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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Rich Halley, The Literature (Pine Eagle) The occasional question: if I could only listen to one type of music for the rest of my days, what would it be? The answer is easy. It’s jazz all the way. Mainly due to the sheer breadth of the form, but also volume, as the notes to this CD relate that Halley, a new name for me, has 20 prior recordings. This one, his first devoted to material by other musicians (the “literature” of the title) makes me want to hear them all. The tenor saxophonist, his drummer son Carson Halley, and bassist Clyde Reed launch from a high energy avant platform but with structural ties to bop and clear love of the tunes, which includes Miles, Monk, Duke, Ornette, Mingus, Sun Ra, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and the Carter Family. Folks, this is Americana, and it sings. A

Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef (Domino) While I remain a proponent of Animal Collective’s prime material, I was less than smitten with 2016’s Painting With, so learning of a new recording by the group didn’t terribly excite me. Then I read that it was an audiovisual album collab with Coral Morphologic, the art-science duo of marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay, to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. Things were looking up! As Animal Collective’s first full-length without Panda Bear, this differs from their prior work in interesting ways, and I’m sure it’ll get even more interesting when viewed with the accompanying video after it hits the band’s website on release date. On double vinyl, with three sides of music and an etching on side four. Hey, nice comeback, fellas. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Even as We Speak, Feral Pop Frenzy (Emotional Response) Operated by Stewart Anderson and his wife Jen Turrell out of Flagstaff, AZ, Emotional Response has grown into one of the most interesting indie-punk-pop-rock labels on the current scene, and with their recent slate of Sarah Records reissues (plus one collection of new material) they’ve just hit a grand slam. Included in the program is the 25th Anniversary Remaster of the sole LP from Aussies Even as We Speak. Formed by Matthew Love and Mary Wyer in Sydney and filled out to a five-piece, their sound benefited from flights of experimentation and eccentricity and yet was (appropriately, for the connection to Sarah) pure pop. Twee? Nah. Erudite? Oh, yes, as this minor gem of an LP goes to places you likely won’t expect. A-

Action Painting!, Trial Cuts (1989-95) (Emotional Response) During their lifespan, this UK outfit (formed in Gosport) released four singles, three of them on Sarah Records. It’s all rounded up here with additional material (unreleased cuts, alternates, demos, a radio session and interview); the LP includes a download, with everything on the CD. Coming from a tougher, rawer place than a fair amount of Sarah’s roster, these guys weren’t (I should say aren’t, as they’ve recommenced activities) Napalm Death or anything, but they did retain the heft, buzz, and energy associated with many of the leading lights of indie pop’s original wave (their fourth 45 was on the Kent-scene-associated Damaged Goods label). Those with a casual interest in the style might consider it skippable, but indie pop lovers will want. A-

Boyracer, Fling Yr Bonnet Over The Windmill (Emotional Response) Long-running and prolific (800 released songs, says the promo blurb), Boyracer is the outfit of Emotional Response honcho Stewart Anderson, and this record collects the three EPs the band cut for Sarah Records in ’93-’94. Along with the other Sarah reissues above, this nicely underlines that the celebrated imprint’s sound was a helluva lot broader than many historical synopses have it. If Action Painting! are tough and raw (to use Emotional Response’s term, “muscley”), Boyracer raise a major racket totally fitting for basement shows on the punk circuit, all while being as catchy as the kissing disease. Acquiring original copies of these EPs will set you back in the neighborhood of a Franklin, so picking this up is the sensible alternative. A-

Claw Marks, Hee Hee (PNKSLM) The label (stands for Punk Slime, don’tcha know) is in Stockholm, but Claw Marks are Londoners, and this is their debut. Tagged as garage punk, that’s not off-target, but right away they swing into a slow groove a la ’80s-’90s noise-rock’s bluesy wing; the nods to Pissed Jeans and The Birthday Party are apt. The songs here don’t hit the quality highs of either comparison, but it’s early yet, and if they never get there, where they’ve gotten to ain’t nothing. Far from it. For my tastes, the singer’s beller-bark is a smidge…well, straightforward is the word I’ll use, as I can’t seem to shake thoughts of Fred Blassie while Hee Hee plays. Those aren’t really bad thoughts to have; I’d just be juiced if the vocals were a little more fucked. Up-tempo stuff is solid and there are some killer riffs, so… B+

Mikey Collins, Hoick (Fika) If you know London’s Allo Darlin’, then you know Mikey Collins, as he was the drummer for that sadly defunct outfit. This is his solo debut, and if those familiar are thinking they’ve a handle on what’s in store, a few surprises are in the cards, for opener “Anchor in the Sea” offers a scenario that’s decidedly synth-pop. But that’s not all, as singer-songwriterish pop emerges with “Warmer Sun.” The promo text cites Springsteen and Rundgren, but in part through the use of piano, I was initially remined just a bit of the Joe Jackson-Squeeze school of smart Brit pop; when it’s good it can be really good (e.g. “Home Bird,” where the foundation shifts to guitar, and the Brit folky “Moving”), but I kinda dig the synth-pop buoyancy more (shades of this mode lingers), and I hardly ever say that. B

Ekin Fil, Maps (The Helen Scarsdale Agency) A fantastic LP from this prolific if underheard Istanbul-based builder of experimental “dream pop” atmospherics. This is her fourth for Helen Scarsdale since 2016 (three LPs and a cassette OST). Between 2009-’16, her discography holds five tapes, a 7-inch and a CDR for different labels, with her self-titled cassette released in ’13 by Students of Decay, the imprint that (amongst roughly 100 releases) issued Sarah Davachi’s All My Circles Run last year. This is a good point of comparison, not because the two sound alike (there are some similarities, and also to Grouper) but through utter seriousness of intent. Ekin Fil (neé Ekin Üzeltüzenci) also sings beautifully but somewhat (and effectively) sparingly across this record, which fans of drone-ambient should not sleep on. A-

Eyes of Love, End of the Game (Wharf Cat) Here’s the band of Andrea Schiavelli, which for this full-length debut consists of Lily Konigsberg of Palberta and Lily and Horn Horse, Sammy Weissberg of The Cradle and Sweet Baby Jesus, and Paco Cathcart, also of The Cradle and Shimmer. There’s a prior 2016 eponymous 7-inch with totally diff personnel save for Schiavelli of course. That might clue you in to what’s going on here. If not, think post-punkish art-pop. The songs’ quirkiness lacks obnoxiousness, with Schiavelli a distinctive vocalist, though the combo of music and voice has interesting ties to precedent; “Players of the Field” reminded me of Lou Reed and “Classifieds Strings” Mayo Thompson. “There’s a Party” is a cool flirt with early-’80s-ish melodic rock. The tape (edition of 50) has 26 (!) bonus tracks. A-

Gooms, V1 (Descent) (Anyines) Danes Aske Zidore, Suni Zacharias, and Jens Ramon formed Gooms in 2011, decamped to Imperial Beach in Southern California the following year to work on their first LP, picked up drummer Lasse Bækby Buch in ’13, and released that debut Beyond Life on Escho (noted for Iceage, Smerz etc.) in ’14. As this second album was being made, Buch decided to quit the band, which made for a tougher than usual situation, as he was also the singer. Left with his first take vocals, Gooms pressed on, and the results are interesting and varied. It suffices to say that Buch is something of an arty crooner here, and the music, at times jazzy, spare, electronic, atmospheric, and experimental, augments the singing in ways that are engaging and occasionally intriguing, if ultimately not jaw-dropping. B+

Walter Lure & The Waldos, Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo (Cleopatra) Called the first album in 24 years from Lure, the sole survivor of the Heartbreakers (the NYC punks, not Petty’s backing band). Frankly, scenarios like this scare me, because too often the end result is a bunch of terribly subpar cash-in junk rock. The diff here is that the band is a sharp working unit (rather than a half-assed “all-star” assemblage), Lure is in strong voice, and there’s good chemistry that’s rooted in history, as last year a live album emerged of a show from Brooklyn’s Bell House in 2011. That means the 24-year timeframe is applicable to the Waldos ’94 LP Rent Party, a record that I forgot even existed. Never bland, annoying or embarrassing, Wacka Lacka is a good time, and recommended if you dig old school punk and roll. B+

The Moldy Peaches, S/T (Rough Trade) I’ll confess that in 2001, a friend burnt this for me onto an unlabeled CDR, which I played a few times and then promptly lost track of under a stack of something or other. With the exception of the song in Juno (which I suffered through once), I haven’t heard it since. I can recall that even back then, when I was quite willing to cut slack to indie goings-on, I found a fair portion of this LP off-putting. The problem for this Shaggs, Daniel Johnston and Beat Happening fan wasn’t the lack of professionalism, it was in how Moldy Peaches were simultaneously shambolic and deliberate, with the humor missing as often as it hit, and the smut talk connecting as strained. Today? A handful of okay songs, but mostly forgettable, a relic from the dawn of the new millennium. C

The Myrrors, Borderland (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) & “Fuzz Club Session” (Fuzz Club) This Tucson, AZ psych outfit’s latest finds them in fine, expansive, non-retro form and utilizing an array of instruments to broaden the palette. Indeed, the short opening freedom-minded saxophone blare is a harbinger of things to come, and the gusts of flute and bowed strings during “Formaciones Rojas” fulfill the promise, and that’s just one example. With expansiveness comes the inclination to stretch out; the 20-minute Dostoyevsky-inspired “Note from the Underground” is Borderland’s highlight. The version that appears on their entry in the “Fuzz Club Sessions” series (in 2015 Fuzz Club reissued The Myrrors’ 2008 debut Burning Circles in the Sky) is nearly five minutes shorter. It is in no way inferior. A- / A-

Orions Belte, Mint (Jansen) Here’s the debut album from this Oslo, Norway trio featuring Øyvind Blomstrøm, Chris Holm, and Kim Åge Furuhaug. I’ve no idea who plays what, but they do their thing largely sans vocals; “Picturephone Blues” and a repeated verse as mantra during “Joe Frazier” are the exceptions. While I’m a long-time fan of Ali, the latter is still a highlight, and it sits well amid the trio’s instrumentally deft, psychedelically inclined thing, a passage of which elevates the former cut and much of the whole. With this said, there’s a palpable sense of relaxedness here that doesn’t necessarily reduce my pleasure but instead makes me thankful for the range. Opener “New Year’s Eve #2” plays around with theme music, there are bluesy licks a plenty, and “Atlantic Surfing” is a lengthy motorik groove. B+

Buck Owens, Country Singer’s Prayer (Omnivore) When you read that a record was an artist’s last for a label after a long tenure, the chances are good that it’s not worth much. And when you encounter a release that was intended to be an artist’s final album for a label but was instead left on the shelf, the likelihood of quality is considerably reduced. This Owens disc, made to wrap up his Capitol contract but with the exception of two singles unreleased until now, is an exception. Nobody with working ears will tell you this is as killer as Owens’ prime stuff, and there are hints that the man was losing track of the joy of it all (not so on the highlight version of “The Battle of New Orleans,” where he’s audibly having a blast), but for the most part this has stood the test of time quite well. CD and digital only. B

V/A, Even As We Speak / Secret Shine / Action Painting! / Boyracer – Four Band Comp (Emotional Response) As the cherry on top of this label’s Sarah Records reissues, this collects two tracks of new material from each of the three anthologized bands and adds a couple doses of shoegazy pop from Secret Shine (if you’re wondering where their comp is, the group’s Sarah LP and singles have already been collected by the Saint Marie label). This pleasurably extends the diversity of the reissues without doing anything particularly surprising, at least until Boyracer dish out a spot-on cover of The Clean’s “Tally Ho” that’s the pick of the bunch. Action Painting!’s arty dub-tinged closer “A Year with No Head” is runner-up. That all the participants here sound not just engaged but inspired is a minor miracle. A-

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