Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Telepathic Band, Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 (577) The third album from this exceptional five-member NYC group is also the first half of what promises to be an absolute knockout. The Telepathic Band features Daniel Carter on saxophones, clarinet and trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on keyboard, Hilliard Greene on bass, and Federico Ughi on drums, and for this LP they took an improvised earlier recording session back into the studio and created a new thing in collaboration with producer Stelios Mihas, who also contributes guitar. While the four tracks on side two tangle with the finer side of ’70s fusion and robust astral jazz, it’s side one’s 19-minute dive into psychedelia that’s the real grabber here. The Telepathic Band and 577 Records are boundary breakers. A

Joel Paterson, Let It Be Guitar! Joel Patterson Plays The Beatles (Bloodshot) This one unabashedly throws back to an era when technically sharp instrumentalists could carve a livelihood by putting an adept and distinct stamp on their chosen material. To sharpen the description, Chicagoan Paterson’s influences include Les Paul and Chet Adkins as he blends jazz, exotica, blues, rockabilly, western swing and C&W with ease. That’s mucho range, and he’s not about showing off but instead making the right sounds. While the LP’s sleeve enhances the retro angle, the music hits just right (in fact more consistently than some of his influences), and only partly due to the solidity of the source material. Paterson tackles a few later Beatles tunes but seems to prefer the early stuff, and that’s fine with me. A-

somesurprises, S/T (Drawing Room) Seattle’s somesurprises began as the solo project of singer-songwriter Natasha El-Sergany but is now a full-on band. Although there are some cassettes in the discography, this is designated as the debut album, and it establishes El-Sergany as being substantially impacted by the sound of shoegaze. This is cool, and especially because the work transcends expectations (mine, anyway) for this sorta thing. To elaborate, a whole lot of recent shoegaze (neo-shoegaze, if you will), even when it’s (very) good, can be assessed as somewhat or largely formulaic. Not this record, the opening track of which doesn’t even gaze at any shoes at all. Instead, it offers a celestial retro futurist vibe that bookends nicely with the extended closing motorik burner “Cherry Sunshine.” A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Kristin Hersh, Crooked (Fire) Released in 2010, this was Hersh’s eighth full-length, making its vinyl debut here with a new sleeve design. There was a CD issued in ’10 (Fire has a CD out with fresh cover, as well), but Crooked was notably first issued as a book with digital download that included ample extra material; that stuff ain’t here, but that’s alright, as the core is represented, though interestingly with a new track sequence. “Mississippi Kite” opened matters in 2010, but now it’s the fourth track and side one’s closer. This is also alright. Hersh is a writer, and writers are prone to the need to revise. What hasn’t changed is the intensity of her work; I like her stuff in Throwing Muses but tend to love her in solo mode, where the power kick only increases. She’s weathered, but not beaten. A-

The Archies, The Definitive Archies—Greatest Hits & More! (Real Gone) I came of age surrounded by music heads who had difficulty taking The Monkees or Herman’s Hermits seriously. The Archies? Forget about it. Thankfully, I grew to learn that there are no bad musical genres, only records that range in quality within them. In 2019, it should come as no surprise that there is very good and occasionally even great bubblegum music from the style’s heyday (that’s the mid-’60s to early ’70s), with the individuals behind The Archies credited with assembling a portion of it, though here I must interject that I generally prefer the work of Super K Productions as (mostly) released on Buddah Records, and at times by a pretty wide margin. I dig Tommy Roe even more, but some would argue that he’s not “true” bubblegum.

Uncut bubblegum would be the thoroughly studio concocted stuff, where the bands were fictitious. This applies to some of the Buddah output but is arguably personified by The Archies, which was the brainchild of Don Kirshner with songwriting predominantly by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. Male vocals were provided by Ron Dante (of the bubblegum studio group The Cuff Links) and the female singing initially by Toni White.  Much has been made of Kirshner’s difficulties in the Monkees saga and how the concept for The Archies was his way of asserting complete control. I guess this makes him the auteur. Some will argue that’s the wrong way to think of these songs: “No, it’s the genius of the system!” Whatever. If a little too finessed at times, there is power-pop shading in the stuff collected here, and that’s cool. B

The Cult, Sonic Temple 30 (Beggars Arkive) The folks at Beggars haven’t held back a bit in celebrating the anniversary of The Cult’s fourth album and second in their solidified transition into a retro-leaning arena-styled hard rock act. There’s the original release on 2LP adding six B-sides, a 3LP + cassette box set where sides five and six hold a BBC-recorded live performance from Wembley and the tape corrals album demos and a radio spot, and on October 11 there’s a 5CD set that adds 13 tracks to the triple wax and cassette’s sum. Those who were never seduced by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy’s stylistic switch-up, especially folks who weren’t that into their earlier goth period (which began as Southern Death Cult) might consider this overkill, but hey, Sonic Temple was their biggest selling release.

I wasn’t too smitten with these developments (and in fact wasn’t in love with the belladonna-tinged stuff, either), though earlier single “Love Removal Machine” was hard to resist, as singles often are. I had friends at the time who were crowing “Hey man, it’s like Zep,” but no. There is very little disfigured blues here (though Asbury wails “Smokestack Lightnin’” a bunch of times in hit “Fire Woman”), with the thrust much closer to the ’80s Sunset Strip and the singing pointing back to that locale’s ’60s denizen Jimbo Morrison sans the poetic affectations, which is a real plus. They were smarter than the average hard rockers but didn’t let it go to their heads. I’ve listened to the 54 tracks comprising the 5CD exactly twice. I’ve neither the time nor the will to listen to it all again. So, this grade is for the original LP. B+

Deidre & The Dark, Variety Hour (Sunken Living Room) The debut from Brooklyn dwelling vocalist-instrumentalist Deidre Muro (of Savoir Adore) came out in February but a copy just landed on my doorstep last week so I’m dropping it into the mix. I do this because it’s a worthy effort in blending strong ’60s pop influences with enough contempo production subtlety that it never feels like an exercise in crafting a stylistic replica. The title is sorta key to understanding the breadth on display; there are symphonic moments, discotheque touches, and even strains of classic ’60s pop-rock, but nothing that’s really non-sophisto. This brings focus alongside Muno’s appealing vocals. With orchestrations by her brother Derek Munro and co-produced and mixed by her husband David Perlick-Molinari. A grower. A-

KAZU, Adult Baby (Adult Baby) If you recognize the name Kazu Makino, it is likely due to her long tenure as vocalist and multi-instrumentalist in Blonde Redhead, as this is her first solo album, in which she recruits such notables as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Atoms for Peace percussionist Mauro Refosco, Son Lux drummer Ian Chang, and Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. That’s a lot of rhythmic help, and while this aspect is at times front-and-center (as in late track “Undo”) on Adult Baby (I get the impression the title is meant to symbolize an artistic rebirth), the record is aptly categorized as avant-pop, with the standout moments being symphonic, and in “Come Behind Me, So Good!” sneakily so; it starts out as a “glitchy” vocal exercise and then bam, it’s like soundtrack music for smooching in a boat in Venice. That’s neat. B+

Monograms, Living Wire (PaperCup Music) Starting out as Brooklyn’s Ian Jacobs solo, Monograms now operates as a full band effort that currently features Rich Carrillo on drums, Michelle Feliciano on synth, and Sam Bartos on bass. There are a couple of prior releases out, but this is the first I’ve heard, and the post-punk influence is strong, indeed self-described as Nuke Wave, which I guess is meant to suggest an ’80s-shaded scenario cloaked in alienation over impending doom. That might lead one to think: darkwave, but for the most part, no (closing track “Pirate Government, Inc,” which reverberates like a single released on Some Bizarre, is an exception) largely because Jacobs’ hits a nice middle ground between late night tea room moodiness and leather jacket swagger. Enjoyable but not amazing. B

Paper Beat Scissors, Parallel Line (Forward Music Group) Born in England and raised in Montreal, Tim Crabtree is Paper Beat Scissors, and as evidenced by his Bandcamp page, he’s been at it for around a decade. Parallel Line is my introduction to his work, which lands firmly in the indie chamber-folk zone; suffice it to say, if you still regularly get a charge from Sufjan Stevens’ work up to and including Illinois, you’ll want to check out this one. He doesn’t have all his stylistic eggs in that hand-crafted basket, however. Late track “Better” is up-tempo early ’00s indie rocking. Overall, I could’ve used more chamber strings, but I tend to always say that (I can’t recall ever asking for less). Crabtree’s woodwind interludes? Would’ve dug more of those, too. But what’s here is appealing and ends strong with “Little Sun.” B+

Rev Rev Rev, Kykeon (Fuzz Club) Calling Modena, Italy home, Rev Rev Rev specialize in a noisy strain of neo-psych rock that frequently slides into repetitive zones, both rhythmic and droning with elements of feedback and distortion that validate the comparison to shoegaze. Their third LP and first for Fuzz Club, the overall thrust of Kykeon fits pretty snugly into the label’s rawer side. Featuring vocalist-guitarist Laura Iacuzio, guitarist Sebastian Lugli, bassist Andrea Dall’Omo, and drummer Greta Benatti, Rev Rev Rev offer a distinctly feminine take on this style, though on record this mainly comes through via the singing. That is to say, this isn’t a “softer” (i.e. stereotypical) approach to this genre, but rather an impressively non-hackneyed trip into raw, burning, pulsing expansiveness. A welcome delight. A-

Tracy Shedd, The Carolinas (Science Project) I first heard Shedd as one of the later offerings from Mark Robinson’s Teen Beat label; starting in ’01, she’s on four consecutive annual Teen Beat samplers. While her entries always sounded fine to me, I never grabbed one of her full-length works, of which she now has six, and based on the sustained quality of The Carolinas, I feel like a total fucking dunce for the procrastination. Shedd’s bedrock is guitar-based indie pop, but she infuses it with elements of electronica that succeeds partly because the tech is applied to varying degrees (a sorta “as needed” scenario) and because her stuff never settles into standard synth-pop. If you dig Bridget Cross’ work and/ or would’ve liked to have heard Mark Robinson produce an LP for Lois Maffeo, check this out. A-

The W Likes / Palace in Thunderland, Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter X (Ripple) In 2015 Ripple commenced a series of split LPs featuring the label’s preferred sounds. That means heavy, but also doomy, sludgy, metallic, and hard rocking in general. We’ve covered some prior chapters in this column, and the whole run has been of interest, enlightening if not necessarily mind-blowing. With this tenth installment, the endeavor culminates in a satisfactorily solid fashion with Scandinavia’s The W Likes, who impress most in the tempo shifts, from a chugging riff gallops to slower bombast to atmospheric sections, of their long side-closing “Nemeriff,” and Massachusetts’ Palace in Thunderland (har), who when they quicken the pace remind me of something that might’ve heaved out of the ’80s metal u-ground. Their moodier stuff, and final track “The Endless Cycle,” has more of a ’90s feel. Intriguing. B/ B+

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