M. Ward's vibrant new record rapidly breaks through the clouds to sunny pop; Heron Oblivion takes listeners on a dark, psychedelic trip; Thao & The Get Down Stay Down's “A Man Alive” is like a full-back tattoo: It’s not for everyone and it’s gonna hurt like hell, but the result is breathtaking.
BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS
“More Rain” (Merge)
M. Ward has been wicked prolific with She & Him, Monsters of Folk and other projects recently, but his last solo album was 2012’s “A Wasteland Companion.” Now, he’s rewarding patient indie-folk fans with “More Rain,” a vibrant record that rapidly breaks through the clouds to sunny pop.
“Pirate Dial” would fit in on Paul Simon’s 1972 self-titled solo album. “Time Won’t Wait” sounds ’90s alt-weird (think Meat Puppets) with its hearty piano and sweet T.Rex-esque guitar riff. The harmonies on “I’m Listening (Child’s Theme)” hearken back to Ward’s original idea for a straight-up doo-wop album. His lilting lyrical delivery on “Temptation” melds with the surfy lead guitar, calling The Go-Gos’ “Vacation” to mind. Ward’s warm, welcoming vocals and lyrical finesse artfully unifies all this genre-hopping.
Watch the official music video for “Girl from Conejo Valley” below:
“Heron Oblivion” (Sub Pop)
Stream “Funeral Funk ’49,” a dirgey shout-out to The James Gang’s ’70s rocker “Funk #49m,” at Heron Oblivion’s Bandcamp page. While it’s not a straight-up cover, savvy listeners will recognize a comparable, albeit slower, rhythm loping throughout Heron Oblivion’s eponymous full-length debut.
The San Francisco quartet — avian soprano and drummer Meg Baird; guitarists Noel Harmonson and Charlie Saufley; and bassist Ethan Miller — self-identifies as “funeral folk,” “fuzz burn” and “Albion dirge,” and its members hail from an assortment of psych, new folk and noise rock bands like Espers and Six Organs of Admittance.
Recorded by lo-fi producer Eric Bauer (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees), the release’s seven rumbling, febrile tracks prove a dark, psychedelic trip. Standouts include “Oriar,” “Rama” and “Seventeen Landscapes.”
Take a listen to “Oriar” below:
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down:
“A Man Alive” (Ribbon Music)
Our parents’ deaths are as inevitable as our own, but the abandonment can feel unbearable. When the people who created us die, can we ever fill the hole in our hearts? Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s new album “A Man Alive” asks this heavy question.
Thao Nguyen’s father ditched her family early on. Despite creative and critical success, Nguyen has been walking wounded ever since. Thao & TGDSD’s last album “We The Common” focused on outreach, human connection and Thao’s volunteer work with the California Coalition for Women’s Prisoners; their new release looks inward, poking at the dad-shaped hole in Thao’s heart.
“Millionaire” opens with warped loops eerily reminiscent of a carousel before its lyrics kick you in the chest: “Daddy I broke into a million pieces / That makes you a millionaire.” “A Man Alive” is like a full-back tattoo: It’s not for everyone and it’s gonna hurt like hell, but the result is breathtaking.
Watch the rivetingly gory music video for “Astonished Man” below:
M. Brianna Stallings writes so you don’t have to.
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