Monday, July 28, 2014

The Pooh Sticks - The Pure Styx EP

The Pooh Sticks – The Pure Styx EP
Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1989
Acquired: End of an Ear, Used, 2008
Price: $3
The legacy of the Pooh Sticks brands the Welsh group as indie rock tricksters. The group itself was the brainchild of producer/record label runner/songwriter Steve Gregory implemented by frontman Hue Williams and their MO was to subvert pop music while making some brain-meltingly catchy, jangly, sing-a-long pop music along the way. The cover of the group’s most famous album—1991’s The Great White Wonder—depicted the band an Archies-esque pop group while stealing melodies, song titles, and lyrics at will from various American musicians (Lou Reed, James Taylor, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, the list goes on and on). While “Teenage High,” the first track from The Pure Styx EP, could easily be confused with one of the more upbeat Sarah Records singles of the era (the band recruited twee-pop queen Amelia Fletcher on vocals a year later) the tracks are as much as a play on twee as they are pure pop bliss. After all, the b-side features a GG Allin cover, so how twee can this be? Regardless, I love this seven-inch so much I own two copies (one in opaque pink, one in translucent blue). The power pop embracing b-side “Soft Beds Hard Battles” features Williams on vocals and a couple of short, wailing guitar solos all buoyed by a propulsive rhythm section all crammed into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it running time (it can’t be more than a minute long). The running time of this “EP” is probably just over five minutes and I could pretty much listen to it forever, evidenced by the fact that I just listened to it 8 times while writing this short review.

"Teenage High"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gut Feeling: King Creosote - From Scotland With Love

King Creosote – From Scotland With Love
Domino, 2014
It’s always been that I’ve found my favorite albums by accident. I stumble over them like a crack in the sidewalk. Last year’s album of the year—Frontier Ruckus’ Eternity of Dimming—was discovered via watching their AV Club Undercover video for Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” 2012’s album of the year—Father John Misty’s Fear Fun—was in one of the myriad flats of CDs I was pricing in the basement of the Half Price Books in St. Louis Park. I put it on because I liked the cover, and then listened the CD at least once a day every workday for the next two weeks. I’m not saying King Creosote’s soundtrack for a film about Scotland in advance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games is my favorite album of the year, but it’s definitely on the list. And I only listened to it because I mistook it for a new album by English singer-songwriter King Krule. Happy accidents.

I have just spent a lovely sunny summer Sunday afternoon with this album as my soundtrack, and I am pleased. More than pleased. At ease. Do you know how hard it is for me to be at ease? I live with my in-laws because I barely make any money. I mean, it’s not that I don’t make any money, it’s just that the money I do make is siphoned off by massive student loan payments, health insurance, car insurance, car payments, and the various things needed to ensure the survival and happiness of a four month old girl child. Almost all of my free time is spent worrying about money. Sure, there’s happiness in the form of severe love from and for my wife and daughter, but perpetual stress is as close to a modus operandi as I get. So being able to spin an album of lush, gorgeously crooned melody drenched folk songs sung heartily with a Scottish lilt and feel relaxed is as close to pure mental wellbeing as it gets around these parts.

From Scotland With Love is absolutely fucking lovely. And it’s the most recent release in Kenny Anderson’s sprawling discography. He has been releasing records (initially in the form of CD-Rs) since 1998 and I feel flabbergasted that, as someone who considers himself to be pretty in the know in re modern music, I would have failed to have heard of someone who has been making music for 16 years. Even in passing. Ok, he’s only been releasing albums-proper since 2003, but still!

From Scotland With Love is a delight. The tracks run the gamut from quietly beautiful (“Something to Believe In,” “Pauper’s Dough”) to sunny and upbeat (“Largs,” “For One Night Only”) to string-laden showstoppers (“Miserable Strangers”) and the shifting texture, sonic diversity, and overall quality makes it surprising that this is a soundtrack for a film and not a standalone master class in nostalgia and pleasantness. 

"Something to Believe In"

"Miserable Strangers"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Emma Pollock - "Paper and Glue" 7"

Emma Pollock – “Paper and Glue” 7”
4AD, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Price: $.50
Emma Pollock is best known as one of the founding members of the fantastic Scottish alt-rock group the Delgados. Through the band’s ten year run they released six albums, but my introduction to the band (and really, the only work of theirs I’ve listened to) as through their career-spanning 2006 double-disc Peel Sessions compilation. Both tracks here play like standard pop-based singer-songwriter fare. Aimee Mann is a good touchstone. Though Pollock’s vocals are lovely and her songs also lovely, this seven-inch is more lovely little else. There are worse things than being lovely. Have I mentioned this is just lovely? Lovely lovely lovely.

"Paper and Glue"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pissed - Pissed EP

Pissed – Pissed EP
Profane Existence, 1992
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $.75
In the Hold Steady’s “Stevie Nix,” Craig Finn sings “When we hit the Twin Cities/ I didn’t know that much about it/ I knew Mary Tyler Moore/ And I knew Profane Existence.” I had to look it up to find out Profane Existence is a Minneapolis based anarcho-punk collective founded in 1989 and, apparently, still kicking. This seven-inch from Pissed was the collective/label’s 9th release, and it’s more on the sludgy metal spectrum than I would have suspected. It’s still got some rollick to it, but the vocals always feel like they’re two second away from delivering a guttural groan. Kudos to the punks for getting organized enough to run a record label! More impressive still that Profane Existence has released over a hundred 7-inch records, albums, and CDs. Despite only containing four songs, there’s a pretty substantial booklet of liner notes, etc included with this seven-inch. Most of it is classic over-explaining (which I am a fan of). I.e. “‘Purge’ seems to be about personal anguish of the stagnant life we are meant to lead as human beings in 1992 ‘civilization.’ It is the human spirit crying out of the rejection… The desire to destroy what destroys you,” “‘Uprising” is revolt. It is turning political ideas into action. It is physical action we put into effect with the courage and confidence we’ve instilled in ourselves through mutual support of others. It is marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, flaming torch in hand, onwards to freedom. When the world is turned upside down and tyranny is stomped out forever, then maybe the sun will rise in the western sky…” etc. It’s all positive ideals with good intentions, but overblown bordering on parody. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

Purge from Pissed on Myspace.

Sunrise in the Western Sky from Pissed on Myspace.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Concert Review: Cloud Nothings in Lawrence, Kansas

Cloud Nothings
Live at the Granada, Lawrence, KS
In a musical landscape that has largely brushed aside rock music, Cleveland trio Cloud Nothings are torch bearers for the indie rock of days gone by. Champions of the gritty and visceral college radio rock a la Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, and Sebadoh. Over five years, frontman Dylan Baldi has grown the group from a humble little basement project into a full fledged cohesive unit of a band. They recorded their third album with Steve Albini and the indie rock legend’s edgy influence still lingers on the band’s most recent release: the absolutely relentless Here and Nowhere Else (produced by producer du jour John Congleton, who is literally recording ALL OF THE BEST RECORDS these days).

Here and Nowhere Else sounds huge, and the band’s live show proved ill-fitting for the cavernous Granada. It might be personal bias, since I actively hate seeing shows at the Granada because bands would always sound better at any other Lawrence venue, but there was something that failed to connect. The venue also cramps any sense of intimacy, so that might have attributed to the sterility of the show. It also might have been the workaday attitude the band brought onto the stage. Though the small crowd was into it, it was hard to tell if Baldi was exhausted, dealing with a personal matter, or if his no-nonsense attitude is part of the band’s shtick.

But who gives a shit if the band seems like they’d rather be anywhere else but your town if they fucking slay, right? And slay they did. I know I’m beating a dead horse about how much I fucking hate seeing shows at the Granada (and really, the Granada is fine for big shows that can pack a room and have light shows and fog machines and all that shit) but all I could think about is how great this show would have been at the tinier Replay Lounge or Jackpot Saloon, or any venue with a capacity of 100 and better acoustics. Watching Baldi’s right hand blur as he strummed at an ungodly speed and bark his repetitive, mantra-like vocals into the mic cut through pretty much everything.

The group blazed through their 50 minute set comprised mostly of tracks from Here and Nowhere Else and Attack on Memory and a handful of intense instrumental pummeling. Speaking of pummeling, drummer Jason Gerycz was the real star of the show, delivering a devastating performance that had him toweling himself off after each song in the well air conditioned venue. Relentlessness is the band’s best quality and they put it on display. I normally hate repetitive music, but the way Baldi repeats these great lines over and over have a crescendo effect that boils over into emotional resonance. And even if the band was just crossing another date of another long continental tour and sort of acted like it, it didn’t show in their set. As Baldi sang on Here and Nowhere Else’s closing track and the set’s highlight “I’m Not Part of Me,” “I’m not telling you all I’m going through,” and I’m fine with that.


·      British openers and recent Fat Possum signees the Wytches played a surprisingly tight set of heavy indie rock tunes that highlighted the band members’ previous dabblings in horror punk and death metal, but all I could really focus on was how the drummer had to keep flipping his little moptop swoop out of his face to focus on his kit and how the singer’s shaggy do hung down so as to resemble a miniature version of the Addams Family’s cousin Itt resting on the shoulders of a scrawny Englishman. Because I am apparently an old man who hates fun, I was disturbed that the venue tacked on a local opener in Lawrence’s Westerners, and they made me realize how much things can change in just two years. While the group’s music was tight, but forgettable, they did have really nice instruments and seemed to be having a really great time being a band that plays shows in the town’s biggest venue and gets to open for a nationally known touring act, and really, that sort of personal satisfaction is almost more important than making compelling music. They also seemed really young, and given time they could develop into a solid ham-and-egger local opener a la Fourth of July.

·      This really has no place in the review proper, but I spent the last twenty minutes of the show intently focused on the small group of seemingly well-off and highly twerpish 21 year olds who saw fit to form a mosh pit and ruin everyone’s night. I was focused because I didn’t want to get my teeth knocked out. It was fascinating. When I saw this group, at first I was like “Well, they’re young so it’s ok if they’re shitty. Everyone’s shitty when they’re 20, it’s just a fact. I was shitty, and now I’m just old and whatever.” But when the shit went down, it felt like the opening of Blue Velvet. You know, the darkness lurking beneath sparkling suburbia. What is it like watching kids who have never had to work for anything start a mosh pit? It’s fucking scary. In the mosh pits I flirted with when I was 18 and going to punk shows, it was all part of an emotional release in response to the music. If someone fell, the guy who knocked them down helped them up. People went hard, but usually not enough to ruin the good time being had by those who didn’t want to participate. Maybe that’s an idealized version of how a mosh pit should work, and maybe it’s actually different, but that’s what I was around. Last night, these douche bags just wanted to make it apparent that they were having a great time and fuck you. There was something malicious about their pit. They went too hard, no doubt fueled by too much booze (I witnessed the preppiest looking one of the bunch coming out of a bathroom stall after the show saying it’s a bad idea to drink a bottle of whisky before going to see your favorite band. Your favorite band is Cloud Nothings? Really? What is going on in the world!), and I saw one of the guys pick up a smaller guy and bodyslam him to the floor after he got knocked too hard. Someone from outside the friend group. Someone who just wanted a piece of the pit. The poor kids up front with their Xed hands kept getting treated like the ropes of a wrestling ring, constantly getting clobbered by legal adults acting like fucking children. Maybe it’s just a byproduct of Lawrence in the summertime where the jobless students just spend their days and nights getting hammered. This pit seemed like an acceptable excuse for these kids to be total dicks, they were the worst, and maybe I’m being too judgmental but it’s not OK to make everyone around you uncomfortable because you want to be a turd.

·      On the plus side, most everyone watched the shows with their eyes instead of through their phones. The one person I saw watching through their phone was actually quiet deft, managing to move to the music, have his free arm around his girl, and videotape and post the shitty video to the internet with the other. Gotta applaud that dexterity.

·      Though I never miss an opportunity to shit talk the Granasty (the place has undergone numerous renovations in the last decade and still warrants that nickname), they did have Tallgrass 8-Bit IPA tall boys for only a dollar more than a PBR tall boy, which is actually a steal in terms of bar beer prices. Considering that the Granada used to charge you for water (do they still?), and their drink prices ridiculous, it was nice to get a tasty beverage for a reasonable price. Just tastes better.

Monday, July 14, 2014

American Football - American Football

American Football – American Football
Polyvinyl, 1999 (2014 Reissue, Marbled Red Vinyl)
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2014
Price: $7.50
Man, talk about records I absolutely hated the first time I heard them. For a number of reasons, it was never the right time for American Football. The album popped up on my radar in maybe 2005 or 2006 and I thought it was a huge snore! I think it was the little punk rocker living inside of me, even though by that point I had mostly become a convert to the church of indie rock. There wasn’t enough energy! NOTHING WAS HAPPENING! Whatever. You know what other album I hated the first, second, and third time I tried listening to it? Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. And that’s one of my favorite records of all time. So, if I’ve learned anything, it’s not to trust my taste. Some things should be dismissed outright, but something universally beloved by people who would know usually deserves a second, third, and fourth chance before being written off completely. Because that wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

It took five listens before American Football clicked. I don’t know what happened. One day I dug up the MP3s from an old hard drive and it sounded so, so, so fucking good. In that moment I was obsessed. You know what other great album I hated the first time I heard it? Slint’s Spiderland. And that’s one of my favorite records of all time! But I think that record really broadened my palate in an earth-shattering way. It made me slow down. Caused me to look at the insane genius in things that were brooding, slow-moving, and pensive. When I fell in love with Spiderland, I went on a bender of post rock, math rock, and every other kind of rock associated with that album. And I think that’s why American football makes sense.

Still, though, I can’t understand how you could like the first Death Cab for Cutie record and not think American Football’s eponymous debut was better. There’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship here. They operate as an emo band with a math rock band’s heart. One of my favorite tracks, “For Sure,” is one of the quietest songs on an album of quiet songs. A beautiful, cyclical riff that plays with a single forlorn horn and by the time the vocals come in, I feel hypnotized. As complex as these songs are, I almost expect them to be louder. They arrangements are bursting with energy, and yet this is an album perfectly suited for a midnight drive on an empty highway.

Like a highway, there are long stretches where nothing happens and you just stare out the window and look at the beautiful scenery. I’m not saying the instrumental that closes the A-Side—“You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon”—is nothing, but it feels like a pleasant breather. A moment for reflection before the second half of the album ramps the emotions back up. As prolific as Mike Kinsella is, American Football is his only release that is absolutely undeniable. His singer-songwriter act Owen is mighty good, and he’s not afraid to push boundaries with Joan of Arc, it’s just that this album is the best blend of inventive indie rock, great songwriting (“Not to be overly dramatic/ I just think it’s best, because you can’t miss what you forget/ So let’s just pretend everything and anything between you and me was never meant”), and complete tonal dominance. It’s baffling that this is the work of a trio. It feels like this band should have at least six members.

This new reissue from Polyvinyl is deluxe as hell. In addition to being pressed on lovely marbled red vinyl, the packaging includes a ton of mood-matching photography and a large booklet that explains all of the tunings, time signatures, and other technical stuff that makes these songs so compelling. The second disc is packed with live tracks and vocal-less demos, some of which were never released in any shape or form (“But the Regrets are Killing Me,” “The 7’s,” and a slew of untitled tracks). Guitarist Steve Holmes’ illuminating liner notes (From the notes for “For Sure”: “Mike had a bad cold the week we recorded the album and this was the first track we attempted vocals on. Mike’s whispery take on this track was probably in part a nod to Elliott Smith, but mostly based on the fact that he couldn’t sing in his normal voice with the sore throat and congestion) coupled with the meandering demos (I should also just tack on a note that Steve Lamos’ jazzy drumming and trumpet (drumpet?) makes up the backbone of this record and his inventiveness really gets to shine on the demos and live takes) are a fascinating glimpse into the world of this short-lived band. 

"Never Meant"

"For Sure"

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pink Razors - "First Degree" 7"

Pink Razors – “First Degree” 7”
Rorschach Records, 2007
Acquired: Show at Solidarity, New, 2008
Price: $4

This 7” was acquired at the only show I ever went to at Solidarity, Lawrence’s anarchist bookshop. I make it sound like every town has an anarchist bookshop. Maybe that’s when you know you’ve made it as a town. When the crusty, anarcho-punk kids open up a lending library of subversive materials and subsequently use the location as a squat. I kid, I don’t know if the anarcho kids who ran the place used it as a squat. I don’t even know who ran that place, come to think of it. I do know that it was in a location that is currently being used as a soda shop, which is such a Lawrence thing for Lawrence to have: A soda shop that used to be an anarchist bookstore. Anyway, Solidarity man. I only went to one show there, this one, and it was a whole hell of a lot of fun.

I went to see Erin Tobey, who plays guitar in Pink Razors and was headlining the evening with her sweet and lovely folky poppy songs. The fact that there was a band opening that played the same brand of explosive, smart, and hooky pop-punk a la Dillinger Four was a wonderful surprise. Those are the best shows, usually. The ones that catch you off guard with something you weren’t expecting. When that happens I like to buy a record or a t-shirt (in this case I bought both. Despite never listening to this 7” but once after buying it, I wore my Pink Razors t-shirt to death. Literally until it had holes in it and I had to throw it out (I think, actually, it might be in a bag somewhere, but either way I had a shirt, and it had this really great design on it and I wore it forever)) because it’s just the way things are done. A token of respect. The three songs here aren’t aiming to take over the world, but they are certainly enjoyable. I’ve always loved punk bands that play fast and a little aggressive but understand the power of a good hook.

"First Degree"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gut Feeling: The Hotelier - Home, Like Noplace is There

The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
Tiny Engines, 2014

There isn’t enough space on my iPhone for too much music. Frankly, there are too many pictures of my baby, and even though I deleted the blurry ones, there are photos and videos I just can’t bring myself to get rid of even though they’ve been transferred to both my computer and iCloud. For six months, one album has avoided being cut from the 10 or 15 I keep on my phone. Usually, album’s cycle out as I absorb them and review them, but the Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There gets a stay of deletion. And really, it’s not even close. I haven’t written about this album even though I listen to it at least once a week. It’s one of my favorite albums of the year, and one reason for that is the fact that I haven’t been able to distill this album’s essence into words. It’s full of big, sweeping, grandiose, emotionally intense, heartbreaking, and deeply satisfying songs that resonate on a wave of emotional honesty that I require from any record I’m going to spend a significant amount of time with.

Home, Like Noplace Is There is absolutely relentless. If you’re not getting pummeled by Christian Holden’s devastating vocal performance, you are certainly being pummeled by the big, building guitars weaving some of the most satisfying and moody work the new emo revival has to offer. That, or the perfectly placed whoa-OH-ohs, the beautiful balance of incredible intensity and deathly quiet and the way both of which seem equally capable of shattering your heart. As lovely as this album often is, full of gorgeous melodies and passion, the songs are packed with ugly truths being stared straight in the face. Addiction, death, betrayal, all the heavy stuff heaped over some of the rawest, most compelling music I’ve heard all year. Maybe I’m biased (I did grow up on Brand New and this is hitting those exact same buttons and then some) with my penchant for artists who overshare and songs told in dog metaphors (“Housebroken”), but either way the chest-clearing, catharsis incarnate tone of Home, Like Noplace Is There is something to be heralded.

You can listen to (and acquire) the album in its entirety at Bandcamp, which I recommend as this is a real, proper capital-A Album to be experienced in its sequenced entirety.

"The Scope and All of This Rebuilding"

"Discomfort Revisited"

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Menzingers - Rented World

The Menzingers – Rented World
Epitaph, 2014
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2014
Price: $5
Has pop punk been secretly thriving all of these years, or are all the people who grew up on pop punk in the early 00s reviving the genre in their mid-to-late 20s? Either way, there’s something about this new wave of energetic records packed with hooks, sing-a-long harmonies, and big, booming power chords. Scranton, PA’s the Menzingers are as good as anyone when it comes to thoughtful whoa-Oh-oh pop punk. I’d never heard of this band until I saw they were touring with Lemuria (fellow purveyors of thoughtful, catchy music), and of course I stumbled across this album the next week and bought it sight unseen. Er, sound unheard? Either way, it’s something I never do, and something that sent a little thrill down my spine. Sure, it’s exciting to find new music on the internet, but actually taking a risk on a band has become wholly unnecessary in our society and while that’s mostly for the best, there’s something special about taking home a cool looking record, putting it on the turntable, and unlocking the mystery.

When the Menzingers are at their best they remind me of the first Killers album. I hope that doesn’t come across as an insult, because that record has some of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. Earworms that reside in my brain til this day. And tracks like “Where Your Heartache Exists” massage that part of my brain that lives on grandiose pop music. The Menzingers are smarter than the Killers, and they have more heart. My favorite surprise from Rented World is the excellent songwriting. The music is so good, the lyric sheet doesn’t need to be anything special, but it is anyway. The songs are wordy, but Tom May and Greg Barnett are more than capable of wrapping them around these potentially overpowering tracks.

I’m a grown ass man, but I’m enjoying this album the same way I would have when I was sixteen. The big change though is I am now better equipped to appreciate the ebb and flow. The tracks needn’t all be high-octane bangers to get my seal of approval, and the slower tracks peppered in to give the album texture (the lovely “Transient Love” and the heartwrenching acoustic closer “When You Died” help to make Rented World more than just another punk rock recordthe invasion) are some of my favorites. Better still, when the tracks switch tempo midstream, as on “In Remission,” which I can’t stop listening to. Equal parts anthemic and sensitive, the Menzingers do a great job of subverting expectations and manage to put their own stamp on a well-worn genre.

"In Remission"

"I Don't Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fugazi - 3 Songs EP

Fugazi – 3 Songs EP
Dischord, 1989 (Reissue)
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2014
Price: $1.50

1991 is often used as a touchstone for the birth of alternative rock out of the drum-machine and hair metal addled 80s. In 1989 DC’s Fugazi rose from the ashes of Minor Threat and released their first collection of tracks with the seminal 13 Songs compilation album, preceding the grunge explosion by two years and illustrating a clear evolution from the rapid fire hardcore punk to the more artful and post-punk influenced world of post-hardcore. These early Fugazi tracks have all the edge of blistering hardcore punk, but there’s more emotion, and there’s a whole hell of a lot more technical prowess. The 3 Songs EP was tacked onto the end of the band’s first proper LP Repeater, but serves as a bridge between their earlier 13 Songs material and shows absolutely no signs of letting up. In my world, Fugazi is just as important as the Beatles. I’d rather listen to Repeater than The White Album any day of the week. The stuff that resonates the most isn’t the emotion that comes through in these songs. It’s not surprising, since this band is effectively a mash-up of Rites of Spring and Embrace, two bands that immediately come up anytime anyone wants to talk about Emo (in the legit sense of the genre, not the weepy music made by tattooed wimps that took over the genre in the 00s). Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye sing with the passion of religious men. There is a sense of justification in Fugazi’s music that you don’t really hear too often. This is like the Beethoven of indie rock: something timeless that people will be calling real music in two-hundred years.

"Song Number One"

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gut Feeling: Guitar - Come Summer Come Blues - The Abandoned House of Micha Lueckner & Susi Tunn in 14 Songs

Guitar – Come Summer Come Blues – The Abandoned House of Micha Lueckner & Susi Tunn in 14 Songs
Self-Released, 2014
In our modern age, where everyone can know everything about everything, it’s nice to stumble across a band with an ungoogleable name, give their album a listen because it has an interesting title, and just go along for the ride. The band’s website runs like a messy flash game, but I was able to glean some information. Notably that Guitar hails from Cologne, Germany and showcases the output of Michael Lueckner and Tokyo-based vocalist/co-songwriter Ayako Akashiba. The site explains Guitar’s intent at its inception in the early 00s was “to produce new unique guitar-based songs and sounds that normal guitar bands do not or can not produce” and then how this idea was abandoned in favor of using all sorts of instruments.

The result is a lovely and strange hodgepodge that very much reminds me of the records of the Books. Yet where the Books championed a sort of electronic music/audio collage blend, Come Summer Come Blues feels more like an audio scrapbook. The songs blend and fold together, but the influences are pretty wide. Shoegaze, trip hop, folk, minimal techno, ambient, and post-rock elements are spread pretty equally throughout the record recalling My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Ros, Portishead, and Kraftwerk (because of course). Not to mention a significant Japanese influence that is not entirely limited to Akashiba’s beautiful vocals. The most surprising moments are when actual structured songs take form out of the sprawling sonics (notably “Spiders are Lonely Demons Dwelling On Your Attic,” which sounds, of all things, like early Death Cab for Cutie). There’s also a transcendently beautiful acoustic guitar interlude titled “Love Won’t Fade” that blew me away. There’s nothing that special about it, but the way it serves as a palate cleanser in this sensory overload of an album is pretty great. After that, it cuts back into sparse, looped and reversed electronics and we remember where we are: An album that is also a hall of mirrors, reflecting back things we have heard before in a unique and inventive way.

You can listen to the album in its entirety over at Bandcamp: