Bell Gardens – Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions: Bell Gardens is a folk rock/Americana duo from LA and if I had to pick one word to describe their new album Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions, it would be cinematic. Through the mists of endless reverb and spacious vocals, the band’s songwriting shines with distinct imagery. With elements of choral music, mournful string arrangements, somber electric piano, and the faraway jingle of tambourine, each song on Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions cues the hypothetical credits of a melancholy movie. Throughout the album, there’s an ambient air that I affiliate specifically with the acceptance of loss, or a moment of optimism after tragedy. And I’m not just talking about the air of singer Kenneth James Gibson’s breathy vocal performance, though the vocals are certainly deep and airy enough to rival The Jesus Mary Chain. Underneath layers and layers of vocal harmonies, Gibson sounds like a man finally at peace with an unkind world. While listening to “She’s Stuck in the Endless Loop of Her Decline,” a car alarm went off in my neighborhood, distantly resounding on a pitch tuned perfectly to the key of the song. I savored the interplay between the two. With all these points in mind, I felt that Bell Gardens could’ve varied their sound more. Most songs on Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions bleed from the same vein of sorrowful folk rock. While it’s nice that the songs share some unity, they start to sound pretty similar after a while and my patience runs thin. The song “She Does” is a much-needed departure from the stagnant realm of ambient folk, finally dropping some hard-hitting drums, exhibiting vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Moody Blues. But it took them more than half the album to get there! And then afterwards, they’re back to their usual tricks. Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions is a beautifully written record filled with many moving melodies, but—as the title suggests—it can move slowly, and at times I am lost. It’s pretty cool that Bell Gardens can paint such vivid images with their music! Sometimes they just paint a landscape so vast and boundless it’s easy for me to get lost on the horizon. AROG
RIYL: Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Recommended Tracks: “Darker Side of Sunshine”, “Silent Prayer”, “She Does”
Dot Hacker - How’s Your Process?: When Josh Klinghoffer isn’t paying the bills with his day-job in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he dims the lights and ups the haunts as the voice and string-mangler behind Dot Hacker. But that is not to say that he is the only one who has filled the big shoes within this particular band; Warpaint, Broken Bells, PJ Harvey, Beck, Gnarls Barkley, and HELLA (yes, THE Hella) are just a handful of line-items on the collective resume of DH’s members. After fulfilling tenures in enough projects to bill an entire Coachella on their own, they have discovered the set of styles that come together under the Dot Hacker moniker. They are spacious, brooding, antsy, and euphoric, channeling every one of the artists they have shared stages with together. It is evident that there is a heightened sense of freedom and excitement for these four who have cumulatively seen a million faces (of which, most were rocked). It may be a bit unfair for me to preach the word of Dot Hacker’s inevitable ascent, as I have known and befriended them on several occasions.
I distinctly recall their first ever show outside of Los Angeles, just a few years back, in my hometown of San Diego. On a mild June evening, a pair of station wagons (not busses, not vans) rolled up to an obscure bar near the Coast Guard docks. I was only in high school, so I had to listen from the parking lot as the band performed a set to approximately eight disinterested sailors. Less than 24 hours prior, Josh Klinghoffer and the Peppers had headlined the Bonnaroo festival in front of 80,000 fans. Moral of the story: this is a band for the sake of expression, not monetary gain. Won’t you give them a try? NICK
RIYL: Radiohead, Mars Volta, Warpaint, John Frusciante
Recommended Tracks: “Whatever You Want”, “Elevator”, “Aim”
James Williamson - Re-Licked: Seriously, before I even begin to review this album, you need to look at the album cover. As one of my fellow Assistant Music Directors (probably Nick) stated at our meeting on Sunday, my job in reviewing this album is to prove to YOU, great DJs of the KXSC world, that James Williamson is not just some random old dude making rock music… but look at him! Like really, the skeleton face paint is maybe just weird at age 65, but then again, James Williamson is actually a badass, so I guess he can do what he wants. Here’s the deal: James Williamson was the guitarist for The Stooges – who have infinitely more street cred than being that band who made the song in the Carnival Cruise commercial* – back in the seventies and recorded on Raw Power (which is a punk gem that everyone should own). Anyway, back in the day, J.W. wrote some songs for Iggy Pop to sing that never got made, and, 40 years later, he decided it was finally time to record them with some cool, more-relevant-in-2014 singers like Ariel Pink, Alison Mosshart, etc. (because Iggy wasn’t down, I guess). Basically, this is a classic rock album that just happens to be coming out now, and it is great if you like classic rock/The Stooges. ASHLEY
*This is a joke, and not even a good one; “Lust for Life” is actually just an Iggy Pop song, not a Stooges song.
RIYL: The Stooges, Ariel Pink, The Kills
Recommended Tracks: "Open Up and Bleed", "She Creatures of the Hollywood Hills", "Gimme Some Skin"
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King: In the Court Of the Crimson King was a defining album for the progression of rock, trading in blues and R&B influences for elements of folk, jazz, and even orchestral music. The debut album from King Crimson serves as a clear mark for the shift towards post-psychedelia, a darker more introspective take on the acid-soaked experimentation of 67’ and 68’. By meticulously overdubbing layer upon layer of Mellotron with various woodwind instruments, Ian McDonald was able to create rock music that sounded like a symphony. Along with the Moog synthesizer, the Mellotron was one of the first electronic instruments to be incorporated into mainstream music, and King Crimson were among the first acts to let electronic instrumentation play a defining role in their sound. All tracks are recommended. With that said, “21st Century Schizoid Man” is the most recognizable and instantly accessible. Notably, Kanye West samples the track on his song “Power”. For arguably the least accessible track of the album, by that I mean the most abstract, look to the 12 minute improvisational odyssey that is “Moonchild…”. “I Talk to the Wind” is a beautiful flute-dominated ballad of mythos and meditation. The haunting baroque anthem “Epitaph…” is a personal favorite, and since I’ve mentioned every other song, I should note that the final track, “The Court of the Crimson King…” is also excellent. Allow King Crimson to take you on a tour through the court of the crimson king, you won’t regret it. SHILL
RIYL: NA, this is a classic
Recommended Tracks: "21st Century Schizoid Man", "Moonchild...", "I Talk to the Wind", "Epitaph...", "The Court of the Crimson King..."
Cooly G - Wait ‘Till Night: Warning this album contains baby making music and you will get caught up in the sexual vibrations. Fueled by thumping bass and intricate modern synth pop the groovy laidback tracks approached you smoothly. It gets you moving. Cooly G’s sultry descriptions of lust and passion weave within the music creating a provocative dome of pleasure. So if you like to get off to music or just like to get off in general you might find some cuts on this album appealing. Get weird with it. WILL
RIYL: Ikonika, Kode9
Recommended Tracks: "I Like", "A Quick Question", "So Deep", "Freak You"