New Adds: POW!, Weed, Waxahatchee, Laura Marling, Courtney Barnett, and Kodak to Graph

POW! - Fight Fire: This album completely belongs to punk, but I swiped it hehe. Fight Fire, the latest release from John Dwyer’s Castle Face label, is serving up some serious dystopian cyborg punk. The San Francisco-based four piece infuses the fuzzy garage punk aesthetic with some spacey atmospheric synth. It’s refreshing because it’s similar to what so many (too many) of these California garage punk bands are trying to do, but it’s done so well! It’s not juuust punk or 80’s synth or experimental noise or new age. It’s an animal that transports you to the booming planet of paranoia and razors and bite and static and caffeine. The percussion has some masterful flow balancing random syncopation; check out “Rise Up From The Center Of The Rising Sea.” Harsh synth paired with fuzzy industrial instrumentation reminds me a lot of Dwyer’s side project, Damaged Bug. I love shit like this. I’ve missed shit like this. R.E.

RIYL: Damaged Bug, Total Control, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall

Recommended Tracks: “The Heart & The Spade” (1), “Liquid Daydream” (3), “STATIC (Oh No Ok)” (5), “Surrender” (7), “2000 Now!” (9)

Weed - Running Back: One of the more entertaining aspects of finding new adds every week is reading the descriptions that promoters write for different bands because, as I am sure you can imagine, they come up with some pretty interesting ways of trying to describe music in a unique way. For example, Weed is apparently a “dream-grunge” band, whatever the fuck that means. (I mean, I always dream in plaid flannel, so this term just seems redundant to me.) Because “dream-grunge” literally means nothing, here is a more adequate description of the band’s sound: combining the airy distortion of shoegaze with the crunchy and often-discordant guitar riffs of early post-hardcore, Weed evokes the angst and sounds of less-than-mainstream ‘90s alternative. So, no, this really is not that grungy – there is no trace of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, or even Melvins in this record, though admittedly I could kind of understand comparisons to Pixies (because for real, what modern alternative band is not influenced by them?). Running Back is too noisy to justify those comparisons. Period. But, even so, the album is strangely tuneful, featuring distinctive guitar-based melodies a la (fill in your other favorite post-hardcore album… I am going with Braid’s Frame and Canvas) throughout. Only 34 minutes long, Running Back is a nice slice of nostalgia – that is, depending on your definition of nostalgia. ALH

 RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Cymbals Eat Guitars, No Age

Recommended Tracks: “Stay in the Summer” (2), “Never Leave” (8), “They Don’t Ask Me” (10)

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp: Ivy Tripp feels like the album that Waxahatchee has been trying to make, but finally actually did. When listening to her last album Cerulean Salt, I would get frustrated because she had included three, minute-long punk influenced songs on the album that otherwise was acoustic ballads. For me this really broke up the rhythm to the point that is brought down how good that album was. Tripp feels earthy and southern, which makes sense considering that she is from Alabama, while incorporating some of the punk-esque sounds that were featured on the three Cerulean Salt track. That is not to say that this album has abandoned the softness that made me love Waxahatchee. Songs like the too short “Stale by Noon” and the 90s influenced melodies of “La Loose” remind me of the soft, but catchy sound that I want from Waxahatchee. In other parts of the album Waxahatchee feels a bit heavier and worn, but that just widens her appeal and uniqueness. Lyrically, the album is very engaging with Waxahatchee’s voice driving home every word, especially when the songs begin to relax in the second half of the album. Really, the album lyrically and compositionally is amazing, so liking this album comes down to if you enjoy Waxahatchee’s voice, as it is such a driving force behind the album. KEN

RIYL: Frankie Cosmos, Joanna Gruesome, Courtney Barnett, Sky Ferreira

 Recommended Tracks: “Breathless” (1), “La Loose” (4), “The Dirt” (6), “<” (9), “Summer of Love” (11)

Laura Marling – Short Movie: The inspiration for Marling’s fifth album comes from a short and ultimately disappointing stint in LA. She had come here pursuing a relationship which quickly deteriorated, but she stayed, got a place in silverlake, and anonymously bummed around coffee shops with occasional road trips around the American West. As Marling found for herself, this city is not what one expects it to be. The weather may always be warm, but the people, the streets can be cold and cruel. If Short Movie is any indication, Marling’s most fruitful experiences in the states were her road trips around the West. She, like many artists before her, was inspired by a barren landscape full of mystery and unique beauty. The deserts of the American southwest with their purple haze, alien landscapes, and massive clear skies inspire a sound that is easily recognizable, full of mysticism, loneliness, even despair. The desert no doubt enraptured Marling and its presence can be felt throughout these songs, a clash of stark lyrical content with the richness of her voice and guitar. Short Movie carries on the tradition of the Americana folk music of artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, and like those artists Marling too isn’t even from here! There’s a lot going on with this album, but many of the artistic influences can be traced. Track one, “Warrior” sounds like a nod to America’s “A Horse with No Name”, while “Howl” is like a country take on Lou Reed’s “Heroin”. “Short Movie” also reminds me of the cacophony that is Velvet Underground’s “European Son”. The last comparison I’ll make is to jimmy Page. Marling plugs in on this album for the first time ever and the result is equal parts nu-folk and Scottish highlands, not to mention her songs remind me of LOTR. SHILL

RIYL: Joni Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, Neil Young, Cass McCombs

Recommended: “Warrior”, “Walk Alone”, “Howl”, “Short Movie

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit: “I wanna go out but I wanna stay home!” pouts Australian solo indie rocker Courtney Barnett in “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.” A girl after my own heart (especially with that accent), Barnett’s no-f’s-given attitude towards life has clearly been integrated into her latest album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. While her singing voice is lovely, perfect pitch is not what makes Barnett’s vocals the standout element of her music. Wikipedia describes her vocals as “rambling and deadpan” which I think succinctly describes her style. Wikipedia does not, however, give her enough credit for how well this deadpan delivery is done - check out the single “Pedestrian At Best” for a good example of this. It’s no wonder that Barnett cites Nirvana as a direct influence on her music; the song sounds positively grunge-y. Her music isn’t all loud and fast, however. She’s got a great variety of songs on the album, exploring everything from Green Day vibes to slow, croonin’ country. After recently accompanying Michelle Obama’s appearance on Ellen with a crowd-pleasing performance of “Depreston,” and blowing critics away at South by Southwest, there’s no doubt that Courtney Barnett is a name to look for in the headlines this year. CHRISTIAN

RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, Mac DeMarco, Black Keys

Recommended Tracks: “Kim’s Caravan” (10), “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” (8), “Pedestrian At Best” (2)

Kodak to Graph - ISA: ISA is a solid debut album from the DJ Kodak to Graph. The album is experimental and gets a tad trippy but the sound is still pretty familiar. I would compare it to Flying Lotus but more on the pop side. ISA is mostly instrumental with vocal samples occurring pretty frequently. The album opens with rain followed by long ambient synthesizers and a trumpet. After a bit of tension the song launches into a laid back beat.  The album has a pretty cool slow build in energy from the beginning up to the songs Murblock, Nylon Courtyard, and Iamanthem where it hits on the heavier side. The energy is then brought back down by Limnetic to the more laid back and ambient feel at the beginning of the album. The album does seem a little confused about its sound at times because of the variety of beats. For example the single Iamanthem manages to find its way onto the hip-hop side and then is followed by what feels like a spacey ballad. This album could be listened to in a variety of situations from just hanging out or for a party.  Overall it was very enjoyable to listen to and I would definitely check out his next releases. HARRY

RIYL: Flying Lotus, Burial

Recommended Tracks: "Iamanthem," "Nylon Courtyard," "Murblock"

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