Archive for Flavor Crystals

Driftwood Pyre Take Album Of The Year Honors In Tulip Frenzy’s 2015 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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#1. Driftwood Pyre by Driftwood Pyre.

We were prone to liking Driftwood Pyre, the first album by the Minneapolis band we viewed as successors to First Communion Afterparty.  After all, FCAP’s Earth Heat Sound was Tulip Frenzy’s 2013 Album Of The Year, and we have long held them up as the best psych band of the modern age. But even so, we honestly didn’t think that this first record by Liam Watkins and company would sail past all contenders for Album Of The Year honors on its maiden voyage.  Combining the best elements from Watkins’ previous band — the emotionally vibrant slow strum of the guitar, the Mamas und Papas background vox, the psychedelic traces limning with chromatic aberration a vibrantly electric landscape — when the album came out we exulted like an archaeologist reclaiming a lost civilization.  Eureka! A little more of a straight-ahead rock band, with elements of Oasis, the Cramps, and even the Rolling Stones undergirding a well-produced set of uniformly good songs, we can rejoice in the way Driftwood Pyre carry the embers of its antecedents even as it strikes out onto a new, commercially solid, nonetheless uncompromising sound.

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#2. 1000 Days by Wand.

By our count, it was less than 365 days from the moment last year we saw Wand supporting Ty Segall at the 930 Club to the release of their third album in approximately a year.  1000 Days was instantly recognizable as a breakthrough, an incredibly ambitious work combining Eno-esque synths and prog song structures with the punk’n’thunder of this young band’s previous two recs.  Seeing them a few weeks ago at the Black Cat only confirmed that Cory Hanson has to be added to the roster of West Coast phenoms — Ty, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, and Tim Presley of White Fence — keeping rock’n’roll alive and kicking in a hostile world.  The thing about 1000 Days is that it both seems like a mere extension to Golem and Ganglion Reef, Wand’s previous two albums, and is conceptually bolder, suggesting Hanson’s songwriting is growing magically, a sorcerer’s conjuring of talent that should bring them their deserved audience over the next 1000 days.

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#3. In Triangle Time by Kelley Stoltz

It took us a little bit of time to adjust to what our longtime fave Kelley Stoltz was up to with In Triangle Time.  We have so much admiration for how Stoltz has been able to create record after record of meticulously crafted pop songs while playing every imaginable instrument (look ma, no band!) that it took us a few days to realize In Triangle Time is a concept record, and that for someone who lived through that musical moment this album captures so well — the early ’80s interregnum between the first Echo and The Bunnymen singles and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, between post-punk and the horrible mid-’80s drift that followed — it was okay that Kelley had put away the harpsichord and piano for electric keyboards, and switched the Ray Davies’ sensibility for songs that stretched the wire between such disparate poles as Captain Beefheart’s Ice Cream For Crow and Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark.  As always, Kelley’s singing and musicianship are epic, and while we look forward to his next phase, and pine for a return to his ’60s weirdo sensibilities, when playing this genius’s latest, how can you not just want to dress like the cast of Deutschland ’83 and whirl around the room?

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#4. I Declare Nothing by Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe

The May-September collaboration between the Toronto-based singer Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe, the Berlin-based longtime leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, was even greater than we could have hoped for. Parks’ 2013 debut album, Blood Hot, already revealed her to be one of the many young artists who look to BJM the way Newcombe and his generation looked to the Velvet Underground, but what was remarkable here was how Newcombe stepped into the subordinate role, not merely letting Parks have the top billing, but letting her sing every song.  Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised, for as early as “Anemone,” Anton has often stepped back and let women sing the best melodies. With Anton in the role of bandleader and guitarist, this was an album that sunk deep into our bones, a smoky, noir-ish sound that clashed with the bright sunshine of the summer out West where we listened to it every day.  Most people got it, but we could only laugh at the British rock critters who sniffed, “Well, it’s good, but it sounds just like a Brian Jonestown Massacre record.”  Yep, that’s why we loved it.

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#5. All Yours by Widowspeak

When “Girls” was released late last spring, we woke up and took notice.  We’d loved Widowspeak’s Jarvis Taveniere-produced debut in 2011, but found the follow-up, 2013’s Almanac, a trifle problematic, as Molly Hamilton’s ethereal voice, lathered on too thick, can be like a cake that’s all icing and air.  Yet “Girls” was a nutritious harmonic pastry, still sweet but plenty nourishing, and a few months later when “All Yours” was released, we prayed that the full album would be as good as those two songs.  Happily, Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas’s move from Brooklyn to Upstate New York has filled their music with fresh Hudson Valley air, and any cloying sensibilities have been washed away.  The sugar high is gone, we happily declared with All Yours came out in September, and it was a wonderful backdrop to autumn.

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#6. Wire by Wire

I think we were supposed to take it as a statement that nearly 40 years after Wire announced themselves with Pink Flag — probably the single most influential punk debut of all time — they released a record simply entitled Wire. Wire is here, they declared, seemingly forever, releasing in 2015 music often as powerful and poignant as what was on Chairs Missing and their first-phase masterpiece, 154, which came out in 1978 and ’79, respectively. We exulted in what a gorgeous record Wire proved to be, but after the string of really strong records they’ve produced since the band reformed full time a decade ago — particularly 2011’s Red Barked Tree and 2013’s Change Becomes Us — we shoulda known better than to expect anything less.  Ah, but then we were flat out stunned, I guess is the word, by the strength of their show at the Black Cat last spring.  Colin Newman may not have the voice he once had, and on Wire he seemed to bow to reality by singing consistently melodic pop songs, not that cockney-rebellious thrashing punk of yore, but there is no question that the rhythm section of Robert “Gotobed” Grey and Bruce Gilbert is the Entwistle-Moon combo of the modern age, and with a minimalist young guitarist filling in, it’s no wonder that a young star like Courtney Barnett would exult on Twitter how amazing was the Wire show she saw in Berlin just a few weeks ago.

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#7. Sometimes I Sit And Think… And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett was the breakout star of the year, at least in the commercially blinkered circles in which we so proudly travel.  Her sold out show at the 930 Club last May, fittingly on the same day as the DC Pride Parade, was in many ways D.C.’s concert of the year.  The CB3 are a powerful hard-thumping trio, a cross between The Attractions and Nirvana, and given how high-torque Barnett’s songs were on her debut rec, it’s no surprise that it was only after seeing her play live that we fully came to appreciate Sometimes I Sit And Think… And Sometimes I Just Sit. The release of that album sure caused us to sit and think, to dwell for some time trying to get our mind around it, for after months of babbling to everyone we met about how great The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas was, we were a little put off by how amped up the power pop was on the album.  Last year’s double EP was more relaxed, the faux-slacker message more aligned with the music, and we loved it no end.  When the album came out this spring, fairly bursting from our speakers, and it was clear that this wasn’t some Aussie Millennial yucking it up with pals; when it was obvious even to someone thick as us that Barnett is an incredibly ambitious rock-star-in-the-making, we were, yeah, slightly turned off.  But we came to terms with Courtney Barnett, oh yes we did, after seeing her live, and realizing that, with all the many analytical misses we’ve had over the years, assuming one fave artist after another was going to be yuge, yuge we say, here we had empirical evidence that Barnett was going for the brass ring, and unquestionably would grab it. And so we relaxed.  The paradox of Tulip Frenzy generally only raving about music few fans will buy was overwhelmed by the joy we ultimately felt at understanding, without a doubt, Courtney Barnett is going to be, uh, huge.  It’s going to be great.

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#8. Mutilator Defeated At Last by Thee Oh Sees

With Ty Segall off messing around with Fuzz and various other projects, and Tim Presley, with typical perversity, failing to follow up on the success of White Fence’s winner of last year’s Tulip Frenzy Album of the Year accolades (For The Recently Found Innocent), it fell to Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer to wave the West Coast freak flag, and on Mutilator Defeated At Last a new version of the band came through like a 21-gun salute bringing down a space ship.  We were apprehensive about what the record would sound like, for since Dwyer had broken up in 2013 with his epic bandmates in the prior version of Thee Oh Sees, and last year’s Drop saw a sudden loss of cabin pressure, as they say when things get a little rough, we didn’t know what to expect. But this version of Thee Oh Sees beat out White Fence as the pick ‘o the muddy litter at May’s LEVITATION/Austin Psych Fest, and oh yeah, the record was boss.  The double-drum set up of the youngsters Dwyer has recruited to the band thunders like elephants stampeding through your tent, and Dwyer’s manic songwriting is still the most exciting thing that’s happened to music since amplifiers.

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#9. Starflower by The Magic Castles

Minneapolis, as will be clear momentarily, was the Center of The Rock’n’Roll universe in 2015, as The Magic Castles joined their fellow Twin Cities citizens Driftwood Pyre on our Top Ten List.  A few years ago, on the basis of seeing them open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, we asked if the Magic Castles might be the best young band in America.  While maybe that promise has eluded them, we found Starflower to be an amazing combination of Newcombe-esque songwriting/guitar layering and the most mysterious garage band sound since Lenny Kaye headed to Detroit with a cassette deck in hand.

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#10 The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals by The Flavor Crystals

Lo and behold, a third Minneapolis band rounds out The 2015 Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List, adding symmetry to our ranking.  See if you notice the pattern: we first heard Flavor Crystals open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and yeah, their first album On Plastic seemed to find that crevice between Television and Luna in our brain’s musi-rogenous zone.  But their second and third albums didn’t quite pack the same punch.  The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals sent a 50-Amp shiver up our spine. This is an album for a long car ride, for sitting at home while the snow drifts pile, it’s dreamy and slow, but it’s also exciting and breathtakingly beautiful.  After years in which it seemed like either San Francisco or Brooklyn were the places you’d want to be, Flavor Crystals — standing on the podium next to Driftwood Pyre and Magic Castles — signal Minnesota’s where it’s at.

The New Flavor Crystals Album Sends A Shiver Up The Spine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 23, 2015 by johnbuckley100

You really have to listen to the Flavor Crystals’ new album, though not if you have anyplace you need to go.  The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is the fourth LP from the Twin Cities psych band, and once you put it on, you may as well sit down and settle in. You won’t want to leave.

Hailing from precincts that have given us First Communion Afterparty and The Magic Castles, the Flavor Crystals quickly dissolved into a minimalist solution, with droning guitar lines over a steady beat, the vocals sometimes an afterthought.  Even fans — and we very much consider ourselves in that category — will be forgiven for admitting the Flavor Crystals are a little more thrilling on stage than perhaps heretofore on their albums, which occasionally have put the Ambien in ambient.

The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is stronger than even the best songs on 2008’s Ambergris, which is saying something, and reminded us of why, the moment we saw them open for The Brian Jonestown Massacre and then downloaded “Checker Board” from their debut, On Plastic, we saw Flavor Crystals as a necessary additive to our life.  It is much stronger than their heralded Third, which we found a little lacking in propulsion.  These songs dial up the melody and urgency, though the band certainly never breaks a sweat.

There aren’t easy comparisons to other bands, more like affinities.  The songs are based on the interplay between guitarists that  places them on the same taxonomic scale as Luna, Television, Real Estate.  Twin City friends and fellow BJM allies Magic Castles come to mind.  But then so do much louder bands like My Bloody Valentine, and even more intricate composers like Jonny Greenwood.  Honestly, I could see putting a song like “Diamond Mine” not on a psych playlist, where I’ve routinely dropped their best ‘uns over the past few years.  I could see playing it back to back with Miles Davis’s “In A Silent Way,” maybe with something by Cluster and Eno.

This is gorgeous music, thrilling and relaxing at the same time.  Play it loud.  Just don’t plan on going anywhere.

How To Survive The Wait Until First Communion Afterparty Release “Earth Heat Sound”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2013 by johnbuckley100

When we last reported on First Communion Afterparty, it was prior to their  reuniting to play at the July 5th Bathysphere: A Psychonautical Voyage in hometown Minneapolis.  We knew about it because of a tip from a loyal reader in the Twin Cities, and pulling on the string of magic yarn he dangled before us, we found out not only that, at long bloody last, FCAP are going to release Earth Heat Sound, the album they’d recorded before they broke up, but that there were two off-shoot bands that sound an awful lot like the original Minneapolis psychedelic champions — whom you know we believe to be the greatest band this steaming glorious wreck of a nation has thrown out there since about 2000. We don’t know when Earth Heat Sound is to be released — though we urge any and all FCAP fans to channel info this way — but we do have some instructions on how you can bide the time until the magic moment arrives.  Ready?

1. Go to Bandcamp and listen to Driftwood Pyre’s demo/early version of their forthcoming E.P.  Scenes of The American Midwest Underground Vol. 1 of course takes its name from Big Hits From Mid-America, Vol. 1, the 1979 Twin/Tone sampler from which so many boss Americans learned about the great Suicide Commandos (by that time, forced by Suicide’s lawyers to change their name to The Commandos), not to mention NNB and the Suburbs.  (Come to think of it, wasn’t Vol. 2 how we all first heard of the Jayhawks?) But we digress.  Driftwood Pyre’s Bandcamp songs sound like exactly what you’d expect from the boys in First Communion Afterparty.  (There are two girls in the band, but we don’t know if one is the fantastic bass player who was in FCAP.)  If you just have to have your hit of FCAP Minny Psyche, this is an excellent way to tide yourself over until Earth Heat Sound is, at last, released.

2. Go to Bandcamp and download the single by FCAP offshoot Is/Is.  Not as good as Driftwood Pyre, but the same squalls of guitar wrapped in reverb.  You’ll like it.

3. Go find Three, the third album by the Flavor Crystals, which is more ruminative than the straight-ahead psychedelica of either FCAP or their offshoots, and perhaps not as good as their Television-esque early work, but still a fun listen.

4. If for some reason you’ve been slow on the uptake of checking out the Magic Castles, get thee to the iTunes store and start downloading.  The eponymous 2012 release, produced by mentor Anton Newcombe, is one of the most thrilling records of the past two years, as we pointed out last year when we asked, “Are the Magic Castles the best young band in America?” Landing somewhere between Brian Jonestown Massacre  and classic psyche, we’re disappointed we don’t have a new album to push, but  as of July 8th, their Facebook page was reporting progress on a new ‘un.

5. Finally, for something a little further afield, go check out the Bandcamp page of Fire In The Northern Firs.  Why do we include it here, since they don’t really sound like a Minneapolis psychedelic band?  Mostly because we like their album, which you can download, and the Minneapolis Rock’n’Roll Chamber o’ Commerce promised to send us a lutefisk if we pimped for all their most promising bands.

Hey First Communion Afterparty?  You could end this, and guarantee yourself an audience of, well, dozens, if you’d just give us a firm date for the release of Earth Heat Sound.  (Taps wristwatch.) We are waiting.

First Communion Afterparty Reunite For Next Week’s Bathysphere Psychefest

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by johnbuckley100

First Communion Afterparty were (are?) the best band to emerge from the squall of the past decade’s neo-psychedelica, and their break-up, two years ago — before releasing Earth Heat Sound, their follow up to their brilliant debut, Sorry For All The Mondays and to Those Who Can’t Sing — was a bummer of the first rank.  But now comes an Owsley-pure jolt of good news: not only are FCAP going to be appearing at next Friday’s Bathysphere: A Psychonautical Voyage, but in the weeks ahead, they are going to perform again, when they release, posthumously if in the flesh, Earth Heat Sound.

The Bathysphere psychefest at First Avenue in Minneapolis, promises to be the best spot on the globe you could be on July 5th, with Dean and Britta headlining, but also our faves Magic Castles, Flavor Crystals, and even Sonic Boom of Spaceman 3 appearing.  Secret Colours, a young Chicago band whose astonishing album Peach has just been released, are a fitting addition to a lineup that also includes stalwarts The Volta Sound.  If you are anywhere between Pittsburg and Sioux Falls on the 4th, get in your rainbow-colored VW bus and head to Minneapolis.

We know about next week’s Bathysphere, and the glorious news about First Communion Afterparty, due to the tip provided by  the very helpful Twin City denizen Ben Schultz, who not only gave us this info, but also steered us toward Is/Is, one of the FCAP offshoot bands.  Additionally, Ben turned us on to Mojo Pin-Up, a presumably deceased combo including Liam Watkins of FCAP with members of the Magic Castles, whose tailings, deposited across the web, are tantalizing.

The other FCAP offshoot to keep your eye on is Driftwood Pyre, whose early demos capture the same magic as First Communion Afterparty — that same melding of Jefferson Airplane and the Brian Jonestown Massacre that gets our heart fluttering faster their our cranial synapses.

So, lots to chew on.  And here are your instructions: First Communion Afterparty return to play next weekend, and will finally release the album we’ve waited for since 2008; set a reminder to buy Earth Heat Sound, and if you haven’t already listened to Sorry For All The Mondays, aw, man, what are you waiting for?  Set your GPS on next Friday’s Bathysphere psychefest in Minneapolis.  Immediately go buy Secret Colours’ amazing new album Peach. Track down Mojo Pin-Up.  Wait for new happenings from Is/Is, and get excited, now, for Driftwood Pyre.

Thing are looking bright, no?

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