Wooden Shjips have always been one of the coolest psych-rock bands on the block, one that gives a good name to the concept of jam bands. But their latest, the aptly named Back to Land, reins in some of the jams in favor of more concrete songs. It’s a bold move, as the band has relocated to Portland from SF and seems to have re-energized the band, but it’s a move that likely won’t upset their fans. Songs like the great title track still are allowed to drift past the five-minute mark, utilizing simple, repeated chord structures built on fuzz guitar and organ drone, encircling the proceedings with tasteful improvisation, while frontman Ripley Johnsaon’s Alan Vega-esque drawl fades in and out, directing things like a super chill camp counselor. While the songs lengths may be shorter, there’s no shortage of variety on Back to Land, making room for fuzzy Velvets-style ballads like “These Shadows” and the kind of driving, power-chord romp they do so well on songs like “Other Stars.” Wooden Shjips may pick up a few more seafairers with the friendlier Back to Land, but there’s plenty to like for longtime fans as well. Dock up and listen.
I'm new to Cate Le Bon, an old-school rock 'n' roller who sounds like a more tuneful Nico singing over Television-style guitar interplay, but I'm hooked on her third album, Mug Museum. A closer-in-time comparison might be either Eleanor Friedberger's madcap indie pop with the majestic cool of Charlotte Gainsbourg—not to mention her father, Serge Gainsbourg's, work with singer/actress Jane Birkin, but Le Bon succeeds at hitting on some familiar influences and making them distinctive, forging her icy vocals into singsong melodies and keeping the guitars spare, yet noisey. If anything I've just said sets off some flags for you, I highly suggest checking out Mug Museum.
Stones Throw artist Vex Ruffin makes a kind of minimalist, beat-driven, difficult to define sound that is emblematic of the label's growing diversity. Recommended for fans of King Krule, James Pants and other lo-fi pop weirdos.
See all of this week's new releases here.
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