Leica Monochrom (Typ-246), 50mm Noctilux, Dumbarton Oaks.
When we saw Wand open for Ty Segall just over a year ago, we marveled at their potent combination of sludge and Power Pop. We knew that Cory Hanson was a promising songwriter, a great singer, and as a guitarist was cut from the same Jolly Rogers jib as his mentor. Drummer Evan Burrows brought this manic Keith Moon presence to the alternately gooey and hyper-speed proceedings, and the bass player… the bass player was the fulcrum around which these two tyros twisted.
We had no idea, though, listening to Wand’s excellent debut, Ganglion Reef, that barely one year later, they would have not only their sophomore release out, but they’d have crammed in enough credits to release a third album and in record speed ace junior year.
Golem came out in March, 1000 Days last Friday, and between the two of them, one easily could cull a single Album of The Year. Any year. It could be 1975 and we’re listening to Pink Floyd, 1990 and we’re listening to the Smashing Pumpkins, or 2010 and we’re simultaneously grokking on Ty and Tame Impala. These are rough coordinates for these guys: they play with the power of Ty in his melodic punk incarnation, can turn on a dime into Prog, and can just melt metal til it’s goo. Whereas before we could identify them by their chums — Hanson may be a Ty Segal protege, but he was also Mikael Cronin’s housemate. These days we may as well throw in the whole West Coast gang — let’s add the Thee Oh Sees and White Fence, too, and declare: these guys are no one’s apprentice, they are now said musical giants’ peers.
The new one is the poppier of the two 2015 releases. Sure, it thunders like Niagara when it needs to. But there is genuine craftsmanship to the chops, the sonic values upend the old advertising come on: in space, everyone can hear you scream.
We don’t know what the judges are going say about how many recs by the same band can be considered for the Tulip Frenzy 2015 Top Ten List. Watch this space.
Time was when the H Street Corridor — the last section of D.C. to burn in the days following the assassination of Dr. King — was a symbol of D.C.’s decline. These days, it’s a symbol of the city’s revival.
Even two years ago, the H Street Festival in September drew maybe 50,000 visitors. Yesterday, though, it seemed the whole city came out. Or put differently, the multi-ethnic city was drawn, even if just for an afternoon, to a stretch of town with new amenities and much easier coexistence than existed here even a decade ago.
Sure, you had the guys from the Nation of Islam seeing a neighborhood almost unrecognizable from what it looked like 20 years ago.
But you also had young artists showing their wares near The Rock and Roll Hotel, which seemed to have started the trend, eight or nine years ago, in which the H Street Corridor became a natural rival to U Street for urban nightlife.
It was a perfect September day, a little warm, maybe, but with perfect light.
And everywhere we went, we were reminded of the uniqueness of our city, where wonks carry the world on their shoulders.
Most bands that invite comparisons to The Fall — from the Pixies to the Breeders to Pavement — are so categorized because of the guitar sound. Montreal’s Ought, who last week released a pretty stunning sophomore album, Sun Coming Down, travel a different path: guitarist and singer Tim Darcy sounds remarkably like that great misanthrope, Mark E. Smith, whose nasally sprechengesang once emerged from the speakers we listened to far more often than contemporaries such as Bono, Paul Westerberg, and Black Francis.
Ought packs a wallop, and mostly tunefully. Trying to place them taxonomically would likely have them slotted near the Parquet Courts, but it’s hard to get around the fact that Mr. Darcy revels in his singing-talking of repeated phrases to such an extent the Fall are never far from mind.
And that’s a good thing! If your memory goes back to the ’80s, it was a long slog from the emergence of X early in the decade to the arrival of the Pixies at the end, with — let’s face it — only The Replacements, Fleshtones, REM, U2, the Mekons, and Elvis Costello generating much enthusiasm in between. A trio of albums in the mid-part of the decade — The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, The Nation’s Saving Grace, and Bend Sinister — stood heads and tails above all contemporaries. And now comes Ought, one-time college chums in Montreal who clearly spent a lot of time studying those records and the Manchester band’s earlier output, and we give them an A+ for their diligence and enthusiasm.
Sometimes a band sound like their heroes and, while fun to listen to, you can dismiss them for second-rate imitation, a derivation without promise. And sometimes there is a band like the Velvet Underground that spawns an entire multi-generation genre such that their derivates become a favorite category in and of themselves: from the Modern Lovers to the Talking Heads, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Luna and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Listening to Darcy sing, “What is that sensation” over and over on “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and being able to place it perfectly in the context of the earlier band, we feel alright, we feel optimistic, we know we’ll be listening to these guys for a long time to come.
Two instruments vie for notice in Widowspeak’s music — Molly Hamilton’s pretty, ethereal voice and Robert Earl Thomas’s canny, spare guitar. We have raved about their earlier work, but also worried that what Hamilton and Thomas too often deliver yields a sugar high. Earlier work has been short on the gritty substance needed to sustain interest, not just over the long haul, but over a single album. And yet, from the moment early in the summer that we heard “Girls,” a standout track on their recently released All Yours, it was clear that Widowspeak have matured into the fine band they have promised to be ever since the release of their initial, Jarvis Tavaniere-produced album.
The connection to Woods goes beyond Tavaniere, as All Yours reportedly comprises Hamilton and Thomas recording with Woods’ rhythm section in bucolic Columbia County. Emigrants from Brooklyn, the couple have removed themselves from the hipsters’ paradise and by the banks of the Hudson produced their best music yet. There were moments on Almanac, their second record, that were magical, but it was too often a cloying confection. On All Yours, the songwriting is strong, the singing is gorgeous without being thinner than air, and Thomas’s guitar work shows lean muscle mass. Think of the best tracks Syd Straw cut with The Golden Paliminos, Neko Case singing with the Mekons. This is one dream pop album that sticks in your head even as the substance sticks to your ribs.