Mikal Cronin – You Gotta Have Someone

When Mikal Cronin was touring on his self-titled record put out earlier this year by Trouble in Mind, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when he introduced some unrecorded songs during his set by saying “Okay, here’re a couple new ones.” His album had just been released. Weren’t they all new ones? But, in the spirit of his San Francisco peers, Cronin seems to be writing at a faster pace than he can record. I don’t know if these are songs that didn’t make the album or ones that were written after it was cut, but they’re equally as good. The Tide / You Gotta Have Someone 7″ will be out through Goner later this month. You can listen to “You Gotta Have Someone” below:

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Bloodshot Bill – Thunder and Lightning

Canadian singer/songwriter, and one-man band rockabilly virtuoso Bloodshot Bill released Thunder and Lightning back in April of 2011 on Norton Records. Bloodshot Bill’s been active making music with King Kahn and Mark Sultan of late, performing in both Tandoori Knights and the Ding Dong’s, but his solo work is where he really shines. In his live show, Bloodshot Bill comes across as a modern day, demon-possessed Hasil Adkins, growlin’, hootin’ and hollerin’ his way through his set with reckless abandon, while simultaneously wailing on his guitar and kicking away on his minimal drum kit. Singing and strumming just isn’t enough for some people, I guess.  On record, things are more restrained, but Thunder and Lightning certainly retains all of his character. You can hear about 5-6 significantly different vocal sounds on the album, and although they often sound like they’re coming from different people, it’s all Bill. Musically, it’s a more straightforward approach, with a solid mix of slower rockabilly numbers and some more upbeat rock and roll stompers. The mix is rough, but it just makes the record sound old; Thunder and Lightning could easily be mistaken for long lost Sun Records album, if not for the weird vocal stylings. Essentially, if you gathered the Cramps, the Mummies, and Carl Perkins into one body, and then asked him to perform, you’d have Bloodshot Bill, a man who forgoes reinventing the wheel to simply pummel it back into shape. Check out the video for the title track “Thunder and Lightning” below and have a listen to “Crazy ‘Bout the Girl” while you’re at it.

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Heavy Times – Jacker

Hozac Records released Chicago-based Heavy Times’ second full-length LP Jacker November 1st, 2011.  Jacker embodies the band’s blue-collar “shut up and play” mentality through and through, and with a 23-minute running time, there’s not an ounce of fucking around on this album. Their straightforward plug-and-play approach gives Jacker a strong live feel, which is enhanced by the fact that everything is mixed way too loud. Nevertheless, the lo-fi aesthetic really adds a lot to the energy and charm of the record, which starts off blasting with “Motionless Drift” and doesn’t let up until it’s over. Singer Bo Hansen’s voice is pretty reminiscent of Page Hamilton at many points throughout the album, but musically, they have more in common with Husker Du than they do Helmet, with a sound that falls more on the rock side of punk rock. Heavy Times is the type of band that’s more interested in bumming smokes after the show than selling merch, and each song on Jacker is a muddy, no-frills rock and roll romp of dual-guitar attack that reflects this attitude. Have a listen to “Skull Hair” and “Future City” below:

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The Strange Boys – Live Music

Rough Trade released the Strange Boys Live Music October 25, 2011, and despite the misleading title, the album is actually their third studio full-length. Upon first listen, it’s apparent that the album presents a slicker incarnation of the band. Dylan and the Stones remain as reference points, yet the boys seem to be taking different cues from their heroes. While, previous outings had the feeling of a messy barroom interaction full of booze-inspired confessions, Live Music often feels more like an intimate back porch conversation. Simply put, they’ve grown up. Less focused on making a racket, they’ve redirected their energy towards songwriting and refining their craft, producing some very soulful pop songs that live, breathe and sweat Americana. Production is clearer, the amps have been turned down and a number of these songs are piano-based. Overall, they seem to be taking their music more seriously and Live Music serves as a strong addition to the Strange Boys catalog of albums. Have a listen to “Me and You” and “Punk’s Pajamas” below:

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Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream

Thank God John Dwyer’s been too busy with bong rips and songwriting to take his Adderall because 2011 brought us a whole slew of new Oh Sees songs via In the Red Records. Carrion Crawler/The Dream is the most recent full-length, which dropped in late November, and while the previous album Castlemania (released earlier this year) was a poppy affair deeply rooted in San Fran Summer of Love psychedelia, Carrion Crawler takes the band back to the sound of dimed amps and explosive guitars forged on albums like Help and Warm Slime. If you’ve seen Thee Oh Sees live within the past year, you should be familiar with songs like “The Dream”, “Crushed Grass” and “Crack in Your Eye,” and if not, you’re in for a real treat. They’ve expanded their lineup to include a second drummer, which really fills out their rhythm section and provides a solid backbeat to Dwyer’s onslaught of garage-psych madness. Dwyer’s favorite joke to make during a show is that all their songs sound the same, but when you’ve stumbled upon a sound that’s so enticing, unique and full of experimentation, what’s the use in changing it? Have a listen to the upbeat ripper “The Dream” and the slow-burning “Crack in Your Eye” below:

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Wooden Shjips – West

Ripley Johnson’s output through both Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo has been rather prolific, and at this point, he’s already solidified his status as one of the finest and most consistent creators of psych going right now. His primary band Wooden Shjips are returning with a new album of kraut-inspired psychedelic rock entitled West, and the new album carries on with the band’s signature sound, which features loud guitars, swirling organs, driving basslines and a lot of repetition, creating music that you’re supposed to get lost in. The pulsing rhythms and hazy drones immerse the listener in a wash of sounds, creating a trance-like feeling. However, before being lulled to sleep, a well placed chord change or solo will jostle you back to life. There are a lot of bands that get labeled as psychedelic rock, but Wooden Shjips is one of the only ones that can actually make you feel like you’re on something. West finds the band sticking to what they know and do well, but we also see them refining their act as they subtly play around with aspects of their song structures, solos, and sounds in general – and to great effect. Ripley’s got more than a few tricks stowed away in that gnarly beard of his, and it’s all in the details. Listen closely and you’ll see these are some of the richest and most dynamic songs he’s ever written. West will be out on Thrill Jockey Sept. 13th, 2011. Check out “Flight,” “Lazy Bones” and the video for “Black Smoke Rise” below.

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Crystal Antlers – Two-Way Mirror

Crystal Antlers self-released their latest album Two-Way Mirror on their own Recreation Ltd. July 12, 2011. A lot of buzz surrounded this band with their s/t EP, but the reception was mixed for the follow up Tentacles, which bears the title of last Touch and Go release. Personally, I thought Tentacles was a solid record, even if the organ got a little cartoony at times. It took the band in a direction that deviated from their explosive Comets On Fire-esque psych freakouts and explored a different means of songwriting that utilized the sonic palette of psych rock to create some punk inspired indie rock songs. Featuring cover art by the legendary artist Raymond Pettibon, Two-Way Mirror finds the band picking up where they left off with Tentacles but retreating a bit to find a middle ground between that album and their EP. The band shows their range in the type of song they can create on Two-Way Mirror,  which includes some slow-burning tracks alongside the druggy freakouts. Without a doubt, “Summer Solstice” is the highlight and cornerstone of this album, and the song demonstrates the fully-realized marriage of pysch and indie rock that the band has hinted at creating with such previous songs as “Andrew” and “Little Sister.” Nevertheless, Crystal Antlers shows that they have no intention of writing an album full of pop songs, and immediately follow up “Summer Solstice” with the aggressive and completely fried intro to “By the Sawmill.” Overall, Two-Way Mirror expands upon and solidifies their already unique sound to create another solid release by an underrated band. Have a listen to “Summer Solstice” below.

Crystal Antlers will be touring this Summer, mostly with Wu Lyf. The band’s songs are best heard live, so be sure to check them out if they’re coming to your town.

9/10 San Diego, CA – Bar Pink (w/ White Fence)
10/19 Riverside, CA – The Barn

Dates Below are with Wu Lyf:
11/6 Washington, DC – Rock N Roll Hotel
11/8 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
11/10 Boston, MA – Middle East Downstairs
11/11 Montreal, QC – Il Motore
11/12 Toronto, ON – Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
11/14 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
11/15 Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
11/18 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl
11/19 Seattle, WA – Crocodile Café
11/21 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
11/22 Los Angeles, CA – The Troubadour

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