Eels have always presented a conundrum for me – for every heartbreaking song that touches my soul they’ve had a bland middle of the road mid-tempo rocker that did nothing for me. 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues was the rare album that hit me fully on just about every song. Nuanced, emotional, depressing – it hit everything that I love. Other albums have come close, while others have been forgettable. It’s been 4 years since Mark Oliver Everett’s Eels have released an album. That album – 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett represented a solid record with a few mix tape worthy songs of note. 2018’s The Deconstruction betters this in just about every way. In fact, it might be my favorite Eels album in almost 20 years.
It’s been 2 years since we last heard from Dinosaur Jr. in their highly successful and drama free reunion period. 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not was the perfect blend of noise, melody, and melancholy (and my favorite song was a Lou Barlow tune). In fact, it ranks very highly in my “Favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums” imaginary list. Also the supporting show at The Showbox in Seattle was insanely amazing (and loud). Hold Unknown is (apparently) a one-off single as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. A slab of pop punk that will bring a smile to your face. A J. Mascis fronted tune that is joyous and infectious. A recommended tune that will be worth the $1 spent.
2017 saw the release of Weather Diaries – the 1st album released by Ride in over 20 years. It was also the last reunion shoegaze album to arrive, preceded by My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Swervedriver, and Slowdive. Strangely enough, unlike those other bands, Ride’s comeback album didn’t receive across the board glowing reviews. It probably doesn’t surprise my readers that Ride’s album was my favorite of the lot. Not totally ignoring the band’s Britpop phase, nodding to the shoegaze early albums, and yet pointing towards a new direction. It didn’t land on most end of the year lists, but it was near the top of mine (the one that I forgot to write for this site). Tomorrow’s Shore is a quick 4 song EP follow-up, and was cut from the same cloth as Weather Diaries.
Amazingly, the EP doesn’t have the sound of leftovers or b-sides – these tunes stand on their own (and actually would have been among the strongest album tracks on Weather Diaries). Pulsar is a nice mix of shoegaze, white noise, and melody. It is the perfect opening track. Lyrically, it’s a stunner. “Like the summer always fainted and the wind gets cool on your skin / You know that something was will never be here again”. Surreal has a Britpop feel to it with just the right amount of sounds f/x. The last two songs are really where the EP shines. Cold Water People finally shows the reunited Ride not ignoring their Carnival of Light days (actually, my personal favorite album by them). Melody, mellow, Britpop, classicist – what a song. The lyrics. Man, this is a band just completely in sync. “Life as jagged as your favorite song / But love is forever”. Catch You Dreaming is the single, and it encapsulates everything great about this EP – a bit experimental, strong melodies, emotional. Slight nod to the shoegaze days with a strong chorus. Andy Bell explains that the song “is written from the perspective of being one of the last two people alive, watching as the Universe is ending”. Vocally, it is a haunting performance from Andy Bell (hard to believe he was able to stay to the side in Oasis and Beady Eye for so many years). It is a stunning closer to a stunning EP.
The EP is available at all the usual places online or local record shops. It it is highly recommend.
Verdict: Ride ride again
For Fans of: Slowdive, The Beatles, Lush, Badfinger, Mansun,
- Keep It Surreal
- Cold Water People
- Catch You Dreaming
AAA Battery is a cross-country collaboration between guitarist Fred A. Jeske (based in Chicago), bassist Joe A. Maydak (based in San Francisco), and singer Spookey A. Ruben (based in Los Angeles). The music doesn’t suffer from its file swapping origins – the band dubs it “prog you can dance to” which is an apt of a description as I can think of. In fact, many songs brought to mind the one-off Tool side project, Lusk from the mid 90’s (also – still the only Tool related thing I own, with apologies to all the other related bands). Alternative guitars slot in comfortably with horns and progressive rhythms. Corrosion of Buddha is the band’s sophomore release and is an homage to the corrosion of the human spirit. As singer Fred Jeske explains “…the songs represent individual streams of known imbalance based on relationships, political filtering and overall sight of the ongoing devolution of our planet and people”. It also helps that it is a great record.
Runaway With The Gold is the album opener and serves as a statement of intent. An almost ska feel with the horns and underlying deep bass. Bonus points for a jam in the middle of the song. The title track has abrasive elements jutting up against melody to great effect. Invisible has such a latter-day Bowie feel to it I had to double-check the credits. Musically, this is all about atmosphere. Vocals intertwine with the lead guitar, really giving it a space vibe. Stunning. The song fades out on an amazing instrumental coda. Techno And The Man has an intro that reminded me quite a bit of a mid period Red Hot Chili Peppers funk jam. The song segues into a bizarre sounding tune that is equal parts Primus and the 60’s Batman theme song. Pretty awesome, in other words. Landfills, A Meditation is probably my favorite song on the record. The intro vocals call to mind Neil Young & Crazy Horse with a dash of The Beach Boys for good measure. It then segues into a dark soundscape instrumental for the last 5 minutes or so. Perfection.
Verdict: Prog You Can Dance To
For Fans of: Lusk, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, David Bowie, Porno for Pyros
- Runaway With The Gold
- Taxi Heart
- Corrosion of Buddha
- Victim Of My Life
- Techno And The Man
- Sunshine Flies
- August Blade
- Landfills, A Meditation
- Medicine Box
The last time Dan Florio released a new album, Washington State was in the midst of a dreary rainy season. Darkness. Cold. Wet. 2014. Here we are in 2018 with Dan’s latest EP and this rainy season has been eating at my soul in a season full of life changes. Changes and routines – the only constants in life. It was an unexpected note from Mr. Florio himself that alerted me to his new music, and I’ve had this EP on repeat ever since. A Day Wiser finds Dan returning the sparser instrumentation of his debut EP. It is a stark reminder of the strength of his tunes and a welcome return. He is assisted by John O’Reilly Jr. on drums and percussion along with Caitlin Mahoney on backing vocals on a track.
Coming My Way opens the EP on a strong note – emotive vocals, melodic guitar – no hints of sadness. The feeling of nostalgia is heavy, the longing in Florio’s voice clear. This wouldn’t sound out of place on a release by The Band in the 70’s. Dream of Mine is the track featuring Caitlin Mahoney on backing vocals and is a melancholy acoustic lament. Young Traveler has a bit of a groove to it – the track on the release that has fullest instrumentation. “I worried for no reason at all / but now i’m feeling free”. My favorite song is the last one. White Tailed Hare is an evocative pastoral work out that evokes imagery straight out of Watership Down. “there’s a white-tailed hare with a heart of a bear”. A stunning end to this short but impactful release.
You can pick up the EP here as a “pay what you want” model. It comes highly recommended.
Verdict: Warmth in Winter
For Fans of: Mojave 3, Sixth Great Lake, The Band, Neil Young, Neil Drake
- Coming My Way
- Dream of Mine
- Young Traveler
- White Tailed Hare
Not My Master hail from El Paso, TX and play what they have dubbed “Texas Metal”. An unholy alliance of the best traits from Celtic Frost (or even Hellhammer) and Pantera, the band excels in extreme metal. The band features Chris Kidwell on vocals, Chelo Styles on guitar, Rudy Barajas on bass, and Charlie Gonzalez on drums. The band has played festivals and shows throughout Texas, honing their live show – culminating in a highly desired date in March opening up for Vince Neil (Motley Crüe). What I love about Not My Master – and you might too – is that the band navigates melody and aggression in equal measures. Not unlike Metallica’s misunderstood masterpiece, St. Anger (yes, I’m serious). Thrash, melody, and catharsis comfortably co-exist here. Disobey is the band’s first release. It is a statement of intent – as an EP, it hints at greatness. The future is bright for Not My Master.
Acadence sets the tone for the release – sludgy guitars that would sound out-of-place in Seattle, military drums, and barked / howling vocals. It pummels and delights. Where’s God Now is slightly less aggressive but no less dark in tone. Lyrically, the band is on fire “angry voices / mindless choices” culminating in a question that has haunted mankind forever. It’s a an insight into darkness and musically thrilling. Morning Star starts off as the least aggressive tune thus far before exploding in a noisy maelstrom. How the Gods Kill is a cover of the famous Danzig tune. It is a nice moment of familiarity – a nod to influences as well as a showcase for Chris Kidwell’s vocal chops. It is a highlight on an EP full of them. In fact, Glenn Danzig’s words can kind of sum up the feel of the EP “If you feel alive / In a darkened room / Do you know the name / Of your solitude”.
Verdict: Aggressive Debut
For Fans of: Pantera, Metallica, Danzig, Celtic Frost, Lamb of God
- Where’s God Now
- Morning Star
- How the Gods Kill
Unexpectedly, 2018 brings us the wide release of a new Television Personalities album. Something I never expected to happen. TVP’s leader Dan Treacy suffered severe health issues a few years ago that left him debilitated, possibly sidelining any new music permanently. It was a tragic turn of events – the music Mr. Treacy had released since his comeback in the mid 00’s was some of the strongest material in the TVP’s oeuvre. Beautiful Despair features tracks recorded with Jowe Head in the late 80’s. Most of these songs would turn up on other releases, while a few are just seeing the light of day on this album. Not quite a demo tape, but not quite an official album feel to this release. What it does is bring the listener into the creative process, giving you and idea of what works and what doesn’t work. And to be clear – this isn’t a masterpiece. What it is, is an unexpected glimpse into the working relationship Jowe Head and Dan Treacy had. Results will vary for the listener depending on how much of a Television Personalities fan you are, but for me the album is a welcome release.