Album Picks: Joanna Newsom, Fuzz, Pure Bathing Culture

Posted by Billy Gil, October 23, 2015 12:07pm | Post a Comment

Joanna NewsomDivers

Joanna Newsom’s first album in five years finds the musician lending her ornate songcraft and magical imagery to an album that at its plainest, examines relationships and the effects of the passage of time. “Anecdotes” begins the album with woodland noise and shortly reintroduces Newsom’s piano, harp and uncommon croon, her lyrics painting slices of life of a soldier laying land mines and returning home, summing up the sentiment it portrays with the line, “Anecdotes cannot say what Time may do.” Newsom’s lyrics are as inscrutable as ever—“Sapokanikan” refers to a Native American village that once stood where Greenwich Village now lies and references Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem about a fallen Egyptian pharaoh, “Ozymandias”—but they’re in service of her central theme, as she sings, “the records they left are cryptic at best, lost in obsolescence.” The arrangements by Newsom, Nico Muhly, Ryan Francesconi and Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) tickle the songs with orchestral brushes and lend rock pulse to songs like “Leaving the City.” Shorter songs appear, like “The Things I Say,” a downtrodden, countrified piano ditty with lyrics both direct (“I’m ashamed of half the things I say”) and fanciful (“When the sky goes thinkin’ Paris, France, do you think of the girl who used to dance when you’d frame the movement within your hands”) that ends in a rain of beaming guitars. These serve to as breathers before sinking into epics like “Divers,” which gives Newsom’s harp and malleable voice room to roam as she intones, “How do you choose your life? How do you choose the time you must exhale and kick and writhe?” Like Newsom’s previous work, Divers demands close attention. Her albums are the antithesis of instant gratification, which is perversely likely why she’s become so popular as an out-of-time balladeer despite sounding more medieval than millennial—her songs beg that you drop what you’re doing, lest you miss one of her witticisms or whimsies. It’s a strangely soothing effect, harkening back to the time of following lyric sheets and sitting to listen to music as a solitary activity. Despite being seeped in melancholia, Divers ends on the somewhat positive note of “Time As a Symptom.” Newsom cries about the “joy of life” as owls hoot and birds chirp in the background, declaring, “the moment of your greatest joys sustains.” Divers may be concerned with the fleeting nature of time, but it’s a convincing bid at artistic permanence.


Fuzz - II

Ty Segall and his band of evil merrymakers are back for another FUZZ album. This is real-deal, heavy blues proto-metal made by three guys who live and breathe this stuff. With Segall at the drum kit and singing along with Charlie Moothart (Moonhearts) on guitar and Chad Ubovich (Meatbodies) on bass, Fuzz live up to their name with chunky riffs, meaty basslines and Segall doing his best banshee wail. This time around, the songs are more intricate, the album’s longer and there’s little feel of this being a side project for anyone involved. Songs like “Time Collapse II/The 7th Terror” are allowed to go beyond merely being early metal homages, taking off into unexpected directions and stretching to epic lengths. Moothart’s guitars seem to shoot lightning and laser beams on the grooving “Rat Race” and sink into glorious sludge on “Bringer of Light.” Ubovich’s fuzzed-out bass gives extra oomph to monolithic stoner jams like “Pollinate” and “Pipe.” Segall’s no slouch behind the drums, either, giving “Sleestak” its Can-esque rumble. II doesn’t stray too far from its Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer roots, but in doing so it manages to land like a sledgehammer into a brick wall, its distorted waves resonating far and wide. 


Pure Bathing CulturePray For Rain

Pure Bathing Culture sound like the best new wave band you never heard, taking bits of cultish acts like Strawberry Switchblade and Cocteau Twins for their own brand of modern electro-pop. Loungey tunes like “The Tower” swirl together with synthy jams like “Palest Pearl” as Sarah Versprille sings freely over simple drum machine beats and Daniel Hindman’s jangly guitars. A sweet, simple pleasure.

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Joanna Newsom (36), Fuzz (8), Pure Bathing Culture (1)