Alternative Rock

New album: Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds || That Delicious Vice

For That Delicious Vice, their fifth studio full-length of their nineteen-year recording career (and their first in eight years), Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds have been reduced to a trio, featuring Kid Congo Powers (guitar, vocals), Mark Cisneros (guitar, bass) and Ron Miller (drums, percussion, vocals). It’s a record with two faces, with primal rock ‘n’ roll drenched in psychedelic blues on side A, and more subdued, atmospheric tunes on the B-side. The first five songs roll along a straight road under a bright sun through the desert, starting with the cinematic instrumental East Of East and a duet with Alice Bag in the exciting lead single Wicked World. The last five songs reach more dense territory as night falls, slowing down the tempo and leaving room for exotic influences. Be sure to listen to the cowbell-thumping Latinate rhythms and the distorted guitar groans in the amazing acid/cumbia title track (the title is translated into Spanish as Ese Vicio Delicioso), a highlight in the band’s career. It’s followed by a few ballads, closing with extended soundscape Murder Of Sunrise (almost eighteen minutes long), which Kid claims is meant to be his ‘Barry White song’. Somehow it all works in this tasteful trip.

That Delicious Vice, recorded & mixed by Jim Waters, is out now on CD and vinyl LP through In The Red Records.

Add to wantlist: Discogs || In The Red

New album: James Sullivan || Vital Signs

Just because James Sullivan pulled the plug on his band More Kicks, doesn’t mean he’s stopped being an artist. His sophomore solo LP Vital Signs, written and recorded in his home studio in 2022, is out today (on CD & LP) via Stardumb Records. It broadens both the artist’s and label’s horizons, and I am all in!

Freed from the confines and expectations of his former band, Sullivan now has a blank canvas to draw on. Like its album art suggests, Vital Signs is a vibrant and colorful record, blending various styles and influences. Despite the minimalistic percussion and instrumentation, the LP sounds surprisingly rich.

Even more so than on his solo debut Light Years, Sullivan distances himself from the catchy garage power pop he played with Suspect Parts and More Kicks – although songs like Best Friend and Day Late Dollar Short are easily reimagined as songs from said bands. The remainder of the record is full of surprising touches and decisions.

The record opens with It’s Good to be wrong, which carries an almost hymn-like feel yet maintains suspense. My Right Boot, anchored by a groovy bass riff and steady electronic drumbeat, will make you want to get up and move. In contrast, All I Wanna Do (Is Do Nothing With You) with its beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar, draws you back in your seat. The track is followed by La Rochelle, an emotional heavy song featuring Sullivan’s voice accompanied by a captivating string arrangement. The two songs allow for a natural rest point on the record, quickly followed by the designated hit Day Late Dollar Short – watch the fun video below. Guilty as Charged is another highlight for me. If you have a soft spot for singers weaving stories over hypnotizing music, this one will be right up your alley.

Vital Signs showcases a liberated and inspired James Sullivan finding his groove. Alex Chilton, Paul Westerberg, Robyn Hitchcock, and Jonathan Richman would (or will) be bobbing their heads in approval.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Stardumb Records || Discogs

New album: Chloe Hawes || Remains​/​Reminders

With four EPs in the pocket, Chloe Hawes finally promotes to the full length format with the nine-song Remains​/​Reminders. It’s an excellent singer-songwriter indie punk folk record that distantly resembles Rocky Votolato but cranks up the volume and intensity.

You don’t need to read between the lines to feel the emotional weight of the themes explored in this record. Hawes’ voice alone conveys it all. It sounds sandpapered, bruised and battered, but vulnerable and gorgeous as well (like in First To Leave). Their voice plays a major role in why this collection of songs is so mesmerizing. When Hawes sings “Can’t you see, this don’t affect the life you lead. Me and my friends, just coz we don’t fit in the space between your binary bookends That’s alright. Yeah we didn’t choose this life. But that’s just fine. You can get on with yours without taking down mine,” these are no empty words, but lived experience. There is a realness and rawness in Hawes’ delivery on Remains​/​Reminders that makes it stand out.

Remains​/​Reminders is out now through Nasty Cut Records (EU), UTB Manchester (UK), Mt. Crushmore Records (US).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Nervous Nikki and the Chill Pills || St. Anthony’s Fire

“Baby, if you tell me its fine one more time // I will go crazy.” In the lyrics and video of Day Off we get a personal but recognizable insight into the family life of Nicole Bauza and her husband Doug Boice, respectively the singer/drummer and guitarist of Pennsylvania alt-rock band Nervous Nikki and the Chill Pills. Together with bassist Nathan Swavely and Kendal Thompson on guitar and keys, they have just released their new full-length album St. Anthony’s Fire, and it is as captivating and thoughtful as it is idiosyncratic and genre transcending. Apart from the authentic storytelling, it is the frontwoman’s heartfelt vocals – alternately singing and rapping! – that make the nine diverse songs here unique and distinctive. It works particularly well thanks to the loose musical backing, that is ramshackle one moment and groovy the next, with heavy guitars being deployed as easily as a sensitive harmonica. “There’s a chance one of these days I’m gonna write a hit song // And in the car while you’re driving you’ll be singing along // And there’s a chance the we’re never gonna make it // I ‘ll be happy by myself singing these songs down in the basement,” we hear in Here and Gone. As far as I’m concerned, several of these tunes should become hits – this album goes far beyond mediocrity.

St. Anthony’s Fire is out now digitally and on CD through Interdope Records. The title is the nickname for an illness prevalent during the middle ages brought on by poisoning from the ergot fungus found on rye. A drug derived from the same ergot fungus saved Nicole’s life a few years ago. She explains: “I was left in awe that something responsible for so much suffering and death could be used in a different way to save lives. Many of the themes in the album revolve around this play of cruelty and beauty in nature, surrendering to the roller coaster ride of life, and not confusing success with fulfillment.” That is also nicely depicted in the cover art by Catherine Hart.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Blackburns || The Blackburns

Joel Tannenbaum (Plow United, The Rentiers) and Nick Palmer (Wax Wav, The Danger-Os) started The Blackburns at some point last year. The creative synergy between the duo, along with additional members Lynna Stancato (vocals and synth) and Abe Koffenberger (guitar) was so strong they have released their full length debut within a year. It is out now courtesy of Sell The Heart Records.

The Blackburns are the kind of band I think will resonate with many of our readers. For starters, this band rocks! What’s more impressive though is their refusal to be confined to any specific subgenre. The album kicks off with Hooks, a glammy radio friendly rocker. It’s followed by Southern Chester County, which to my ears sounds like a modern power pop update of Shoes. Chill City Population You is ’90s alt pop hit material, while Status: Someday embodies the ’00s indie rock vibe. Drama Club sounds like Bob Mould at his catchiest. Listening to this album feels like tuning into a self-sustaining radio station where, instead of changing the channel, you’re eager to learn more about the band. It that applies to you as well, read more about The Blackburns in this interview at Sweet Sweet Music Blog.

Currently, only Hooks is available on Bandcamp. Find the remainder of the record on the streaming service of your choice.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Acid Tongue || Acid on the Dancefloor

Acid on the Dancefloor, the fourth LP from Seattle-based garage psych band Acid Tongue, should be seen as their childish take on maturity. The eleven songs of this concept album are different episodes of the bumpy road to adulthood, painting a vivid picture of the world for what it truly is as we age, based on lead songwriter Guy Keltner’s issues with drugs, alcohol, romance, family and friends in recent years. Like for example in the title track: “When the light goes out and we’re both inside our heads // Are you still you, am I still me, or are we energy?”

It’s quite a varied rock record, much more adventurous than cautionary, with influences as varied as post-punk, glam, R&B, indie, post-disco and psych but always enthralling. We already knew four of the tunes (including a cover of The Pretty Things’ L.S.D.) from the Blame It On The Youth EP, but the new ones are just as seductive.

Acid on the Dancefloor, produced by Josh Landau & Alex Arias, is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Le Cèpe Records. Featuring Guy Keltner (vocals, guitar, bass) and Ian Cunningham (drums, percussion, keys, background vocals), with help from Dune Butler (background vocals, synth), Dustin Bookatz (bass), Dave Wilder (bass), Erik Janson (background vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion), Chet Peterson (cello), Philip A. Peterson (string arrangements, cello) and Victoria Parker (violin) on selected tracks.

Add to wantlist: Acid Tongue || Bandcamp

New album: Hook || Pool

There a loads of bands called Hook, but here is a relatively recent band that goes by the name from Finland who play melodic, midpaced guitar-driven punk rock. The eight songs on their debut full length Pool have echoes of late ’90s and early 00’s emo but also the alternative rock that came before. Several songs evoke the spirit of both Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr., and there is a subtle grungy aesthetic to their powerful sound that sets them apart.

Pool is out now through Shield Recordings & Keep It A Secret Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Hutch Harris || Not Everyone is Loved

Portland, Oregon-based songwriter/singer/guitarist Hutch Harris outlived The Thermals, and his previous solo LP Suck Up All The Oxygen was thematically quite dark, but on his new record Not Everyone is Loved there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Obviously this is relative, with lyrics multiple interpretable, as becomes clear in I Will Love Again (“I know I can heal // I know I will be stronger in time // If only in my mind”) and Why My Life is Over (“I can be just who I want // I can do just what I wish // Every day I live forever and // Every day I don’t exist”), or actually in all eight original songs here. They form a personal and relatable album that is musically very accessible, with uplifting melodies, and those distinctive vocals that captivate as always. I really hope and assume that closing track A Place is not a farewell letter (“I’m leaving the life I have loved for so long // I’m leaving the world which I know to be wrong”), because we want to hear much more from this great musician.

Not Everyone is Loved is out now digitally and on handmade limited edition CD via Royal We Publishing (BMI).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The K’s || I Wonder If The World Knows

Sometimes you know what to expect within a few seconds, but in the case of Icarus you first have to get through a minute of classical music before you end up with that typical British alternative rock sound. It’s the opening track of I Wonder If The World Knows?, the debut LP from UK’s latest live sensation The K’s (simplified: competition for The Reytons but with a shot of emo added). James Boyle (vocals, guitar), Ryan Breslin (guitar, keyboards), Dexter Baker (bass) and Nathan Peers (drums) deliver twelve well-thought-out coming of age songs full of hope for the future. Full of self-confidence, good ideas and a varied toolbox, this is a band that will make full festival grounds jump.

I Wonder If The World Knows, recorded/mixed/produced by Gareth Nuttall, is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP, through LAB Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || The K’s || LAB Records

New album: Oort Clod || Cult Value

Founded by Patrick Glen and featuring members of Unpaid Intern, the Hipshakes, Jeuce and the Early Mornings, Oort Clod are a “check your assumptions at the door” kinda band from Manchester. Their latest record Cult Value reveals that they are untouched by genre boundaries and expectations, and true believers of letting their creative moods and musical influences take them wherever and whenever. The result is a strangely coherent shuffle-the-deck blend of ’80s (and ’90s) alternative rock, underground pop, ’90 slacker indie rock, the Flying Nun catalogue and ’60s garage.

There is a noticeable sense of urgency fueling Cult Value. Oort Clod throw a lot at you and do so forcefully, playing like they can’t wait to get to the end of the song to show you what they’ve cooked up next. This is a punchy record full of surprises including a version of the extensively covered 96 Tears that nobody asked for but I think will yield many taps on the shoulder. The real kicker for me though was discovering though how much fun this 11-song collection is and, for lack of a better description, how much it rocks.

Cult Value is out now through the trusted UK/US partnership that is Safe Suburban Home and Repeating Cloud.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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