Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tomberlin, At Weddings (Saddle Creek) An earlier edition of Sarah-Beth Tomberlin’s debut, which held seven tracks, emerged last autumn in a hand-numbered edition of 500 through Joyful Noise’s White Label series, an artist-picked affair with At Weddings selected by Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn. As the music resides in an introspective indie folk zone, the stylistic connections between chooser and chosen are minor, and within the parameters of the style, Tomberlin has her own thing happening; assured of voice and warm instrumentally, the whole goes down really well. Saddle Creek’s release isn’t limited, and adds three tracks, smartly not tacked onto the end, as the final three songs, “Self-Help” into “Untitled 2” into “February,” offer a striking culminating progression. A-

Walter Salas-Humara, Walterio (Rhyme and Reason) Salas-Humara co-founded The Silos in mid-’80s NYC, the still extant band sometimes classified as a progenitor of alt-country, though they always struck me (especially on their first couple records) as rock with a classic sensibility and an edgy spark. He was also in The Setters with Alejandro Escovedo and Wild Seed Michael Hall, and has dished a few solo records, of which Walterio is the latest. Unsurprisingly, the ten tracks here are fairly rootsy, but this attribute is nicely counterbalanced with songwriting smarts reflecting his diverse background; born in Florida to Cuban parents, Salas-Humara studied visual art in NYC before choosing music (that’s one of his popular dog paintings on the cover). What is surprising is the enduring high quality of his stuff. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Vulgar Boatmen, You and Your Sister, Please Panic & Opposite Sex (Play Loud!) Before he was in The Silos, Walter Salas-Humara was part of the Gainesville, FL outfit The Vulgar Boatmen. While he contributes a bit instrumentally to 1989’s You and Your Sister, his main role is sharing the co-producer chair with member Robert Ray. Alongside ex-Gizmo Dale Lawrence (based in Indiana), Ray (who continued to live in Florida) served as the band’s songwriting core, with each fronting a distinct lineup 800 miles apart. An unusual mode of operation in the pre-internet days, but fruitful, as all three of the group’s releases are stellar; much of the contents extend from a VU/ Feelies place, but with an utter lack of big city attitude. This is the sound of College Rock’s promise fulfilled. / / A-

The Fall, 458489 A-Sides (Beggars Arkive) There are numerous collections in The Fall’s myriad discography, and this one covering what’s known as the ’80s “Brix Smith” era, is essential, even if you already own all the albums and/ or the singles from which this 17-track LP derives. As I was getting acquainted with the output of Mark E. Smith’s lineup-shifting band of soon to be logic-defying endurance, this music was still fresh in the bins, and while some older heads were inclined to rake The Fall of this vintage over the critical coals, as the days of “Live At the Witch Trials” or “Grotesque” were over (though really, a lot of folks just didn’t like Brix), this summary sounds even better on the occasion of its white wax reissue by Beggars Arkive as it ever has to me before. First time on vinyl in the USA. A

Bird Streets, S/T (Omnivore) The project of John Brodeur with Jason Faulkner as instrumentalist and producer, the debut from Bird Streets is contextualized by Omnivore as part of the power pop “one-man band” tradition, citing Todd Rundgren, Emmitt Rhodes, and Jon Brion as prior examples, and the results surely fit the description. This might suggest to you a potential for ambitiousness a la Todd’s post-Runt mid-’70s period, but Brodeur doesn’t get too lofty here, with the songwriting tidy (but nicely varied), the playing sharp (with guest spots from Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell), the production bright and clean but not too slick, and the run-time at just short of 45 minutes reminiscent of the classic album era. A major effort insinuating that Brodeur might have a Something/Anything in him. Here’s hoping. A-

El Ten Eleven, Banker’s Hill (Topshelf) Extant since 2002, the SoCal post-rock duo of guitarist-bassist (including fretless and six-string models) Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty (+ effects pedals) have steadily accumulated a discography of ample size and a reputation to match; the press release for what looks to be their seventh full-length ranks them as seminal. As is increasingly the case, I’ve engaged with them previously only in fits and starts (mainly a little time spent dabbling into their self-titled ’04 debut for Bar/None), but prolonged exposure to this set’s nine instrumental tracks has largely left me satisfied. Notably, this is their first time using an outside producer in Sonny Diperri. Like a lot of post-rock, there’s an aversion to abrasion or aural dirt, but thankfully matters don’t falter into the antiseptic. B+

Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis, Wild! Wild! Wild! (Bloodshot) News of this collaboration came out of nowhere in the best way possible. Fulks is one of our finest contemporary examples of classic country verve, and Lewis, the little sister of Jerry Lee, has been recording and performing since the ’60s, often alongside her bro but also Van Morrison and with her daughters as the Lewis 3. Cut in Chicago at Reliable Recorders and launching from a batch of varied material Fulks worked up specifically for the record (he also produced), the pair’s strong voices, with Lewis frequently in the spotlight alone, sparks the fire as the playing, featuring members of the Flat Five and Lewis’ piano, brings it all together with gusto. A bum track? Nah, and “Memphis Never Falls from Style” is the feline’s nightgown. A-

Integrity & Krieg, Split (Relapse) This indefatigable label’s desire to pair-up assorted metallic acts onto split albums continues here, with more on the horizon. Integrity, led as ever by Dwid Hellion and hot on the heels of last year’s pretty dang worthy Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume, dish four tracks on one side (not necessarily side one); said prior album was a substantially-sized conceptual affair, but here Integrity scale things back with their hardcore/ horror-tinged bark and burn served up in an easily digestible dose and capped off with a G.I.S.M. cover. Krieg’ three servings of contempo robustly-growled Death/ Black metal are new to me; two are studio cuts and one live, with one selection new and two culled from older obscure material. Each side complements the other while standing on its own. A- / B+

Jadell, “All Over Me” b/w “Your Love is What I Need” (Fabyl) This 12-inch, the third release from the label of DJ-producer Nick Faber, extends the dance groove objective of the others; as on Faber’s own 12-inch (FABYL001), the a-side here is on the CD comp Arrival (FABYL002), but with an exclusive cut on the flip. Like Faber, Jadell has been active since the 1990s, and the experience is felt. Specifically, while “All Over Me” is essentially “just” a tidy, energetic slice of disco-ish dancefloor action, the non-trite construction (holding a few unexpected twists, even) helps situate it for stationary listening. Propelled by a tough intermingled rhythm and a hearty bass line, the flip is a deeper, funkier proposition, going down easy enough until a faux symphonic shift at 3:37 makes it the pick of the two sides. A-

King Curtis, Plays the Great Memphis Hits (8th) Prolific and versatile, Curtis is probably best known today for his ’71 LP Live at the Fillmore West (released a week before he was stabbed to death), though many listeners don’t know it’s his saxophone on Buddy Holly’s “Reminiscing,” The Coasters’ “Charlie Brown” and “Yakety “Yak,” backing Aretha in The Kingpins and playing on John Lennon’s Imagine. Along with tons more session work, he cut a bunch of singles and albums, of which this is amongst the best. Unlike the situation with Sweet Soul (this record’s follow-up), which documents Curtis valiantly grappling with such non-winners as “The Theme to Valley of the Dolls” and “Up, Up and Away,” the source material here is consistently solid, which is unsurprising, as it’s all from Stax. Features Spooner Oldham. A-

Massive Wagons, Full Nelson (Earache) Massive Wagons don’t immediately sound like a UK band. In fact, had I been ignorant to their locale I’d have probably assumed Cali, USA. And if you’re old like me, you might recall Earache as purveyors of extremity in or on the outskirts of metal (e.g. Napalm Death, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Godflesh), but with their fourth LP Full Nelson as my introduction, Massive Wagons are decisively in the classic hard rock zone, and a couple listens bring the Englishness shining through. I’d say fans of early Queen, Free, Bad Company, Nazareth, Judas Priest, and even some of the more trad rock-inclined examples in the NWOBHM will dig this, as Massive Wagons keep matters heavy, even while getting ballad-ish. I don’t need a lot of this in my life, but this record is just fine. B+

Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence (Ripple) As established by their Simpsons-referencing choice of moniker and reinforced by the colorful smart-assery of this LP’s cover, unlike the other acts populating the Ripple roster and contempo metal/ hard rock in general, Mr. Plow eschew dark imagery for lighter topics, though musically this is still quite sludgy and adequately assessed as wafting stoner fumes. In keeping with the decade of their inspirational Simpsons episode’s airing, Mr. Plow exude a ’90s vibe that occasionally reduces my pleasure with this sturdily played set, but it avoids becoming egregious, and it’s likely that fans of Fu Manchu will cozy right up to this one. And while the humorous aspects are felt, ultimately these guys are rockers not yukmiesters or wisenheimers, so things don’t get obnoxious. B

The Ocean Party, “I.B.O.” (Emotional Response) Over roughly seven years, Aussies The Ocean Party have amassed a sizeable body of work in an indie pop-rock mode, with Beauty Point, their most recent LP from last year a highpoint. For this 7-inch, each of the band’s six members contribute two songs, which simple arithmetic indicates is a total of 12, with six a side and every cut one minute long. For obvious reasons, this is distinct from anything I’ve heard from them previously, but roughly divided between wide-ranging pop miniatures (“But All I Wanna Do,” “Lucky Guess,” the splendid “FantasyCube,” Holdin’ Out”) and an equally diverse spread of lo-fi post-punkish nugs (the fuzz-pulse of “Feel All That I Can,” the almost robotic “Folding Chair”), the results are experimental, yet always attentive to the song. A-

SIGNAL, S/T (Ramp Local) “Park After Dark,” a stone killer by NYC’s SIGNAL, was part of Wharf Cat’s 2LP ACLU benefit compilation enthused over in this column back in April. This 7-inch delivers five more blasts and serves as the proper debut for the band, which features singer Aida Riddle, guitarist Carlos Salas, bassist Beck Kitsis, and drummer Allie Brasch working in an inspired, abrasive, art-punk mode roughly analogous to (amongst others) Bush Tetras, Shoppers, and Rank/Xerox. Their uncompromising din is certain to be coveted by lovers of Riotous mixed-gender amps-maxed blare, but the eruptions also possesses enough variance in the sonics and of-the-moment resonance in the words that punk novices agitated by the fucked tenor of the times are likely to be seduced. And I call that wonderful. A-

Zak Trojano, Wolf Trees (Self-released) Trojano’s third record (and the first I’ve heard) is aptly described as a singer-songwriter affair, but with an important distinction in that the man’s ability on guitar is more than just adequate amiable chording and strumming. Indeed, his fingerstyle technique has been utilized on a handful of albums by other artists, including those of Chris Smither, Jeffrey Foucault, and Peter Mulvey. While his playing brings heft and depth to the proceedings, his unconflicted embrace of the singer-songwriter mode in terms of tunes is just as interesting. This does mean that on a few occasions his thing doesn’t fully connect with me, but on the positive side Trojano has a helluva voice (completing the style’s equation) that communicates experience rather than straining to replicate it. B+

Brad Wenzel, Sweet Nothings (Third Man) Unless I’m missing out on some sweet niche scene, the heyday of comedy records is long over; the last new one I soaked up was Drag City’s Andy Kaufman disc. I spent a decent amount of time with that one, as far a comedy records go, and that’s the thing; comedy albums are essentially party albums. I don’t think that’s any kind of bold statement, as comedy is largely performed in clubs where the booze flows freely. Indeed, most comedy records derive from club recordings. That’s the case with Sweet Nothings, as Brad Wenzel works in an observational mode not unlike Stephen Wright. I appreciate that quite a bit. Not sure how many times I’ll play this at home alone, so if you’re having a party let me know, and I’ll bring it over. We’ll have some laughs. A-

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