Music Reviews

Music Roundup 10/22/19

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We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not in this week’s music roundup

music roundup Allah-Las

Allah-Las – LAHS

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Holding Pattern,” “Roco Ono,” “Houston”

To be clear, Allah-Las’ fourth full-length, LAHS, is a perfectly enjoyable and harmless slice of laidback California psych-pop. They’ve entirely done away with the garage rock that populated their earlier sound and contributed to the highlight of their discography, WORSHIP THE SUN, but for those looking to live nice and breezy, LAHS is sure to have some highlights. But, even if perhaps suffering a bit by comparison being on the same roundup as the more grooving funk of STARS ARE THE LIGHT, which is admittedly more in my wheelhouse of neo-psych enjoyment, the Allah-Las are just a bit too toothless to fully land for me here. I can’t say it’s music that fails to conjure up a scenario; melted into someone’s stuffy couch in the living room of a three-bedroom apartment in Silverlake, a window air-conditioning unit giving a game effort to suggest even the slightest hint of relief, failing to cool your brow with a rapidly room-temperature Mexican lager… as the kids would say, “it’s a mood.” At its best, LAHS manages to evoke that not-entirely-unpleasant disorientation of trying to acclimate yourself to your surroundings upon waking up from a nap that got away from you, but all this said… I’m rarely in the mood for music that explicitly reminds me of sleep. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with LAHS; the album is a SoCal spin on the sort of languidly exploratory riffing of Real Estate, but whereas that band knew when to double-down on an earworm or hook, Allah-Las rest comfortably in the pocket of mood music—there’s a reason the two best songs on the album are entirely without vocals. Apart from those aforementioned instrumental tracks and opener “Holding Pattern,” which shows the band as a studio unit more firmly married to the cohesive interplay best exemplified in their psych-pop forebears of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I’d rather listen to former labelmate Kurt Vile, even if I can respect just how bona fide that “sounds like” pitch must have been. [Thomas Seraydarian]

music roundup Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon – NO HOME RECORD

Genre: Avant-Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Murdered Out,” “Hungry Baby,” “Earthquake”

All and all it’s been a tremendous decade for Kim Gordon. It started off with the disbandment of Sonic Youth and end of her 27-year marriage with Thurston Moore, both major, life-altering events that led to some introspection in her excellent autobiography GIRL IN A BAND. Musically Gordon slowly began reclaiming and rebuilding a boundary-pushing musical identity that reaffirmed the brilliance of her work in Sonic Youth while reestablishing her as a creative powerhouse in a new era. A string of excellent avant-garde noise releases with Bill Nace as Body/Head, an interesting, mostly ambient drone record with Tomorrows Tulips’ Alex Knost as Glitterburst, and now her own formal solo release, NO HOME RECORD, across the board each read as the kind of compelling idealistic experimentation that we should hold elder statesmen in the indie rock community to.

NO HOME RECORD sees Gordon and producer Justin Raisen regurgitating modern, pop-adjacent sounds and styles, from skittering 808s to house and trap beats, to make a cluttered, claustrophobic, and entertaining series of bombastic pop songs. Within some of her most accessible tracks to date (not hard given how intentionally inaccessible some of the aforementioned releases come across), Gordon delivers gnarled industrial dance tracks, from the pounding, ‘90s-updated glitch beat on highlight “Murdered Out” to the grinding, building pulse of “Cookie Butter”—listen to “Paprika Pony” and tell me you wouldn’t be shocked to hear Maxo Kream pop up. Equally straightforward is the blistering and angry “Hungry Baby,” or the dissonant warmness and jarring snarl of opener “Sketch Artist,” both of which seamlessly blend the heady art of her impassioned guitar playing in Body/Head with something more concretely driving and sensible. Even the sprawling, breathy cacophony of closer “Get Yr Life Back” is somehow direct, her ability to create something ear-catching and altogether fascinating on display as the knobby rumble of the synths and her deep, lo-fi vocals dance on the knife’s edge of terrifying and beautiful. It’s a brilliant release from a 66-year-old icon who stopped having to prove herself several decades ago but continues to find ways to challenge both herself and us. [CJ Simonson]

music roundup Moon Duo

Moon Duo – STARS ARE THE LIGHT

Genre: Neo-Psychedelia

Favorite Tracks: “Stars Are the Light,” “Eternal Shore,” “Fever Night”

Though comparatively understated in the grand scheme of the neo-psych scene, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo have been releasing stellar cut after stellar cut of day-tripping reverie, with 2017’s OCCULT ARCHITECTURE VOL. 1 one of my top releases from that year. Returning in 2019 with Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 behind the mixing board, things are as hypnotic and amicably droning as ever, but this time with an odd, but no less present, dance sensibility—appropriate, as Yamada is quoted as saying STARS OF THE LIGHT is designed to explore “the endless dance of bodies in nature.” While not exactly disco, there is something cosmically similar present, as this is an album that’s fundamentally incapable of being sedentary, co-opting disco’s eternal grooves to bolster wide-eyed NorCal sensibilities. Constantly shifting and moving, it’s a fairly unique interpretation of psychedelia, aiming more for the early-morning comfort of a chillwave rave room after a night of mind-fraying than genially stoned awe and wonder. While some tracks go full space cadet, “Fever Night” the sonic equivalent of a Santa Cruz shrooms trip, the vast majority of the album is surprisingly somewhat comparable to Laotian and Isaan molam music, making use of locked tape loops, flanged-out guitar noodlings, and subtly shifting synth palettes in the background to carry you away. That said, the band also dabbles in traditional dream pop more so here than with previous releases, with the lilting, gauzy vocals usually making a strong case for agency in the mix. It’s all quite pleasant, and certainly fits the scenarios where it’s the most obvious candidate to put on in the background, but doesn’t have any ostensible ambitions to be something you’ll remember far past your return to Earth. Then again, why does it have to be? In a year of continual disappointments, sometimes it’s nice to get more-or-less exactly what you expected. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Why?

WHY? – AOKOHIO

Genre: Abstract Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “Peel Free,” “Reason,” “Deleterio Motilis,” “High Dive,” “Rock Candy,” “Bloom Whither Bloom (for Mom)”

The path to making great art is never linear. WHY?, a psychedelic indie rock outfit from Ohio that’s been making music that defies categorization for almost two decades now, released their magnum opus ALOPECIA 10 years ago and have managed to maintain a loyal fanbase ever since, despite never quite reaching those heights again. It’s not surprising; lead singer Yoni Wolf crafts dense, painfully confessional lyrics, and arranges them with wildly inventive compositions, and making music this out-of-the-box takes time to do correctly. Which is precisely why AOKOHIO feels like such a blessing, a true return to form that’s been a decade in the making. Not only is this record immaculately well-produced, it also features some of Wolf’s most honest lyrics in years, more direct than he’s ever been in the past but all the more cutting for it. To top it all off, the album is accompanied by a complete visual album (free on YouTube) that is so painfully personal that it almost feels like a violation to watch. The visuals are constructed from archival footage of Yoni and his brother Josiah, mixed media footage shot by Yoni over the course of several years, and some digital animation that has to be seen to be believed. The overarching narrative of the record finds Yoni looking back on a life he’s mostly grateful for, and looking forward to his mortality with a clarity and acceptance he’s never previously exhibited. The net effect of the album is a serenity prayer for aging millennials who did too much acid in their early 20s, an acceptance of life for what it truly is, dark bruises and all. For long-term fans, this new record is a remarkable culmination of a lifetime of work, but even for newcomers, this album is wholly unlike anything else in contemporary music and is worthy of careful appreciation. This is a band that’s been given the opportunity to mature, morph, and redefine themselves however they please for a long time now, and we all get to appreciate a one-of-a-kind, almost completely novel record as a result. [Carter Moon]

MERRY-GO-ROUNDTABLE Episode 42: AUDITION, the Best Romantic Comedy Ever Made?

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