A lot of chatterboxes in the audience, but here’s a video of Magnetic Fields performing “Andrew in Drag” this past week at All Tomorrow’s Parties. The song is the “single” on their new Merge recording Love at the Bottom of the Sea. Merge is also sharing a download of the song via Soundcloud (embed below). And there’s an official video too: here’s the link, but, given the subject matter, some may find it NSFW. Then again, when have the Magnetic Fields been entirely SFW?
Leave it to Lambchop to eschew a glitzy promo video in favor of spotlighting Nashville’s underground wrestling community! The single “Gone Tomorrow,” taken from their new Merge CD Mr. M, is accompanied by a mini-documentary about the Stadium Inn, a hotel that doubles as a proving ground for the grappling set.
Baltimorean duo Wye Oak, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jenn Wasner and drummer/vocalist Andy Stack, craft their most nuanced music to date on Civilian, their third LP. That’s not to say that the band doesn’t thunder with abandon in places, such as the splashes of distortion and vigorous guitar crescendos on “Holy Holy” and “Dog Eyes.” But elsewhere, as on opener “Two Small Deaths,” there is a subtle incorporation of ambient sounds, high, ethereal vocals, and a more layered arranging touch at work.
While Wye Oak has long been in the “indie rock” bin, Civilian complicates this designation by adding a strong influence of folk music to the mix. One can hear it in the gently strummed acoustic guitars that introduce and populate many of the songs, even those that eventually swell and swoon in a more elaborate and electrified ambience. For example, there’s a rustic quality on the title track’s vocal that reminds one of a folk ballad. That said, rock eventually asserts itself: acoustic instruments give way to a wall of electric guitars, including a shredding solo from Wasner reminiscent of Freedom-era Neil Young. Elsewhere, rock and folk are simultaneously juxtaposed, as on “Hot as Day,” where mathy syncopated rhythms underpin a crooning vocal.
On the beautiful duet “The Altar,” one can’t help but adjust their perceptions of Wye Oak to encompass a wider spectrum of styles than the indie rock template that previously dominated their sound; the strands of alt-folk commingling with indie guitars and even some synth-pop underpinnings. It’s a microcosm of the signature achievement of Civilian: expanding Wye Oak’s reach while remaining true to the essence of the band’s music making.
It’s been nine years since Superchunk released an LP of new material. Of course, in the intervening time the band members have been active in other ways, releasing songs on various comps and serving as curators of indiedom with the Merge imprint. Frontman Mac McCaughan has been prolific apart from Superchunk, releasing music in a variety of contexts – notably with his other project Portastatic.
That said, it’s great to hear Superchunk back together again on a full length recording. They remain capable of punchy, catchy rock singles – like the leadoff track “Digging for Something” (live on Jimmy clip and official video below). Elsewhere, as on “My Gap Feels Weird” and “Learned to Surf,” the music is imparted with mathy syncopations, time shifts, and undulating guitar riffs.
Superchunk has never been a band to get mired in sentiment. If the ballads on Majesty’s Shredding feel a bit caffeinated, they’re still exemplars of emotive reflection sans bombast. “Fractures in Plaster” and the album’s mid-tempo closer “Everything at Once” are particularly affecting.
One request for Superchunk: next time out, don’t take so much time between albums!
Although hearing that the band is on the cusp of releasing their NINTH LP this Fall on the Merge imprint makes us feel a little chronologically advanced, we love Superchunk all the same. Check out this teaser video about the indie rock stalwarts’ new project, Majesty Shredding.
Superchunk tour dates:
6/19 Denver, CO – Westword Music Festival
6/20 Chicago, IL – Taste of Randolph Street Festival w/The Love Language
7/24 Omaha, NE – MAHA Music Festival
9/17 Washington, DC- 930 Club
9/18 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
9/19 Brooklyn, NY- Music Hall of Williamsburg
9/20 New York, NY – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
9/21 Boston, MA- Royale
9/22 Philadelphia, PA- Trocadero
In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s
Lest a band risk overplaying its hand, they should carefully consider their debut album’s title. Take Let’s Wrestle, who’ve named their first full length recording In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s. Any record titled with such quirky poor grammar, and such an audacious pop reference point (King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King) had better bring the goods musically. Happily, the band proves be a fine addition to the Merge imprint.
While the buzz about this recording was that it would be a punk record, and its title suggests some sort of reaction (pro/con/commentary) on prog, it is neither of these things, exactly. Rather, it seems to fall into the rollicking catchall of indie rock, with an emphasis on noisy jocularity. An apt reference point might be Art Brut with a bit less Dada and a bit more Dinosaur Jr.
The best song on the recording, and the one you’ll most likely be humming hours after listening to it, is “We are the Men You’ll Grow to Love Soon.” Its jaunty, cheeky video is below.
Another set of releases we’ll be scouting in our jaunts to Vintage Vinyl, , Princeton Record Exchange, , and other venues in the Garden State on Record Store Day are these limited edition 7″s from our friends at Merge Records.
Sure, there’s a convenience factor with the digital music revolution that’s appealing. But vinyl rules: don’t let anyone tell you any different!