I get a lot of random records, tapes, and books in the mail, because publicists forget that outlets for which I used to work aren’t around anymore, or someone finds the address hidden on my website, or… whatever. This is a way to keep them from piling up uselessly in the corner of the office.
There Were Wires – Somnabulists
(Iodine Records/Tor Johnson Records)
In 2003, Iodine Records released Somnabulists. It was Boston hardcore/metal band There Were Wires’ swan song, a seven-song mini album which merged quiet, dreamy indie introspection with fiercely-delivered vocals and angular blasts of instrumental power. As the years have passed, the sound of There Were Wires seems to have come just a little too early, with tracks like Somnambulist’s opener, “New Doom,” prefiguring what Alcest and Deafheaven would be doing just a few years later.
This vinyl reissue – which also marks the album’s debut on wax – from Iodine and Tor Johnson brings There Were Wires’ sound to a wider audience, one which is perhaps more accepting of what the five piece was aiming to do. As frontman Jaime Mason notes in his gatefold spread essay, this record was “not only a dramatic departure from the punchy abruptness of our earlier sound, but it was an inadvertently dark record, as well.”
The hardcore heart of There Were Wires means that Somnabulists hits harder nearly two decades on than similar output from Poison the Well. Maybe it’s the directness of something like “Get Cryptic,” which balances the guttural rasp of Mason’s barking delivery with Thomas Moses’ and Don Belcastro’s interwoven guitar work to create a sonic ebb and flow of harsh and beautiful, before shredding apart at its end. Maybe it’s covering Sonic Youth’s “Tunic” as a bonus track, demonstrating that this was a band with more influences than just the hardcore bands with whom they shared a scene. Either way, Somnabulists feels fresh and vital.
That said, the drums sound like they were recorded in a cardboard box. The rest of this record sounds great, but Ryan Begley is playing his heart out, and the opening solo of “Gasp” sounds like he’s banging on a balloon, not a full kit. It’s a damned shame. It’s not Begley’s fault, obviously, but one wishes that Alan Douches’ remastering work could’ve done something for them.
Great new artwork, though. This is one for the ages, now.
No Thanks – Submerger
(Black Site Records)
This LP has been hanging around the office for literal months now. I play it at least once a week but it’s still almost impossible to describe. The blending of genres by Omaha’s No Thanks makes Submerger an album which hits death rock darkness with ’80s hardcore intensity, and a surf rock swagger throughout.
Side one opener “Wicked Grin” is a pure Midwestern hardcore ripper, halfway between Zero Boys and Dark Ages, whereas side two’s “Silent Sarcophagus” might as well have been written in that transitional period between Bauhaus and Tones on Tail. Yet, it all comes together perfectly, because goddamn if No Thanks isn’t perfectly dark throughout. This is dystopic rock ‘n’ roll and you will pay attention when these four Nebraskans rip into songs about underwater creatures, the dangers of the man-machine interface, and more.
No Thanks’ Submerger basically puts me in the mood to hang out in a basement, dangling from the rafters as the crowd destroys everything below me as the band rips out these songs in the corner. It’s intense.
Pluralone – I Don’t Feel Well
Given that Org Music is primarily a reissue label, any new releases the company puts out are always worth a spin, given their unusual and left-of-center takes. Such is the case for this most recent album from Pluralone, the solo project from former Red Hot Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer.
Written and performed almost entirely by Klinghoffer – although Jack Irons plays drums on four cuts, along with additional help on violin, bass, and cello – this collection of introspective songs feels like the musician is working through some stuff. Not unsurprisingly, this music was recorded after Klinghoffer’s departure from the Chili Peppers, during the waning years of the Trump presidency in the midst of California’s wildfires and a pandemic. You can hear the musician grasping for hope in songs like “Carry,” as he quietly sings, “Not quite sure if I should be scared,” as the music behind him gently swells.
Six months on from its initial release, with the country in a less-worse place (“better” being relative to one’s privilege and position in society), the joy in I Don’t Feel Well is clearer than the fear, but the tension is still palpable in the picked notes of something like “The Report” and even the exuberant indie pop of side two opener, “Mother Nature,” with its slowed-down sadness.
Pluralone’s LP is the third record in this roundup to feature lyrics within the package, and I can’t emphasize just how much something as simple as this makes a release feel like it’s something more than just a piece of product. Lyric sheets and liner notes convey a sense of importance from the music’s creators, in that they want folks to interact with this physical release visually, aurally, and tangibly.
Roof Beams – This Life Must Be Long
The record not only came with a sticker of Cory Mendenhall’s cover artwork, but also a lyric sheet autographed by Nathan Robinson, which makes for a nice personalized touch. The music on This Life Must Be Long has an interesting Covid story to it, as well:
“This record was tracked and mixed in individual homes in DC, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in the Spring and Summer of 2020. Performers recorded their own tracks and arranged them remotely, and Nathan did the final mixing at home. The sound is raw, pure, independent music and feels like hearing a set from five feet away at a house show, something we all would desperately like to be able to do safely this year.”
If you’ve ever wished the Avett Brothers were maybe a little less screamy or Conor Oberst listened to more Pete Seeger, Roof Beams’ new LP is right up your alley. The Americana indie folk is balanced by touches like the electronic flourishes and far-away AM radio effects on “Carry On,” which takes the music from the living room to the outer reaches of the atmosphere.
The same thing goes for “My Business” on the second side. I love physical media for exactly this reason: ending each side with something different makes my such a satisfying listening experience. The end result is Roof Beams’ constant subversion of your expectations and a delightful surprise.
Thomas Comerford – Introverts
Due out June 18, the new release from Chicago’s own Thomas Comerford, Introverts, definitely lives up to the high praise that he is a musician “whose combination of soulful folk-rock exuberance and burning lyrical insight make his records an inviting, rewards-repeating experience.”
He gets name-checked as being part of a continuum with Fred Neil, Gene Clark, and Mickey Newbury, but the gently chiming guitars and pop sensibilities, when combined with Ariel Bolles’ watery distorted vocals on a track such as “Cowboy Mouth” also bring to mind a folkier Jeff Lynne, as if he decided to do an ELO song with the Traveling Wilburys.
The entirety of Introverts takes elements from the past and reconfigures them in a manner which feels familiar – like those guitars on “Onion City” – but pairs them with something totally incongruous – like those bongos on “Onion City.” I want to say this feels like the ’60s invading the ’80s indie scene by way of ’70s singer-songwriters, but that duet with Azita Youssefi on “Partners” is such a perfectly timeless update of the Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood dynamic, I’m just at a loss for words.
It’s alternately twangy, folky, psychedelic, and dark, but never is it ever boring or depressing. Introverts is absolutely fascinating in every facet, and the track-by-track breakdown of who performed what on each track, located on the back cover, is sure to be a gateway to a cavalcade of new discoveries.
Jeremy D’Antonio – Spinnin’ Wheels
When you’ve designed your 12-inch EP to look just like a Columbia Records country album from the ’60s, right down to the “STEREO” and “Guaranteed High Fidelity” strip across the front and back covers, you best have the chops to back it up. Thankfully, D’Antonio’s voice is more than up to the challenge of knocking out four originals and a cover of John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness.”
With a crackerjack band who back him up with honky-tonk piano and steel guitar, along with some excellently laid-back bass work, Spinnin’ Wheels is an underheard entry into the recent resurgence of new country artists inspired by the likes of Prine and Townes Van Zandt, with confessional and sad songs suitable for a bottle of whiskey and some tears.
I do wish that D’Antonio had included one barnburner on Spinnin’ Wheels, just so I could hear what he and this band can do when they kick it out, but given how well they do what they do on this five song EP, it’s a pretty minor quibble.
Also, speaking of pretty, the clear vinyl to which D’Antonio’s LP is pressed looks and sounds fantastic. It’s gorgeously warm.
Mr. and the Mrs. – Seaside with Mr. and the Mrs.
Also on clear, but coming as a 45rpm big hole single, is the latest from garage rock duo Mr. and the Mrs. Featuring two originals and a surfy interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ “Stoned,” this three-song 7-inch sounds absolutely amazing. Pressed at Third Man Records, it’s got a really robust tone, the better to deliver the band’s rockers.
The instrumental on the b-side, “Look What Just Washed Up on the Shore,” with its background shrieks and crashing waves, is superlative dark surf which could readily play under the opening credits of any beach horror flick. I’d kinda like to pair it with a highlight reel of scenes from The Flesh Eaters. That’d be a boss video, right?
The insert comes with a picture of the band and a list of thanks, and is also autographed! Second autographed thing in this roundup. Nice.
Pikefruit – Inflorescence
Goodness, I love synthpop. Any band who sounds like they’ve absorbed the ’80s, listened to the Drive soundtrack, or just works in that XX/Chvrches vein of production, I am there for. Maybe it’s due to too many listens of Sneaker Pimps’ “Six Underground” over the years, but some beautiful vocals over vaporwave-y backing will have me swooning.
Inflorescence is the soundtrack to a dream from which you never want to awaken. Floating, ethereally, on top of a bed of beats which have you quietly walking through a sunlit forest on the most beautiful day you can imagine, all within your imagination.
Pikefruit was “brought together by a love of plants” and it shows. This is lush and organic and wraps me up. I listen to all these albums in an upstairs bedroom converted into an office, so I’m looking out at trees and hearing birds chirp in the background whenever a record spins on the turntable, and it all blended together as I listened to Pikefruit’s Inflorescence, making for a near-perfect musical experience. The way certain tracks pan from left to right and back again is just the icing on a lovely cake.
My LP of Inflorescence looks identical to the CD of Inflorescence, except that it’s pressed on heavyweight vinyl and comes in an archival quality, anti-static inner sleeve with a download code. This seems like it comes up every column, but if you’re going to put this much time into crafting your music and going to the extra trouble of pressing vinyl in this day and age, make that vinyl edition something special. Have side one and side two track listings. Put an insert in the jacket that lets people learn a little bit about you.
For the record, they’re a Seattle duo: Nicole (vocals) and Alex (production). This is their second release and first full-length.