NATE GRACE: “Sevn Daze” c30 (Sonora Records)

There’s a lot to be said about genre fads, both good and bad, considering the negative connotation that the word “fad” comes with. Without turning this into some sort of college thesis about it, I want to state the fact that we all know that Ducktails has basically instilled a new craze for lo-fi beach-pop. It’s true, and if you need more proof, check out the Underwater Peoples Summertime Showcase comp., it’s all there. The good news is that, so far, it’s all been pretty darn good.

Enter Nate Grace and his Austinian cohorts, Jesse Jenkins and Austin Youngblood. Together, they play the golden trio of instruments (guitar, bass, drums) across five songs of tremolo bliss (it’s actually only 15 min., same program on both sides). Never mind the proficient quality of the original songs, their cover of “Pressure Drop” is worth the purchase alone. With clear writing structure, more CCR than they are Yo La Tengo, this really was a pleasant surprise and, on the second listen, these tunes already felt like old favorites. The quality is a little rougher than it probably could be, a little extra recording static, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. It’s a great EP and, sure, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who digs this sound (which is most of us), but I want to make it clear that the work is well-informed and that this dude’s not just another hayseed jumping on the bandwagon.

Comes with two handmade inserts in a stitched pouch wrapped in brown paper.

SAM MARTIN: “Death?” c60 (Im Drinkin This Tapes)

A whole hell of a lot of songs (nearly thirty of them) by a seemingly earnest dude from a confusing record label. Martin, also of the band Capgun Coup, makes a simple recording playing acoustic guitar and singing in an “anti-folk” style reminiscent of Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis with lyrics that are sometimes painfully immature, with “cat sat on the mat” rhyme schemes about love, sex, booze, and yes, even the aforementioned cats. However, it’s surprisingly what makes this hour of poptunes somewhat endearing. The individual song styles are varietous and the guitar playing is tight. The tape hiss adds the perfect amount of flavor and, despite the content, Martin’s voice is that of a grown-ass man, both aurally and spirtually, ain’t no prepubescent uncertainty around this guy (thus my claim of his earnesty). This isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’m assuming he’s fitting right in with the singer-songwriter community of Omaha.

ULTRA BONBON: “Paradise” vols. 1 & 3 (Bonbon Bruises)

Located in Alberta, Canada, Ultra Bonbon (Danny M.) is near-harsh noise handsomely packaged in mini manila envelopes with a theme that I have yet to put together. Is there a theme? Maybe not, just because it’s in volumes doesn’t mean there has to be one. It’s strictly electronic work, and not particularly dynamic, each side of these tapes is an island unto itself, one idea played without change. However, the tapes are short and the sounds are interesting, so it’s really not that big of a concern. Vol.1 starts out with spare beep-burps, synth gas bumping around in your stereo’s colon, then flipping to a somewhat similar sound layered with piano stabs, hitting the keys with oven mitts on. I’m not sure what the time span was between these two, but vol. 3 sounds much more developed, side one with some intense synth squeal and boxing bass, alternating from the heavy to the speed bag, and side two with space sweeps and what sounds like distorted kazoo.

Like I said, this is more about the sounds at hand, they’re almost like singles in this way, and he has many other split releases available from his label as well, all as beautifully designed but in very limited editions. I know you’re asking “where is vol. 2?”, and my answer is “I don’t know!”, but apparently it’s a larger collection that may be released on Golden Lab Records sometime in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see, but either way, with his vast self-released work and a cassette on Husk Records, it’s obvious that this dude is working hard, and that’s priority one in my book.

NATIONAL FELT: s/t (self-released)

Fat Worm of Error guitarist Tim Sheldon gives himself a new guise as National Felt, remixing who knows what into what, who knows? What? Previously going under names like Oxbow Meads and Rack Rash, I’m pretty certain this is his first formal release explicitly sampling other formal recordings (first I’ve come into contact with at least), big time operator’s songs abused and rendered with Sheldon’s own sounds squawking and grinding around too. I envision a Hollywood studio tour passing a jukebox array of 90s top-ten artists struggling to film their music videos as workers loudly strike the sets behind them, as if to hurry the whole operation and get home already. It’s a pretty short tape too, probably longer than I think, but it’s such fast-paced, exciting work, this train blows right past you.

One of the things I love most about this tape is the packaging. It comes in a cardstock sleeve that not only is sealed by velcro on the front, but you see that smokestack? That’s velcroed up too. So you can either open it in this amazing way, or you can just slide it out the top, a really good example of creativity meeting functionality. If that’s not enough, the band name is etched onto the tape by hand. I don’t know how many copies of this Tim made, but still, holy crap!

No idea where to find it, try dropping the guy a line...