New album: Pony Hunt || VAR!

VAR! is the second album by Pony Hunt. The press releases describes the sound of the band as psychedelic folk, which makes sense I guess, but it understates how varied the soundscapes are on VAR!. The album opens strongly with Pulse, a mesmerizing song that seems to come from a different era. It’s the first of many standouts, like the gorgeous Stardust, the dreamy Rise and the modern indie rock oriented Stardust and That Feeling.

In terms of its direction, VAR! is an outlier in my musical diet, but one I find myself returning to. Most likely, this is due to the power, honesty and vulnerability in the voice of Jessie Antonick, who truly takes these songs to a different level. Her voice goes beyond mere talent. I like to believe that her life experiences and travels add an additional emotional layer to her voice – at different times, Antonick lived on a sailboat and in a chevy van. Antonick’s identity struggles, a central theme on the record, likely also factor in

The second main draw of VAR! is Pony Hunt’s ability to create something fresh and exciting out of the many different generations of American music. Pony Hunt makes you get lost in the woods and then drops crumbs of doo-wop, folk, country, indie rock, blues, soul and punk to help you claw your way back; It’s quite the adventure. VAR! is out now on Wing And Wing, including a limited edition with a handmade lyric book.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Wing And Wing

New album: Heavy Illusion || Reality TV

Heavy Illusion is an American psychedelic rock band, led by brothers Ricky (vocals / guitar / keyboards / bass / trumpet) and Tyler North (drums). They’ve just released their seventh (digital) album, Reality TV, a quest for how we view the world through the lens of the media: what’s our reality? Ricky wrote great lyrics like “See…our progress in motion // Hear…our endless devotion // When we build ourselves a future we can thrive in // Feel…a live imagination” (from Carry On). The music sounds sunnier and less hallucinatory than what you would expect based on this theme. These are progressive rock jams that have a clever and varied structure, surprisingly entertaining. Stream the full album below.

Out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New album: Mutaciervo || La Segunda Luz

Fasten your seat belts for La Segunda Luz (translated: “the second light”), the sophomore album by Mutaciervo, Leroy Starlight’s space prog / hard rock project full of synths, As it goes in a space full of black holes, these aren’t sunny sounds. This is music that you have to experience like you undergo a science fiction film. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll understand what it’s all about. La Segunda Luz is hypnotic and addictive, and isn’t that what good psychedelic rock is supposed to do?

Out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Tashaki Miyaki || Castaway

Contrary to what their Japanese sounding name might suggest, Tashaki Miyaki is an indie rock band with “California kids” who have been playing dreamy, hazy, melodic shoegaze / psych pop for 10 years. Their new album, Castaway, has 11 original songs about love, memory and time. “Give me a reason to cry // It’s been so long since I had feeling // I don’t remember why I do anything // What am I doing here” – those are the first lines you’ll hear in the title track with which the record opens, lyrics that say a lot about this record. The band members search for meaning, as we might all do in 2021, and that doesn’t lead to unambiguous findings; when they sing about Good Times there is a dark edge to it, and doubts are expressed with I Feel Fine. The cinematic songs seem sweet and soothing at first hearing, but turn out to be exciting and ominous at the same time. Although they are dreamy, they are never dull; before your attention can wane, there’s a guitar riff or vocal harmony that will keep you on your toes. This album is a cool one, stylish in every way, an image enhanced by some videos. Watch and listen below to convince yourself.

Castaway is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Metropolis Records. RIYL Still Corners, Mazzy Star, Dum Dum Girls. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Metropolis

New album: Las Penas | Sin Dolor

Las Penas are a trilingual (Spanish, French & English) 5-piece from the San Sebastian region in Spain. The band’s psychgarage sound is informed by a love of ’60s and ’70s music. The eleven cuts (10 originals and one cover of No Exit by the Grassroots) on Sin Dolor are short, sweet, and make it near impossible to sit still. What makes Las Penas particularly stand out is their knack for writing strong melodies and memorable choruses.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Leopardo || Malcantone

If you have some time to spare for a record that upon multiple listens will ultimately grow on you and get under your skin, would you be interested in such delayed rewards? I am talking about Malcantone from Leopardo, which is a delightfully weird yet strangely accessible record. It’s the kind of record I did not expect to write about, but somehow I keep returning to. It’s also the kind of record I lack the vocabulary for to explain in full. Leopardo are from Schwitzerland, but they may just as well reside in the Chelsea Hotel (NYC) in the seventies. Comparing Leopardo to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground is kinda lazy, but it also kinda makes sense. Malcantone is an eclectic mix of styles, including folk (Malcantone, Bitter Man), psych (Country Side Love, Hardship), punk (Tell Me, I Belong To You), garage (Put Me In Jail), and rock-‘n’- roll (Throwback in The Snow). I was quick to dismiss this record and I was wrong.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Feel It Records || SDZ Records || Le Pop Club 

New album: Die Mädchen || Wenn die Gesellschaft​.​.​.

To be honest, I don’t really speak the German language, but sometimes it adds a dimension to music. For example, imho David Bowie’s Heroes gained eloquence when he performed it in German (“Und wir sind dann Helden // Für einen Tag”). That said, I don’t understand most of what Die Mädchen (translated: the girls) sing and shout on their album Wenn die Gesellschaft​.​.​. (translated: ‘when the company…’), but it does get to me. The mysterious punk / krautrock / electronic artist group from Düsseldorf is inspired by the music of Kraftwerk, NEU! and CAN, but they translated that into an original sound of their own. Electronic noise isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when it’s blended so well with strong guitar, organ and drums structures and fascinating vocals. These eight songs are about solidarity, empathy, freedom and education – this is political rock that wants to change society. Die Mädchen in the role of heroes?

Out now digitally and on vinyl LP. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Supreme Joy || Joy

Supreme Joy is a new project of Ryan Wong which allows him to be a bit more experimental than in his work with his main band Cool Ghouls. On Supreme Joy’s 8-song debut Joy, Wong expertly blends psych pop, surf and garage influences to create a record that oozes nostalgia and melancholy. Body Contact by Supreme Joy is a smash hit and given its topic an instant quarantine classic. It’s a perfect guitar driven garage pop track that I can keep on playing. RIYL Woolen Men, Sonny And The Sunsets.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Horseloverfat || Greetings From Nowhere

Horseloverfat is an unusual name. That also applies to their music, which is all over the place and kinda awesome. The band from Italy self-desribes as “a psichedelic (sic) krautrock group, a transnational and stateless parody that encompasses all without regards to purism and coherence.” On their new record Greetings From Nowhere, Horseloverfat goes from postpunk to psychedelic to protopunk to country to kraut to glam in their songs. Somehow, the band manages to pull it off without creating a unlistenable mess. They recorded Greetings From Nowhere in March in an old school fashion: as a live band, and with limited digital intereference. The result is a time portal to the music of the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. Step in, if you’d like!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: The Haunted Youth || Coming Home

Belgian psych / dream pop band The Haunted Youth plays jangly shoegaze music that gets under your skin. Their debut single Teen Rebel from early this year was good, but follow-up track Coming Home is even better (the accompanying video fits the sound perfectly – watch below). What a mesmerizing and addictive song! If Joachim Liebens (vocals / guitars), Hanne Smets (keys), Tom Stokx (guitars), Nick Caers (drums), and Stef Castro (bass) could maintain this level, how good would a full-length album be? RIYL The War On Drugs, DIIV, Craft Spells.

Out now digitally via Mayway Records. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

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