Artwork by Anthony Bauer

And three quarters of the year have come and gone. Summer was fun and shows went off all over the country. It’s very possible because you were attending so many live shows that you forgot about a little thing called the album. Well if you did we’re back with another installment of music that you may have missed.

Last quarter was packed with so much music that not all of it could make it onto the list. These titles include the made for our times Quietly Blowing It by Hiss Golden Messenger, the continued success of Sault with Nine, the low-fi vibes of Grown-Ups by Pencildive, the out of this world pop of Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land by Marina, the gothic new wave vibes of Vision Video’s Inked in Red, the vulnerability in the songs that Queen Mars crafted on her first EP Trust Issues, the post-punk vibes of NON-FICTION by N0V3L, the indescribable Bright Green Fields by Squid, the great pop and r&b songs on Ready is Always Too Late by Sinead Harnett, and the dreamy vibes of A Color of the Sky by Lightning Bug.

Some of the big album drops from this quarter by some of the bigger names or those that were covered extensively or you might know include The Killers, Little Simz, Ty Segall, Kississippi, Sturgill Simpson, Willow, Halsey (Produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross!!!), Gorillaz, and Kacey Musgraves. And with that here we go with the third quarter of 2021.

Absolutely Free – Aftertouch – Canadian psychedelic trio bring the goods on sophomore album

This album moves from song to song at an easy-going pace, feeling like a complete meditative experience. Like the album’s cover, the colors are bright throughout the eight songs. “How To Paint Clouds” feels like you’re in the air floating among a psychedelic backdrop, wanting to stay up there for the whole day. The way that the band uses synthesizers to explore these bright landscapes they have concocted is masterful. “Remaining Light” is a slow 80’s jam that should be sound tracking a slow walk home as the sun begins to set. The main riff in “Still Life” is pure joy and all of the magical small sounds that emerge in the background of the song are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The music and lyrics truly dance around one another on “Are They Signs”, creating a vortex of noise to get lost in. The mixture of Talking Heads guitar work and echoed layered vocals on “Clear Blue Sky” creates what could have been had the group gotten back together in the 2000’s to show the new kids on the block how it’s done. We end on yet another meditative journey on “Morning Sun” where after opening your eyes you “find nothing’s changed at all”. Just because you went on this journey, things may not change, but you might be open to new things because of it. Listen on Bandcamp

Acid Dad – Take It From The Dead – A great album that would have fit right in with NYC in the 70’s

Opener “Searchin'” has a great chorus: “I am lost haven’t found, I’m still searching for the sound, There’s a chain wrapped on me, I’m still stuck in the seventies”. It feels like the mission statement of the album. That’s not to stay it’s all nostalgia here, Acid Dad are far too talented for that, but the album takes so many influences from that decade and mashes them together to create this eight song album. Like other bands dabbling in mixing punk, psychedelia, and classic rock such as White Denim and King Gizzard, Acid Dad do a great job of making the old feel new. “BBQ” soars to great heights through distorted lyrics and great riffs. The lead single “RC Driver” is a fever dream about wanting to race cars for a living and it’s pulsating beat gets you thinking you want to do that too. A quick left turn to solid indie rock follows on “She Only Eats Organic” and “Good Time”. Neither are straight forward affairs, with both having slightly distorted vocals and just a pinch of psychedelia, the perfect Acid Dad concoction. The killer riffs and bass lines just don’t stop as “Smile You’re On Camera” is such a great song. The album ends on all out jammer “Djembe” that the band completely lets loose on. Take It From The Dead should be picked up immediately, not only because it’s a great record, but because the guys could use the cash after having their studio destroyed from the storms due to the hurricane in New York City earlier this fall. Help them out and get some good tunes taboot. Listen on Bandcamp

Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden – Masterful songwriting and indie rock hooks for the soul

This entire album has a stunning display of amazing songwriting. While it feels like everything was written as a result of the pandemic, a lot of this could have been relatable before the past 18 months. “damn” kicks us off with a rocker where Ada is struggling to keep up with everyday life and by the time the first chorus kicks in she’s had enough. I enjoy how she can go from slow delivery to rapid pace almost rapping on her songs like on “oranges”, with verses so dense she has to get out all the words out so quickly. Ada’s songs are short stories that are wildly vivid, letting you easily picture the characters and the situations they are in. A lot of these stories seems to be torn between moving on in life and wanting to go back to the past. The music overall is pretty easy going, letting her words shine. When the music does swell, like on “my love 4 u is real”, it feels cathartic and gives the moment it’s gravitas. The little guitar parts that dart across the background of “writer in ny” are to die for, as are the crying guitar lines of “violence” that dot Ada’s lyrics after every sentence. This is one you’re going to revisit a lot has there is so much to take in on each listen. Listen on Bandcamp

Adia Victoria – A Southern Gothic – A superstar begins to ascend and everyone should take notice

You are thrown right into the thick of the blues on the back to back opening of “Magnolia Blues” and “Mean Hearted Woman”. Adia is a force to behold in concert and that force can be felt right from the get go. The entire atmosphere of the album is one of this is my music, I’m taking back apart of my life, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s raw, unapologetic, and isn’t looking for any approval. She knew what she wanted to do and surrounded herself with people who would help make that a reality. Those helping with that message getting out to the rest world include T-Bone Burnett co-producing, “You Was Born To Die” having guests and friends Kyshona Armstrong, Margo Price, and Jason Isbell, “My oh My” with Stone Jack Jones, and “South For The Winter” with Matt Berninger. “Troubled Mind” keeps you right at the precipice of an all out rock affair for the first half before completely letting loose and is sure to be amazing live. Her goal with this album was for the listener to experience the South and she has done just that both sonically and lyrically. This is easily one of the best albums of the year and needs to be heard by everyone. Listen on Spotify

Amyl and the Sniffers Comfort To Me – Perfect punk rock for what ever may ail you

The driving of the bass line to open the album tells you everything you need to know for what you’re in. As soon as Amyl comes in, we’re off to the races on “Guided by Angels”. This is a no frills rock and roll album transported from the basements and clubs of the 70’s to the present day. Her yelling of “I’ve got plenty of energy” feels like a mission statement after the last 18 months. The band never slows down and “Freaks to the Front” is played at warp speed as song two of the album and the ripping guitar solo is here to melt your brains. It also has Amyl taking back insults thrown at her when they were touring their debut album. To be able to take insults, insert them into the song, and sound badass doing it is truly a trick of the trade here. “Security” has absolutely glorious guitar riffs that will be rattling around your brain well after the song ends. “I want you to love me” is screamed at the top of Amyl’s lungs on “Hertz” and it truly feels like she is demanding, not asking, and to be honest it’s hard not to fall in love with everything going on here. Another mission statement is in the title of “Don’t Fence Me In” and you really can’t do that to anyone here. Even if you tried to I think they’d steamroll right over you. I don’t remember the last time 13 straight songs didn’t allow for a breath of air and just implored you to keep moving forward at an all out pace. You won’t be able to sit still as you listen or after. Your brain is going to scream out for you to move around. There’s no stopping it so you might as well go with it. The fun that they had in the studio making this album can be felt very easily and the live shows for this are going to be wild. The world could very well be Amyl and the Sniffers and we’re all just here to enjoy it. Listen on Bandcamp

Arkells – Blink Once – One of the hardest working bands today putting out yet another great rock record

Kicking off with some killer 80’s vibes on “Liberation”, we’re off with a bang and in a concise 37 minutes, the album just goes and steamrolls you. These guys regularly headline gigantic venues throughout Canada and why they don’t in the States I’ll never understand. Their live show is always raved about and it’s time we get them into bigger rooms. Of course I love seeing bands in smaller spaces, these guys are ready for that next step. Songs like “You Can Get It”, “One Thing I Know”, and “Years In The Making” need to screamed at full volume by 15 thousand people at the same time. The energy of the live show is truly captured here, which can be difficult to do in the studio, but they pulled it off. It’s not all hard rockers though, these guys can write beautiful ballads like “Strong”. Also if you’re going to come out and say on the beginning of a song that you’re going to have the most upbeat music but saddest lyrics, like on “Swing Swing Swing”, and pull it off, I’m yours forever. It’s all about the energy for me coming out of the speakers on this album and if you listen to this and can’t smile and dance, you just don’t like having fun. Listen on Spotify

Binki – Motor Function – Stunning debut EP that leaves you wanting more

The four songs go by in a flash. These songs are meant to knock you on your ass and have you relisten as soon as it’s over. Binki comes out of the gates hard here with this EP. The bass line in “Clay Pigeon” is so damn funky as Binki sings over it about how he wants someone to open up to him, but he refuses to do the same. “Landline” is a piece of pop rock glory that is going to make everyone mosh in the small rooms he’s bound to be playing these at when he goes on a headlining tour next year. It’s infectious, fun, and exactly what you like to see from a new artist. The mixture of Britpop, punk, electronica, and rock is so good on “Revolve”. It really feels like there’s no stopping him as  he closes it out with the danceable “Invisible Fence”. With this EP, it’s clear that Binki already has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do and it’s breaking every rule in the book. The future is bright here and you should get on board now. Listen on Bandcamp

Blvck Hippie – If You Feel Alone At Parties – Indie rock for the rough times we’ve been through

Josh Shaw has crafted a stunning debut album full of sad songs to get you through your day as the world continues to look bleak. Opener “Art School” has the following lines “It’s funny we study hard just to come up last, The world hits you hard when you don’t run fast” and it just hits you right in the gut. Infectious guitar riffs fill you up on “Answering Machine” and “If You Feel Alone At Parties”. The low-fi quality of the album is a plus here reminding us that not everything has to be perfect and can sound raw. The album moves thought it’s eleven songs like one long evening and Josh is showing us snippets of the party he is watching unfold, not experiencing. Experiencing the evening would not give that lonely feeling, but watching it all happen as you try your best to engage is something everyone can relate to. “Technicolor” really lays this out there as bare as possible with the outro track that follows, with the swelling strings and room banter, letting you make your escape from the whole situation. “Bunkbed” is the song that is going to go off live with Josh screaming the lyrics to the audience as the music gets more intense and the energy swells into the room until the breaking point comes and everyone just loses it as one entity. Listen on Bandcamp

Calicoco – Underneath – An absolute scorcher of an album

This album comes in hard with the early NIN-esque “I Hate Living With Me”. It’s a great opener that truly sets the tone for a dark album of rockers. “Strangers” starts out as a slow meditative song before launching an all out war on your ears about half way through, giving you an excuse to headbang for a bit. “Underneath” score the lyrics of losing control with music that increasingly becomes wilder and more abstract as the song goes on, eventually ending in glitches panning from side to side. “Heal Me” has strains of punk and grunge mixing together as they sing about wanting a lobotomy. We get three minutes of mediation in the middle of the album with “Cuore Mio” before diving into “Melancholy”, which stars with just a piano and voice as the beat builds and builds before turning into a show-stopping rocker. You can feel it coming the entire time, but it’s still so satisfying when the turn comes. The song to put on to dance to here is “Haunting” with it’s fantastic beat and their soaring voice. The song is about wanting to be over a relationship and sometimes you need to dance it out for this to happen. “Shade of Blue” is a solid indie rocker, while “I Was The Devil” ends the album full of synths and heartache This is a hell of an album that seemingly came out of nowhere and deserves your attention. Listen on Bandcamp

Candy Ambulance – Hard Boiled – Looking toward the future with an absolutely stunning collection of songs

The Troy, NY trio have been at for seven years and their latest EP Hard Boiled is tremendous. Co-produced by Ellen Kempner and Nick Kinsey, the seven songs slowly build on one another and bring the bands sound to a new level. “Blue” has a wonderful tension that just wants to come out, but is barely held back, until the very end of the when the band lets it all out, but not before swiftly ending it with a few seconds left in the song. It’s almost as if they know letting it all out without care will destroy your eardrums, so instead they save you from it and cut it off. Both “Bulldog” and “Horses” are among the catchiest songs they have ever written. Both are begging to be on indie rock playlists across the internet and college radio stations. The songs are funny, have great choruses, and are bound to get stuck in your head. “Jim” is the heaviest song on the album where they move most towards some of their grunge tendencies and rock the hell out.  “Bigger” is the feeling of growing up and both looking back on what you’ve done and what’s to come. The feeling of everything happening at once can be a lot. Candy Ambulance was on a solid trajectory musically when the pandemic hit and this set of songs show they are ready to keep momentum going. Listen on Bandcamp

Corntuth – The Desert Is Paper Thin – No traditional song names needed for this gem that lasts a day in the desert

Slowly meandering in the desert under a big sky, that’s eventually full of stars, aimlessly trekking along and just taking it all in. That is the mission statement of this concept record as the days passes into night in the desert. The album was recorded during the pandemic as a means for escaping everything going on. Corntuth enlisted Pete Finney for all of the pedal steel work here, which is gorgeous and accentuates those desert vibes. The album is split into sides C and D, after his last album was A and B. The songs seep into one another with such ease and really need to be taken in as a whole. Side C has the brighter moments, as the sun is high above and you can see the mountains and the land that seemingly goes on forever. “C-006 “, the last song on the side, is the darkest one as the sun must be setting and the stars are beginning to come out. The night is here and it’s going to be a long one. Side D begins with “D-001” and it’s guitar lines that echo cautiously stand in for the wild sunset before you that dances as it disappears below the horizon. We continue to go deeper into the night as Side D continue forward. The desert isn’t scaring you, but an empty desert in general is just spooky. The last three songs are all slow burners as you end the day out in the middle of nowhere, finally stopping to just take in the vastness of it all. I for one cannot wait to blast this as I drive through the desert one day. Listen on Bandcamp

Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Clang Clang Ho – Guided By Voice side project to 60’s AM Gold

When you think of Guided By Voices, the last thing you think of is jangly guitars and 60’s pop rock, but as their alter ego Cub Scout Bowling Pins, you get 20 songs in 40 minutes of just that. You’re dropped right in and being asked to take a ride in a “Magic Taxi” and you’re off to the races. The rockabilly “Flip Flop World” and proto-psychedelic rock infused “Ride My Earthmobile” follow. “Eggs, Mother?” could have easily been done by early era Syd Barret Pink Floyd. It’s that beautiful mix of catchy and weird that Syd was so good at. “Nova Mona” is another straight out of the summer of love psychedelic goodness for your ears. You have to love the fact that there’s a 52 second weird mumbling shanty titled “Everybody Love a Baboon” on this album. It’s just so incredibly silly. The horns on “Space Invader” feel like we’re about to go into Their Satanic Majesties Request territory and the band follows through on it. The that it feels the band effortlessly did this album and gave so much love to the decade of the 60’s is just beautiful. No the trick is to get them to play this album live. Listen on Spotify

Daniel Romano – Cobra Poems – You can’t keep him one genre if you tried and you shouldn’t because he can do it all

Certain albums are just crafted in such a way that you need to listen all the way through. Even if a song stands out as a lead single, some albums you just want to listen to top to bottom with going right to the song. Cobra Poems is one of those albums. The ten songs move seamlessly along and all of a sudden 38 minutes have passed and you look around wondering where the time went. “Nocturne Child” is a fantastic rocker that is ready to help you make your 70’s party desires a reality today. I love that the horns come in and out all over the album, just dotting little spaces here and there that make your ears perk and go where did those come from. The way they arrive in “The Motions” part way through the song but ultimately bring it home is showing some early Van Morrison love. Romano is known for moving from genre to genre on each album that comes out and his powers are at an all time high. We move from glam (“Tragic Head”) to power pop rock and roll (“Holy Trumpeteer”) to indie folk rock ballad (“Still Dreaming”) with such ease it’s mindboggling. I love the way that “Tears Through A Sunrise” transitions straight into “Baby If We Stick It Out” with a short spoken word piece into a great percussion beat. Listen on Bandcamp

Flossing – Queen of the Mall – Heather Elle coming out of the gates strong as a solo artist

Formerly of BODEGA and The Wants, Heather Elle’s debut EP as Flossing is a five song punch to the face. Queen of the Mall mixes glam, industrial, punk, and pop in such a way that they are completely intertwined with one another to where you can’t distinguish any genre. The opening song “Switch” is all about BDSM and slinks through your speakers. The music that slowly builds under her lyrics are easily some of the sexiest sounds of the year, going perfectly with what she is singing about. “On Read” is about the feeling of being left in the dark as to whether your messages with someone are being seen. Again the feeling of the music is key here. When this happens you feel like you’re going crazy, especially if it’s important, and the manic pace of the music represents that to perfection. “Add To Cart” is a disco-infused song about how toxic social media is, but how badly everyone feels they need it. The great guitar solo a little more than halfway through is straight out of early 90’s U2 when they started their experimental phase. The pulsating breakneck speed of the drumming on is a hell of a mood to end the EP on with “Trap”. It feels like the rails are going to come off at any moment, but you just want to turn it up louder and headbang harder. Listen on Bandcamp

Hallan – Reporting Live From The Living Room Floor – More new fantastic rock and roll from the UK

Nice Swan Records just doesn’t miss. The latest from the UK label is Hallan and their EP Reporting Live From The Living Room Floor. It’s a loose concept album where “Gumshoe Boy” lives in an alternate universe where alternative music is outlawed and legal music is power pop-indie songs and commerical jingles. We begin hearing a TV dial move on “Reruns” and then we’re off to the races and it’s a tongue in cheek song talking about a weight loss diet and old tv shows. Yes it’s just as ridiculous as you think, but the song rocks. The bass line of “Hands Up” drops in next and it’s a hell of a song that doesn’t slow up for a moment. In direct contrast to that the slow build haziness and then all out rocking on “The White Boys” comes next. “Orwells Idyllic Future” comments on the current state of the world where it feels like we are all on different sides, but we’re all just on our phones and tablets not actually interacting and just following it all online, just as 1984 said we would. The song is a fast paced rocker that has the band turned all the way up. The zigging and zagging of the guitar lines in “Television Show” are so fun and will put a smile on your face as you hear the lyrics of the television feeding the narrator all their dreams. We close out on “Prime Time Lullaby”, an acoustic quiet number where it feels like the narrator has had enough of being told what to listen to and is trying to escape it all. Listen on Spotify

Inner Wave – Apoptosis – The laid back vibes give the 70’s feels you know you have missed

The first notes of “One in a Million” immediately grab you and let you know to buckle in for one of the funkiest albums of the year. There are signs of electronica, garage rock, psychedelia, and funk. If the album also gives you Khruangbin vibes, you’re not wrong. The band uses the studio well all over the album as the vocals and instruments move from ear to ear as well as move closer or further away. I’m a sucker for bands using the studio as another instrument. A lot of the vocal delivery reminds me of Damon Albarn as well, which isn’t a bad thing. “Fever” leans strong into their electronica vibes and brings a heavy Daft Punk influence that most bands can’t pull off, but it’s pretty flawless here. “June” is a beautiful quick love song that would have fit right in on AM radio back in the day, if you were to remove the synthesizers. The 70’s easy going soul influences really come out on “Reach” and “Nature” with both being laid back numbers to just groove out to. “Take 3” has a hell of a funky bass line holding it down that would have had folks going wild in the underground discos in the early days of the NYC craze before it was commercialized. The instant sexiness of the way “Mystery” drops right into the beat when it starts is undeniable. The album ends on the acoustic driven “Bones”, sounding like the credits to a great movie you just sat through with the slow fade out just being a cherry on top. Listen on Bandcamp

Jackie Venson – Love Transcends – The joy of making music can be felt through your speakers as you listen to this album

Jackie just keeps winning. Last years Vintage Machine was a wild affair that felt like it came from the future. Love Transcends however reaches back to the past. This is noticeable right away with the fun “One Step Forward” that is an old school boogie woogie rock and roll song. You can hear how much fun is happening in the recording of it and Jackie’s laugh at the end puts a stamp on it, as it does on other songs on the album as well. With help from Kam Franklin and Akina Adderley, Jackie sings the traditional “Down By The Riverside” that goes right into Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” to create a singular perfect song. Again the joy happening here is palpable. We then get some heavier guitar work (“Always Free”) and some pure Buddy Guy style blues (“Rollin’ On”). “See What You Want”, the longest song of the album, is also the one with the deepest groove and has the band playing a scorching jam that you never want to hear end as the band is cooking. “Fall of the USA” and “Love Transcends” close the album on a call to arms to make your voice loud and make it matter. As a bonus Jackie threw in two of the songs with just her and an acoustic guitar. These raw versions are just as powerful as the full band affair from earlier in the album. Jackie is on a roll here in her career and whatever the next step is you should be following along. Listen on Bandcamp

Jeffrey Alexander & The Heavy Lidders – S/T – Great psychedelic music to sit back and relax to 

Jeffrey Alexander has had plenty of projects including Dire Wolves, The Iditarod, Black Forest/Black Sea and now The Heavy Lidders. This is a pseudo all-star affair taboot with guests Ryan Jewell, Marissa Nadler, Pat Gubler and Rosali Middleman joining alongside the band for prime psychedelic fun. The guests truly join in and you wouldn’t know they were there except for the credits. When collaborations like that happen, where it’s a full immersion, it’s always great. The album begins with “Beowulf’s Trip”, sounding like a mixture of prime 70’s Pink Floyd and My Morning Jacket’s most recent work. It’s a hell of a kick off, letting you know you should get ready to fall down the rabbit hole for the next roughly 40 minutes. A beautiful cover of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter “Black Peter” follows. It’s a dreamy airy cover that doesn’t change the original much but the harmonies between Jeffrey and Marissa are gorgeous. There are then some easy going rockers (“Herb of Grace” and “Dark Ships in the Forest”), what could have been a Neil Young and Crazy Horse outtake (“Carousel of Flowers”), and a dreamy psychedelia trip (“Audubon Tropper”). The last song is a cover of Gene Clark’s “Strength of Strings” that has been turned into a spacey slow jam that is a perfect capper to the album. Listen on Bandcamp

John Moods – So Sweet, So Nice – Laid back music mixed with mortality woven lyrics makes for a great combo

A beautiful harp opens this record and the dreamy vibes just continue from there. While this was originally released as two EP’s, putting them together in one releases just fits. “New Skin” feels like the start of the rest of your life on a sunny morning. If the second song, “So Sweet So Nice”, doesn’t get you up and dancing in your living room, then your soul has been crushed forever. Sitting behind the catchy music though is a chorus that is celebrating mortality – “So sweet, so nice; everything is waiting to die. So sweet, so high; nothing ever felt so alive”. It’s one of the catchiest songs of the year and will be stuck in your head for hours. “Ordinary Magic” with it’s gorgeous saxophone solo and lush harmonies sounds otherworldly, especially when both drop out and it’s just one voice for your ears to focus on. The psychedelic infused waltz of “All You Gotta Do Is Wait” sounds like nothing else happening in music today. This isn’t pretty psychedelia either, it’s the scary nightmare version you never want when your tripping, but it works here to perfection as you leave the first half of the album. The back half of the album is a more laid back affair. The last six songs move at a slower space, are a little more vulnerable, and make you take stock in what’s happening in your life in far more detail than you would probably like to. The combo of “In A New Way” and “Are You Ready?” throw you for a loop asking if you found answers or are saying nothing in a new way and how you cannot help a lover or friend for what they need to do next. This album works so well, and is right up my alley, because mostly up-tempo poppy 80’s infused music alongside lyrics of existential dread just hit that spot. Listen on Bandcamp

Junior Mesa – Cirque De Freak – A dense 14 minutes of pure joy

“Pushing Away” begins with rattling drums and synths before the lyrics come in and as soon as they do the bass comes in and we just keep building slowly through the 2:40 the song lasts and it just keeps getting better. The whole EP is dance ready, but this opening song screams summer dance party and if this had been a normal summer it would have been everywhere. “What’s Enough pt. 2” is another brightly colored song asking to be played at hangouts as the sun begins to set. The longest song on the EP “Risen Up” deals with the past year of lockdowns and having to do the same thing every day, but knowing there’s love could be enough to get you through. I love how “Listen Close” sounds like it’s going to be this quiet acoustic song before turning into the most indie rock song of the collection. “Paranoia Dreams” doesn’t do this fake out and just goes for all out rock and roll. I really enjoy how the album as a whole moves from this 100% dance oriented direction to rocking out in the span of 14 minutes, but still feels complete. There are times when music is put together like this and it feels completely disjointed. That is not the case here at all. Listen on Bandcamp

Leah Blevins – First Time Feeling – Beautiful country music in the vein of Margo Price and Dolly Parton 

Leah’s voice on opening track “Afraid” is going to give you goosebumps. The whole record’s theme is right here on the opening track. The feelings of being vulnerable, not wanting to actually feel anything, worried about never being able to get away from something that isn’t good for us. It’s all there under a funky baseline and soaring vocals. It’s a hell of a kick off her debut album. The stories on here are vivid and colorful. “Beautiful Disaster” details a failed relationships, “First Time Feeling” is wanting to get back to the beginning of a great love, and a semi-autobiography in the soulful “Magnolias”. I love the feeling of exchanging vows as being “Little Birds”, it’s absolutely a wonderful sentiment, two people just flying off together in total harmony. Another auto-biographical song is “Believe” where she is dealing with growing up and choosing her own correct path. Her voice cracks as the song reaches it’s peak and it’s clearly been difficult to find that path. “Mountain” closes the album out with a chorus of voices joining Leah’s to give her a boost after laying her heart bear for the previous nine songs. It’s a hell of a debut and the lineage she has chosen to follow is a base for a solid career to come. Listen on Spotify

Liz Cooper – Hot Sass – Rocking out hard and showing off some new soundscapes

This is just a flat out rocking album. From the first moments of “Slice of Life” to the ending of “Smoke Break”, Liz Cooper leaves it all out there. The songs are catchy and you’ll find yourself singing along to most choruses on your first run through of the album. She has stated that writing this album helped her figure out what kind of woman she is, but knows that she is still growing and this is a snapshot. In those terms the opening “Slice of Life” and her singing about “doing it all for the thrill” seems pretty apropos for the snapshot. “Motorcycle” oozes a mix of glam, punk, and disco to create a hell of a rocker. I love that “Hot Sass” feels like three songs thrown together that makes a beast of a track where part of the time you want to mosh, then you want to dance, and finally you’re floating in the clouds. The eight minute epic of “Lucky Charm” swirls around your headphones as the band gets in a groove that just never slows as Liz’s voice slowly arrives and just takes over your focus. I have seen this live and it lives up to this version and then some. The laid back psychedelic country seen on “Shoot The Moon” shows off Liz’s amazing voice and lets the album begin a couple of calmer songs in a row. About halfway through “Fragile Lips” a piano comes in and completely changes the song and moves it to a slow meandering sonic dreamscape that sounds like nothing else on the album. I love the risk factor here as a lot of listeners may be turned off, but to me it shows an artist that is willing to take chances and go where they have never been before. “Smoke Break” ends the album in a weird liminal space that you could relax in forever. The abrupt cut off snaps you back to reality or you could dodge that and go right back in for a second round with the album. Listen on soundcloud

Lydia Hol – Some Dreams of the Golden Dream – Haunting yet beautiful ode to where movies are made

The album is a love letter to Hollywood drenched in 60’s soul and the mysterious power that the city has over people. “Golden Dream” gives you that feeling of looking West and saying I can make it out there and it will be great. The strings that move and sway the music (“Love Devotion”, ). The cover of “Rich Girl” is wildly haunting with guitar lines that are screaming you’re out of your depth on this side of the country. Lydia completely makes the song her own. The mid-60’s girl group-esque spacey vibes of “Make This Better” just hits right. The country into indie rock pedal steel guitar screaming on “Don’t Let This Love Die” will have just dancing and then headbanging. “Mushroom Cloud” evokes Nancy Sinatra, bringing past Hollywood into the present. The album ends on “Let The Light In”, a strolling song about trying to be present among the wreckage of the current state of affairs, which you could just look past if you’re in the land of Hollywood. Through the nine songs we get a solid look at not only the city, but the state as a whole and what it means to different people. Listen on Bandcamp

Maggie Rose – Have A Seat – A gorgeous record about coming together recorded down at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals

Opening song “What Are We Fighting For” brings you right into her soul filled world and her message of bringing everyone together. Maggie’s voice soars over the music, pulling you in and making sure you are staying through the rest of the album. The following song “Do It” emphasizes that fact even further. Alongside her on this album is David Hood of The Swampers (the famous band who played with everyone at FAME Studios), Will McFarlane (Bonnie Raitt & Levon Helm), and her longtime collaborators Them Vibes. Special guest, and friend, Marcus King helps out on “What Makes You Tick” with some fantastic guitar work. The multiple peaks at the end of the choruses in “For You Consideration” will make you arm break out in goosebumps. “Saint” gives all the gospel vibes you could desire. The sweeping strings in “Are We There Yet” add so much to the song that without them it would feel lifeless. The album keeps grooving through to the end as Maggie and everyone involved just soaked in the vibes that FAME Studios oozed into the music. Maggie is someone to watch and this album proves she is the real thing and is going to be around for many years to come. Listen on Spotify

Marisa Anderson & William Tyler – Lost Futures – Two guitarists bobbing and weaving around one another to create beauty

This isn’t an album that can have a song by song breakdown. As a whole this is just stunning. Made during last years protests and lockdowns, Marisa Anderson and William Tyler made a beautiful piece of art. The title obviously alludes to so much that was lost last year. While that loss is huge and can never be forgotten, to honor that with these eight songs is something special. The heaviness that comes across in the title track as the guitars dance around one another is a lot. The way they harmonize in “Pray for Rain” feels like the cry of a generation asking when are we going to act on climate change. The urgency of “Something Will Come” is palpable and feels like you’re on the brink of having a panic attack, and I know for some that might not look like fun, but it’s a fantastic six minutes of music that never stops pushing forward. “At The Edge of the World” has guest Gisela Rodriguez Fernandez playing strings and adding in a new layer to the proceedings, giving a different energy to everything else on the album. Obviously due to the time it was recorded, this album will always have a dark cloud over it in terms of the vibe, but the way their guitars bounce around one another and are in such unison is spectacular and jar dropping. It’s always rough living through hard times and while I would never intentionally wish them on a vast majority of the planet, when art like this comes out of the other side there is a quick thought of man we made and now we have this art to hold on to. Listen on Bandcamp

Meatbodies – 333 – Grungy dirty fuzzed out fun psychedelic rock for the soul

Fuzzed out distorted guitars great you on “Reach for the Sunn” as Chad Ubovich tells you to reach out for the stars, the sun, the trigger, and the gun. The song pummels you into the ground as it drones forward, making you think about how the world around us is crumbling. The ending panning that takes place on the song is a trip onto itself. In direct opposition to that is “Let Go (333)” which sounds like it could have come off Led Zeppelin III. Its straight back to mid-60’s psychedelia on “Night Time Hidden Faces” that turns completely on it’s head into a another song with a little more than a minute left, becoming a groovy jam with some great guitar work. “Cancer”, much like “Reach for the Sunn” is all blur and distortion. The harmony of the overly fuzzy guitars and the electronic beats is pure joy on the instrumental “Eye Eraser”. There is a certain head bop you do when an indie rock song is really moving you, you know the one, and “Hybrid Feelings” will really make you lean into that. The ending completely goes off the rails, in a good way in my opinion, but it definitely will keep you on your toes while listening. “The Hero” is the coda, sounding very Pink Floyd via Syd Barrett, psychedelic and funny all at the same time. This is definitely a tune in turn on drop out kind of album and I wish there were more of those today. Listen on Bandcamp

Nala Sinephro – Space 1.8 – A jaw dropping debut of ambient jazz that will make you love the genre

Jazz isn’t for everyone and neither is experimental music. Put the two together and most people will just pass right by it. This is one of those time to get over that bias and dive in head first. Nala has created a beautiful landscape to engulf yourself in and there’s no reason to not at least give it a try. The harp is a special instrument that can transport you places other instruments cannot. “Space 1” lets you feel like you’re floating in space as you watch the universe slowly pass you by. You’re transported to a small smokey club in the first half of “Space 2” as the band gets going before being blast back to outer space as if you had never left. The intensity of “Space 3” is like the famous montage of colors in 2001 as Dr. Bowman is transported to the end of his life. What’s most ridiculous about the song is that it’s a minute plus excerpt of a three hour session. I for one would like to hear the whole session. The beautiful easy going of “Space 4” lets you walk through a park on a summer’s day. “Space 5” takes you underwater as you watch the millions of different species move about in harmony. The tension in “Space 6” will make you feel like you’re on the run from something dark and evil, trying to stay alive. We’re taken back to the outer reaches of the universe again in “Space 7” before going into an almost 18 minute meditative “Space 8” to close the album out as the universe is peeled back and you just float along in nothingness, but are 100% at ease. Nala put together some of the best jazz artists in the UK jazz scene for this album. What I find most amazing is that these are all first take recordings with no set rules, click tracks, or tuning. They just got together, jammed, and this is what came out. This is an unbelievable debut and I hope we don’t have to wait long to see what she does next. Listen on Bandcamp

Nolan Potter – Music Is Dead – Nolan goes full one man band on this wild affair

I saw Nolan Potter’s Nightmare at SXSW in 2019 and things got weird. It was experimental psychedelic gooeyness that you love to witness in person. This album is a solo affair with Nolan playing every instrument. To top it off he also engineered and mixed it. I mean come on folks, that’s pretty fantastic. Now to the music itself, which is pretty damn glorious. These songs are dense too with plenty of weird bleeps and bloops panning from ear to ear moving forward and backward in the mix absolutely setting your brain on fire as you try to keep up with it all. It’s heady stuff to say the least. All six songs are almost six minutes or longer and have various movements contained within. This could be a movement from an all out guitar thrashing to spacey slow jams and back again or Zappa-esque weirdness to digital delay looping. It’s pretty fun listening to these changes happen in the songs sounding like a complete band is doing them, rather than just one person. This is absolutely an album to turn off all other distractions and get lost in. Sometimes when a person does every job on an album it can be seen as self-indulgent and that you have an ego about it, but considering this was made during the pandemic and it was hard to meet with people in person, doing it all on your own was the way to go. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next for Nolan, whether it’s more of this, or back to the Nightmare. Either way I’m stoked. Listen on Bandcamp

Oscar Lang – Chew The Scenery– A menagerie of sounds on an impressive debut 

When an album kicks both sides off like a trailer you could find in an art house movie theatre, you’re in for a good time. The guitar riff and solos that follow in “21st Century Hobby” will get stuck in your head for days afterward. The song itself is about the addiction to social media that society has today. “Stuck” is an up tempo rocker about situations that you keep replaying in your head that you can’t get passed. A number of these songs, “Yeah!” and “Headphones” come to mind right away, are going to absolutely crush live in a crowd of folks just raring to let loose. The dreamy just out of reach feel of “Quarter Past Nine” takes us into the last quarter of the album that continues down that path. “Take Time Out” lets you travel down a river on a summer day with no worries in your life. The Radiohead vibes of “Final Call” are strong with the sweeping strings midway through taking your breath away. In a year of great debuts, this is right up there with the best. Listen on Spotify

Public Service Broadcasting – Bright Magic – A band who never fails to impressive puts together a jaw dropping affair in Berlin

Berlin is literally entrenched in the DNA of this album. Recorded in the famous Hansa Tonstudio Recording Complex (Bowie, Depeche Mode, U2), Bright Magic is a move in a new direction for Public Service Broadcasting. Known for using samples and speeches from history in their recordings, this go around has them incorporating more “field music” than ever before. Walking around the city and picking up new sounds, they built the songs around those rather than making the music and inserting these found pieces of music. The onslaught of synthesizers (Yamaha CS-80 aka Deckard’s Dream Synth, Roland Juno-106, Nord Lead Stage, and others) is never ending, making the album sound both futuristic and nostalgic. So much creativity has come from bands going to Berlin, hunkering down, writing an album, and just finding that IT factor. German artists Blixa Bargeld, Andreya Casablanca, and EERA turn in great guest appearances. The band follows the history of Berlin that goes through the building of the city (“Der Rhythmus Der Maschinen”) to the mythical party atmosphere (“People, Let’s Dance” and “Blue Heaven”) to the outer space futuristic nature of the city (the “Lichtspiel” Trilogy). Go get lost in this album and then be sure to lose yourself in their other work. The way Public Service Broadcasting engross themselves into a different theme every album is a beautiful thing and no one else out there does it like them. Listen on Bandcamp

Shannon & the Clams – Year of the Spider – The mixture of psychedelia, soul, and garage rock make for a fantastic sixth album

You can hear the pain in :Do I Wanna Stay” to kick it off. Shannon’s wails evoke those of Janis Joplin’s and we’re immediately transported to the mid-60’s. Disco vibes are cut with face melting guitar riffs on “All of My Cryin'”, making this one of the most pop infused songs on the album and something you’ll just have to get up and dance around to. “Mightnight Wine” hit that prefect familiar spot for the band, a fast rocking song drenched in psychedelia that they are so good at. “Year of the Spider” is not quite the wall of sound, but it’s definitely evoking that vibe, as does “Godstone”. “Snakes Crawl” moves us towards country music, but it’s Shannon & the Clams version of country, so its spooky and the way the organ comes in so hard to keep you on your toes is just beautiful. I love the Ennio Morricone love letter of “Leave Falling Again”, the way the bass, drums, and organ are working together just evokes the way his music danced through countless soundtracks.  “Mary Don’t You Go” has Shannon singing about trying to protect someone but ultimately is unsure if she can. The song is literal as Shannon had to move out of an apartment due to a stalker and not being able to protect herself. “Vanishing” has Shannon singing about her father’s cancer diagnosis in the biggest send up to Motown on the album. This crew never fails to impress and this is yet another winner for them. Listen on Bandcamp

Shiny Joe Ryan – Shiny’s Democracy – Psychedelic glory from one of the founders of Pond

Seven years have passed since his last album due to his work in Pond and Tame Impala, but the wait was worth it. Kicking off with “I’m Singing A New Song” lets you know you’re in for a dreamy psychedelic affair, with some humor added in for good measure. The hip shaking “H2O” follows and really gets this album moving. The guitars are throwing an all out attack at your ear drums, and it’s wonderful. The easy going bopping along of “Ketamine” is a tongue in cheek affair about the drug, and if you aren’t laughing and smiling while listening to it you have no sense of humor. “If I Had Nothing” begins like TheRiver-era Springsteen outtake before collapsing on itself into a psychedelic kaleidoscope. If you can’t get into the groove of “Pub Boat” then there is nothing about this album you’re down for. It’s beyond infectious, could definitely be played loud in a dance hall, and will definitely be a show stopper live with the crowd screaming “Pub Boat” back at the band. The last quarter of the album are moody psychedelic slow rockers that get your feet back on the ground after the wildness of the first three quarters. The album goes full circle with “I’m Singing A New Song Pt. 2” and it feels correct to be back to where we began after going on this journey with Shiny Joe. Hopefully it’s not another seven years before the next entry into his discography. Listen on Spotify

Slothrust – Parallel Timeline – A great addition to a discography that hasn’t missed yet 

Parallel Timeline is Slothrust’s fifth album and there are no signs of slowing down. “Cranium” has Leah Wellbaum asking you a number of questions, wanting to be of service to you in a meaningful way, and when there isn’t a response back, a ripping guitar solo is there to show you she means business. “Once More The Ocean” is an earworm that is going to get crowds wild live and also has a face melting guitar solo that should be a showstopper in person.  slow burners, “Courtesy”, “Strange Astrology”, and “Waiting”, are the perfect calms needed when they arrive, calming us from the barnburners we have been listening to. That’s not to say these three don’t have any power behind them, they just aren’t as bombastic as some of the other songs of Parallel Timeline. The Donna Missal co-written “The Next Curse” featuring Lzzy Hale is easily the heaviest song on the album, dealing with the planet’s destruction and how we don’t take of ourselves despite knowing how bad things are. “King Arthur’s Seat” deals with loneliness and how it’s something everyone feels and yet we still are unsure what to do with it. This album really showcases some fantastic songwriting by Leah and how tight the band has become over the past few years. It also shows them unafraid of continuing to push their sound to new heights. Listen on Bandcamp

Smoke Bellow – Open For Business – Nodding to older bands to make a beautiful new album

Borrowing from bands like The Velvet Underground, Yo La Tengo, Pylon, Stereolab, and Talking Heads may seem ambitious, but Smoke Bellow pull it off. Silence invades songs as well, letting them breathe and become full, giving your brain moments within the songs to take it all in and digest it. The collage of sounds weaving together that form “Hannan” are to put it simply impressive. They feel like they shouldn’t go together, especially once the vocals come in, but the dance they all do together just fits together perfectly like a puzzle. It’s hard to have music this dense and it seem not overstuffed, but the band is able to make it work. “Anniversary” owes so much to The Velvet Underground’s existence, starting with the track’s minimal guitar work and echoed vocals, that just scream early VU. The spoken word freak out story telling of “Night Light” puts you in the middle of a 1967 San Francisco Acid Test. The Talking Heads-esque music of “Fuck On” is infectious and will live in your head for hours. The quirkiness of “Wrong Size” just feels good as the second to last track. In an album full of great bass lines, this might be the best one. Listening to this on good headphones is preferred as the swirling music will really come through on and you’ll get the full 360 effect of the songs. Listen on Bandcamp

Snapped Ankles Forest of Your Problems – Stunning weirdness from across the pond in the UK

Everything about this album feels like it’s from another world. First Snapped Ankles does not look like your average band. They dress in outrageous outfits and keep themselves hidden by masks. Then the music itself mixes post punk, psychedelia, jazz, house and straight up alien noises all under infectious grooves. Album opener “Forest Of Your Problems” says ok this is what you signed up for, I hope you’re ready. With that the bass line is heavy, propelling the song forward until the synths take over as we wind up transitioning straight into the dancehall ready “The Evidence”. Music like this doesn’t happen in the states as often as it should and I wish it would. Not only does “Shifting Basslines Of The Cornucopians” have a great opening line (“It’s a great time to be alive, if only you’ve got some funds”) but the song makes you feel like you’re in the beat for fifteen to twenty minutes even though the song is less than six, and when it ends you want it to keep going. The album goes into LCD Soundsystem territory on “Rhythm Is Our Business” and “The Prince Is Back”. The wildest song on the album is “Susurrations (In The Forest)” which seems like it was cherry picked from an old John Carpenter movie, and I mean that as a compliment. I want to see this album played live by a band, but I’d  take a DJ set in a tiny dance club in the middle of the night with a great light show. The showstopper of the night, either way, would be “Xylophobia”, which would most likely be extended well past the 10 minute mark, leaving everyone in attendance out of breath from dancing up a storm. Listen on Bandcamp

Spacette – You Don’t Have to Rise to Shine – Listening to this feels like you could drift off into space forever and leave your problems at home

This is a stunning three song EP. “Neptune” announces itself in a mixture of a number of Bowie personas. We have the acoustic Major Tom era, the piano and lead guitar of The Thin White Duke era, and the crooning of a mixture of Ziggy Stardust era and Blackstar Button Eyes era. When the saxophone hits we’re transported to pure 70’s easy going rock. The track swirls around the horns and choruses that join in creating a grand wall of sound collage. “You Don’t Have To Rise To Shine” takes the listener down a slow moving stream. You’re being told that it’s all ok and it’s going to work out. There’s a genuine love that this song gives you. It’s some of the most dreamy five minutes put to tape this year. “What It Takes” could have been made 40 years ago and just never heard until this year. The instrumentation is unbelievable. The entire second half of this song could have been jammed out for another 20 minutes and I would have been fine with it. The subject matter though is very much about todays culture of watching social media and not knowing what it will take to make it in your own eyes and be happy. With that the three songs and the EP are finished and don’t be surprised if you don’t start it up immediately again. Listen on Soundcloud

Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection – S/T – An album evoking all forms of peak hippie folk

Armed with a bevy of guest vocalists to help out (Erin Rae, Caitlin Rose, Annie Williams, Herman Düne, and Mayon Hanania), Spencer Cullum put together quite the ode to 60’s and 70’s folk rock. “Jack of Fools” musically feels like that era of music when folk rock was trying to be from The Renaissance. The nine songs wash over you like a the sun peaking through the trees in the middle of the summer. It’s just all good and easy going vibes. Some horns find their way into the party on “Tombre En Morceaux” as does some psychedelia guitar work giving the song a bit of a jazz feel, breaking away from the pure folk of the album. Donovan’s influence is all over “Imminent Shadow”, with how close the vocals feel to you, the beautiful fingerpicking guitar work, and the weird instrumental interludes. It’s a great send up to a master of the genre. The first song to not follow the folk formula is “Dieterich Buxtehude”, an instrumental track that really has the band let loose in full psychedelia glory for over eight minutes of pure joy. The driving song is an outlier on the album and it makes me wonder if the band did anything else like this one while recording the album. The slide guitar playing evokes George Harrison’s playing via All Things Must Pass on “My Protector”. We end on “The Tree”, an ode to nature and how it can take care of us if we let it. Listen on Bandcamp

Sungaze – This Dream – A soothing haze of beautiful songs to blast through your speakers

The voices of husband and wife duo Ian Hilvert and Ivory Snow intertwine so beautifully on this album. “Look Away” kicks off the album and drops you into the forthcoming dreamscape you’re going to enter for the next eight songs. Ian and Ivory show off here with their vocals and guitar work. It’s one of the best openers of an album this year. “Body In the Mirror” should be on your list of singles of the year. There’s some chords that scream 60’s psychedelia, some soaring solos that want to be played in a shoegaze band, and some background playing that could be part of any singer-songwriter’s repertoire. “Change Will Come” soars over it’s six and a half minutes of running time. The scorching guitar work of “This Dream” has to be heard and turned up loud. “Sun in VIII” comes on like a fever dream that you can barely make out. You can feel the darkness ahead in “Storm Chaser” as the music builds to a crescendo and Ivory’s voice harmonizes with itself to create a wall right before Ian’s guitar work comes into to blow you away. The last song, “Slow Burn”, closes us out with those last moments right before you wake up as the piano and guitar swell and then ease off as you open your eyes and try to recall what the hell you were just dreaming about. This Dream couldn’t have had any other name. Each song really feels what your consciousness makes up while in deep REM in the middle of the night. Turn this one on right before you go to sleep and see what you dream about that night. Listen on Bandcamp

Velvet Starlings – Technicolor Shake Down – Wild glorious garage rock to just lose yourself in 

I will always champion 60’s style garage rock. It’s messy, fun, and a whole lot of noise coming at you at an 11. When a Hammond Organ is being played in the background of a song, I will turn it up loud. On their debut album, Velvet Starlings kick things off with “She Said (She Said)” with that background organ swirling about. “Checkmate” has the catchy woo-hoos that fans will be yelling right back at them in rooms across the country. Garage rock will always meant for small clubs and be loud and have bodies swaying and moshing all over the place. “Cant Control” barely holds it together as the whole band is playing at an 11 and it feels like at any moment the song is going to burst through your headphones. The swing of “There’s Nobody There” makes the song bob and weave like some of the best garage rock songs can. They really leaned into the psychedelic sounds of the mid 60’s when everyone was testing out how weird they can get on a song with “Colours On The Canvas”. A lot is going on in, but never actually feels busy. This kind of music is also the cry of the younger generation to take up arms against the older generation, so a song like “Young Ideas” isn’t out of place and is fully welcomed here. It never feels tongue in cheek here either. The title track is a fast rocker that again I just want to experience in a packed crowd one day as we all sway and mosh our way through. Garage rock never goes out of style and I hope it even makes a bit of a comeback after the past 18 months. It’s just a great genre that lets everyone let their guard down and just enjoy the fun of music. Listen on Spotify

Zelma stone –The Best – Quick moving EP that is here to remind you that you’re doing fine in these times

“In time, you’re all right, you’re alright” Chloe Zelma Studebaker, better known as Zelma Stone, sings on opener “Gift Horse”. The song has a great guitar and bass riffs that will be getting you bobbing your head along within seconds. It’s a great opener that gets you hooked and ready for the other five songs on the EP. “Money Honey” has her speaking to someone and going along with what people tell her she is and acknowledging that she’s fine, but it seems half-hearted in the moment. There is a wanting to be all of the things and that struggle is emphasized by an absolutely ripping guitar solo near the songs end. The pedal steel guitar playing on “You’re Now 2” fits the vibe of the song like a glove that’s all about being stuck with your partner, the good and the bad. There’s always been something dangerous and sexy about pedal steel guitar playing and when you’re in a new relationship it can be both of those things. The most classic rock song on the album is “Sea of Diamonds” that feels like it was plucked straight from the 70’s. The easy going indie rock song of the EP, “Come Back”, will be sung at the end of the night by a room full of music lovers right back to Chloe as she sings it to them and the room will swell with such good vibes and will be a moment no one will forget as they make their way out of the venue. We end on “The Best” with her guitar work and synthesizers winding around one another as she sings about just doing the best she can and keeping herself moving forward. Listen on Bandcamp

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