Words by Andrew Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor is the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which airs Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30pm ET on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis. On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to it’s modern incarnations. Past episodes are archived online.
And then there were two. After the departure of Dave Konopka (the second member to depart since their founding), Battles have pushed forth with their signature loop-heavy math rock and created what is probably their best album to date. Not to suggest that their previous members were holding them back. Just that, once a band finds their voice, the creative force isn’t always deterred by changes (big or small) and the result can still be wonderful.
As much as I miss the “heavy, space rocky” Wand from records like Ganglion Reef and Golem, I was really intrigued by this record. Laughing Matter has a much more chill vibe and yeah, they’re slightly channeling Radiohead (which, admittedly I’ve been indifferent towards for years, but have warmed up to them in my old age) but there are still heavier moments that remind you that it’s them.
How else do you follow up an album like Fishing For Fishies (arguably King Gizz’s most happy and chill albums) than with a thrash metal album? It only makes sense because it’s them. And who else can release a thrash metal album that tackles the all important issue of climate change? Again, it makes sense because it’s them. Teased by the early video releases “Planet B” and “Self-Immolate”, this album is one wild fucking ride. You’ll headbang while you sort your recyclables.
7. UNWED SAILOR – Heavy Age (self-released)
After Little Wars, I was excited that Unwed Sailor was returning to their signature post-rock beginnings. And Heavy Age takes it a step further and in many ways is the most perfect title for this record. It’s a…well…heavier record than what they’ve done before. Soundwise, it’s just bigger. I mean, a record with two drummers is going to have that effect. But Jonathon Ford’s bass (already the centerpiece of the band’s sound since the beginning) takes charge and pushes the music to new heights.
A Ty Segall record with no guitars? I seriously almost thought it was a joke when I read that.. What’s a garage rock record without guitars? But what’s always made Ty’s music great is his ability to walk the tightrope between garage and psychedelic music. And a rock record that contains a Greek bouzouki and a Japanese koto is about as psychedelic as it gets. The best part? It really fucking works! It’s as much a rock record as Twins or Melted.
I’ll say it: Everything Mary Timony does is amazing. And as much as I love the more angular, math-y stuff with Helium, Autoclave and even her solo work, this album has some of her strongest writing to date. Sure, it’s stripped down guitar pop, but dammit if every song isn’t as catchy as can be. The opening track “Tough Enough” could easily have been on every rock radio station in the 80s (and should be on every station now). It may not be as “technical” or complex as her previous bands, but the band is sacrificing nothing for making just good rock music.
Cronin’s fourth full length, written in isolation in the woods of Northern California (in an attempt to combat writer’s block), is a very personal account of loss and searching for identity. It’s a theme we can all relate to and I think he knows it. Musically it’s less reliant on the pop hooks from his previous albums, but there’s no shortage of melodies that will pull you in right from the start.
Vancouver’s finest psych-stoner rockers have released their heaviest and haziest album to date. Opening track “Future Shade” is the rock and roll equivalent of a contact buzz. And it just gets better from there. The absence of vocalist Amber Webber is certainly felt but newcomer Rachel Fannan makes a great addition to pair with frontman Stephen McBean’s vocals. It’s an album that lives up to its title and then some.
As much as I loved Jurado’s Maraqopa trilogy, I was happy to see him making an album of just him and his guitar. And the way it comes across on this record is much more intimate than his last few “full band” albums. The more melancholy moments of Ghost of David come to mind in tracks like “South” and “Lincoln”. Even with Richard Swift’s passing, his influence over the music Jurado makes is still apparent. Not just crafting great songs, but also emphasizing how the record sounds.
An album so many years in the making. And like pretty much everything Bazan has released, it exceeds all expectations. Musically, it’s very much a throwback to his Pedro The Lion sound and essentially picks up where Achilles Heel left off. Lyrically it’s his most brutally and autobiographically honest. And with more albums in the works, you can imagine how much more intense it will get.
More of Andrew Fetter’s contributions