy Says" (Velvet Underground cover) | BLACK HELICOPTER "Deadlines for Deadbeats" | WHITE LUNG "Below" | DAL NIENTE & DEERHOOF "Balter / Saunier" LP | SNEEZE "Food"