Words by Andrew Ryan Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor was the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which aired on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis (now on hiatus – past episodes are archived online). 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 its modern incarnations.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s 2012 album Aufheben (A Recordings, Ltd) – a German word with multiple meanings; one implying opposing ideas colliding, which seems most fitting – sees the return of guitarist Matt Hollywood and yet another shift in the band’s sound. While never fully straying from the core psych rock sound, this record has its, dare I say, mellower moments. “Gaz Hilarant” is an acoustic desert infused slow burn but never loses its momentum. “Face Down On The Moon” has a dreamy almost pop vibe. And yet, again, we’re seeing the band as being truly themselves. It’s surreal to think that we’re now over the halfway mark in their catalog and still seeing the band finding their footing. Or simply trying to keep things fresh. Either way, Aufheben is a triumph and has quickly become a noteworthy part of their body of work for me.
I’ve been utterly fascinated by Yonatan Gat over the past year. His 2018 album Universalists is probably one of the wildest rides I’ve been on musically and I’m always coming back for more. On his latest effort American Quartet (Stone Tapes), Gat takes on a truly ambitious concept. Reimagining the American Quartet piece by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, each string part is explored by each musician Gat brought on board for this project. Drummer Greg Saunders (from Deerhoof) interprets the cello parts, while Mikey Coltun (bass) and Curt Sydnor (organ) tackle the violin and viola parts, with Gat himself leading the charge. And while it’s not a strict reenactment of the original quartet piece, the album does pay a respectful tribute to Dvořák’s work.
Brant Bjork once again brings us a wonderfully thick new slab of bluesy desert stoner rock with Bougainvillea Suite (Heavy Psych Sounds). In between reissues of his back catalog and jamming out with his compadres in the new-ish trio Stöner, Bjork found time to craft 8 new tracks to make his final record in his Joshua Tree studio before moving onward. The bittersweet vibe is apparent in “Trip On The Wine” and “Good Bones”, yet the hope for what the future will hold seems to shine on “Ya’ Dig”. So, there’s a good balance of vibes throughout Bougainvillea Suite and it’s hard to not just get sucked in and zone out from start to finish.
The debut album from songwriting duo Jackie Giroux and Caelen Perkins, under the moniker Jacklen Ro, is one of the most soothing listens from this year. The title track to Sunshine I’m Counting On You (Lolipop) reminds me of early Real Estate and other chill rock bands in that realm. And the accompanying video (with a narrative of surviving a vampire attack) just makes it brighter. The remainder of Sunshine explodes with so much color and happiness that it’s hard not to love this from start to finish. Other songs like “Sunshine Girl” and “Time Bomb” even with heartbreak infused lyrics, puts a smile on my face with sweet melodies and vocal harmonies that will make you want to sing along at full volume.