Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, May 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for May, 2017. Part one can be found here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Grandpa’s Ghost, The Carnage Queen (Transduction) Pocahontas, IL’s Grandpa’s Ghost have been active since the ’90s, garnering beaucoup accolades and a too-small following, which is to be expected when roots and experimentation intersect. Impossible to imagine without the precedent of Neil Young in and outside of Crazy Horse, but boy howdy do they transcend that template on this 2LP (+ bonus digital set Country of Piss). “I Am a Specimen” is a highlight of raucous out-rock leading into “Come Here, Come Here,” which hits like a midwestern Lungfish crossed with Peter Jefferies. A

Jason Rigby, One (Fresh Sound) Inside-outside trios are a personal favorite, and this disc, which features Rigby on tenor and soprano sax with Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, maintains a consistently high standard. Evenly split between strong Rigby originals and a diversity of borrowed material, the decision to tackle “You Are Too Beautiful” was inspired by Coltrane and Rollins; Rigby’s playing combines elements of both but isn’t the slightest bit derivative. His soprano is a pleasure, and so’s his going it alone on “Embraceable You.” Brown and Cleaver reinforce their heavyweight reps. A-

REISSUE PICKS: OST, Blue Velvet (Varèse Sarabande) David Lynch’s ’86 cult behemoth is eminently quotable (“yes, that’s a human ear, alright.” “I’LL FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES!”), so I’m guessing there was temptation to pull a Tarantino and expand the reissue with dialogue snippets. If so, then kudos for resisting the urge, as Angelo Badalamenti’s classically orchestral score deserves to be front and center. The sound effects suite is also cool, as is “Honky Tonk Part 1,” “Love Letters,” Julee Cruise singing “Mysteries of Love,” and of course, the candy-colored clown they call the sandman. A

Swans, The Great Annihilator + Drainland (Young God) By ’94 Swans were solidly back on sure footing, but upon Annihilator’s initial release, I can distinctly recall being struck by its power, cohesiveness, and maturity. Michael Gira has recently professed displeasure with the original mix, but I was never so bummed; nonetheless, this remastering from the original tapes does strike the ear as fuller, and folks lacking this set on vinyl (which is most people, I’m guessing) can scoop it up now with Gira’s signature and get a bonus download of the man’s rather nifty ’95 solo joint Drainland. ‘tis a good ‘un! A- / A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, May 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for May, 2017. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem) Long active on the Chicago scene and recently busy in NYC, Branch is a skilled trumpeter. She’s recorded quite a bit over the last decade, but this, to employ jazz parlance, is her debut as leader. The core group consists of trumpet, cello, bass and drums with guest spots for guitar and two cornets. In line with the Chicago tradition, there’s a lack of spotlight hogging, but the collectivity is unique; “theme 001” and “theme nothing” brandish wicked cello-driven grooves, and when Branch does let loose, the sound is imaginative and energetic. A-

Penguin Cafe, The Imperfect Sea (Erased Tapes) Formed in ’72 by Simon Jeffes, most of Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s output emerged in the ’80s and was often associated with New Age, though it’s more accurately categorized as chamber-pop with a minimalist bent. The Imperfect Sea is not that Penguin Cafe Orchestra, as Jeffes passed in ’97, but is instead a continuation of sorts by his son Arthur, and one that exceeds expectations. Fully utilizing chamber instrumentation, Sea registers as less of a World Music offshoot than the Orchestra, but the mood is still sunny. During “Ricercar,” sunnier even. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Flat Duo Jets, Wild Wild Love (Daniel 13) For recent converts to the gospel according to Dex Romweber looking to get acquainted with the man’s early work, this is an absolute score, rounding up the Jets’ self-titled 1990 LP, a second disc of outtakes, and the long-elusive ’84 cassette-only mini-album (In Stereo), which makes its vinyl debut here via 10-inch. Alongside drummer Chris “Crow” Smith, Romweber dished an enticing strain of rockabilly that was as knowledgeable of Southern pop’s long history as it was roots potent. This blend has kept their stuff as delicious as fresh-picked produce. A-

V/A, Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond (Jungle) This expands (near-ridiculously, especially on the 2CD) a 1976 slab many have belittled or downright dismissed over the decades. This isn’t exactly a misapprehension; those who love Wayne County (I love Wayne County) might beg to differ, but the distance between Suicide and Ubu and the rest of the original slab’s lineup is, shall we say, significant. This reish drops Ubu but adds so much material (from weak to surprisingly spiff) that County’s opening Max’s trib registers not as hyperbole but as the legit documentation of a club-dwelling way of life. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April 2017

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for April, 2017. Part one can be found here, and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Davachi, All My Circles Run (Students of Decay) Davachi is a drone-minimalist, her early stuff dubbed onto cassette and more recent output issued on vinyl. Previously, she’s combined the acoustic and electronic, but the synths get put aside here for a focus on a single organic instrument on each of the set’s five tracks. “For Strings” offers exquisite drone, “For Voice” is avant-classically eerie, and “Chanter” interweaves patterns of prepared piano, while “For Organ” and “For Piano” double-down on the drone to outstanding result. All this and an album jacket in B&W widescreen. A

V/A, Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third, Live…and More (Concord Bicycle) Cut on April 27 of last year, this star-studded affair, with Jeff Tweedy, Robyn Hitchcock, Jessica Pratt, Kronos Quartet, Mike Mills, Chris Stamey, Mitch Easter, and Ira Kaplan only a portion of the talent assembled, is a splendid tribute to one of rock’s greatest albums. Filling two CDs and a DVD, this isn’t an act of docile mimicry; chronology gets tossed aside as a bunch of non-Third Big Star material and even Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” is performed. Instead, this collective salutation transforms its subject, and the love is palpable. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Big Star, Complete Third: Vol. 3: Final Masters (Omnivore) Per the label, this is “every released master recording from every officially released version of Third,” presented for Record Store Day in a slipcase edition designed to hold the previous two vinyl installments (the whole thing came out on CD last autumn). If you’ve purchased Vol. 1 and 2, here’s your place to put ‘em, but if the masters are all you think you need, Vol. 3 is getting a non-slipcase issue later in 2017. However, as Thank You, Friends attests, Third really is a multifaceted, unceasingly giving beauty, so buy wisely. A+

V/A, Really Rock ‘Em Right: Sun Records Curated by Record Store Day, Volume 4 (ORG) This is one of our global vinyl holiday’s shrewder ideas, mainly because it could roll into the double digits without a drop-off in quality. This edition is especially well-assembled, mixing established Sun giants (Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins) with less celebrated figures (Big Memphis Ma Rainey, Lou Sargent, Billy Love, Frank Frost) as prime R&B (Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm, James Cotton) and uncut rockabilly (Warren Smith) shoot the value meter into the red zone. All this and Roy Orbison, too. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for April, 2017. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Harriet Tubman, Araminta (Sunnyside Communications) Guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer JT Lewis are Harriet Tubman; for nearly 20 years they’ve consistently delivered abstract and heavy jazz-rock with a political edge (Araminta was Tubman’s given name). Prior CD Ascension found them grappling with Coltrane and expanding to a double trio; here they extend an invitation to trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and he fits in sans hitch. Highlights? The psych-fuzz-splat-thunder of “Ne Ander” and the post-punk-funk of “Real Cool Killers.” But it’s exceptional throughout. A

Ibibio Sound Machine, Uyai (Merge) I can appreciate the increasing rarity of stylistic purity, but overall, the blending of forms continues to be where it’s at. This mixture of West African grooves (Afrobeat, highlife, disco) and Euro electronica is a masterclass in party-time hybridization. Eno Williams is an adroit vocalist-leader-pop presence, and the music surrounding her is loaded with surprises; for one example, opener “Give Me a Reason” exudes similarities to both Gary Numan and Konono Nº1, but the real trick is the LP’s unrelenting battery of synths in combo with organic rhythms, guitar, and horns. A-

REISSUE PICKS: V/A, Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil, 1978 – 1992 (Music from Memory) John Gómez’s liner notes shape the scene. As Brazil’s military dictatorship was slowly coming to an end, select musicians in the country began using electronic instruments with increasing frequency while shaking off the fear that non-organic sounds would eradicate, to use Gómez’s term, essential Brazilianness. Partially steaming from this mindset, many of the selections blend traditional instrumentation and electronics to fruitful effect. A highly enlightening and enjoyable 2LP. A-

Ahmad Jamal Trio, The Awakening (Be With) Jamal’s had his detractors and defenders over the years, but he’s also secured a whole lot of converts, including this writer; what was initially too lite and polite soon enough revealed subtlety and depth of interaction. The doorway for many was ’58’s At the Pershing: But Not for Me. In short, this 1970 effort, originally for Impulse, isn’t as strong, in part because it lacks bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernal Fournier. However, Jamil Nasser and Frank Gant are nearly as communicative, and nearly two decades after his emergence, the pianist is still evolving. A-

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TVD Radar: Record Store Crawl announces second annual series of dates across US record shops

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Audiophiles, record enthusiasts, and music lovers are invited to join the second annual series of official Record Store Crawls, taking place in various U.S. cities throughout the next few months.

The first of this year’s Record Store Crawls takes place in New York City on Record Store Day, April 22nd, while the remainder of the cities’ Crawls will take place from June through August. Participants will be escorted by bus to some of each city’s best record stores with performances from various artists along the way. Tickets range from $34.95 to $59.95, and can be purchased at www.recordstorecrawl.com.

Record Store Crawl participants will enjoy: • A seat on the Record Store Crawl bus • A one-of-a-kind performance • Food and drinks • A gift bag including a mystery vinyl LP and other limited edition gifts • Discounts at participating records stores; and • Various other giveaways.

Bands confirmed to perform at select Record Store Crawl dates include: Savoire Adore (Nettwerk Records); Craig Brown Band (Third Man Records); Four By Fate (The End Records); The Sweeplings (Nettwerk Records), Angelica Garcia (Warner Bros. Records), Ryan Kinder (Warner Music Nashville), Steff and the Articles (independent), and more to be announced. Record Store Crawl is proudly presented in partnership with Pabst Blue Ribbon.

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, March 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for March, 2017. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Molly Burch, Please Be Mine (Captured Tracks) This study in classic femme vocal pop form will probably leave “heard it all before” cynics unimpressed, but Burch and her band excel at skirting triteness; Patsy Cline is a clear and admitted influence, yet the tunes avoid twang and instead gravitate toward the Brill building and Spector. Furthermore, her background in collegiate jazz vocal studies insures a talented showing but with nary a supper-club cliché in sight. Largely cut in one day, Please Be Mine places Burch somewhere between Hope Sandoval and Britta Phillips, and it’s a treat. A-

Thelma, S/T (Tiny Engines) Beginning as the solo project of Natasha Jacobs, evolving circumstances resulted in the full band scenario of Thelma. It’s a maneuver helping to loosen the “confessional” tag too frequently slapped onto the records of female singer-songwriters. Don’t think this smartly economical seven-song debut lacks emotional heft, it just doesn’t get overtaken by it. Instead, Jacobs’ voice is pretty and playful without preciousness as the indie rock-ish instrumentation, often quite heavy, is productively enhanced with electronic elements. But it’s her writing that makes this one a winner. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Camera Obscura, “Teenager” and “Keep It Clean” (Elefant) 25th anniversary first-time vinyl reissues of two EPs from this long-running Scottish group’s classic sophomore full-length. At the time (’03), they were routinely lumped with Belle and Sebastian (not unfairly, as Stuart Murdoch produced their debut), but Underachievers upped the bite in their brand of twee indie pop; “Teenager,” “Keep It Clean,” and that EP’s “Suspended from Class” get to the heart of this development, while “A Sister’s Social Agony” hits a fruitful ’50s vibe. The bonuses cut mustard, especially “Amigo Mio.” A- / A-

Albert Ayler, Prophecy (ESP-Disk) Ayler’s regular appearances in this column relate to personal fondness exacerbated by memories of the once terrible difficulty in laying hands on this key avant-jazz figure’s records. As his work continues to pepper our ongoing vinyl resurgence, spreading the news feels essential; bluntly, Ayler rates as one of the 20th century’s sweetest musical iconoclasts. This is his trio, filled out with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, captured live in ’64 at NYC’s Cellar Café. Later included on CD with the mind-blowing Bells, this is a core piece of the puzzle. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, March 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for March, 2017.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: The Feelies, In Between (Bar/None) A considerable internal debate transpired over awarding this pick status. Not due to matters of quality, but rather that I’d come-off as an utter sycophant regarding a band I’ve long loved as they gravitate toward strum-pop. It’s a style that’s always been a facet in their overall attack, but the increase here turns these Hoboken beauties’ second post-recommencement album into a grower of sublime proportions. With a refreshing lack of late-career baggage, it’s crystal clear this is what The Feelies want to be doing. If you’re a fan, you’ll eat it up. A

Cindy Lee Berryhill, The Adventurist (Omnivore) Berryhill’s first album in decade is a gorgeous song cycle inspired by her late husband (and Crawdaddy magazine founder) Paul Williams, and it’s a long way from “Damn, I Wish I Was a Man” and her stature as a prime player in the late-’80s anti-folk movement. Here, warm and woody production (thanks to recurring use of cello and violin) and a crack band including Syd Straw, DJ Bonebrake, Danny Frankel, and Probyn Gregory and Nelson Bragg of Brian Wilson’s group, enhance Berryhill’s already splendid writing, as she’s nimble of finger and strong of voice throughout. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Buzzcocks, “Spiral Scratch” and Time’s Up (Domino) A core document of DIY punk (self-released on their New Hormones label) and one of the genre’s greatest statements, the limited-edition reissue of “Spiral Scratch” came out in late January; it’s still very much available and pairs nicely with this 11-track studio session. Recorded for 45 pounds at Revolution Studios in October of 1976, Time’s Up isn’t as sharply honed as the EP, but it does deliver a glorious glimpse of brilliance in bloom. NOTE: these two releases encompass the audio portion of Domino’s new Buzzcocks Mk. 1 box set. A+ / A-

V/A, The Sound of Jazz (Analogue Productions) This one ain’t cheap, but as history it’s indispensable; derived from the December 8, 1957 CBS telecast Seven Lively Arts, this gave the mainstream public a rich taste of the jazz milieu, with music consultants Whitney Balliett and Nat Hentoff insuring the opportunity was not wasted. They roped in Basie’s cornerstone band, the post-Armstrong-isms of the Henry Allen Orchestra, Lady Day with Mal Waldron, plus Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Pee Wee Russell, and Jimmy Giuffre. Everyone is in fine if not peak form. Special is an understatement. A

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, February 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2017. Part one is here. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS Satoko Fujii, Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound) Satoko Fujii Joe Fonda Duet (Long Song), and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo Peace (Libra) Like a lot of jazzers, Japanese pianist Fujii has a loaded discography; these three are her most recent, running from Invisible Hand’s two CDs worth of solo action through the sustained inspiration of Duet’s lengthy duo with US bassist Fonda (and shorter trio with guest trumpeter Natsuki Tamura) to expansive-eclectic large band creativity. Fujii’s avant bona fides bring cohesiveness to all three tricky modes, including the raucous beauty of Peace. A-/ A-/ A

REISSUE PICKS The Skatalites, Foundation Ska (Studio One) Originally on the Heartbeat label, this is an utter doozy, collecting 32 tracks of jazzy groove bliss from one of Jamaican music’s greatest collectives. Indeed foundational; this is all material waxed for Coxsone Dodd, some from before the group was known as The Skatalites, with other tracks originally issued under the names of the individual composer or main soloist. Although far from comprehensive, this sprinkles in a few nifty vocal cuts across its four sides, and is a carefully compiled, essential hunk of the genre’s history. A+

The Damned, Damned Damned Damned (BMG) Brit punk’s first LP remains one of the best the genre ever coughed out. Given its stature and frequency of reissue, this shouldn’t be too difficult to find on the cheap, but those needing a Cadillac copy should cozy up to this 40th anniversary deluxe edition. The lack of bonuses is a plus, as the original Nick Lowe-produced sequence is essentially perfect. With cornerstones “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose” opening each side, it features thud, snot, a Stooges hat-tip finale, and amp spillage that burns like a dose of the heavenly clap: What else could one need? A+

10,000 Russos, “Fuzz Club Session” (Fuzz Club) This Portuguese heavy psych trio’s S/T full-length debut came out on Fuzz Club in 2015, so their getting chosen as the second installment in the label’s new vinyl series (Seattle’s Night Beats delivered the inaugural entry) makes complete sense. Given the freedom to do anything they want during 30 minutes of studio time, the group picked two from 10,000 Russos, an older non-LP number (“Policia Preventiva” from the Fuzz Club Festival 2015 live tape) and what appears to be an unreleased song. The whole is loaded with motorik drive and reverberating amps. B+

Ahmed Abdul-Malik, The Eastern Moods of Ahmed Abdul-Malik (Doxy) Originally from 1962 on Prestige, this was Abdul-Malik’s fifth LP in a series of Middle Eastern folk and jazz fusions; it features a smaller more cohesive group than on previous sessions, with Abdul-Malik alternating between bass and oud. Mostly remembered today as one of Thelonious Monk’s bass players, Abdul-Malik’s claim to Sudanese ancestry is apparently spurious, though his actual Caribbean descent hasn’t overtaken the fiction, possibly because his records thrive on ingenuity and a palpable sense of the sincere. B+

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, February 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2017. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Howe Gelb, Future Standards (Fire) As the title clarifies, this plunge into the Great American Songbook focuses entirely on ambiance; rather than corralling the umpteenth versions of bedrock compositions, Gelb tackles 12 of his own with satisfying and increasingly intimate results. Favoring depth of mood over an interpretational tightrope, he gets to keep and eat his cake, reveling in the foundational appeal of chestnuts while leading a warm piano trio (and occasionally duetting with Lonna Kelley) on a program of classic-minded yet subtly and fruitfully off-center tunes. A-

Mark Eitzel, Hey Mr. Ferryman (Merge) Gelb and Eitzel’s co-headlining tour reaches into the springtime, and based on the ex-American Music Club leader’s tenth solo effort in a long career attendees shouldn’t leave disappointed. These 11 tracks (+ two bonuses) rank high in Eitzel’s discography, largely due to the input of former Suede guitarist and solo artist Bernard Butler; his extensive instrumental contribution and supervisory role, sometimes symphonically bold and at other moments almost Brit-folk restrained, enhances the singer-songwriter’s veteran touch and produces a late-work of polished intensity. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Max Roach, We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (Cornbread) Not just a monumental achievement in jazz but one of the 20th century’s finest protest artworks. The key to this LP’s present day resonance is directly related to the refusal to tone down the musical verve in favor of the message, eschewing a tactic that reduced the lasting impact of a whole lotta folk stuff from the same era. To the contrary, Abbey Lincoln’s letting loose during the middle portion of “Triptych: Prayer/ Protest/ Peace” still triggers goosebumps. With Coleman Hawkins, Booker Little, Julian Priester etc. A+

Vic Chesnutt, Little and Drunk (New West) The Mike Stipe-produced 1990 debut Little and third album Drunk are two of seven entries from Chesnutt’s superb catalog scheduled for vinyl reissue across 2017. A demo so effective nobody wanted to attempt improving upon it, Little gets to the core of this inspirational and much missed singer-songwriter’s talent. Brandishing lyrics laced with poetry, his (mostly) solo acoustic folk approach lends familiarity to the eccentricities, and a similar effect is achieved on the more rock-inclined Drunk. Both are key works from a one-of-a-kind artist. A- / A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, January 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2017. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: OST, Iris (Erased Tapes) Composer Dustin O’Halloran and Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie are A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and their blend of modern classical, ambient, and drone gets its third full-length release via the soundtrack to the 2016 French thriller from director Jalil Lespert. While often tagged as cinematic, this is the duo’s first film score, with the music on prior album Atomos serving as accompaniment to a dance piece by choreographer Wayne McGregor. Iris taps into the above-listed styles and underlines the duo as a major exponent in contemporary post-rock. A-

REISSUE PICK: Pat Thomas & Ebo Taylor, Sweeter Than Honey, Calypso “Mahuno” And High Lifes Celebration (Presch Media GmbH) This reissues an excellent and pricey 1980 LP from a pair of Nigerian Highlife kingpins, Thomas the vocalist and Taylor the composer, arranger and lead guitarist. Those having scooped up Strut’s 3LP/ 2CD Thomas retrospective Coming Home will know this album’s “Ma Huno,” and it delivers Sweeter Than Honey its highpoint. But that’s no indictment of the quality found throughout this superb if succinct album, for in the truth in titling department, this baby rates high. A

Amas, Grill (Presch Media GmbH) Per PMG’s promo blurb, which quotes extensively from Peter Moore via the website African Revolutions, not only is Nigerian vocalist Gbubemi Amas smooth, articulate, cultured, and classy, he also possesses immaculate enunciation on this reish of a big-bucks 1981 boogie funk LP. Indeed, furthering the good-natured vibe is a cover of “Fire and Rain,” with Amas’ version closer to pop crooning than boogie or funk. Lacking the kick of Afro-rock or Highlife, this is solidly in the post-disco pop mold. Exuding hints of Talking Heads and Boz Scaggs, “Slow Down” is a highlight. B

Bash & Pop, Friday Night is Killing Me (Sire/Reprise) Tommy Stinson, with a lengthy cast of notables on hand, has a new record coming out this week under the revived Bash & Pop moniker. It’s titled Anything Could Happen, and I haven’t heard it. Hopefully, what happens will mark an improvement upon this formerly one and done group’s ’93 release, which is hitting vinyl for the first time on 1/24. To be fair, Stinson’s initial post-Replacements effort isn’t terrible; in fact, it’s a little better than the Mats’ final effort All Shook Down. Giving it a fresh spin, it persists as an okay but not terribly exciting listen. B

Black Anvil, As Was (Relapse) Reportedly one of the few black metal acts based in New York City, Black Anvil are now four albums deep, with all but their 2008 debut Time Insults the Mind on Relapse. That sort of label consistency frequently bodes well for overall quality, and so it is here. This is exactly the sort of LP to stoke the demonic fire of the genre’s sticklers the globe over, as it’s got the mauling guitars, the thudding rhythms, and the threatening croak-growl in spades, but there is a musicality to the 8-songs in 50-minutes that helps them to stand out. Familiar moves resist becoming mere tropes. A-

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