My Bloody Valentine — m b v

My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Self-released; 2013

Do you remember the assorted drills you went through as a school-faring child? Fire, earthquake, tornado, lockdown, etc. There were a million different scenarios that the administrators thought of that could potentially harm you and your young friends. Maybe those drills went well — maybe every time those raucous bells and whistles exploded into the classroom, you and your tiny peers defied them, lining up neatly and walking out of the room calmly in a single file line to the designated place.

But probably not. And definitely not when someone gets word, rumor or truth, that it’s the real thing.

Drills are drills. Emergencies are emergencies. And those who grew up in the early Cold War days know all too well that preparing for an emergency like, say, a nuclear bomb, with — oh, I don’t know — cowering under a plywood desk, does nothing to ease your mind from fear and panic and running around like a blind, stuck pig on fire.

Well here it is, children. This is not a drill. My Bloody Valentine has come out with a new album.

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Jerry Paper — Vol. I

Jerry Paper — Vol. I

Digitalis LTD; 2012

Can I be honest without sounding like a douchey elitist for a moment? It’s hard to find good music these days.

Deep breath.

To clarify, I mean really great music, with an all-around flair for instrumentation and mood and songwriting — oh man, how I love a well-written song. There’s plenty of people out there trying it, and honestly, they’re doing a very good job about it. There are albums out there that I crave sometimes, and artists whose output I’ve been waiting for on the edge of my seat. I mean, if it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t really listen to it, right? And I listen to a lot of music.

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California X — S/T

California X — S/T

Don Giovanni; 2013

Being an invested music fan is an affair that involves repeated existential crises that come without warning and may linger with you for the rest of your life. Anyone who spends enough time paying attention comes up with their own preferences, guilty pleasures, and yes, an inevitable smugness that comes with loving one thing and hating another. There are always bands and albums you love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love, and those lists are always getting longer, shorter and revising themselves with age. The constant is two-fold: a love for the craft, and ostensibly more immediately, a love for how the music makes you feel. Continue reading

Clinic – Free Reign

Clinic - Free Reign

Domino, 2012

Long-time masked men Clinic released their new album, Free Reign, this past Tuesday, and after listening to it straight through two or three times, I am woefully underwhelmed. It’s hard not to have a good deal of respect for the band, who has managed to straddle the line between known and unknown for the last decade-and-a-half. It’s also especially difficult not to marvel at their image — colorfully-matched, surgical mask-wearing, freak-popsters — which is still such a rock-solid look and concept after 15 years that it often (unfairly) defines them to new listeners.

But the album: it’s boring.

Clinic is good at writing songs that sound like their came so far out of left field that they might as well have been sunstroked into oblivion on the bleachers, and while Free Reign is a good attempt at turning the lights out and flipping the synths/drum machines into “Suicide” mode, that energy is all but gone.

Still, the while the album doesn’t come close to the breakneck rawness of sawtooth psychedelia proper (Suicide or Moon Duo might satisfy that craving), tracks like “Seamless Boogie Woogie, BBC2 10PM (RPT)” or “For The Season” achieve a more downtempo, blissed-out kind of high, akin to late-period Spacemen 3. Those two selections also highlight what I’ve always thought to be the band’s secret weapon: the syllabic cadence and wavering delivery of vocalist Ade Blackburn.

Looking at Free Reign as the dark side to Clinic’s last album, 2010’s Bubblegum, which has a similarly light feel, except with a brighter and cleaner sound, lends the album a more completeness. On its own, however, the album comes off as a good effort, but not fully committed. Me, I’ll stick to Internal Wrangler.

The Soft Moon – Zeros

The Soft Moon - Zeros

Captured Tracks, 2012

You might get strange flashbacks when you listen to the Soft Moon’s newest album, Zeros. Flashbacks to a dimly lit dance floor in the early 1980s, surrounded by black lace and purple eyeshadow — and that’s just the guys.

The Soft Moon is the alias of Luis Vasquez, whose shrieking synths and pummeling beats tip-toe back and forth across the line between clipped distortion and eardrum horror, though that’s not a complaint by any means. Fans of early 80s post-punk will revel in these tracks, and maybe even remember the point in history when the Cure was a perfect mixture of angry and angsty, instead of just annoyingly mopey (*cough cough Disintegration cough*).

Amazingly, Vasquez dodges the pitfall of so many like-minded acts by making each track sound similar enough to be aesthetically consistent without driving the concept into a repetitive 30-minute funeral dirge snoozefest.

Listen below and get ready to swoosh around your black velvet shirttails.