Heron Oblivion's axes clash like fighting wolves, tangling like the brambles and branches that adorn the album cover. Keeping all this Crazy Horse-style madness reined in are the heart-stopping vocals of Meg Baird of Espers. Her voice can simmer low and quavering like a classic British folk singer and then rise to seemingly unattainable heights on songs like the climactic "Your Hollows." The Bay Area band is a supergroup of sorts, with members of psych-rock groups like Comets on Fire and Six Organs of Admittance. I'm sure it's even better live, so don't miss a chance to see them, including today at Amoeba SF at 6 p.m. Read my interview with the band here.
You may not have heard of Heron Oblivion yet, but that’ll soon change.The psych-rock band recently signed to the venerable Sub Pop label, despite only having publicly played live just a few times prior, and have now toured with stoner-rock troubadour Kurt Vile. Part of that has to do with the band’s pedigree — guitarists Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson played in brain-fryers Comets on Fire, with Von Harmonson also playing in Sic Alps and Six Organs of Admittance and Miller in Howlin’ Rain and Feral Ohms; Charlie Saufley played in the similarly minded Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound; and singer/drummer Meg Baird has played in psych-folk band Espers as well as solo.
The rest has solely to do with the sheer power of their debut, self-titled album. Over seven songs, the bands’ axes clash like fighting wolves, tangling like the brambles and branches that adorn the album cover. Keeping all this Crazy Horse-style madness reined in is a grounded rhythm section and the heart-stopping vocals of Baird. Her voice can simmer low and quavering like a classic British folk singer and then rise to seemingly unattainable heights on songs like the climactic "Your Hollows."
School of Seven Bell’s fourth and final album is a beautiful tribute to the band and its founding member Benjamin Curtis, who died three years ago after battling a rare form of lymphoma, leaving co-member Alejandra Deheza to finish the album they’d started with another producer. But SVIIB isn’t an overly sad affair, though knowledge of the story behind it certainly cast the lyrics of sadness and longing in a different light — most of them were written before Curtis’ diagnosis, in the wake up of the breakup of Curtis and bandmate Alejandra Deheza’s romantic relationship and their forging forward as friends and bandmates. SVIIB looks back fondly on their time together. The band’s combination of dream-pop and electro-pop has never been more lucidly realized than on songs like “Ablaze,” which opens the album on a rush of teenage emotion and big synth-laden beats, like Erasure’s new-wave optimism reimagined for a generation weaned on M83 and Chvrches. “There was a you before me, there was a me before you,” Dehenza sings with hip-hop inflected delivery on “On My Heart.” “A Thousand Times More’s” New Order-style heartfelt synth-pop and the freestyle-flavored “Signals” call to mind happier times for the band, when they were a trio on albums like Disconnect From Desire. On the devastating “Confusion,” Deheza sings wearily over a billowing cloud of synths and organs, exhaling the line, “I understand nothing of these changes,” with the sense of sitting at rock bottom and staring upward. That impression of a light in the tunnel that SVIIB leaves you with makes the album feel not like a sad ending, but a celebration of their work.
Wild Nothing’s third album is a glorious thing. It’s an album that transcends any genre tags like dream pop or indie pop that dogged Jack Tatum’s work in the past — it’s simply a first-class pop album in the vein of Roxy Music’s sophisticated artpop classic, Avalon. Life of Pause is Tatum’s most varied release thus far. “Reichpop” opens regally with a wall of vibraphones, slick new wave beat and Tatum’s cool breath of a vocal. “A Woman’s Wisdom’s” ethereal soul moves into sugary, MBV-inspired shoegazer “Japanese Alice” and through the lush, synth-heavy title track, the languidly sexy “Alien” and “To Know You’s” motorik beat and cinematic guitar shimmer. Neil Young-inspired folk songcraft inform “Adore,” and things return to slinky grooves for “TV Queen” and “Wherever I,” touches of sax and strings adding an air of cheek and class. In the past, you could have pinned Tatum down as someone who admirably filtered influences like C86-style college rock and dream-pop but ultimately wore them on his sleeve. Life of Pause sheds any such limitations and is easily one of the best indie rock releases of the early new year.
Photo by JJ Stratford
Seth Bogart made a name for himself calling out lame boys who don’t like rock ‘n’ roll with bubblegum garage-pop gems in Hunx & His Punx. Since taking a break from releasing music (his last was Street Punk in 2013), Bogart has kept plenty busy. He moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area in 2012 to focus on his visual art and open a store based on his own clothing line — if you’ve driven down Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park, you’ve probably seen Wacky Wacko, an explosion of bright pinks with a Pegasus head that looks like it’s screaming adorning the top.
But at the same time, he’s also still been recording music. For this outing, Bogart hooked up with longtime friend and producer Cole MGN, who’s also worked with such fine folk as Julia Holter, Ariel Pink and Dam-Funk. Bogart’s first solo release under his own name, out this Friday on Burger, mostly ditches the guitars for deliberately chintzy synths and drum machines on a weird, wild glitterbomb of an album, with help from friends like Chela, Cherry Glazerr’s Clementine Creevy and Tavi Gevinson. Check out the video for the song “Forgotten Fantazy” that was released today, which features Bogart dominating himself (!) in a hot clip that puts that “50 Shades” bullshit to shame.