Fat White Family Champagne Holocaust Trashmouth RecordsMy first listen of Fat White Family's debut, Champagne Holocaust, left me thinking of notorious criminal Charles Manson. No sense emerged from this until my thoughts turned to the stark contrast, chasm even, between the monstrousness of Manson and the majesty of his music: deranged yet lucid, at once pretty yet horrific. A subsequent visit to Fat White Family's Tumblr page displayed the visage of Manson whose own Family, it turns out, partly inspired this British band's name. Like Manson's, their odd charm is seductive, and among the accolades they've accrued is The Quietus' Tomorrow's Cult Star Today award at BBC 6 Music Blog Awards. Some have attributed this popularity to their live show antics. Duly noted, but it's the aforementioned contrasts in their songs that might account for this, for therein lies the captivating appeal of this debut.
 

The Lawsuits hail from Doylestown Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It is home to the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and affords one the chance to pursue interests in farms, vineyards and tree farms. It is a place with a heritage very much of the earth. But, on Darleen, it is the cope of starry heavens to which the band turns its sights. Darleen is astronomical. On "Shooting Star," in a timbre evocative of Bessie Smith, singer Vanessa Winters testifies: "I"ll never fall in love again." On this early track and throughout, an absent lover still shines in secret, and the blues and gospel instrumentation connect the songs to a past, emotionally as well as musically.

On "I'm Still in Love with You," songcraft equal to Bob Dylan's accompanies lyrics in rapture to a lost love: "Like the rays of sun are hot/ Or how the sunshine is bright/ Never once have I stopped loving you." The light from the lover has gone, and the singer burns, but in the dark. In "You"re a Star," musical craft reminiscent of country writers like Joe "Red" Hayes illuminate vocals lamenting a lover whose attractive force holds the singer in orbit long after the last of their light has gone.

Listen to "Beautiful Anger" - DOWNLOAD MP3


Verdugo Hills is somewhat renowned for its high school -- in which numerous Hollywood movies have been filmed -- and a hospital revered for its ties to the community. Verdugo Hills is also the title of Caroline's new album, a wonderfully understated electronic journey of lessons learnt in life and love, and wounds remedied by self-realization. Her titles evoke the music of the songs they name. The disquieting brevity of opener "Balloon" takes you from the air to the water in the next track, "Swimmer." In the latter, the artist's submersion is also the listener's, as waves of sound drench and hide the lyrics beneath: "In my room I've been swimming/ And your pond has been warming/ You bring out the best/ You bring the highest high." Electronic drumbeats keep rhythm like uncertain footsteps emerging from water at the outset of a journey. This cautiousness continues in "Sleep," with lyrics which rest settled in beautiful melodies, and over the haze of an electronic keyboard. In "Seesaw," hopeful instrumentation is counterbalanced by lyrics of lament, which have listeners poised in the middle: "Wish your pure face could cure the hurt you have caused me/ The weight is on me."

Listen to "Swimmer" - DOWNLOAD MP3


Blood Sea Dream is Grand Lake's full-length debut. Eschewing any usual monikers, the Oakland quartet consider their music "fuckwave," a tag which questions their attachment to categorization. This encapsulates the spirit of an album likely to be smothered by typical calls for cohesion or clarity. Just observe its title; an awareness of the unconscious mind raises the possibility of strangeness, the unexpected, and elements for which the dreamer cannot account for -- of a place in which the disparate and unrelated can coexist. Unlike a dream, you'll be very much awake for this listening experience, as the difference of each track holds your attention.

 

From the song titles, one might expect interesting music to follow, and, one listen later, follow it does. "Threnody For F.A Mesmer" is an eerie, wordless lustre with an echoing drum which sounds like a heartbeat. Given that a threnody is a lamentable song for the dead, an intriguing contrast arises. Certain songs on this record evoke some little known music by commendable bands. Take "My Father As A Forest Full Of Trees," for example, which fuses sounds of Michael Tighe's band The A.M. and The Sons' "Too Much Of A Good Thing." On "Oedipus Hex (Hwy 1 North)" you may hear a sonic homage to The Pixies.

Listen to "Louise (I Live In A Fantasy)" - DOWNLOAD MP3

Dan Sartain begins Dan Sartain Lives, his sixth album, with paranoia and his life under threat in "Those Thoughts"; "I don"t wanna know who"s at my door.../ I don"t wanna hear your gunshots," he sings. Thereafter, the mood changes, until he ends the collection with "Touch Me," a lyrically optimistic track which describes the tangibility and goodness of other lives: "Everything"s made right when you touch me/ Just a touch of your fingertips will make the shadows disappear." The connection between the beginning and the end is a connection between life and death which pervades this album, and, contrary to its often dark sound, Lives is a hopeful offering. Even the artwork contrasts notably with his previous two album covers, which depict his suicide.

 

The ironically life-affirming "Atheist Funeral" has a bassline which creeps like the Grim Reaper beneath lyrics about controlling one's own life: "We die, I know/ And we all must go.../ Don"t speak about God at my funeral." This deicidal attitude is also heard in "Praying for a Miracle", over the reincarnated chords of Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardiner's "The Passenger." Here, Sartain places the difference between life and death not in the power of some benevolent God, but in one's own hands: "Heaven and hell may not exist/ And I don't believe any of it/ Nobody's looking out for you."

If Destroyer Of The Void, Blitzen Trapper's fifth full-length album, is your first encounter with them, you will likely be intrigued by their uncanny homage to musical tradition and their inflection of strangeness within the seemingly familiar. A few listens will disarm you, and you’ll begin to recognize music you’ve never heard which, immersed as it is in musical tradition, is never simply derivative. Opener "Destroyer Of The Void" combines prog-rock and country, changing time and structure like Yes, Rushm or Genesis. Throughout the album there are vocal harmonies and chord changes evocative perhaps of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Simon And Garfunkel.

 

Upon first listening to Worried About The Fire, you might -- like the music itself -- be wordless. "Disquieting," "disconcerting," and "disturbing" are just some suggestions with which to describe the album. The darkness of these adjectives, however, is much to the credit of Worried...

"I'm ready/ I'm ready for anything you give me," sings Ortolan's Stephanie Cottingham on "Anything." The lyrics of the opening track of Ortolan's full-length debut, Time On A String, echo the anticipation surrounding the album's release. And what you are given are dazzling songs with...

"Is that a good color?" asks Adam Green, regarding the phlegm he's just coughed into a cup. In the dressing room of the Newcastle Academy, Green puts his affliction down to either a cold or too much drinking. Green is here in the UK to promote his latest album, Minor Love, which, thankfully, is unaffected by the malady plaguing him tonight. The album showcases realized musicianship and emphasizes Green's vocal ability more than his previous albums do.
Yet, as Green well knows, many reviews of his music falsely label his move from lo-fi to well-produced albums as a sign of growing maturity. This is the kind of patronizing understanding of his music for which Green has an incisive response. "I think that's really silly," he laughs. "I've been touring and doing all these concerts since I was 18-years-old... I don't know what people think I was doing that was so immature, because I was the one that was showing up to play all these concerts for them... I was doing it of my own volition. I wasn't in the Mickey Mouse Club or some shit." Despite his incredulity here, the prospect of identifying his music with a label is a notion to which Green is not entirely averse. He seems to resonate with the "anti-folk" movement, saying of the classification, "Absolutely, yeah, I would endorse it. I don’t exactly know what it is; no one really knows what it is, but I like those people that are involved." For Green, Minor Love has been shaped by his striving for a specific sound, but relaxing when trying to achieve it. He elaborates on this by recalling the influence of his trip to Nashville prior to recording his last album, Sixes And Sevens. "I gave up on this incredibly formal aesthetic that I'd gotten into on Gemstones and Jacket Full Of Danger. There were a lot of rules I'd put on myself; there were almost no overdubs. At the time, I was really taken with what The Strokes were doing; Julian [Casablancas] was influencing my aesthetic to the point where he was telling me not to put strings on Gemstones, and I was listening to him," Green explains. "So he's really responsible for the way that record sounds in some ways, because he told me to make it a certain way."

One can say, without taking anything away from Beach House and Devotion, that on their latest offering, Teen Dream, Beach House rove deeper. The tracks still shimmer and haunt, but something more tangible is present in the lyrics. From its introduction with "Zebra" to the...