New Madrid - Sunswimmer: I first saw New Madrid in a friend’s living room in Athens, Georgia in the Fall of 2012: flashback “I’ve just polished off a 6-pack of Oktoberfest, and the bottles are rolling around the floor by my feet, adding to the black slick that covers the hardwoods. Some local punk band has just played, and a section of the floor has given way under the weight of the mosh pit. My friend Charlie stands glued against the wall in a stoned stupor. Some hippie looking dudes come out of the bedroom with their faces painted like Apache warriors and instruments in hand, their gaze cast down, silent. The guitarist flips on a pedal, producing a sort of oscillating rumble that begins to fill the room. The rumble grows and grows until the whole house is shaking. And then, finally, it stops… The lead Apache (whom I now know as Phil) begins to sing, slow, incoherent mumblings accompanied by crisp, glittering guitars. The drummer starts to lay down on the crash heavier and heavier, while the guitar grinds towards an impending cosmic dissonance. And once again the rumble consumes the room like an Earthquake. I glance at Charlie. He looks back at me, and even in his glazed vacancy I can tell that he’s just as affected as I. For the next few songs we both stand perfectly still, staring straight forward, captivated.” Immediately after that set, I got myself a copy of Yardboat from their “manager”, and in just the past year and a half it’s probably become one of my most listened to albums of all time. (Actually according to iTunes it’s #1). Suffice it to say, I’ve been looking forward to more tunes from New Madrid, and what I have finally been given is Sunswimmer. Now, this is not exactly what I was expecting. The single, “Manners” is a grinding sludgefest with pockets of vocals and a riff-heavy ending, not altogether unlike their previous stuff but definitely faster. Of course some prick at Pitchfork had to compare it to REM because apparently that’s the only band to ever come out of Athens (B-52s, of Montreal, NMH, Danger Mouse, Widespread Panic, Perpetual Groove); it is literally nothing like REM. The rest of the album exhibits some life signs of the old NM: clear riffing that descends into feedback with swinging lyrics and twinkling guitar. However, many of the songs lack the hooks necessary for holding anyone’s attention throughout the great space out. The noodling gets more and more muddled and consequently less captivating. Tracks such as “Find My Blood” can go largely unnoticed in the background. The last track “And She Smiles” is definitely one of my favorites, but it’s also 12 minutes long, which it most certainly does not need to be. This album will grow on me, but for the rest of you, if you want to give this one a shot, start with “Manners”. From there, go to track 1 “All Around the Locust”. If you dig, go buy Yardboat. Yeah, sorry this was so long. SHILL
Recommended Tracks: "Manners", "All Around the Locust", "And She Smiles"
Juan Wauters - North American Poetry: There’s something enticing about the nonchalant weirdness of Juan Wauters. After about thirty seconds of a sloppy guitar intro, he makes his presence known by singing, “I don’t like you, you’re a fool” on “Let Me Hip You To Something.” Reading it sounds confrontational, but after listening it’d be completely obvious that he’s just mindlessly having fun, challenging the listener through his playfulness that seems to come with no effort. The mood is simple and consistent in that the entire album is just vocals and acoustic guitar, yet he is able to convey an almost Wes Anderson quirkiness; only there is certainly no meticulous attention to detail. Musically it feels sporadic, unorganized, and almost improvised, which again contributes to the relaxed, humorous, and definitively non-serious tone. Wauters is contemplative and clever in an extremely goofy way, with song titles such as “Lost in Soup,” “Woke Up Feeling Like Sleeping,” and “Goo”; not to mention lines like “when I learn not to think of thinking and think” in “Water.” Don’t expect anything musically groundbreaking or extreme because he never strays from standard song structures and an acoustic guitar. But he does do folk justice by writing bare-bone songs that convey an honest and witty carelessness, and ultimately a feeling that is unafraid in its happiness. J CLIFFY
Recommended Tracks: 1."Let Me Hip You to Something", 2."Sanity or Not", 8."Water"
Mogwai - Rave Tapes: This is one of the most gorgeous rock records I’ve heard in quite some time. The grandiosity of Godspeed You! Black Emperor boiled down through the catalyst of punk ethos. Distant, droning guitars and analog synths recall the intensity of fellow Sub Poppers, Earth, but the relaxed vibe evoked by the instrumentalists results in something entirely otherworldly (think Tortoise, but less cluttered). The clarity of the record is incredible; you can doubtlessly pinpoint the origin of each beat. Cymbals and echoes sustain into infinity without sputtering muddiness. Although this is supposedly their first non-soundtrack collection of music in a while, I would be hard pressed to say that Rave Tapes was not crafted with a specific visual accompaniment in mind. This album will gladly find a home in shows tailored to rock, jazz, electronic, or anyone with broad taste. <strong>NICK</strong>
Recommended Tracks: "The Lord Is Out of Control", "Heard About You Last Night", "Repelish", "Blues Hour"
Mozes and the Firstborn - Mozes and the Firstborn: Burger Records’ latest stars hail not from the usual sunny California shores, but rather the frigid core of the Netherlands. That’s right, Mozes and the Firstborn may sound akin to SoCal faves like Ty Segall, Wavves, and together PANGEA (who they are currently touring with), but their hometown is a cozy 5600 miles away! Their European take on roots rock n’ roll is one that could only cultivate in the confined and wickedly loud conditions that the standard garage can provide. If the typical punkish edge found in many of Burger’s acts makes it difficult for you to fit into your show, you’ll be happy to know that the pacing and overall sound of this record is much more tame (with the good majority of it being rooted in an acoustic guitar). Help out a little group from a far away land who want to join the party, give Mozes n the boys a shot! PS catch them March 22 as part of Burgerama III in Santa Ana! NICK
Recommended Tracks: "Bloodsucker", "Time's a Headache", "Skinny Girl"
Xiu Xiu - Angel Guts: Red Classroom: Like countless reality show contestants, Xiu Xiu isn't here to make friends. Jamie Stewart's latest offering is openly antagonistic from the get-go: "Angel's Guts" begins with a skeletal slide guitar figure reminiscent of "Hunting Bears" which dies out after approximately one minute. The remaining 1:30 is composed of a white noise blanket, or perhaps Stewart's air conditioning unit. I need to make it abundantly clear that this is not an album for the faint of heart, and it may not even be an album for the radio. After all, the catchiest track here is the skittering "Black Dick", where Stewart croaks the undeniably catchy chorus of "Black dick, black dick, black diiiiiiiiiiick!" and makes a bizarre reference to Bullet Bill from the Super Mario franchise. Xiu Xiu is one of those artists I appreciate but rarely listen to due to how draining the experience is - this album is 44 minutes long, but it feels like 3 hours inside a sadomasochistic BDSM funhouse after taking some pills you shouldn't have. This isn't a condemnation; it's a fascinating listen if you can handle it. Recommended if you are very much into Suicide, Scott Walker, the drill at the dentist's office, and pig squeals. ZN
Recommended Tracks: 9."The Silver Platter", 11."A Knife in the Sun", 2."Archie Fades"