Can a sexually frustrated Canned Heat seduce a hot and bothered Neu into a cheap one night stand? The rock'n'roll road can be a long and lonely one. And it leaves much time for the mind to wander, to fixate and to obsess over the human body and all its wondrously dirty parts. Enter The Pink Mountaintops. Their debut record begins with "She caught my eye and I was on fire" and it ends with a repetitive begging plea "Don't walk away!" from a reworking of Joy Division's Atmosphere. In between these bookend statements, mountains are fucked, an ode to rock'n'roll groupies is sung, and tales of loose panties and ex-models are exposed.The Pink Mountaintops is Stephen McBean, formerly of Jerk With A Bomb and now also exemplar member of Black Mountain. The debut record -- conceived at dawn, while high on a mix of trucker speed and Red Bull, and while sailing down a Colorado highway on route to Denver as the last decent Floyd record played on the cassette deck -- was written and recorded in a month with friends Amber Webber, Joshua Wells, and Christoph Hofmeister. The fore-mentioned country drone stoned drug rock band Black Mountain lent limbs, lungs, and amplifiers to the festivities.
Preoccupations' songs have always worked through themes of creation, destruction, and futility, and they've always done it with singular post-punk grit. The textures are evocative and razor-sharp. The wire is always a live one. But while that darker side may have been expertly explored, it's not quite the same as having been fully, intensely lived. This time it was, and the result is 'New Material', Preoccupations' deepest and most fully realized record to date. In it lies the difference between witnessing a car crash and crashing your own, between jumping into an ocean and starting to swallow the water.
In late 2013, Preoccupations —then known as Viet Cong-- released a small-run cassette EP only available on tour. Over the course of a year, Matt Flegel and Scott Munro worked in their basement studio with a mess of old and run down equipment to build a set of fresh material. Joined by bandmates Daniel Christiansen and Michael Wallace, the band completed work on an debut cassette. What emerged from the studio was a mixture of sharply-angled rhythm workouts and euphoric ‘60s garage pop-esque melodies, balanced with a penchant for drone-y, VU-styled downer moments, and became a hard-to-find classic.
When the four members of Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities and they resolved to change their band name, but hadn't settled on a new one.
And so where their previous album 'Viet Cong' was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, 'Preoccupations' explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives.
Opener "Anxiety" articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, "Monotony" moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations' standards, "Degraded" surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, and the 11-minute-long "Memory" is the album's keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk center.
All this adds up to Preoccupations: a singular, bracing collection that proves what's punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.
Recorded in a barn-turned-studio in rural Ontario, the seven songs that make up Viet Cong were born largely on the road, when Flegel and bandmates Mike Wallace, Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen embarked on a 50-date tour that stretched virtually every limit imaginable. Close quarters hastened their exhaustion but also honed them as a group. You can designate records as seasonal, and you can feel Viet Cong's bleakness and declare it wintry. But the only way you get a frost is when there's something warmer to freeze up. So yes, Viet Cong is a winter album, but only until it is a spring record, then a summer scorcher, then an autumn burner, then it ices over again.
Amplifying Host finds Richard Youngs wandering the guitar desert somewhere between Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas score and Neil Young's work on Dead Man. Yet, the randomly determined chord movements and Youngs' stretched-out vocal passes across the record are, perhaps, more akin to Jandek's Six And Six — here, removed from its gauze and dipped in a dark gold. When Youngs bends strings in this anglo-americana vision, it's like he's bending spoons.
"Make a proper pop album." Thus was the simple dare handed to Richard Youngs from his friend Andrew "Paz" Paine during their weekly Sunday meet-up. Ever the modest master, Youngs said in accepting this friendly challenge that he merely endeavored to capture the "beats and hooks" of contemporary pop. We present the results here as Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits. Among bright, hypnotic loops, Youngs' voice finds its inner Bowie. But let it be known: this collection of house-inspired gems displays much more than a capacity for pop emulation. It's a confirmation of Youngs' craft and prowess, no matter the terrain. With enviable grace, experimental minimalist Youngs sets his sights on the pop world and claims it as his own. Youngs' heretofore unknown love of Pet Shop Boys and the Madchester sound is reimagined via his unique avant sensibility and atmospheric wand strokes. Originally released in 2009 as a very-limited CD-R on Paine's Sonic Oyster label, Jagjaguwar is honored to present Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, remastered and on vinyl for the first time.
Richard Youngs' latest solo work for Jagjaguwar is a collection of neodruid hymns and chants for the minutiae of homelife and fatherhood — poetic transcendance through repetition and a focus on the (seemingly) micro. Once again proving himself a master of minimalist composition, Youngs also takes leaps forward as a lyricist on Under Stellar Stream, reminiscent of the list incantations of Allen Ginsberg. With this comes a change in Youngs' voice, now less pleading, deeper and more assured. In these atonal, spatial arrangements, each phrase is granted the room to work into the cerebral cortex — and perhaps a deeper consciousness. "I am remembering now the waiting on time itself. I am remembering now the value of sleep," recites Youngs' domesticated avatar on opening track "Broke Up By Night," a celtic prayer for the modern man. On "All Day Monday and Tuesday," over droning bass and slow, meandering organ, the grind of the day becomes empyreal: "All day Monday and Tuesday, the room of work, the room of work... All day Monday and Tuesday, the clarity, the clarity."
Autumn Response is a spartan folk-"pop" record filled with tinder-box intimacies, composed of some of the shortest songs ever recorded by Richard Youngs. The simplest form of trickery comes from Richard Youngs' restrained use of an acoustic guitar, bringing it back to Youngs basics. Twenty-six seconds into "I Need the Light", the first track off the album, the listener is confronted with the pivotal element of the record, the drawing line between the hardcore Youngs purists and fairweather fans: the track, like others on the record, features Youngs' double-tracked voice splitting in two - as one overlaid performance veers away from the other. This gesture warrants such a title "King of the Progressive Minimalists" - which is often used beside his name by critics - as the confident inclusion of such an effect grants it legitimacy. Youngs' voices slipping away from one another is on par with other intense representations of singularity such as Donald Judd and Malevich's Suprematist Composition: White on White. Pop is a gesture, a stance, a pose. Autumn Response is a singer-songwriter album, as Youngs' fingers slip over the steel strings with little feet and whispery toes, his gently prophetic songs evoke Roger Waters and the folk phase play is sure to appeal to fans of Animal Collective's Sung Tongs.
Jagjaguwar is excited to reissue Richard Youngs’ Advent, Youngs’ very first record originally released in 1990 in the vinyl format on Youngs’ own No Fans label. Only 300 LPs were released initially. It was then later released on the Table Of The Elements label and quickly went out of print. It became a true underground success story, a critical darling, with Alan Licht, for example, putting it on his “minimal top ten list” in the publication Halana. Simply put, it is an essential work in the body of work of one of the most important modern day progressive minimalists. Includes a new essay by Richard Youngs. “A three-part composition for piano, voice, and ultra-nasty oboe and electric guitar, Advent indicated signs of life in a genre long dormant in the 80s ‘experimental’ scene. It continues the tradition from [Terry Riley’s] Reed Streams on down with gusto.”—Alan Licht’s “Minimal Top Ten List”, Halana
Richard Youngs has been making music for over two decades. The Naive Shaman, released in dual format (cd and lp), is his seventh album for Jagjaguwar and is a deeply personal work. Created on a computer at home, it is a high density digital song cycle driven by heavy, heavy electric bass guitar.
The opening “Life On A Beam” combines a modal vocal line with throbbing sonics and non-linear percussion. Elsewhere a plaintive voice threads itself through frosted atmospherics and we hear Richard’s first recorded kazoo work since 1992’s “New Angloid Sound”. At the core of the album is “Sonor In My Soul”, a bass loop on to which are collaged strangulated guitar, singing and more singing. The track climaxes in a hollered plea for “unity”. The second half of the set contrasts “Once It Was Autumn”, a succintly crafted dub chant, with the epic “Summer’s Edge II” whose sprawling 16+ minutes anchor a floating vocal melody and free-flowing drums with fuzzed bass octaves.
At its heart, Hundred Acres - the third full-length from Wisconsin singer/songwriter S. Carey - finds him grounded and confident, writing the strongest songs of his career. More direct than ever, there is a wellspring of confidence in this new batch of songs that allow for ideas to remain uncomplicated while laying bare the intricacies of life.Written in between touring schedules and the growth of his family, Carey produced Hundred Acres at April Base in Fall Creek, WI with support from his regular crew and contributions from the likes of Rob Moose (yMusic), Casey Foubert (Sufjan Stevens) and Sophie Payten (Gordi). He employed a smaller, more focused scale of instrumentation than on his previous albums while writing mostly on guitar instead of his go-to piano. Using more traditional song structures instead of the Steve Reich-ian repetitions of his past work, a new balance is struck that creates something unique. The result is a collection of poetic yet clear-eyed songs that both stand brightly on their own and tightly weave together to create a powerful album.
Recorded primarily during the perigee-syzygy (also known as the super moon) of August 2014, the Supermoon EP from S. Carey is a study in scale, space, and proximity. These songs are a new and closer look into existing works from both S. Carey's renowned full-lengths, 2010's All We Grow and 2014's Range of Light. With Supermoon, Carey has broken these songs down to their essential, acoustic parts with his forever humming vocals laid over top, lilting yet percussive piano, and a subtle swath of harmonic strings. You can hear Carey's breath between words and the pat of his fingers on the keys; you can hear the living room in which his family's baby grand piano sits. These songs are beautiful, intimate and so potently personal. This collection is a stark presentation of S. Carey laid bare, an open invitation for the listener to climb into his world.
One particularly poignant piece is the re-imagined Range of Light closer, "Neverending Fountain," perhaps an apt metaphor for the life of the songs themselves. Says Carey, "The longer you spend with a song, the more you can see it in its pure form." Supermoon also features a heartrending cover of "Bullet Proof.. I Wish I Was" from Radiohead's classic album The Bends, and a new song, the EP's namesake, "Supermoon," which takes its inspiration, like much of Carey's work, from the natural world around him.
Another source of inspiration quoted by Carey is the excitement of working out arrangements for pre-existing songs on the spot, for various sessions on tour. He brought that spirit to the recording of Supermoon, which took place over the course of a single weekend. Already known as an artist of impeccable craft, S. Carey worked with long-time friends and collaborators (Mike Noyce played viola, Zach Hanson engineered, mixed, and mastered) to add a chapter to the still unfolding story of Sean Carey as an artist. We can hear the songwriting, singing and performance for what it truly is; understated, true and pure beauty.
S. Carey's work is hugely beatific, restorative panorama or beauty - perfect given how landscape and the wonder of nature inspire much of Carey's imagery. His new album 'Range of Light' takes its title from the name that 19th century naturalist John Muir gave to the Sierra Nevada, and follows suit with a dazzling array of musical light and shade, drawn from Carey's love of jazz, modern classical and Americana. Like a weathered mountain range changing shadow form and color, or the ebb and flow of a river's current, S. Carey's music is simultaneously restful and rhythmic, complex and simple, and always evolving.
Hoyas by S. Carey is a hospitable statement about love, longing and the celebration of knowing it well. You will find the familiar S. Carey modern classical repetition pushed into the vernacular of electronic music and beat making. This is the warmest electronic music you'll ever meet. The beats swing, stutter and pulse while each instrument retains a heightened awareness of its form and function within the larger family of voices.
Hoyas was mixed and produced by the Grammy Award Winning team of Justin Vernon and Brian Joseph of Bon Iver.
The debut album from S. Carey, All We Grow, is the result of a young lifetime immersed in music. As a band member of Bon Iver, Sean Carey witnessed a flip of his formal training to step firmly into a worldwide-touring rock band. His performance degree in classical percussion and his love for jazz drumming prepared him for a central role in the inspiring force of the Bon Iver live show.
All We Grow is a convergence of Carey's Waltz For Debby-era Bill Evans inflected jazz tendencies, and traditional rock band experience, taking leads from Talk Talk. It also retests the waters of modern classical composition, investigating the moodiness generated by percussive repetition in a manner familiar to fans of Steve Reich.
One of music's most astute cartographers of the heart, able to squeeze enormous sentiments into especially small spaces, Sharon Van Etten offers up documents of surrender and disappointment, admission and longing with this 5 song EP, I Don't Want to Let You Down.
For all the attention that was paid to her 2012 break-through Tramp, Sharon Van Etten is an artist with a hunger to turn another corner and to delve deeper, writing from a place of honesty and vulnerability to create a bond with the listener that few contemporary musicians can match. Compelled by a restless spirit, Van Etten is continuously challenging herself. Now, the result is Are We There, a self-produced album of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity, and immense breadth.
Most musicians are quite happy to leave the production end of things to someone else. It’s enough to live your music without taking on the role of producer as well. Yet Van Etten knew it was time to make a record entirely on her terms. The saying goes “fortune favors the bold” and yet this boldness had to be tempered. For this, Van Etten found a kindred spirit in veteran music producer Stewart Lerman. Originally working together on Boardwalk Empire, they gently moved into new roles, rallying around the idea of making a record together in Lerman’s studio in New Jersey. Lerman’s studio expertise gave Van Etten the freedom to make Are We There the way she imagined. Van Etten also enlisted the individual talents of her band, consisting of Heather Woods Broderick, Doug Keith and Zeke Hutchins, and brought in friends Dave Hartley and Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs, Jonathan Meiberg (Shearwater), Jana Hunter (Lower Dens), Peter Broderick, Mackenzie Scott (Torres), Stuart Bogie, Jacob C. Morris and Mickey Freeze.
It is clear from the opening chords in the first song, Afraid of Nothing, that we are witnessing a new awareness, a sign of Van Etten in full stride, writing, producing and performing from a place that seems almost mythical, were it not so touchable and real. Always direct, and never shying away even from the most personally painful narratives, Van Ettten’s songwriting continues to evolve. Many of the songs deal with seemingly impossible decisions, anticipation, and then resolution. She sings of the nature of desire, memory, of being lost, emptiness, of promises and loyalty, fear and change, of healing and the true self, violence and sanctuary, waiting, of silence. The artist who speaks in such a voice is urging us to do something, to take hold and to go deeper. Living in this way, the questions of life remain alive, as close and steady as breathing. Many of the ballads of old are as dark as pitch, and people for whom the issues of life and death were as vivid as flame wrote them. You could turn off the electricity, remove all the instruments and Sharon’s voice and words would remain. They connect her to the mystic stratum which flows just beneath the everyday, which is rarely acknowledged as the forces of distraction sweep our attention away.
The shimmering sound of Tramp both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. During the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Sharon Van Etten was without a home - crashing with friends and spreading out her possessions between various locations. The only constant during this time was when Van Etten returned to the garage studio of The National’s Aaron Dessner.
The resulting album is an assured and strident one, and Tramp showcases an artist in control of her powers, incorporating vivid arrangements and instrumentation into the songwriting. It is a startling collection, filled with as much defiant rock as pious, minimal beauty. There are declarative hymns and remarkably sultry numbers. Tramp features many stupendous guests, as well, including Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, Julianna Barwick, and Beirut’s Zach Condon, and Dessner himself.
The early 90’s lo-fi explosion coincided with and was precipitated by the emergence of hundreds of small independent tape labels, many of which onlyexisted long enough to release one compilation. It was during this heyday that Simon Joyner contributed some of his finest material to various intrinsicallylimited edition releases. Beautiful Losers: Singles and Compilation Tracks 1994-1999 collects all such compilation appearances and the few singlesmade during these years, including the perennial favorite “One for the Catholic Girls” and “Burn Rubber”, recently covered by Bright Eyes.This was such a prolific period for Joyner that he usually contributed his best songs of the moment to whoever requested a track, instead of reservingthem for his proper albums. You’ll find here varying degrees of sound quality and various approaches to songs, from solo acoustic to full band, but whatties the collection together is the strength of the material. This isn’t filler. The same themes that haunt his large scale work are explored here: death, love,the politics of time. Fans of Joyner’s albums can now stop searching for the impossible to find cassettes and out of print 7” records.We’ve compiledeverything here, even the songs Simon would rather forget. For those unfamiliar with Simon Joyner’s music, this compilation is a good place to start as itserves in the same capacity as the original compilations and 7” records, to introduce the ambivalent audience to the ambitious songwriter.
Room Temperature was recorded in the winter of 1992 in a small room above a carpet store in Omaha, Nebraska, with two microphones and a cassette four-track recorder. Despite being his second full-length release, this was Simon Joyner’s first fully realized album, the one that first caught the interest of British DJ John Peel, who played it so often he single-handedly created a European audience for the Midwest singer-songwriter. Populated with sometimes harrowing and desperate stories of the complex workings of the human heart (in conflict with itself), the stark record features Joyner solo on all tracks. This marks the influential album’s first appearance on vinyl.
In over a decade of artistic exploration, Simon Joyner has never been content to make the same record twice. Lost With The Lights On is Joyner’s ninth album, and it is a sprawling document in the grand tradition of the post-Dylan singer-songwriter epic. It begins with the narrator declaring “I got sick in the rain on some holy day, dreaming of St. Teresa and I lost all your pills after they spilled out of the bottle into my possible futures.” Joyner is a benevolent guide and he wants to see us succeed, so he’s got to show us all the burned out basements and blown bridges and the traps along the way so we know how to survive them when they come for us, and they always come for us. By the end of the album, the narrator of “Forgotten Blues” can’t see out his window, he can only see his reflection in it. Simon Joyner was born in New Orleans and ended up some time later in Omaha, Nebraska where he has lived for the last two decades, writing and making music. He is an influential local hero with a devoted international following. “Simon Joyner, in one huge, gorgeous gesture, singledhandedly takes American song into his hands and reshapes it into a previously unimaginable creature, a gorgeous thing that lives and breathes on the floor in front of your stereo speakers, and that has eyes into which you can and will look for hours on end, seeing in them things you always wanted to see but had never had the courage to look at directly.” - John Darnielle, Puncture
PLEASE NOTE THIS TITLE IS ON BACK ORDER WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE REPRESS. JAGJAGUWAR & Death Waltz Recording Company are proud and excited to release a true masterpiece into the world with the soundtrack to Panos Cosmatos' BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. Posited as a "lost film" of the 1980s, the picture is inspired by classic dystopian fiction and the obscure SF movies one used to see lining the shelves of the local video store. As such, the brilliant soundtrack blends seamlessly amongst its influences; Tangerine Dream, Wendy Carlos, and of course John Carpenter, with the latter's mark heard on the oppressive synth percussion of the main titles and the evocative melodies heard throughout. Created by Sinoia Caves, the ongoing project of Jeremy Schmidt, a disciple of the long-form cosmic synthesizer soundscape, and member of Canadian psych-and-prog-spiritual pioneers Black Mountain, this recording also features guest appearances by Joshua Wells, drummer of Black Mountain.
Schmidt's score is many things - haunting, uncompromising, intense - but is always a fascinating listen. Incorporating touchstone elements such as mellotron choirs, glacial analogue synthesizer pads and arpeggiators, Schmidt artfully navigates the various sonic sensibilities of the 70s-80s genre aesthetic. What emerges from this schematic realm of the 'almost familiar' evolves and manifests as a work of striking originality, an ominously beautiful, otherworldly and terrifying score. Simply put, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is an astounding piece of work and must not be missed. Do you read me?
Gracing the cover of Brooklyn band Small Black’s new record, a mysterious woman walks alone on the dunes at dusk, amid pockmarked sand. She's the subject of a found photo, one of many rescued with the warmth of a blow dryer and a fireplace, by singer Josh Hayden Kolenik after Hurricane Sandy flooded his family’s Long Island home. The faded image offers clues and invites viewers to construct their own narrative, one that escapes even the picture’s taker, Kolenik’s father. To put it simply, Best Blues is an album about loss, the specific loss of precious people in our lives, but also the loss of memories and the difficult fight to preserve them. “I spent months trying to scan all these images & letters, most covered with ocean dirt, and in doing so discovered what people often find in their family’s past: that they are a hell of a lot like those who’d come before,” says Kolenik. The chorus of standout “Boys Life” echoes this sentiment with the refrain “pictures of youth/picturing you,” over a track that itself was an old demo re-discovered by accident by the band, during a late night jam session at a cabin in Upstate NY. The compassion of the record collects itself in the soft repeating mantra-esque hook in "No One Wants It To Happen To You".
The group’s third full length release, written & recorded at their Brooklyn home studio, nicknamed 222, showcases a band still evolving, and embracing the unpredictable. Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums) have been recording, writing, and often living together, throughout the life of the band, establishing a closeness that has allowed them to achieve easy creativity and unspoken chemistry. After a year of recording, that band enlisted mixer Nicholas Vernhes (War on Drugs, Deerhunter) of Rare Book Room Studio to help complete the record.
Best Blues finds the band in their sweet spot: the smoky intersection of considered & vulnerable songwriting and loose, almost nonchalant ambience. The addition of piano flourishes, trumpet (Darby Cicci of The Antlers), hidden acoustic guitars and Kaede Ford’s ethereal vocals provide new dimensions to the band’s already expansive sonic palette. Cut-to-the-chase rippers “Back at Belle’s” & “Checkpoints” embody & build on the group’s signature gritty yet focused electronic sound. While the more pastoral tracks, such as “Between Leos,” & “XX Century,” skeletally based on recorded improvisations, find the band painting a more nuanced, assured aural portrait. The repeating of the line “twentieth century” on closer, “XX Century”, serves as a coda for the album, offering a simple summation of what Best Blues’ intent has been from the opening Casio stab: an attempt to re-examine the past, but also one to let it go.
The cover of Brooklyn-based Small Black's second LP, Limits of Desire, features a photo of a man and a woman embracing on either side of a ladder, completely naked, divided by its triangular arc. They're close, but they can't get any closer. It's a moving depiction of connectivity and interaction in the 21st century and it serves as a sort of source code for the record.
Limits of Desire is Small Black's most accomplished album yet. It's a crystalline realization of a sound they've been building toward since their self-titled EP in 2009. Now a full-time four piece, Josh Hayden Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums, percussion), the band have moved way beyond the hazy home recorded sound of their previous releases toward a full-fledged, but still self-produced, clear approach. Where 2010’s New Chain was a lesson in maximalist pop, Limits of Desire finds the band trimming their sound to the essentials, yet hitting new and unexpected heights with the addition of live drums, electric guitar and trumpet to the existing Small Black palette. Tonally the songs sweep and glide over lush keys, bolstered by lyrics that illustrate the semi-abstract moments of lost opportunities and misread signs, hinted at by the cover image. The title track whirls softly, and channels luminaries Tears for Fears and The Blue Nile, anchored by Pieczanski's punchy bass as Kolenik sings: "Other lives droned/ far from the grass where I lay/ each eye stared out the opposite way." As much as the record is about looking for deeper connections, it's also about avoiding real life, if only for a moment—getting out of your own head just long enough to calm down and find perspective.
“Free At Dawn” and “No Stranger” do what fans have come to love Small Black for, only better. They’re smart pop bangers tinged with a specific brand of melancholy that slowly build to night-affirming climaxes. While "Breathless” ups the tempo, over synth stabs, with lyrics that tackle apathy and uncertainty with catchy grace: "I'm standing in tomorrow's way/ future's fine/least it seems okay." It paints a concise portrait of a generation struggling with unlimited freedom and malaise.
The band builds on a rich history of synth pop by making a thoroughly modern album, on both the front and back end. One that seeks out cohesion, connection and calm in a world that won’t sit still. Limits of Desire doesn't attempt to provide any solutions, but coming to terms with not finding the answers feels infinitely more fruitful.