In honor of Independence Day, Lucy Dacus has released a new single titled “Forever Half Mast,” . The third installment of her 2019 holiday song series, “Forever Half Mast” follows her Valentine’s Day-inspired “La Vie En Rose” cover and her ode to Mother’s Day and Taurus Season, an original song titled “My Mother & I.” Lucy’s ongoing 2019 singles series will also include tracks tied to Bruce Springsteen’s birthday, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s, with a physical EP coming in the fall.
In “Forever Half Mast,” the twang of a steel guitar compliments Lucy’s gentle strumming and lends a distinctly ‘American’ sound to the song — yet the lyrics convey an attitude towards her home country that is decidedly more ambivalent. Lucy drew inspiration for the song from her experiences touring in Europe, where she was starkly confronted by the complexities of her American identity, and by what it means to be a proud American in these trying times.
In Lucy’s words, “There is a daily dissonance one endures as an American wherein much of our joy is counterweighted by shame, where much of our pride lives in tandem with injustice and suffering. ‘Forever Half Mast’ is about confronting this unavoidable culpability as an American citizen and consumer. Instead of allowing this guilt to paralyze us, we should try to let it influence us in positive ways.”
Baltimore-based singer/songwriter/guitar wiz Snail Mail, aka Lindsey Jordan, has re-issued the breakout 2016 EP, ‘Habit’, available now digitally, with the 12″ and CD versions available on August 30th. The re-mastered EP contains the six original songs, including the single, “Thinning,” as well as a cover of Lois Maffeo’s “The 2nd Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” an alternative version of which was previously available as an Amazon exclusive.
ICYMI, Snail Mail contributed an original song to EA Games’ latest installment of The Sims, ‘The Sims 4: Living Island,’ which came out last Friday. “Rizbeen” is an original new recording of Snail Mail’s “Pristine,” with the lyrics translated into Simlish (NO REALLY, THAT’S WHAT I WAS ASKED TO TYPE).
“It was really hilarious working with the producer of Lush and trying to be serious the whole time! It came pretty naturally to me for some reason. Maybe i’m a sim.”
Spoon today unleash their first new song since 2017’s acclaimed ‘Hot Thoughts’. “No Bullets Spent” showcases Spoon in full creative forward momentum, with its staccato rhythms and spooky film-noir guitar. The inimitable vocals of magnetic frontman Britt Daniel kicking off at the first note, Spoon’s signature is stamped on the track immediately while another level is achieved in Daniels’ seemingly infinite hot streak as a songwriter. Blending with the percussion wizardry of Spoon co-founder Jim Eno, the song is propelled from the doors of his own Public Hi Fi studio in Austin, TX and is produced by Mark Rankin. Alex Fischel (keyboard) and Gerardo Larios (guitar) add their own dimension to the band whose recent recording sessions point to, perhaps, a forthcoming new album.
“No Bullets Spent” joins classics from the Spoon catalog on ‘Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon’, the greatest hits compilation coming out July 26th. “No Bullets Spent” will also be available as a limited edition 7”, with the ‘A Series of Sneaks’ era rarity “Shake It Off” on the B-side. Limited to a small pressing worldwide, the 7” will be sold exclusively via the Matador and Spoon webstores and on tour with the band this summer. The album’s tracklist (complaints about what songs are missing
can be directed to the Twitter ether) and Spoon’s full list of summer tour dates can be found below the physical and digital artwork, and the Rob Sheffield-penned bio.
How many rock bands from the past 25 years could get away with a greatest-hits album? Spoon stand alone, with a career-spanning retrospective culled from all over their unique songbook. It’s a flawless compilation of their best-known, best-loved tunes, yet it’s still full of
surprises—the only thing you could expect from a band that’s spent their whole career taking people by surprise.
“The idea of doing a best-of came to us a couple times,” Britt Daniel says. “First I wasn’t sure how I felt about it but at some point I remembered that when I got my first Cure record it was ‘Standing on a Beach’. When I got my first New Order record, it was ‘Substance’. That was how I met those bands, and I moved backwards from there but I still listen to those comps. I
love a greatest hits LP when it’s done well. It can be a thing unto itself.”
If you were the betting type in 1996, and you were taking odds on which bands would still be on top of their game in 2019—still thriving, creating, evolving, sitting on top of a catalog so rich it could produce a compilation like this—it’s safe to say you could have bought a house betting a quarter on Spoon. They did not seem the likeliest band to make history. Yet they’ve achieved this by refusing to concede a thing to fashion, refusing to pander, declining to repeat themselves, resisting the impulse to play it safe. When they dropped ‘Kill the Moonlight’ in 2002, it already seemed bizarre this underdog band had turned out to be so freakishly prolific and creative. But Spoon were just getting started. They have kept going their own way, moving past their original blueprint and building something new one album at a time.
When you hear Spoon has a greatest-hits record, you instantly think of your pet favorites. Every fan would assemble a totally different lineup—that’s the beauty of it. They’ve built the kind of ridiculously vast catalog where people love to argue for hours over their favorite highlights. Are you a ‘Girls Can Tell’ diehard or a ‘Transference’ cultist? Do you prefer ‘Gimme
Fiction’ or ‘Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’? ‘Hot Thoughts’? ‘They Want My Soul’?
Certain artists like Al Green, Blondie or Creedence spend years making individual albums that stand up as fully realized works of art—but they spawn a perfect greatest-hits record that makes its own statement. That’s the classic level Spoon are on here. So how did this complex and diverse string of albums boil down to one disc? “Honestly, it was a struggle,”
Daniel says. “I was listening to the old records and jotting down the songs—if you wanna turn the volume up, that’s a good sign. The list really got whittled down, so these are the best. ‘I Summon You’ was never a huge song, wasn’t for the radio, but it had to be on there. It’s one of the best things we’ve done. I wanted to represent ‘Transference’, even though it’s not really a ‘hit’ type of album—‘Got Nuffin’ was the closest thing. It did get to a point where I started feeling like, ‘We gotta represent this album in some way, we’ve gotta represent this change in some way.’ ‘Everything Hits at Once’ was a turning point for us—a minimal new wave soul type of rock song.’”
That’s part of what makes this a classic greatest-hits album—we will keep arguing over the selections for years to come. “It’s a small collection trying to cover a lot of years, but I hope it does what ‘The Singles’ record by the Pretenders or ‘Hot Rocks’ did for me—cover a lot of ground and then if you want to find out more, you can find out more.” It’s a conversation starter, like any great group’s best-of should be. But it’s also a map to the work of a band that’s still full of surprises—and more yet to come. – Rob Sheffield
A fan-favorite during live shows, “Red Door” is a lush and atmospheric track driven by Baker’s complex fingerpicking and a hint of slide guitar, her voice soaring as she pleads “set me on fire in the middle of the street / bend my knees, paint the concrete / the color of my bloody knuckles / pulling splinters form the chapel door.” A previously unreleased cut begun during the Turn Out the Lights sessions, “Conversation Piece” is a meditation on loneliness, backed by delicate percussion and chiming guitars.
(‘Commit Yourself Completely’ album sleeve photo by Veronica Anderson)
“Fill In The Blank” (Live at Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH)
Car Seat Headrest today announces Commit Yourself Completely – a new nine-track live album that will be released only via digital means June 17th. Culled from performances across the UK, US and France, the nine-track album spans material from 2016’s breakout Teens Of Denial and 2018’s reimagined epic Twin Fantasy – as well as the first officially released recording of longtime live staple ‘Ivy’ by Frank Ocean. A filmed version of the performance of ‘Fill In The Blank’ which appears on the album, recorded in Columbus, Ohio, can be seen now above.
“This is a compilation of songs from shows we played in 2018,” says Will Toledo. “We recorded every show we did that year, and I went through about 50 of them to get the final tracklist for this album. This isn’t necessarily the best possible version of each track, but it’s some of the most fun we’ve had on stage. I particularly remember the show we did in the small French town of Amiens, maybe the smallest show we did that year, and how great it felt to be up in people’s faces with everyone plugging in to the music right away. The recordings we made of the shows came out very clean, so rather than try to artificially recreate how it sounded in the different venues night to night, I tried to give the whole album that in-your-face feeling, like we’re playing the songs right in front of you. When you’re onstage with everything happening at once, you never really know what it sounds like in the room anyways; all you know is how the music is feeling. Hopefully this will give you a sense of what these shows felt like.”
A snapshot of the 7-person lineup featuring members of Naked Giants experienced by crowds worldwide over the last two years, Commit Yourself Completely offers a visceral, loose and ebullient take on these much-loved songs, as well as an an incandescent capstone of a formative touring period as Car Seat Headrest readies his next studio album. Musicians featured on the album are Will Toledo (vocals), Seth Dalby (bass), Ethan Ives (guitar, vocals), Andrew Katz (drums, vocals), Grant Mullen (guitar, vocals) Gianni Aiello (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Henry LaVallee (additional percussion).
1. Cosmic Hero (Live at the Tramshed, Cardiff, Wales)
2. Fill In The Blank (Live at Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH)
3. Drugs With Friends (Live at La Lune des Pirates, Amiens, France)
4. Bodys (Live at La Lune des Pirates, Amiens, France)
5. Cute Thing (Live at O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, England)
6. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales (Live at O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, England)
7. Destroyed By Hippie Powers (Live at the Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR)
8. Ivy (live at the Capitol Theater, Olympia, WA)
9. Beach Life-in-Death (Live at Crossroads, KC, Kansas City, MO)
Sonic Youth’s live LP, ‘Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008’ is available today on LP and via all streaming services. In addition, the band’s final studio album and lone recording for Matador, 2009’s ‘The Eternal’, is the subject of a 25% off sale now thru June 14 (LP or download). ‘The Eternal’ or ‘Battery Park’ orders from the Matador Store (US/UK/EU customers only) receive a Matador Revisionist History slipmat while supplies last.
On June 7, we’ll be reissuing Sonic Youth’s ‘Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008’. Initially sold as a bonus item alongside the 2009 release of the band’s final album, ‘The Eternal’, the live recording will now be available on streaming services and as a stand-alone physical package for the first time ever. Culled from their show at Battery Park’s River To River Festival (and broadcast live on WFMU), the setlist spans the band’s 30-year career.
The live version of “Bull In The Heather” is now available to stream HERE.
Coinciding with the full release of the live album on June 7th, ‘The Eternal’ will be 25% off on the Matador Store from that date to June 14th.
Orders from the Matador Store include a Matador Records Revisionist History Slipmat (while supplies last).
Interpol today release a new 5 song EP, ‘A Fine Mess’, including the sought-after live favorite “Real Life,” first heard during the band’s ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ 15th anniversary tour in 2017. Recorded during time spent in upstate New York with Dave Fridmann, the five songs that make up ‘A Fine Mess’ gradually emerged as a body of work with a narrative and flow unto itself. The title track, “Fine Mess,” then received further production from Kaines & Tom A.D. and mixing from Claudius Mittendorfer, who had first worked with Interpol as engineer on ‘Our Love To Admire’. The resulting set is a living, breathing postcard from the band to their fans as they tour the world throughout 2019, and a linear continuation of the visceral and contagious energy set loose with ‘Marauder’.
Echoing its title, the artwork for ‘A Fine Mess’ is illustrated by a series of lost images, recovered from an abandoned police station in Detroit, MI. In a crumbling evidence room – amongst the rubble – an undeveloped roll of film, dated “1-20-96”, featured latent images of a breaking and entering scene, the rooms in chaos.
From the beguiling refrain of the title track, to the soulful topsy-turvy of “No Big Deal,” cathartic chorus of long sought-after live favourite “Real Life,” anthemic swell of “The Weekend,” and angular shades of “Thrones,” ‘A Fine Mess’ is a bracing and distinct entry in Interpol’s oeuvre.
A very limited Japanese edition of Iceage’s ‘Beyondless’ has been pressed on smokey grey vinyl complete with OBI strip, to commemorate the band’s upcoming Tokyo tour date (June 11). It’s available now in very limited quantity.
Interpol today announce a new EP, ‘A Fine Mess’, which will be released May 17th. The new track “The Weekend,” is available to stream and purchase today.
Recorded during time spent in upstate New York with Dave Fridmann, the five songs that make up ‘A Fine Mess’ gradually emerged as a body of work with a narrative and flow unto itself. The previously released title track, “Fine Mess,” then received further production from Kaines & Tom A.D. and mixing from Claudius Mittendorfer, who had first worked with Interpol as engineer on ‘Our Love To Admire’. The resulting set is a living, breathing postcard from the band to their fans as they tour the world throughout 2019, and a linear continuation of the visceral and contagious energy setloose with ‘Marauder’.
Echoing its title, the artwork for A Fine Mess is illustrated by a series of lost images, recovered from an abandoned police station in Detroit, MI. In a crumbling evidence room – amongst the rubble – an undeveloped roll of film, dated “1-20-96,” featured latent images of a breaking-and-entering scene, the rooms in chaos. From the beguiling refrain of the title track, to the soulful topsy-turvy of “No Big Deal,” cathartic chorus of long sought-after live favorite “Real Life,” anthemic swell of “The Weekend,” and angular shades of ‘Thrones,” A Fine Mess is a bracing and distinct addition to Interpol’s oeuvre.
While supplies last, all pre-orders of the A Fine Mess EP will receive a bonus “All At Once” 7”, available only on vinyl, not on streaming services. This value add is available exclusively on Matador’s webstores worldwide. Orders have the option to bundle the “A Fine Mess” t-shirt, and to purchase the t-shirt separately. This bundle is available only on the US Matador webstore and on Interpol’s online store.
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is Pavement’s record-of-many transitions. From Louder Than You to Random Falls. From Gary Young to Steve West. From indier-than-thou (Matador) to FAKE INDIE (Matador/Atlantic). But most importantly, it’s the album where Pavement would flex the sort of musical and lyrical range that would later make some of you deeply resent everything else the band members ever did solidify their status as a once-in-a-generation phenomena. Except we’re still here talking about it.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’s 1994 release, and I believe it was George Santayana who said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good thing we’ve got a goddamn photographic memory, because there’s some stuff we went thru trying to get radio stations to play “Cut Your Hair” that NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE FORCED TO RELIVE. So let’s focus on the good times and not get bogged down in gloomy stuff like the journalist last week who asked me (seriously) if Billy Corgan or Scott Weiland still bore a grudge over “Range Life”. I’m sure you think my job is super fucking easy but there’s no simple way of answering a question like that without getting the person on the other end of the phone very very angry, so if you’re ever in that situation, I suggest you handle it exactly the way I did (pretend you’re been stung by a wasp).
All orders received today through Thursday, February 21st from the U.S. Matador Webstore that include Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain will receive a free MATADOR REVISIONIST HISTORY slip mat and a reproduction of Pavement’s 1994 press photo (credit: Gail Butensky). Random orders will receive a press photo signed by Stephen Malkmus. UPDATE: press photos are now OUT OF STOCK, orders will still receive the slip mat.
2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus. Her widely celebrated sophomore record, ‘Historian’, was met by a chorus of critical acclaim, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and others calling one of the best albums of the year. Her collaborative EP as 1/3 of boygenius (with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers) landed on many of those same lists, plus Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, and the New York Times. She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, and made network TV appearances on “CBS This Morning”, “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, and “Last Call With Carson Daly”.
A cursory glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 (below) shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a EP titled ‘2019’ to celebrate. Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, ‘2019 ‘will be released later this year, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday (not an official holiday, though we’re told Chris Christie often took that day off), Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Dacus uses her gift as a songwriter to help understand and cope with the world around her, including making sense of national holidays, often more geared towards social media boasts and manufactured consumerism than authentic celebration. “What is going on,” she asks herself on these days, retreating from the heightened expectations of holidays to figure out what to make of them and to find her own meaning. “I’ve collected some songs from trying to answer that question,” she says, and “this EP seems like the right place to put them next to each other. These songs are self-contained, not indicative of a new direction, just a willingness to do something different and sometimes even out of character.”
“Fine Mess” continues the invigorated creative spirit of 2018’s triumphant ‘Marauder’, presenting Interpol at their most urgent and essential – with Paul Banks’ feverish vocals and haunted lyrics telling of “a sanguine and starry pair, buoyed and dashed alike by their own dreams and appetites” interlocking with Daniel Kessler’s serpentine riffs and Sam Fogarino’s thundering rhythm section, distilled around the seditious refrain: “you and me / make a fine mess.”
Ahead of a busy worldwide tour and festival season with Primavera, NOS Primavera, and Best Kept Secret already announced, “Fine Mess” is further testament to a band at their peak, and the first chapter in what promises to be yet another eventful year for Interpol.
For once, the rumors are true (some of ’em, anyway). The “rejected” electronic album that Stephen Malkmus has been alluding to over the past year will see the light of day on March 15th. That said, ‘Groove Denied’ is not a plunge into EDM or glitch-city. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. ‘Groove Denied’ is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a recent video interview, “It’s kind of funny to mess with stuff you’re not supposed to mess with.”
The first taste of Stephen’s new groove can be sampled today, with the release of single “Viktor Borgia,” and its accompanying video. The title playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. . “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982,” says Stephen, adding “and also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
Stephen will embark on a brief solo tour, sans Jicks, in May. The newly announced run of dates can be found below. A full bio, composed by Simon Reynolds can be found as well.
When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early Nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, the area of music with which he was associated couldn’t really have been further from the techno-rave sounds of the day. Electronic dance music, then as now, was about posthuman precision, inorganic textures, and hyper-digital clarity. Whereas the lo-fi movement in underground rock championed a messthetic of sloppiness, rough edges, and raw warmth – a hundred exquisitely subtle shades of distortion and abrasion. “Imperfect sound forever” was the rallying cry for a micro-generation of slacker-minded dreamers and misfits.
Fast forward to the present and here comes Malkmus with a surprising new project that embraces the very digital tools and procedures he’d have once gone out of his way to avoid. Groove Denied – Stephen’s first solo album without his cohorts the Jicks since 2001 – was made using Ableton’s Live, a software sequencer and “digital audio workstation” that is the preferred tool of discerning techno producers and deejays worldwide. Instead of a human-powered rhythm section of electric bass and drums, Malkmus’s arsenal further includes drum machines, along with a host of plug-in FX and “soft synths” (digital simulations of vintage electronic hardware that inhabit your computer rather than take over your entire living room).
For the first time on record, what you hear here is just Stephen and the Machine(s).
But Groove Denied is not a full-blown plunge into EDM or hiptronica, into the soundworlds of Deadmaus, Villalobos and Skee Mask. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. But Groove Denied is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a video interview, “It’s fun to mess with things that you’re not supposed to.”
This departure from the tried-and-tested stems back to earlier in this decade, when Malkmus spent a couple of years living in Berlin and was exposed to the city’s vibrant club scene Back in the Nineties, Stephen had given rave culture a wide berth, in part because of bad personal associations with the drug MDMA (he’d had “a really really bad trip” on Ecstasy in 1987, bizarrely on a visit to New York to see Miles Davis perform). But in Berlin, thanks to a younger deejay friend, Malkmus made forays into the city’s world-famous all-night party scene and became fascinated by techno. “The music can be great… you can zone out, dance, and focus on music – or just get wasted!”
It would not be entirely off-base, or an overly cute rock-historical reference, to describe Groove Denied as Stephen Malkmus’s Low. Although largely recorded in Oregon, the bulk of the album was written while he was living in Berlin. Updating his home studio with Ableton and teaching himself rudimentary Pro Tools, Malkmus “started fucking with effects and loops”. He compares the process of track-construction to the way his kids “used to make these girls on my iPhone – choosing hair colour, dresses, etc. That intuitive swipe and grab thing. Chop and move the waves. Apple computer scroll style of thinking.” It’s a very different way of making music to the feel-oriented way of coming up with chord progressions and rhythm grooves on a guitar alone or jamming with a band. And in fact, electric guitar – while it does feature on Groove Denied – is really “just color for the most part”.
Yet while the methodology behind Groove Denied is absolutely 21st Century, the reference points for the sound-palette hark back to the pre-digital era. “The electronic music side of the album, I wanted it to be sonically pre-Internet,” explains Stephen. “So the EQ-ing is a bit 1970’s, that sloppy DIY sequencing. And the influences are kinda 1981 post punk – actually quite British.” “A Bit Wilder”, one of the stand-out cuts, specifically recalls Cabaret Voltaire, its slack-stringed dank-with-reverb bass a dead ringer for the Stephen Mallinder sound. “Yes, I was thinking the Cabs – and Section 25, whose 1981 album Always Now I think is a serious underdog stoner album. That grey industrial Martin Hannett sound. But also all these cute DIY group that imitated The Cure back then – loners with 4-tracks tape recorders and dreams of “Killing An Arab”.” Malkmus says he was trying to conjure or reinhabit the “fan perspective” on things like Joy Division and the Cure – the sort of “getting it a bit wrong” that unintentionally brings something new into the world.
Groove Denied is frontloaded with this Cold Wave redux sound – a style we’ve never heard from Stephen Malkmus before. Opener “Belziger Faceplant”, for instance, features a most peculiar processed vocal that sounds withered and grotesque, like a deflated wrinkly balloon still lingering on in your house weeks after a party. “I envisioned ‘Belziger Faceplant’ as made by someone off their head after a night out in Friedrichshain,” says Malkmus, referring to a district of the former East Berlin now rife with techno clubs like the legendary Berghain. “Coming back at 5 AM, firing up the laptop in the morning light and trying to make a song, but the instruments are tripping over each other. You can’t even speak because of all the Ketamine or whatever!” Malkmus adds that he’s never tried K but “for some reason I imagine it like that”.
Then there’s “Viktor Borgia,” a title that playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. With its stately melody and the almost-English-accented vocal, the coordinates here are early Human League or even Men Without Hats. “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982. And also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
“Forget Your Place” features another eerily wobbled vocal a la “Belziger Faceplant” plus dub-style detonations of submarine sonar and nagging bleeps. Frankly, it sounds pretty darn wasted. “Like ‘Belgizer’, this is a pretty solid Ableton-based track – moving waves around, finding a trippy loop and throwing an echo on it,” explains Stephen, adding that “at times it feels almost childish, working with Ableton – like finger painting. But ‘Forget Your Place’ also makes me think about death – don’t ask me why!”
Alongside the early Eighties “minimal synth” and industrial influences, the other main palette of tone-colors audible on Groove Denied is closer both to Stephen’s comfort zone and to what his fans would expect from him: “warped psych,” as he terms it, that avant-garage tradition of dirty guitars and ramshackle grooves, except that in this case, it’s “one person pretending to be a band.” That illusion is pulled off magnificently on loose ‘n’ swinging tunes like “Come Get Me” and “Love the Door,” although the electronic element manifests still with the crisp and prim pitter of drum machine beats and a spume of Moog frothing all over “Door”. Then there’s “Rushing the Acid Frat”, whose title came from Stephen’s memories of a student fraternity at the University of Virginia that, unlike the typical beery bro frathouse, had a “Grateful Dead druggy tie-dye” vibe. Malkmus imagined “Rushing” as a “Louie Louie”-style shindig rumpus to soundtrack a “Star Wars bar scene in such a frat… It’s kinda 12-bar, but gigged with psych lyrics”.
As the album enters the homestretch, it returns to more familiar Malkmusian terrain, with a warmer, grittier sound. “I did frontload Groove Denied with the stuff that signals “80’s/cold,” he says. “That stuff excited me the most – and it sounded braver. If I had another year, it could have been all in that style.” Still, with the second half offering gorgeous tunes like the hazy-lazy ramble “Bossviscerate” and the glittering “Ocean of Revenge” – both graced with his signature style of odd-angled melodic beauty – who’s complaining? Mellow closer “Grown Nothing” feels like Malkmus easing back towards the sound of his recent album with the Jicks, Sparkle Hard. In fact, although it has been released after Sparkle, 70% of Groove Denied was completed before work on the Jicks record. Indeed, Malkmus’s explorations with sound-processing influenced that album, most notably with the unexpected appearance of Auto-Tune on a couple of tracks.
Groove Denied will shake up settled notions of what Malkmus is about and what he’s capable of, repositioning him in the scheme of things. But looking at it from a different angle, his engagement with state-of-art digital tech actually makes perfect sense. After all, Nineties lo-fi – the sound in which he and Pavement were initially vaunted as leaders and pioneers – was nothing if not insistently sonic – it was all about the grain of guitar textures, about gratuitously over-done treatments and ear-grabbing effects. Noise for noise’s sake. It’s just that it was looking to older modes and antiquated technology. From the Big Muff and the Cry Baby Wah pedal through to today’s deliberately distorted deployment of pitch-correction, there’s really an unbroken continuity: the creative misuse of technology, the aestheticization of mistakes and flaws, wrongness-as-rightness.
As Stephen tweeted recently on the subject of Auto-Tune’s omnipresence in contemporary music-making: “We long 4 transformation….and we humans fucking luv tools.”
Simon Reynolds, Jan 2019
(Tour Dates, New Shows sans Jicks In Bold, On Sale Friday Jan 25, 10am Local Time)
What would possess a respected independent label entering an (ill-fated) joint-venture with a major record company to make one of their inaugural releases a record as uncompromisingly unpleasant and visceral as Unsane’s 1994, ‘Total Destruction’ — once again, re-pressed by Matador and now on sale to mark the album’s 25th anniversary? Well, for starters, we were a bunch of arrogant motherfuckers who thought we knew better (MAN, DID THE YEARS BEAT THAT OUT OF US). Also, maybe you had to be there (and I was there — over and over and over again and I have the hearing/brain damage to prove it) but Chris Spencer, Pete Shore and Vincent Signorelli were a devastating force. That we did a somewhat crap job of convincing more than a few people of this is something we’d love to lay at the feet of Atlantic Records…so there you go. It’s everyone’s dream to do what they love and here we are still doing it.
(“Body Bomb” video, directed by Richard Kern)
Fast forward a quarter century later and Unsane are still making sick records, touring the globe (now with Dave Curran in Pete’s spot) and setting an impossibly high bar for a new generation of bands. And Matador’s still working O.T. hoping you won’t be overcome with noxious nostalgia fumes, but not before you jump on a totally destructive a 25% off sale.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Yo La Tengo’s “From A Motel 6” being released as a single thru the confusing maelstrom of the major label distribution system. It’s also Ira Kaplan’s birthday, and to celebrate both of these historic events we’re offering 25% off ‘Extra Painful’ and ‘There’s A Riot Going On’. Stream “From A Motel 6” and find your territory’s Matador Webstore
As we reach the end of 2018, it would not be an exaggeration to say we’re in the midst of many difficult moments in human history. The icecaps are melting. America is on the brink of a constitutional crisis. You can’t walk 15 feet in any major metropolis without breaking your neck on a discarded scooter. Your personal data (including everything we collect in this campaign) is being used for nefarious means. Nearly 15% of the public believes we actually told someone to “sound more like Adele.” Nearly $40 million was spent to produce “The Hurricane Heist”
All of that said, there is still beauty, mystery, and grandeur in what’s left of the fine arts. And when you’re done with the fine arts, there’s Matador’s incredible array of 2018 titles from Belle and Sebastian, Body/Head, boygenius, Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus, Iceage, Interpol, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Liz Phair, Snail Mail, Kurt Vile and Yo La Tengo. Will these records help you sort out a world gone mad? hey, they’re great, but not THAT GREAT. Almost certainly, and that’s why your friends at Matador —a label as magnanimous as it is humble — are offering an unprecedented 25% OFF when you use the code, “terribletimes” thru December 13. Orders of $40.00 and above receive a free tote bag and take it from me, a tote bag skeptic, you’re way less likely to drop shit all over the sidewalk when you have a stylish bag.
Today marks the digital release date for Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Twin Fantasy (Mirror To Mirror)’, the original 2011 recordings once again available via all streaming/download providers. As mentioned earlier in this space, the 2XLP white vinyl edition, previously released for Record Store Day 2018, is coming back in print and can be found in stores next Friday, November 9.
Car Seat Headrest’s set at the Paris edition of Pitchfork Music Festival is being webcast today at 2:30pm eastern time.
Interpol returned to “Later… with Jools Holland” (BBC) this week with a striking performance in black & white of “The Rover”, from their critically acclaimed new album ‘Marauder’. Alongside, the band have released a new version of “If You Really Love Nothing” by Pêtr Aleksänder, the duo of London musicians Tom Hobden and Eliot James, which sees the anthemic song reimagined as a transcendent, string-laden opus.
Steve Gunn’s long awaited new album, ‘The Unseen In Between’, will be released on January 18. Following the guitarist/vocalist’s 3-night residency at Brooklyn’s Union Pool this month and next, Gunn will tour with a full band throughout the US and Europe in 2019 (full dates below)
For over a decade, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gunn has been one of American music’s most pivotal figures – conjuring immersive and psychedelic sonic landscapes both live and on record, releasing revered solo albums ranking high on in-the-know end of year lists, alongside exploratory collaborations with artists as diverse as Mike Cooper, Kurt Vile, and Michael Chapman (whose most recent studio album he produced). Gunn is known for telling other people’s stories, but on his breakthrough fourth album, ‘The Unseen In Between’, he explores his own emotional landscapes with his most complex, fully realized songs to date. The lyrics evoke voyages, tempests (actual and emotional), and a rich cast of characters met along the way — the work of an artist finding a place of calm in the midst of a storm. Produced by frequent collaborator James Elkington and engineered by Daniel Schlett, the immaculately recorded ‘Unseen’ forces a reassessment of Gunn’s standing in the pantheon of the era’s great songwriters.
Getting to ‘The Unseen In Between’ itself was not easy for Gunn. In the summer of 2016, Gunn released ‘Eyes On The Lines’, his winning and elliptical debut for Matador. It should have been a triumphant moment, but exactly two weeks later, Gunn’s father and namesake died following a two-year struggle with cancer. During his sickness, he and his son had connected as never before, listening to one another’s experiences and understanding one another’s perspectives; they became not father and son but real friends.
This experience yielded the emotional centerpiece of the album. “Stonehurst Cowboy” is a duet for Gunn’s raw acoustic guitar and spare basslines by Bob Dylan’s musical director Tony Garnier, whose featured throughout the album. The song distills the lessons Gunn learned from his father and it is a solemn but tender remembrance, a tribute to his father’s reputation as a tough, wise, and witty guy from far west Philadelphia.
A sense of musical renewal and emotional complexity fits the new songs perfectly; “Luciano” seems to be about the chemistry between a bodega owner and his cat, an unspoken romance of gentle obedience and quiet gestures. But Gunn peers below the relationship’s surface and wonders about the owner’s lonely future once the cat is gone, a devastating meditation wrapped in soft strings. And then there’s “Vagabond,” Gunn’s graceful attempt to humanize a rich cast of characters whose lives have gone astray, wanderers who live outside of society’s modern safety net, who pursue “a crooked dream” in spite of what the world expects. Supported by the perfect harmonies of Meg Baird, Gunn finds something lovely in the unloved.
Inspired by contemporary artist Walter De Maria’s Dia Art Foundation-affiliated installation of 400 stainless steel poles atop the high desert of New Mexico, “Lightning Field” considers what we get out of art when it doesn’t work, when lightning does not light up the night for visitors. Opener “New Moon” may begin in the mode of a deep track from Astral Weeks or Fred Neil, with its upright bass and sparse tremolo guitar. But during the song’s final minutes, strings double the melody, and then the guitar rushes headlong, pulling ahead in a wave of ecstatic deliverance. It is a brief but liberating solo, an instant release of tension from the fraught scene Gunn has built, complemented by one of his most arresting vocal performances.
In a final contrast, “Morning is Mended” is an acoustic beauty so resplendent it ranks alongside Sandy Denny or Jackson C. Frank. Buoyed by a melody that sparkles like sunlight on still water, Gunn acknowledges the hardships around him, the feeling of being a “nothing sky,” and then moves forward into the world, walking tall into the fresh morning. The song is an apt encapsulation of ‘The Unseen In Between’, a gorgeously empathetic record that attempts to recognize the worries of the world and offer some timely assurance. It is a revelatory and redemptive set, offering the balm of understanding at a time when that seems in very short supply.