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.
Too much great stuff this week and it’s Halloween!
Dum Dum Girls – “Lost Boys and Girls Club”; Announce New Album
Whoa, what’s going on with Dum Dum Girls? The band, started by singer Dee Dee in San Diego, began as a lo-fi post-punk project, like someone left their Supremes and Siouxsie & the Banshees records in the sun and spun the melted result. From there, they’ve gone more toward Pretenders territory, producing shimmery jangle-pop, but this first taste of their newly announced album, Too True, due Jan. 28 on Sub Pop, recaptures some of their early darkness with their newfound sheen intact, emanating darkness and sensuality with a slow-moving shoegaze pop throb. Uhh, it’s very sexy. Richard Gottehrer (who has produced Blondie and The Go-Go's) and The Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner, who both produced the band’s Only in Dreams and He Gets Me High EP, are back behind the boards. And way to go, H&M, for promoting your crappy clothes (which I buy) with actual cool music.
Best Coast – “I Don’t Know How” video
Like some unholy marriage between Black Flag and The Cramps, FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer” is pure aural fuck — “I DRINK CHEAP BEER SO WHAT FUCK YOU.” There’s more subtlety there within than that would imply — sweet little surf riffs, excellent solo, smart dynamics, perfect production without being self-consciously lo-fi. But the thing the L.A. band offers uniquely is that clear-cut dynamite party chorus, a rarity in the days of reverb-awash garage rock. FIDLAR’s deubt album will be released in early 2013 on Mom & Pop.
SFV Acid – “Ashland Slumber”
This nasty bit of indie electro-house comes from L.A.’s SFV Acid, who sound like they’re coming into their own with this latest slab of sublimely grimey dance music. “Ashland Slumber” sounds a bit like Detroit house blasted out of shitty speakers and garnering extra feedback and reverb in the process. I love how lush the synths are vs. the brutality of the beats. Harsh, weird fun stuff. The Neighborhood Archives EP is due Oct. 15 on UNO.
Vex Ruffin – “Take It”
Gnarly, nasty one-man-band punk out of L.A. Vex Ruffin’s “Take It” rides its bone-simple riff and drum machine (I think? It might as well be.) to great heights on Ruffin’s balls to the wall vocal. It’s kind of the punk inverse of Dirty Beaches’ one-main rockabilly noir. His debut LP is due next year on Stones Throw.