Album Picks: Merchandise, Ty Segall, The Rentals, Ashrae Fax

Posted by Billy Gil, August 26, 2014 11:15am | Post a Comment

Merchandise - After The End (LP, CD, Download)

If you like post-punk music at all, your favorite new band will probably be Merchandise. With a bit of Pulp’s swagger, the Cure’s emotional yet economical guitarwork and the dramatic grandiosity of Morrissey’s solo work, Merchandise nail every nuance on their new album, After the End. Big, shimmering chords on “Enemy” announce their arrival with the kind of bravado that leaves you a little breathless, incredulous that this isn’t a song or band you’ve heard before. Singer Carson Cox’s throaty tenor fills the space that isn’t carved out by his bandmates nicely, on ballads like the stunning “Life Outside the Mirror.” It’s a solid listen, but After the End particularly shines on its singles, like “Little Killer,” the riff of which is catchy enough to leave you tracking back again and again to get that feeling all over again. While After the End is an immensely enjoyable album, the elephant in the room is that, however immaculately made, it’s not the most original thing you’ve ever heard—“Green Lady” is great, with its stuttering beat, big guitar riffs and sure, why not, some sitar, but it could easily be a Morrissey outtake. No matter. Originality will come in time. For now, Merchandise reach a very specific itch, that youthful feeling of discovering a new favorite band who just flat out gets it. No trickery, nothing too out of the ordinary, just some of the best pop music you’ve heard in ages.


Ty Segall - Manipulator (LP, CD)

Yes! This is the Ty Segall album we were hoping for. Though there have been a lot of Ty Segall releases and side projects over the years to keep up with, there’s been such a surfeit of quality to his work that it hasn’t felt like a chore. But albums like his last solo release, Sleeper, was great but left you missing the rock-out Ty of his best previous release, Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse, while the latter album was superb yet felt too short. On Manipulator, we get both the songsmith Segall and the guy who’ll beat you over the head with a big fat Sabbath riff in doses that add up to a perfect concoction. Songs like “The Singer” find Segall indulging his inner acoustic Cobain and orchestrating finely tuned power balladry, while tracks like the jangling “Tall Man, Skinny Lady” and blistering “Feel” unleash bluesy garage-rock mayhem that feels grown up yet never stuffy. Maybe the best thing about these songs is how classical they feel even while discovering new riffs and melodies locked within the simple confines of blues-inspired rock, like how the frenetic acoustics and unusual arrangement of “The Clock” don’t really sound like anything you’ve heard while retaining all the same elements. It’s sometimes like he walks into a place where everyone’s been hanging out for years and finds a door no one saw before. Maniuplator’s the kind of release you hope a Black Keys or Jack White fan picks up and comes to cherish, devouring the rest of his catalog and his many associates in the forever blossoming L.A./S.F. garage scenes.


The Rentals - Lost in Alphaville (CD)

Weezer who? The former bassist of that band revives his Rentals project for another blast of synth-and-alt-crunch tunes with sugary sweet melodies. On "Traces of Our Tears," Sharp goes “You are the one we’re singing to” and it's impossible to resist. Makes you feel 14 again.


Ashrae Fax - Never Really Been Into It (CD)

The story goes with Ashrae Fax that they put out one album (the excellent Static Crash!) and no one really heard it and they faded into obscurity. Ten years later, the smart folks at Mexican Summer reissued the album and what do you know, it feels like a lost classic of untapped promise. Now the band is back together and have recorded a new album of songs that reimagine the dream pop set for by the Cocteau Twins in a more electronic setting, full of gorgeous gauzy synth textures, bubbling beats and swoopin, dramatic vocals that come together masterfully on songs like "Dreamers Tied to Chairs," which packs a surprise dynamic shift that knocks you off your feet. Ashrae Fax's second act proves even more intoxicating than the first. Look for the LP in store! Also why is it so great to see that MTV font in the video below? Nostalgia!

See all of this week's new releases

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Merchandise (7), Ty Segall (41), The Rentals (2), Ashrae Fax (1)