Though techno/dub producer Andy Stott’s latest release was most certainly made using computers, he’s channeling something otherwordly here. Noirish opener “Time Away” evokes deeds unseen in the middle of the night with its long, foggy tones. Alison Skidmore, Stott’s former piano teacher, lends airy, disembodied vocals for Stott to manipulate and mangle amid squirting synth noise on “Violence,” though some of her seductive intonations give Stott a welcome personality to work with. “Science and Industry” calls to mind Joy Division in its merciless bleakness and clanging beatwork, while “No Surrender” pushes beautiful synth runs into the red, beats bleeding over into one another. Though Stott has the ability to move and sometimes overwhelm you with sound, it’s the silences and sense of space in songs like the title track that make them stay with you, even as “Faith in Strangers” ends up as one of Stott’s most engaging, optimistic compositions. Faith in Strangers isn’t quite as cohesive as his last album, Luxury Problems, but its tracks also feel a lot more like individual songs, rather than parts of one large piece. The source of the creeping menace present in Stott’s music may elude you after finishing Faith in Strangers, but it’s entirely effective in creating a sense of place before unsettling you. Faith in Strangers feels alluringly just out of reach, keeping you delving into its dark passages. Just remember to come up for breath.
Sonny & the Sunsets – “Cheap Extensions” video
Sonny & the Sunsets have a new album on the way, and they already have an awesome, animated new video for the track “Cheap Extensions.” Follow the tail of a girl and her mysterious extensions over the Sunsets’ hypnotic groove. Talent Night at the Ashram was mostly recorded by Smith at home on his tape machine with the help of friends like Shayde Sartin (The Fresh & Onlys), Garret Goddard (King Tuff), Kelley Stoltz, Rusty Miller and Ian McBrayer. It’s due Feb. 17 on Polyvinyl. Read my interview with Sonny Smith back when they released their terrific last album, Antenna to the Afterworld.
Jessica Pratt – “Back, Baby”
I missed this new Jessica Pratt song while I was out of town—my bad! Everyone should be aware that it exists, and that the former Amoebite is releasing her second album soon—On Your Own Love Again is due on Drag City Jan. 27. On the first track she’s released from it, Pratt’s elfin voice sings a pensive breakup tune amid loping, seaside acoustic guitar. Absolutely stunning.
Joel Jerome brought his seven-man band to Amoeba Hollywood Nov. 18 for a set of songs from his excellent new solo record, Psychedelic Thrifstore Folk, as well as his catalog of songs from his days fronting dios.
They started with the “Everybody Wants Somebody,” jangling forth on a Kinksy arrangement until it slowed down for an extended sunlit singalong chorus. The band layered jangling acoustics, steel guitar, horse-clopping percussion, chimes, saxophone into a perfectly orchestrated mass, showing Jerome’s ability to dress these songs in whatever he sees fit and still have them come through as well-written songs to the core. Jerome introduced singer/songwriter Miguel Mendez for the next song, the Mendez-written “You Got Me All Wrong,” off the first dios album, which was also included on one of The O.C. mixes back in the day. The band faithfully tore through “You Got Me All Wrong” and went into another Mendez song, Thrifstore’s dreamy “I’m Dumb After All,” with Mendez taking lead and Jerome singing backup and snaking country licks around lines like “I wanna die with the radio blasting.”
Thriftstore’s cool, Doors-tinged opener “Stay in Bed” came next, followed by “Tell Me Thing,” off the third dios album, We Are Dios. The song was the set’s show-stopper, its sexy opening riff grabbing you and setting the stage for Jerome’s spine-tingling lead vocal and killer psych-rock solo. They finished the set with a new song he said would be on an upcoming album he hoped would be out next year, a glam-blues stomper that left us excited for whatever the prolific Jerome is up to next.
Deerhoof played a typically destructive set at the Troubadour in West Hollywood last night, starting off with tracks from their excellent new album, La Isla Bonita. Satomi Matsuzaki irrepressibly chanted to the cute “Paradise Girls” (“Girls…who play the bass guitar!”) and skronky “Last Fad” (“Baseball is cancelled!”) while John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez braided sneaky guitar lines around her. “Exit Only” sounded a lot fiercer live, while drummer/madman Greg Saunier traded instruments with Matsuzaki for La Isla Bonita’s pulsating, chaotic closer, “Oh Bummer.” A well-selected sprinkling of older material meshed well with the newer stuff, from the crashing “Dummy Discards a Heart” (from Apple O’) to the thumping “Twin Killers” (from The Runners Four) and riff-stuffed “Fresh Born” (from Offend Maggie). Saunier’s drumming remains a barely contained tornado to which the rest of the band somehow hangs on; the band stays tight even when he flies off the rails, making everything exciting, unpredictable and yet always masterful. Matsuzaki let loose for insane closer “Come See the Duck” (from the Green Cosmos EP), goading the audience into an off-beat call-and-response of “Come! Come! Come see the duck!” and teasing us when we got it wrong. Who can guess how 12 albums and 20 years in, Deerhoof are as energetic and thrilling to experience as ever. If you’re in S.F., they’re at the American Music Hall tonight with Crystal Skulls and Go Dark. Don’t miss it.
Forget everything you’ve read about Ariel Pink. His public persona has nothing to do with his music, which has never been more remarkable than it is on pom pom. “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade” begins the album by approximating decades of children’s music, family VHS tapes and video game music into a multicolored parade of half-remembered sounds. On tracks like “White Freckles,” Pink taps into similar territory of outdated interstitial music and lyrics and sounds inspired by advertising, pouring his exaggerated lothario presence all over them and ending up with sticky-sweet concoctions that leave you feeling titillated and slightly nauseated. Nothing that could possibly be interesting gets thrown away in Pink’s world—“Lipstick” could be based on an adult contemporary jam you never learned the name of; “Nude Beat A Go-Go” is like a perved-up version of a Frankie & Annette movie theme song. This means there are a few tracks you’ll skip past, but it’s better to have the full Pink treatment, making pom pom feel more crucial than 2012’s somewhat cleaned-up Mature Themes. And the singles are killer. “Put Your Number in My Phone” is a new cheese classic in silk pajamas. “Black Ballerina,” like its precursor, Before Today’s “Round and Round,” is a sick roller rink jam, with a disjointed narrative flowing through. And “Picture Me Gone” takes Pink’s simmering Beach Boys influence into a gossamer synth ballad. So he’s kind of a creep. But pom pom is proof that for all his off-putting proclivities, Ariel Pink still makes some of the most fascinating and entertaining pop music around.