New album: Gus Englehorn || Dungeon Master

The album title and cover photo should have been a warning, but I listened to Gus Englehorn’s new LP Dungeon Master without prejudice. It turned out to be the strangest and most disturbing release of recent times, but in a good, mesmerizing way that won’t let you go. As the label states: “An outsider opus that sparkles with Dada spirit — a playful juxtaposition of isolation, alienation and mildish OCD. Surprising, paranoid, and studded with synths and strings, deeper than a cellar and blunter than a club.” The Alaskan singer-songwriter/guitarist, based in Montréal, Québec, plays avant-garde garage pop, surreal and dark but also captivating and intriguing. I assume recording these 10 songs was an adequate way for Englehorn to deal with his ups and downs, great that he’s sharing that musical process with us. If you don’t want to dream restlessly, you shouldn’t play this just before going to sleep.

Dungeon Master is out now digitally, on cassette, CD and vinyl LP trough Secret City Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Secret City

New album: Mercvrial || Brief Algorithms

The first word that comes to mind while listening to Brief Algorithms, the debut LP of Mercvrial? The word you’ll read in any review of the band’s sound? Eighties. There really is no way around it. It’s the most eighties sounding record we shared on this site.

Mercvrial is based in Rosarito (Mexico). The biggest strenght of Mercvrial is that they sound authentically ’80s but are are impossible to pigeonhole in a specific genre. Every song taps into a different style, which transcends the post punk or new wave label. The only common denominator is that it is drenched in eighties nostalgia – the collaboration of guitarist Terry Bickers (House Of Love/Levitation) on half of the songs strengtens this vibe.

To be sure, Brief Algorithms won’t be for everyone. In fact, I’m still not sure what to make of it, let alone have the words to describe it. I do know it’s something else, decidedly out of time and unworried about what is hip or happening. It has songs like I’ll Get You Home On Time and Waiting On A Miracle (a reimagining of Ride’s Jump Jet/Dub Jet) that are too far out of my comfortzone to fully appreciate. But then there are songs like Dark Stars, Be That Someone and I Never Liked You Anyway that slowly get under my skin and make me want to return to the record and discover other Easter eggs Mercvrial have hidden on the record.

Brief Algorithms is out now through Crafting Room Recordings (UK), and available through Meritorio Records (Europe) and Jigsaw (US).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Baywitch || Apocatropica

A title like Apocatropica evokes various associations, but Baywitch’s members Lila Burns, Jake Meierdierck and Sicily Robinson explain that we should think of it as “a realm marred by mists, myths and monsters, a campy parable for very real-life wildfires, colonialism, bias, capitalism and the never ending ever pending doom-news whirlpool.” On this new mini-album (6 songs in 26 minutes) the Seattle-based trio may play surf-rock, but due to the addition of dark lyrics, hazy vocals and psych influences, their sound is more reminiscent of Thee Oh Sees than The Surfrajettes. It’s “smurf-rock toon doom” as they call it, ominous and hypnotic – quite impressive.

“Victory was forecast but misfortune feeds on faith. All eyes looking forward to an ego-manic fate.”

“Look, look, look for liars, preying on your tall desires; never had a clue, so goes the doom generation down.”

Apocatropica is out now digitally, on cassette and 12″ vinyl through Halfshell Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New EP: Head Kits || Sleep Hygiene

I’d like to introduce you to Head Kits, a new project by Gimme 5 alumn Devon Milley (Ex Press, Monsterbator) and Victor Lewis (Vic Lou, Monsterbator). Head Kits was born out of a shared love for music, a necessity for writing songs, and having to balance that with a busy professional and family life. Milley explains: “I guess the reason my last two projects have been two-person bands is, because life is so busy it’s just easier to collaborate with one other like minded friend rather than find the time to schedule band practice and things like that.”

Intent on creating garagepunk-oriented stuff, Milley and Lewis started a playlist of influences and sonic direction leading up to the recording – I recommend checking that one out as well, it’s a delightful mess of styles and sounds. Both musicians brought in a couple of songs which were recorded in one day. Milley’s 8-year old daughter Karmen drew the colorful cover, and that basically sums up the birth of Head Kits’s debut 8-song EP/mini-LP.

The title track provides a raucous and energetic start to your Tuesday. It’s probably my favorite of the 8 songs and opens the record on a high note. But things get even more interesting after that one. Milley and Lewis will take you on a trip through their eclectic musical preferences, and in doing so avoid the common pitfall with this kind of music that it can feel like one giant blur of noise.

It likely won’t be the last trip Head Kits will take us on: “Before recording our motto was ‘low expectations/fun results.’ The session went so well that we’re already making plans to record our next album.”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Laurels || homecoming

With a modified line-up – Luke O’Farrell (guitar, vocals) and Piers Cornelius (guitar, vocals) are now joined by new members Kat Harley (bass, vocals) and Ben James (drums) – Australia’s The Laurels are back with their third full-length album, which bears the telling title Homecoming. The 4-piece plays a bewitching mix of shoegaze and psych rock, with dreamy vocals, rolling guitar melodies and dense synth soundscapes. As a sort of fifth member, producer Lachlan Mitchell provided composition ideas and extra instrumentation, making the record more layered than the previous work of the band. In 10 original songs – almost 50 minutes – the gripping sound puts you in a kind of intoxication, and that’s a good thing in this case.

Homecoming is out now digitally and (soon) on vinyl LP through Third Eye Stimuli Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Star Party || Meadow Flower

On their debut LP Meadow Flower, Star Party (Seattle) are a bit like a chef trying to find the perfect balance between sweet and sour. The sweet voice of Carolyn Brennan juxtaposes nicely with the tsunami of loud buzzsaw noises produced by Ian Corrigan (Gen Pop, Vexx), and the whole sounds better than the sum of its parts.

Call it hardcore twee, c-86 punk or whatever you like, Meadow Flower is a record to cherish. It invites you to study its ancestry. You’ll find traces of psychedelic rock, garage, ’60s girl group, (post)punk and ’80s underground pop. A more recent reference point is UV-TV’s 2017 record Glass. That band became more pop oriented on subsequent records, and I’m curious what the trajectory of Star Party will be. But until then, I will be plugging this record to all my friends.

Meadow Flower is out now. LP available through Feel It Records (US) and Tough Love (UK).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs 

New album: Subterfuge || Dots.

Good news for fans of perfect pop/rock songs with jangly guitars and vocal harmonies: Subterfuge is back! The 6-piece indie pop band from Düsseldorf, Germany, has been around for 30 years, but released their last LP in 2005. With Dots., their new (5th) full-length album, they show that they still know their stuff. Reportedly, we should consider the 12 new songs as a biography: “Just real life turned into music.” Their lyrics about life-as-it-is are tragicomic (“There’s something you said // Before I grow old // I’d rather be dead // When we were young // Your hair was long // Now that it’s gone // You look like Right Said Fred” – from Stephanie Said), the music is melancholic (the sound has its origins in the psychedelic 60’s, but with more modern influences from college rock, shoegaze and jangle pop), and their Super8 style videos are highly entertaining. “Why do I always fail to win?” they wonder in one of the standout tracks. We can safely say that the tide has turned, because this new work is definitely a winner.

Dots. is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Less Records, distributed by Cargo Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Less Records

New album: Alien Lizard || Lucid Dream Machine

You don’t necessarily have to understand psychedelic music, you just have to experience it. That certainly applies to the sound (and cover art) of the two Polish brothers that make-up Alien Lizard. Their new full-length album, with the telling title Lucid Dream Machine, contains nine hazy songs with poetic lyrics and excerpts from the works of Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Rosalía de Castro, Philip K. Dick, Léon Dierx, Adam Mickiewicz, Edgar Allan Poe , and Kurt Vonnegut. Cosmic experiments to immerse yourself in. I asked the band how their work came about: “Each of these songs was recorded right after waking in order to explore the liminal space between dreaming and reality through a black mirror. With all the insanity happening right now, I guess we just hope this album can provide a short reprieve.” And so it is. We all could use a Lucid Dream Machine right now.

“I think I know what I’m thinking // I think I saw it in my feed”

“Fly with no wings // Fly out of sync”

Lucid Dream Machine is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Le Muffe || Down Down Down

Psychedelic garage punk is also possible without guitars, as Italian trio Le Muffe once again proves. Their third full-length album Down, Down, Down features 10 new songs with that distinctive sound: an omnipresent acid organ, a pulsing nervous bass, pounding aggressive drums, and intriguing theatrical vocals. Thanks to that sound in combination with lyrics in Italian (partly English), scream-along choruses, swinging melodies, and smart tempo changes, this is an LP that is unlike any other. Fans of Archie and the Bunkers will certainly enjoy it, but anyone who likes garage, beat or punk can blast this guitar-less music out of their speakers to be positively surprised.

Down Down Down is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Area Pirata Records / Pigme Records.

Add to wantlist: Area Pirata || Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: The Total Rejection || Off The Top Of Our Heads.​.​.​And Other Forbidden Pleasures

The UK garage-psych rockers of The Total Rejection are back with their 4th studio album, Off The Top Of Our Heads .​.​.​And Other Forbidden Pleasures, and here they took a step forward. We hear 10 new and wild killer tracks that pick up where the Pebbles compilations left off, featuring driving rhythms, screeching guitar riffs and Arthur Andrew Jarrett’s signature vocals that you either love or hate. The band themselves say they wanted to keep it quite raw and edgy, and push things slightly, and they succeeded very well. The songs are better structured and even catchier than before. This is an addictive record that slowly but surely makes you hallucinate, and that’s a great achievement.

Off The Top Of Our Heads .​.​.​And Other Forbidden Pleasures is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Raving Pop Blast! Recordings.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

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