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Author: Gary B

Quick Hits: Does He Really Going Out With Her?


The Forty Nineteens from Temecula, California, create a bathing suitable (though cut off blue jeans) backdrop for a straight-up, rocked-about, garage-door-up chill out. Spin It is an album at the heart of maximizing summertime, utilizing nighttime, taking all bets before ring time. They’ve made a classic-sounding album: a whiskey sour made with The Makers and Copper Blue Sugar. Like a classic album offering, they even cover a song, The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”

What strikes me is that Spin It is so ridiculously similar to one of my favorite albums, the self-titled Durocs record. The Durocs in 1979 covered Gene Pitney’s “It Hurts To Be In Love” on their consummately sequenced, rock/soul throwback. Both bands are from California. The Durocs’ hit “Lie To Me” : The 4019s’ hit (this reviewer’s pick) “Can’t Let You Go” :: squeezing oranges : making orange juice. There is no second Durocs album, but there is a first Forty Nineteens album, which I went feverishly searching for as soon as I heard Spin It.

Three sentences on a true ache: Jenny’s at her figure drawing class, but she wants to be at the smoked-out, punk-band-stickered, freshly bleached, checkpoint-tiled Toilet Club. The Forty Nineteens are playing with Old 97’s and The Delta 72. There are going to be a lot of good numbers.



Chris Pope spits his stories in your ear, laughs at you – a creep at the wet willie weary. Your eyes refocus. “Are you ten years old?” On his third EP, High Times, with his group Blonde Summer, he continues to lay down his prize prose in a distinct voice. This is what has set indie-rock apart since it was a thing. We know Lou Barlow’s lovelorn; we know Ted Leo’s aware. We want to be a part of these tales and feel that there’s a leader.

Blonde Summer jumps out of the storybook page so abruptly they take the fish bowl and doily down, too. I remember Scott Yoder bruised my brain on The Pharmacy’s “Choose Yr. Own Adventure.” I remember Ray Weiss rearranged my reason on Le Rug’s “Sex Reduction Flower.” I think Chris Pope has a similar spark for matching words with music and for taking the listener into his world without having to say “Pay attention,” “Look,” or “Listen.”

It’s like a day’s worth of bad advice bundled up, tucked, and waxed into a single Zuma Beach morning. The water is frigid and frightening. It takes the breath right out of you. It’s just a doorless Jeep ride home. You sit under covers for two hours, shivering… making no sudden movements. It’s a recovery. It’s like no cop is going to suspect the food delivery man who’s also a drug dealer. So, the plastic-bag cradled meal looks innocuous, and costs $10 more. But, it’s in there. Let’s get baked and shovel Lo Mein.

Three sentences on true ache: Jenny’s all caught up at her volunteer deal, covering turkey hands on a December bulletin board, when she really wants to be – ear buds in – subwaying home. She clicks on the Pre-X-Mas MegaMix, all warm songs: Pavement’s “Summer Babe,” Blonde Summer’s “Jim,” The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up,” The Apples In Stereo’s “Sun Is Out,” and on and on…. The guide lights careen by, accenting the spaces between on a trip usually only highlighted by the stop announcements.



Wreaths are Asbury Park, New Jersey’s new drone-dance space-out shoe-gaze outer-space chill-pill. These madman drummers have a sense of the history of this type of music: The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, The Warlocks. The band has a great grasp of how to deliver a song without succumbing to the urge to drown… in pools of big delayed guitars and tremolo bar dives. Their self-titled album is solid… no bummers. Feeling kind of older, I don’t want a rehash of records I’ve already put away. I want to have a crush on a band. I want to turn up the band.

The band loops and disintegrates through brimstone baritone – guitars and keys rushing and pushing. They build and build and let the calliope crash to the ground. Feather-headed gargoyles painted neon orange, bright bent whistles, and ornate cylindrical steel shrouds are strewn. No one picks up a single piece. The Designing Women of Asbury Park scoff and get back to it, struggling to muster just what flare will flip another non-ocean-facing condo, while the band members are watching the young girls dance.

At points conjuring Jim Morrison, Wreaths chant, “I Love Me, Dark Wizard.” At other points, Wreaths are just humming a lunar tune. They mid-song break… with fuzz guitar sludge, sloughing off to grow stronger roots. It can get dark with this type of music. The music on Wreaths is more hopeful. This band is currently sold out of their discs. Something is happening here.

Three sentences on true ache: She left the house this morning in pitch dark – Wreaths stuck on repeat… stuck in her iPod-docking wave machine… stuck in her head. Jenny has a brief lunch break… the kind one spends just rubbing temples. Powerhouse sandwich in mouth, she throws open the double doors, and she is blinded by the light.–Gary Lee Barrett

Quick Hits: A Day in The Life of a Traveling Shoelace Salesman – Aglets, not Ferrules, Ma’am.


Gold Light sits at the altar, fists bored to its chin, waiting for the hymn to end, so it can get to the real songs… the ones waiting at the fellowship hour to follow.

There’s an obvious throwback vibe on this self-titled record to Velvet Underground or more modernly The Tyde. Joe Chang, Gold Light himself, has a distinct voice, though. The lyrics are rife with simple wisdom, bent clichés, and plenty of baby-you-better-believe-its. The vocals (swathed in hall reverb) with just a Pixies bass line supporting–like Jonathan Richman with a story-time, Springsteen flow–on the song “Gold” say, “Well, darling, don’t you know that your heart of made of gold? How come you set the price so low?” Memorable and classic. “True Love Never Dies,” the album closer, has a Phil Spector shimmer and a da doo ron clippy clop, arpeggiated beauty.

Cool that it’s a cassette, but here’s what Gold Light should do. Tour the US really quickly supporting this release. Only Joe can drive the van, so he can focus on the lights and the destination, his delivery and the maddening lines–upon the highway and furrowed brow alike. Meanwhile, the other band members get to really tour the nation, burping up ethanol-boiled pizza slices, watching deer play on the side of the highway. Put out another full-length really soon after this one…like start recording it the day they get back. Then, put the new one and Gold Light out on vinyl. Lou Reed said, “There’s only X amount of time. You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.”

Thirteen words on watching the sun rise to this album: I am not still drunk. I can run my hands over iridescent clouds.


Math Major by Art Contest is a catapult crock completely crammed with cottage cheese. Now, where are we going to aim it, and who gets to release the ropes?

I picture seeing this band live and remarking, “Wow, they were different than every other band on this bill.” Hyper, stand-out fun is tangible with every soaring guitar overture. Then, the rhythm section crashes in, swoops with emphasis showing the backbone and the corners of each song. RIYL Truman’s Water (yet not as musically reckless–“Banana Boat”), The Wicked Farleys (in frenetic vibe “Sugar Bay”), Weekends (but with bass guitar–“Riff Raff”). On “Tripp Pants” the words are, “I was kissing my dad, and I didn’t even know it. I was crashing my car, and no one ever told me.” Five gold stars.

Thirteen words on sun-tanning & eating lunch to this album:  Pass me the gigantic Christmas tin of Cracker Jack. The peanuts are disgusting.


We Come From Exploding Stars is a reflective, hopeful dream of light… a reach from despair for the young and the restless. We just stayed right out there under the pines… a beach in the air for the dumb and thus tentless. Moonlit Sailor comes from Boras, Sweden where they often experience weeks without sunlight*.

The Sailors do epic, instrumental, ambient, triumphant post-rock. I think they sound like a tight band that does what they do very well: putting space between swells and sinking boats by the end of a song. It sounds like they have an Ibanez AD999, an Akai Head Rush, a tube bass head, and a great drummer. The tunes are well composed. They swell up and duck down, crushing you into a ball of foil. Unball that foil to reveal an imprint of a fossilized fish. Give it to your nephew on his 7th birthday. Watch him grow. Be proud when he becomes an archaeologist and finds all the dinosaurs the way they really looked. This band has grown up over the course of four albums, all on Deep Elm Records*. Their uncles should be proud.

Thirteen words on watching the sun set to this album: Time was once the decider; now, the Universe has sent space to me.–Gary Lee Barrett

*These were all words from a press kit.

Quick Hits: …Of Sinking Ships / Vinny Vegas


…Of Sinking Ships’ first full length album, The Amaranthine Sea, is a beautifully arranged and orchestrated instrumental album. It takes the ambiance of The Sea and The Bells by Rachel’s and the clean but dreamy sensibilities of Cerberus Shoal’s …And Farewell To Hightide, then adds a solid, technical percussive foundation a la Red Sparowes or Ativin.

The album is a tad more alive than Sonna, and quite a bit less math-oriented and busy than Don Caballero, but fans of both should enjoy.  For example, the song “I Set Sail On Winds Of Renewal,” the first sneak-peak track posted online, has this sick, Dianogah-like, ramble-but-syncopate bass line; then, it ends in a deep, shoegaze bend. This band makes a lot of keen choices in their arrangements.

Their label, Broken Circles, really has something here. This group features members formerly in Hrvrd and Hopesfall. This album’s production is definitely a bump up from their earlier, self-titled EP. The rhythm section especially shines. This reviewer’s pick is the mid-album builder, “Colliding On Rocks I Knew Not Existed.” It takes one back to such down-tuned crushers as Shiner, Texas is the Reason, and Far. It’s rather shocking that this album has no singing. It would be interesting to hear what melody line might come up and take over these anthems.


For instance, Vinny Vegas’ brand new album, The Big White Whale. delivers while having a similar feel.  I think this is what …Of Sinking Ships could have done to make their new album more timeless: add a passionate singer who has the acumen to sing in the right spots over the course of lengthier, well-played and well-laid-out compositions.

Vinny Vegas’ J Robbins-produced album leaps high over a difficult hurdle: keeping the listener’s attention over the course of a long song. VV accomplish that with memorable vocals and by keeping the musical passages anything-but-boring. OSS’s aim is different; they are trying to set a mood and fly you up and crash you down. They’ve put together some beautiful music here. This song-minded reviewer just wants to hear some vocals.

The Amaranthine Sea features outstanding artwork from the acclaimed Chandler Owen (John Legend, Underoath, Between The Buried And Me) and will be available digitally, on CD, and vinyl (limited to 300 copies). It releases March 25. Keep an ear out for this record.–Gary Lee Barrett

Third time’s the charm: Liverpool artisans Ninetails present Quiet Confidence


Ninetails’ Quiet Confidence is a thoroughly thematic and shrewdly arranged huddle of live instruments, field recordings, and angelic vocals coming together in psychedelic conglomerate. A listen through the entire release is highly recommended, as it stands strongly as a whole.

Plaid, on 2003’s Spokes especially, laid the British soundwork for artists like Ninetails. It’s a bit daft to just throw out a sound-alike RIYL like this, but fans-of would definitely crush on these Liverpool artisans. Quiet Confidence features the keen mastering ear of Music Producers Guild’s Mastering Engineer of the Year, Matt Colton, who has worked most notably with Raime and James Blake. On first listen, Mr. Blake’s cut-up compositions come to mind. Ninetails’ use of ancient-sounding, pitch-addled human vocals is different than, say, Blake’s Klavierwerke, but they seem to have the same ethereal end result in sight.

Cex’s Role Model is another apt aural forerunner of Quiet Confidence. To state it again, this EP must be heard in its entirety, as the moods shift with each new sample. There’s an intelligence to this music that hangs formidably high above a waterfall, clinging tightly to a seemingly substantial lift that only delivers the brief tensile security of a strand of hair. Cex, in the momentary comparison, offered a more personal look at IDM and intelligent electronic (and creatively mixed) music with his aforementioned album. Not at all pastiche, Ninetails strikes a similar bell without the Autechre Dropps, and Harry Partch sits and stares.

Repeating themes from soulful genes… The music history book of thematic presentation should have a foreword dedicated fully to Harry Nilsson’s Aerial Pandemonium Ballet. Harry took two of his albums and re-mixed them into one and sounded a true APB. Quiet Confidence, with producer Chris Pawlusek at the helm, weaves that same thematic magic. Guitar lines that you swear you just heard. Vocals that sound only halfway backwards, but they remind and refresh. Harry re-recorded the vocals of “One” and slickly inserted them in to “Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song” as a background vocal. These little genius moves keep an old song fresh… keep the listener’s ear perked and noticing.

On the same note, what is already mixed on the cutting edge by Pawlusek and the band, could go further. Music is really chilled-out these days. It’d be nice to hear some more aggressive or perhaps more abrasive re-mixes of the six Ninetails songs here. Picture something industrial beneath or a break-beat sneak sitting, seething under the horns in “Radiant Hex.” For instance, I tried Giorgio Moroder’s “From Here to Eternity” under “O for Two.” I was doing the dishes. I started square-dance calling nonsense about, “Everybody who came here on a bike, over in this corner, please!” I was dancing around my kitchen. I broke one of my Alvin & the Chipmunks (who had similarly treated vocals) drinking glasses (Simon: the one with glasses), only to have a Theodore left.  It’s fine; he’s the drummer. Most times… all you need is a good groove, but, all the time, you need a beat…. a manifest pulse.

It can be hard to handle progressive music that is just a lot of things that happen one after another with gaudy guitar solos and full-kit triplets and Rick Wakeman pans. It can be hard to handle ambient music, too, because if you’re not trying to melt away a headache or trying to read, it can bore. Ninetails dashes all this while still being musically progressive. They place just the right engaging elements into a radio-play-length song.

Make a dinner that lasts all week. No one wants Dinty Moore beef stew. We want Scottish beef porridge with monkey ears, whole sweet potatoes, and Sri Lankan starfruit. That’s what we have here. Keep pushing the genre barriers, Ninetails, and they’ll move your picture from near the exhaust pipe on the Underground and put it on the side, BIG AS DAY, next to the clean air initiative stamp and the No Smoking sign. It’s going to get better.–Gary Lee Barrett

Once Upon A Launch Break: Casper & the Cookies deliver Dingbats!


Dingbats is the fourth & newest album by Athens, Georgia’s Casper & the Cookies. This album is a fun romp through a cemetery late at night (the lanterns would give us away), a secret crush on a hundred year old man (the one from work with the pickup truck) … an atrocious notion of swallowing the ocean.

Back to the full-band swing of 2006’s The Optimist’s Club, the Cookies are hitting it straight out of the park–a long fly ball, all gloves flipped on hips–with Dingbats. The album opener, “Improvisamente Ardito,” walks the listener through the fears and fun of deciding to do something “one more time” (the ringing, resounding, sing-it-all-week reverberation). One more album from C & the Cs? Yes, please, with walnuts and jimmies this time. Quickly, we have to get to the show!

Jason NeSmith (former of Montreal contributor) offers the strongest song with “Lemon Horses.” The sheer bravado is felt fully in this tune: the runt–changed forever, hazed, picked up off the ground by the back of his belt–becomes the big talker. Jason tells us a story of being pulled over on the way to the show…about being a big shot in Athens, about getting high on animal spirits, about being powerful. Blowing smoke in a cop’s face, he could have anything in the back of the tour van, so what do YOU want it to be? Ballads are hard to pull off without hearing a “shave and a hair cut… that sucked” at the end. This is a truly well-delivered story. The words fit the music so masterfully and vice versa. Experience this song!

Kay Stanton (current Supercluster contributor) offers another one of her ultra-real, super-exciting pop gems with “Jennifer’s House.” It sounds a bit like “Meredith,” a Kay song from the Cookies’ third album, Modern Silence, but this tune serves up more details. Why does this person stink, Kay? Why do you still love them? What is giving up worth?

This reviewer’s favorite song is “Thing for Ugly.” While having a great sense of humor in that it’s about what it’s about (one’s kink being ugly people), the song delivers a lot more. Jason’s best vocals, where he sounds like a young Glenn Tilbrook, lie here. This is a lost Squeeze song for sure: the early UK Squeeze. It’s like “Out Of Control” with a Nels Cline Singers, electrified sewer grate breakdown from the other side of the moon… not Earth’s. Way out there: Callisto. The Cookies throw out some more memorable thought-bites, “Where’s your sense of humanity? Somebody’s got to love them!” Good fun.

Here’s some adjectives and where to find them. Frantic: the vocals in “Omni” – a cracked trip in all directions. Huge: the keyboard in response to the group vocals in “Sleep Defense.” Compelling: whoever’s speaking in “When The Moon Was In Command,” the album closer. This album delivers a lot of interesting (like new lifeforms discovered in Antarctica) and fun [like an all super-villian rollercoaster that becomes a cannon at the end: POW! (into the Sun)] songs that a lot of ears should hear. Bullet point: Their last three albums were great; Dingbats is even better. It comes out on vinyl, CD, & digitally on February 25th co-released by Wild Kindness Records (Pittsburgh, PA) and Stuff Records (Athens, GA). –Gary Lee Barrett

SeBADoh pleases the crowd, while Octagrape threatens to upstage the vets

SeBADoh / Octagrape
February 5, 2014
Ottobar | Baltimore, Maryland

Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein of seBADoh. Photo by Matt Condon.
Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein of seBADoh. Photo by Matt Condon.

So, it’s the first date of tour. Defend Yourself is fresh; SeBADoh is ready. They come out triumphantly with “Beauty of the Ride,” a crowd-winner. Between the first two songs, Lou Barlow realizes he’s resolved to always have a bottle of water on stage, and he is without. Jason Lowenstein doesn’t know any jokes as Lou leaps backstage. I offer up, “Jason, Jason, ask them if they heard about the fire at the circus.” Jason bites, offers the set-up, and waits for me to hand over that sweet punch line. Groans already mount. “It was in tents.” Lou is back: “Magnet’s Coil.” It’s one of those more intimate shows with about 200 or so weeknight indie-goers braving the snow and hangover tomorrow–way worth it!

Jason swears mid-set that they put a lot of time into learning the new songs as they bom-bom all askew. I heard only two or so off the new album; “State Of Mine” definitely caught my ear. “License to Confuse” knocks off the kids’ knit caps. They clobber with a lot more from the you-love-that-song-because-you-know-it back catalog. It is a brilliant, short-but-sweet set from one the most revered bands in the business. Encore: “Skull.”

If there was any kind of mistake made at this show, it was Jason, Lou, and Bob’s choice to follow their opener, San Diego’s Octagrape. Because THEY RULE! They come out on the stage like someone just murdered an alien with oranges on the ceiling. Escape! Square-wave time bombs… half-bird half-doctor, fuse lit underwater by flare to explode pomegranates into goose feathers and lice. Probably the best band I’ve seen take over a stage in a long, long time!

Octagrape's Red UFO

More importantly, their new album, Red UFO, is so interesting and arresting… ah! I just can’t stop listening to it. It is by far the best thing to come across my desk… and then eat the desk, and whine all day about how its name is now Desk and how small the holes in the screen door screen are.

There are NO straps on their guitars; they’re jumping off amps like 1994’s Justin Trosper and landing like 1999’s Eric Paul on Prince’s perfectly woven 1999-gold-sequin tapestry rendering it confetti. Miles runs the voodoo down.

You can say that they sound like a Truman’s Water tributary that indeed leads to larger, more expansive, permanent things. One might say it’s the second coming of Brainiac with mind-melds hourly, making sure all craniums are crammed with silly-string nightmares. Some might say they fall right in between the unabashed abandon of the weirder Guided By Voices vignettes and the living-like-it’s-summer, psycho-swell of Kill Atom Smasher-era Pitchblende. Um … they are a great opening band.

The tour continues with both bands in the US until February 25th. Then, Sebadoh is off to Australia and New Zealand in March. —Gary Lee Barrett

Imperial China! Phosphenes! I Have Seen The Light!

Phosphenes by DC’s Imperial China just might be the next big thing! I cannot stop listening to this album! It comes out Valentine’s Day, 2010, as a split release between DC labels Sockets Records and Ruffian Records.

On first listen, I hear this kick-ass, big beat, Battles-type stuff woven through tight, Gang of Four-type post-punk. I am pleased with the release’s total lack of DC-ness (you know… discordant guitars and super-slick, phrase-perfect drumming). The only ring of DC is track three, “Bananamite,” which sounds like a Regulator Watts or Hoover dub jam. Except, this song takes a more Animal Collective, swirly direction toward the hypnotic and repetitive… which serves the album well.

Let me stress that the album is not all instrumental. I would say Imperial China’s vocals sound like Richard Thompson singing for PIL (which – totally an aside – takes me back to my original what if/where is… the band that sounds like Curtis Mayfield singing for Led Zeppelin?).

IC’s artiness is not pretentious. The production of the album has something to do with that. It sounds like a well-mixed, live performance… like a band doing exactly what they do. Imperial China could be huge really soon! They are making intense music, simply, with just three members. Nothing sounds forced; it sounds like they’re having fun. That’s all of the battle!

The drums are smart, block-rockin’, dancey without being disco. The electronics are well-chosen, and very ear-pleasing… intelligent ambiance. The bass is big-bottom dub-dance pump-thump. The guitar lines are based in Metal yet not all slathered in high-gain blubber. The guitars are also quite indie/punk not unlike Minutemen or something from, say, “A Place Called Today” by Hurl. Sorry to use so many “sounds likes” in this review, but Phosphenes took me to a good place!

The band:
RIYL: Gang Of Four, June of ’44, Tortoise, Nice Nice, Trans Am —Gary Lee Barrett