“Let Me Sleep / Death Is a Narrow Sea”
C12 (Full Spectrum)

Andrew Weathers, the man behind Full Spectrum, has a band band that he sometimes plays in, the wink-and-noddy and 100 percent accurately titled Real Life Rock & Roll Band. In this modern time of vast oversharing, there’s nothing weird about the band’s name, nothing at all. In fact, the tongue-in-cheekness is somewhat fitting, as, although this band is indeed a “rock” band by definition, its take on “rock” is breezy and somewhat unassuming, a Sea and Cakey tributary of clean action but with sometimes Autotuned vocals, a device that works surprisingly well here. Like the best of the self-aware indie set of the late 1990s and early 2000s, RLR&RB wear their influences on the fronts of their ironic t-shirts, turning in their take on “original hippie cowboy” Mickey Newbury’s “Let Me Sleep” on the A-side of the cassingle (why not?) while knocking out their own concoction, “Death Is a Narrow Sea” on the flip. Each track is an endlessly relistenable slice of mopey post-pop joy, and the band even veers into Juno territory by the end of “Death Is a Narrow Sea” with its dissonant guitars and melancholy chords. Turns out Weathers is a bit of a mid-oughts emo fan, and clearly he’s spun a little Sunny Day and Juno in his time. He’s certainly got the non-dickish emo stuff down (as opposed to what I consider the “dickish” emo, like the stuff that my brother listened to in middle school). Don’t listen to dickish emo. Listen to the Real Life Rock & Roll Band. With a name like that, they’ve got to be legit.

--Ryan Masteller

THE NEW ME “Studies Confirm”
C20 (Irrational Tentent)

“Behold, the new me!” you say, your pie face radiating smug self-awareness as you beam to the roomful of strangers you happened to come upon in the convention center downtown. “Get out,” says a mustachioed gentleman of about fifty, bespoke suit straining a little bit at the extra poundage he’s garnered across various buffet lines. Who am I kidding – this dude makes too much money to eat at a buffet, and you and your high-street makeover clown getup mocks the very sightline he paid good LASIK money to keep free of your type. And isn’t that how it goes? You think you’re the pig in the poop, new clothes, new hair, new makeup, new look, new you, but there’s always some other pig in much nicer poop making you look silly for trying. Your self-respect meter starts dipping; your self-awareness meter gradually begins to rise, like the thermometer on my grill when I’m rocking ribs – you can tap the glass on that thing all you want, it’s not going to change the reading, and yes, something is decidedly wrong. “God made everyone beautiful, and no one is ugly,” you say to yourself as visions of dead-eyed naysayers begin to fill the periphery of your perception, and the paranoia you thought you medicated away suddenly starts to make its unwanted appearance. It reminds you of film montages of people losing it, set to tinny and warped industrial synthesizers, buzzing and wavering until madness takes the subject completely. You reach for the handkerchief in your purse, embroidered with your initials (because why not?), and begin dabbing at the beads of nervous perspiration that have suddenly appeared at your upper lip. You think of the taxi waiting for you at the curb, the fare astronomically high at this point as it’s waited for you for over an hour to exit the building, and you wonder if the driver has any idea what it means to be the new you. You relax for a second – you have the cash, and you don’t care what a taxi driver thinks. Do you? Then the waves hit again, relentless: “Studies around the world confirm that passion usually ends.” Did you say that out loud? Did you mean it? What studies? Real studies? Or have you based these conclusions on your own personal experiences? You can practically see those dead-eyed naysayers now, their blank faces and passionless intonations becoming more real than your surroundings, more real than the conference room in front of you, filled with its dead-eyed drones judging you as your control starts to falter, the drones become the naysayers, the naysayers begin to drone, and the sound fills your head as your mouth drops open and the words tumble out, even if you still can’t make out if you’re saying them out loud or not, “This is the new me. This is the New Me. The New Me. The New Me. The New Me. The New Me.”

“Are you still here?” says the mustachioed gentleman. “That’s it, I’m calling security.”

--Ryan Masteller

THE CHERRIES “The Cherries”
(Dirty Rabbit Records)

Who does West Coast power pop right? The Cherries does West Coast power pop right. You can’t not smile at the overdriven guitar action. It’s like if The Ramones opened up for The Donnas back in 2000. I saw a band that was punk-poppy that opened up for The Donnas in Atlanta in 2000. They wore matching outfits and did goofy synchronized dance moves. I can’t remember their name. I imagine The Cherries would do synchronized dance moves if they could. Maybe they do. Did I mention how much I hate Atlanta? Sometimes The Cherries sound like Weezer, but more lo-fi. They’re probably cuddly nerds. At any rate, the eleven songs fly by too fast. They’re short and there’s not a dull one in the bunch. The melodies are sweet and not overly complicated. You can relax to The Cherries. Is that weird, relaxing to power pop/pop punk? Is music indebted to the late 1990s early 2000s that was indebted to the early 1980s that was indebted to the 1960s considered classic rock yet? If so, then The Cherries are classic rock. They make the music that you like that your parents also like that you hate that your parents like but you still like it anyway and secretly blast it on the car stereo while your parents take you to JV soccer practice. You’d never tell your friends that.

--Ryan Masteller

“It Takes a Village to Raise an Imbecile”
C40 (5cm Recordings)

In the event that you’re able to catch a Sex Funeral show, I suggest that you put a stranglehold on that opportunity. I’ve never seen them – Des Moines, or Dubuque, or “Somewhere,” Iowa, is at least a day’s drive from where I live, and I can’t commit a full day for a basement free-jazz/noise improv/metal show. God, I wish I could though. From the evidence I’ve gathered within It Takes a Village to Raise an Imbecile, I can conclude that the duo comprising Bob Bucko Jr. on sax and Matt Crowe on the kit would rival any Load duo going today (or fifteen years ago, for that matter). Is Personal Archives or 5cm the Load of the Midwest? Nah, but still – the wowed reaction of the audience in the moments coming down from a particularly knotty and intense period of thrashing says it all. It could be Lightning Bolt up there. Pink and Brown. Mindflayer. Everybody’s waaay excited, and BBJr and Crowe are in complete command of their collaboration. Side A is a live recording entitled “0321016 Fremont,” and side B is “061816 Bluelight,” each title denoting the time and place of the recording’s creation. Each single, lengthy track can be described as a face-melting barrage of violent shreddage, leaving a wide swath of wreckage in its wake. That’s how I like my improv duos to behave, don’t you? Manifesting themselves as industrial-strength wrecking crews across basements and small clubs throughout the good ol’ US of A. If the cassette title holds true and indeed It Takes a Village to Raise an Imbecile, then Sex Funeral is the village and we are the imbecile, sitting at home, playing their tapes on repeat, too dumb, unlike the live audience, to wander home and care however we can for our blistering tinnitus. I guarantee we’ll be waking up the next day with a massive headache either way. But the night before? So worth it.

--Ryan Masteller

WILMOTH AXEL "S/L" (Personal Archives)

Wilmoth Axel's S/L tape is split into two sides: Washington and Oregon. Both sides contain mixtures of twangy, crunched up blues, microtonal riffing, synth laden prog rock and more. Many of the cuts remind me of a drunken version of The Advantage due to their 8-bit-esque synth components and crispy drum work. Others are reminiscent of a less polished Explosions In The Sky. The last category of selections you will hear on this tape are more of a general driving rock vibe that houses some Zeppelin influence (probably not what they are going for). If S/L is a collection of live jam sessions, i am thoroughly impressed but i feel like the collection could have been split into two separate tapes or many could have been left out. The order of the tracks leave cohesion to be desired but it's definitely daring and may entice listeners that enjoy more rock flavored tones. The stand out cuts are Cranberry Egg Limble (which is immersive due to the inclusion of a cranberry egg limble recipe card in the cassette package), Edgeless Mood, Etch and Fill and Very Little Harm In Asking.

LIYL: Add N to X on depressants, The Unicorns on tranqs, Led Zeppelin on bulleit

-- Joseph Morris

"ファニーデス" C48
(Dead Meat NYC)

Y’know how all your favorite American ‘80s pop albums have a few songs where (the artists) try a li’l something less…y’know…they just…shot for something a li’l outside the box? And, hey, sometimes it was good (weird, but good), and othertimes…well…notsomuch.

Well, Funny Death, from Japan is a contemporary pop artist that doesn’t want you to think too hard, or stress yourself out with all that “adventure”; they’ve got the mid-tempo POP thing down to a science, so you can sit back in your driver’s seat, relax, and expect a straight forward, all around, no punches pulled, Pleasant experience throughout the entire album.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Salt Night" C14
(Vanity Records)

This seems to be the only release under the BCPB banner, and, after some see-ree-uss googlin’, I’m gonna assume the BADASS Emma Hendrix is behind more than just recording it, as is credited per bandcamp. If you’re into electro-acoustic explorations & weirdo synth shit, zhe’s your new bff. Peruse EH’s website below. Now, onto this specific release.

It’s only 2 tracks, spanning a quarter of an hour, but that time in meditation goes flying by. Track 1, “Three Chords” is exactly that, all at once, for pretty much 8 minutes. Sound boring? Well, the devil is in the details, and the devil’s organ reeds get all types of feisty. Think Charlemagne Palestine’s legendary overtone-worship of “Schlingen-Blangen”. Turn it up and walk around the room.

The second track, “Four Notes”, is, you guessed it, just that, and so much more, but this time around with pedal-rich guitar plodding. The mantra leads you down the road contemplating, “Yes, four separate notes, but none isolated, none existing without the support and distraction of the others.”

Sure, this all sounds like a bunch of new age horse-shit if you’re not into it, but I suggest you find some decent speakers and/or headphones and give it some deep consideration. In a world of predictable formulas, Emma Hendrix is sharing with us strength in patience and nuance. Thank you!

"blessed are thee who sail with shnoolee"
(Grapefruit Record Club)

New Zealand's frazzled legends, the Garbage and the Flowers play a backdrop of Velvets worship done right at some pretty hip parties and at the fore-front of well attended gigs in Wellington and Melbourne. This is some pretty right on 'NYC subway sound' as Jonathan Richmond would put it. Although a lot of these songs have already been released, it's always a trip to hear alternate takes of old classics from TGATF. Mainly because they have/had a knack for making a song new every time it's played. Where there was a subdued guitar solo, now there's frantic violin scraping; What was initially a song released with a relatively clean recording, now it is released as recorded from some hippy's pocket on a warbly tape. If you can't squeeze anything more out of your Velvet's boots and boxes, pick up this tape by TGATF. You won't be let down.
-- T. Penn

"Rebecca’s Spit" C40
“Perfectly Bound” C20

.GoooD ShiiiH.
mangled common sounds
and called this a life


MOT is a Vancouver, BC duo that shit-stirs, exacerbates, and flings life’s otherwise tuneoutables into a messy confrontation for the psyche via amplified ambient, drone, field recordings & harsh noise aesthetics. Do what thou wilt wit it, but ignoring is not an option.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

CHURCH SHUTTLE “Zone6 Chiller”
C47 (Irrational Tentent)

Damn, the bus is late, and I have to walk or I’m not going to make it. Trust the process, they said. It’ll get there, they said. Now I have Southwest Detroit to contend with, and I’m not too keen on it. Have I been to Southwest Detroit before? Not on your life, which is why this bus, which has not arrived on time as I was told, was such an important element to this afternoon. But see, it’s overcast, it’s chilly, and I’m probably going to get drenched by passing vehicles (because, let’s face it, why walk on a sidewalk if you’re not treating its edge like a balance beam?). I’ve got places to be. I’m a drum machine.

My beats lance through dystopian noise like a hot scalpel through lesions. I make tones suffer until they no longer resemble sound sources at all. Southwest Detroit is a gutful of grand funk ambience, and I’ve got a date with it. Here it comes – the overcast sky becomes a drenching rain, and I’m still plugged in, my infinity-foot extension cord trailing through rivers of asswater down gutters choked with refuse. What bus? Irrational anger at nothing but general circumstance overcomes this gray-out, and we’re better for it anyway. Zone6 is about to get shifty, and I haven’t even begun to short out. Oh wait, maybe I have.

--Ryan Masteller