Archive for August, 2014

Thorn1

The Light of Random Star

Silber Media, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                                          Thorn1-The_Light_of_Random_Star

I recently received the latest email from the Silber Media mailing list for “press” people (I guess I can call myself “press” – I’ve gotten into a lot of shows as a “press” person & have received many promo CDs, not even always quite ready for mass release, but sent to me to review just before it hits the street, etc.). Anyway, Brian Silber and the gang over at Silber Media are keeping busy, promoting material both brand new and some stuff that I’ve already gotten and reviewed (such as Electric Bird Noise, Feel No Other and a couple other bands that you can find reviews for throughout Independent Review).

Well, one of two albums I just selected for reviewing from this latest email is one by a guy from the wastelands of Siberia, a younger (than the typical age for Silber artists, according to Brian) guy called Evgeny Zheyda. His is basically a one-man band, with the name, Thorn1.  

The Light of Random Star is Thorn1’s third, “official”, release for Silber Media, but Zheyda’s also done a couple musical projects on his own, most of which can be found on Bandcamp (http://www.bandcamp.com/Thorn1).  The Light of Random Star is a shimmering, sparkling, brilliant object which radiates a unique perspective of drone/ambient sounds, with some smooth noise, experimental, yet amazingly accessible.  It isn’t quite in the the harsh dubstep mode, but more along the lines of an ethereal, astral plane.  Sonically intense, but not rigid or overdone.  From the beginning, throughout, this was a pleasant album to which I listened.

Mr. Zheyda comes from a village called Barnaul, in Siberia. Where it is, exactly, in that wide open, frozen land of tundra and nerves of steel, I can’t say for sure, the literature I read about Throne1 didn’t mention specifics. But clearly, growing up in the rural, bucolic and blistering tundra of Siberia has an effect on one’s mood and outlook and, as for a musician, can bring quite a different perspective than, say, a reggae band from the Caribbean or Africa, etc. or a blue-collar, working class upbringing in a town like Sheffield or Birmingham, England or Detroit and surrounding communities, parts of Ohio – “the Rust Belt”, etc., here in the US or the polarized styles of California music – the laid back, but high-brow, experimental, technological sounds of the Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Marin County even down as far as San Jose or Santa Cruz, vs. the Southern California scene, which, now, can be not-so-very well pigeonholed, but still has a different vibe than the Northern part of the State. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Thorn1’s upbringing in a land far, far away from the familiar and, sometimes, overdone excesses of the “West” – which includes the US and the influences which have seeped out and into Western Europe, to countries like Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, and, to some extent, France. Then there’s the UK, which is a bit different in this case, in that, since the early 1960s, they’ve been exporting their own versions of amped-up, re-tooled music which was the province of the men from whom rock ‘n’ roll was basically appropriated – the black blues geniuses from places like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, i.e., Southern-fried blues, up to the Chicago Blues scene, which had an edgier kick to it and then there was the hybrid of “hillbilly” music, i.e., Memphis honky tonk: the hybrid of country, blues, a little pop music about a synergy that was conjured up and set down on record on labels like Stax and Sun., which brought about Carl Perkins and Sam Cooke, etc. and eventually Elvis, the sponge, got his start down there.

So, one’s environment and experiences both have an impact in creating a musical direction and it’s the same thing with Thorn1. In fact, I’ve noticed, in the past few years, that a lot of bands and artists have been popping up from all over Eastern Europe: places like Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia and others are not at all like their Western counterparts: they were shut off from the “free world” for about 45 years after WWII, therefore, for the most part, not accustomed to the music or other styles of the West, which, now that the iron curtain has been torn asunder, are now accessible to wider audiences, to those who crave a wider, less homogenous styles. The younger generations who’ve come into this brave, new world may have had access to the music, clothing, advertising and other vacuous Western crap, but, simultaneously, they had many years to craft styles of music that reflected their regional tastes and, younger people, not unlike the youth of any nation, unimpressed or just plain sick of hearing old, ethnic folk music, etc., developed, on their own, a new, future sound that, given the openness of the past 25 years, incorporated what they found to be the best of Western music-American jazz, British ambient/drone music, a la Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Soft Machine, Stockhausen, Terry Riley: these are just a smattering of samples of what intelligent, musically inclined Easterners did – they charted their own course and they didn’t feel compelled to come up with carbon copies of American rock music or jazz, etc. They had their own groove in mind and what they had alone was a goldmine of great sounds, but when some of them discovered stuff like Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Faust, Soft Machine – not to mention newer, contemporary bands and artists whose vision was not unlike their own, they would incorporate little bits and pieces into sounds that were uniquely their own. Now there is a huge amount of bands from the East who are making great albums of styles including ambient, drone, “shoegaze”, avant-garde jazz, experimental noise rock and dubstep, etc. It’s really a brand new, just-tapped mine of great talent that is now open to Western ears and it is finding more and more audiences in America, in Britain, in Germany, etc.

From The Light of Random Star, Thorn1 songs such as “Clearly and Consciously” has an amalgam of dreamy drone ambiance with the lightness of a bit of non-saccharine pop thrown in, with low-fi whispering, guitars that have been treated and prepared for eking out excellent sounds: reversed stringing, custom tuning, adding lots of reverb and, of course, the great guitar synthesizers that revolutionized prog-rock throughout the late 70s up to today. “Vortex Gravity” is another example of a piece from the album which attempts to mix ambient/drone/noise with a sort of minimalist dance music. Finally, “Heat Death of the Universe” is a space-y trip through the unforgiving cosmos that has walls of sound: “blissed out”, swirling dials of guitars that pull you in to it’s lair and makes you empty your mind of extraneous thoughts while you’re wrapped in a sheet of velvet in which you could lie forever – or at least until the music’s over.

So, for you seekers of new sounds out there in America, don’t despair: there are plenty of great minds at work creating a 21st century revolution in sound, with constantly improving methods of recording, sampling, sensitivity to the micro sounds as well as the macro.

One thing that I really love about this album by Thorn1 is that, listening to it loudly, one really gets a full-body rush of the depth and breadth of the brilliance of this album. If I’ve piqued your interest, then go to Silber Media’s website, where you can check out what they sound like along with their labelmates’ albums as well. Kudos to Brian Mitchell and Silber Media for bringing this great, underground phenomena to the ears of those who crave beauty and intricacy. Silber Media’s website is: http://www.silbermedia.com – check it out.

-KM.

Curious Mental Disorders

Posted: August 22, 2014 in New Indie Music

These Curious Thoughts

Inventing Dr. Sutherland and His Traveling Hospital                      Dr. Sutherland cover pic

Viaduct Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

   The new album by These Curious Thoughts is now out and available for your listening pleasure. Inventing Dr. Sutherland and His Traveling Hospital is a real gem. TCT is made up of two collaborators: Jim Radford and Sean Dunlop; Jim lives in the outskirts of London while Sean resides in or around Detroit, MI. The two collaborate via email – Radford comes up with the colorful, almost conceptual, lyrics while Sean writes the music end of the songs, although the two both contribute vocals to the finished product. The way it normally works is that Jim will write up inspired lyrics and email them to Dunlop, who then, will envelop them with his musical writing skills.

Thinking back to the last album I reviewed by TCT, Building Mountains from the Ground, I’ve noticed that the general style hasn’t changed too much. Not that they’ve stayed static, quite the opposite: they seem to have reached and attained an even better product with Inventing Dr. Sutherland… From the time I began listening to this album, all the way through it, I found it to be a real groovy treat. Through the first five songs, I was quite impressed but I also found that the music reminded me of something, but what, I just couldn’t put a finger on. It has this particular quality of something that, I think, comes from certain progressive, “alternative” bands that were active and at their peak in the 1970s. Now, I don’t mean that in a bad or negative way, there is a lot of great music that came out in that decade. But, I still couldn’t think of a particular band to whom I could compare These Curious Thoughts. I wanted to say it was like a “white Funkadelic” (but not Parliament- Funkadelic had this extra heavy quality to it, what with the brilliance of the late Eddie Hazel’s guitar playing), something about the synergy that the group, as a whole, put out. But the more I thought about it, the more I sensed that that description just wasn’t quite right. One band from that era that finally came to mind was the little-known (or remembered?), Captain Beyond, whose first two albums, Captain Beyond and Sufficiently Breathless were (and still are) great; they had great musicians that made great music together: their singer was Rod Evans, who was Deep Purple’s first lead singer (Evans is the one who sang vocals on one of Deep Purple’s first hits, “Hush” and their Neil Diamond cover, “Kentucky Woman”) and another name that popped up later, but in a completely different light, was the excellent drummer – and lyricist – Bobby Caldwell (does anyone remember that laid-back, white-soul hit of his, from around ’78 or so, “What You Won’t Do For Love”?) Anyway, for those interested, check out either of those two albums by Captain Beyond, you may agree that there is a similarity. One song on Inventing Dr. Sutherland… that really evokes Captain Beyond is “Sirens”. But as for the other tunes, they all have great energy that seems to come from a source much bigger than just these two guys – they sure did a great job recording the finished songs, producing and mixing – the result is an album full of big sounds- the drums sound like they could be real drums or they may be using a really great synthesizer drum machine, definitely not a drum machine like that Roland drum machine which just celebrated its 30th anniversary (I forget the exact model number).

The album, clocking in at 55 minutes, doesn’t ever get to a point where they seem to be filling time, no, each tune definitely has a place on here. The penultimate tune, “Ashes”, is just as fresh and vibrant as the earlier cuts on here, like the opener, “The Dark Room”, “Jupiter’s Baby”, “Purple Godzilla”. The track “Inventing Dr. Sutherland” is an interesting, spaced-out anthem which sort of sets the stage for what could be thought of a “concept”. The song right after “Inventing Dr. Sutherland”, “Diagnosis”, continues the medical, psychological journey. In “Diagnosis” Radford writes, in a first-person narrative, about one who is wondering aloud if he’s crazy. He’s wondering what the Dr. (no-doubt, the titular character, Dr. Sutherland) has come up with for his diagnosis; he then muses to himself, musically, “Maybe I’m schizophrenic/Maybe…[I read a lot?-sorry, but I couldn’t quite make this lyric out]/Maybe it’s genetic/Since it fits me like a glove”… Those two songs seem to be a kind of theme or anthem, for this album, with songs of madness, feelings, psychological situations and other mysterious themes; “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is another one that comes to mind.

I’m not quite sure how, but there is a thread that runs through the whole of Inventing Dr. Sutherland and his Traveling Hospital – a thread besides the exceptional musicianship that is so addicting: you just can’t stop listening. Each new tune brings more and more groovy jams that you can feel throughout your body.

As I was still thinking of what it was that this album reminded me of, a thought popped into my head: PHISH. That is a comparison that aptly fits. Of course, the make-up of the two bands are quite different, the sonic output is a bit similar: both bands have that ethereal, neo-psychedelic, jam sound going on – the guitars and keyboards and other sounds, with These Curious Thoughts, coincide, somewhat, with the presence of the five-piece set-up of Phish, who can really rock the house down, live, which is why they’ve amassed such a big following. That, and the way a lot of their fans have seeped over from the masses of Deadheads who used to follow the Grateful Dead around and would dance around, grooving to the LOOOOONG jams they’d be playing. So, somehow, when Phish got more widely known, there was this association they seemed to have with the Dead; I guess it was kind of an apt comparison, as both bands would play these extended tunes in their live shows and, like the Dead, Phish seemed to be at their best on stage. But besides that, the Phish-Dead association came from their legions of fans who were also Deadheads and also, after August of 1995, the fans became exiled Deadheads: fans without an idol to follow, so they gravitated towards Phish. But the more time went on, the more it became evident that Phish was their own band. They didn’t do covers of Dead tunes or try to be other than who they were. I myself, haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Phish live, although I did get the great experience of seeing several Grateful Dead concerts in the late 80s and the early 90s.

Anyway, getting back on track, These Curious Thoughts are not that new of a combo, Dr. Sutherland is actually their seventh album. Unfortunately, for me, I haven’t heard any of their early stuff, so I can’t say what this album is like compared to their first few albums. But I really do recommend it and it’s one that will stay in my Windows Media Player so I can keep it close by and listen to it over and over. That is what you will do as well if you get a copy. Enjoy!! -KM.

 

Siddhartha meets Nietzsche

Posted: August 21, 2014 in New Indie Music

Kye Alfred Hillig

The Buddhist

Self-Released, 2014

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

This is the second review that I’ve written for Mr. Hillig. The first one was for an album he did a year or so ago, entitled, Real Snow. Kye has just released his latest, The Buddhist, another DIY project that he is out promoting currently.

To make up for the not very clear or descriptive review which I wrote for Real Snow, I’m hoping this one will make up for that one and give the potential listener a better guide.

OK, so, let’s take The Buddhist all by itself and we’ll not compare it to any other artists or bands. I’m going to take Kye Alfred Hillig and his music for what it is and not for what it isn’t or what it does or doesn’t sound like.

As far as this “folk” label that I read somewhere: I think whomever it was that mentioned that Hillig sounds like a folkie got confused, thinking that a singer/songwriter who plays his songs on an acoustic guitar and sings the lyrics on a microphone, with no backing band, no rock set-up, like a guitar, bass, drum kit and a keyboard or synthesizer is a de facto folkie.

Hillig’s sound isn’t what I’d necessary call “folk”. It’s got a mellow, quiet, somewhat introspective vibe to it. The bare, sparse, acoustic guitar & microphone has, in this case, a hip, dark café kind of aura to it. The lyrics are a kind of Tom Waits-ish, storytelling narrative, a la a diary of a life of a man who’s reflecting on his recent past and things that he’d done with certain friends and lovers, ex-lovers and acquaintances. He sure doesn’t pull any punches here, with his bare-knuckled, no minced words lyrics.

I suppose, if one wants to compare Kye to any other singer/songwriters, two, that come to my mind, are Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Think of a kinder, gentler Tom Waits (sans the factory sounds, hammering and grease guns and machine tools all making their hard-working, aching creaks, whines, bangs and other rhythmic industrial tool kit) mixed w/the poetic, reflective paeans of Leonard Cohen. But there’s more to Hillig than just a modern day Waits or Cohen- he’s got a great lyrical ability. He’s definitely no “family-friendly”, easy-listening boorish, cornball songwriter; he mixes great, visual lyrical pictures that are mixed with discordant words that give punctuation to whatever feelings he is getting across – not afraid to say what he feels on the inside and has too much integrity to speak in euphemisms and PG-rated speech. No, when “bullshit” needs to be called “bullshit” he’s not shy about it, nor anything else. A street-wise poet who has a great classical vocabulary as well, the two of which mix well and one gives credibility to the other.

On the quite interesting song titles on The Buddhist, songs such as “I’m Alive Because of Nuclear Bombs”, the song starts out with the factoid that it was due to the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan because, if they hadn’t been dropped, his grandfather was slated to be one of the first to be ready to invade the home island of Honshu and, if he had been blown away by the fierce fighting Japanese, he wouldn’t have been able to have his father and his father couldn’t have begotten him. But as it goes on, Kye seems to be singing, in a somewhat jaded way, in a larger picture, about the fact, that the way the modern world has evolved since the post-war period has been, mostly due to the fact that the dangerously seeming brinksmanship that went on, pretty much between the two major world powers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the two “superpowers” who, between them, at the apex of the cold war, had up to, maybe 50,000 warheads(?) – the ironic thing is that the extreme paranoia, in terms of geopolitics, the arms race, winning “hearts & minds” over to one side or the other (communism vs. capitalism), etc which occurred throughout the 1950s and into the ‘60s, was a reason for America, in its glory, post-war days, when the average US household was buying homes & assuming mortgages and driving big, fast cars at a record pace, when the GDP of the US was at a relative high compared to what was to come in the lull of the 70s, only to be snookered by Reagan in the 80s, in which the poor got much poorer and the rich got much richer, up to the 90s when the whole bubble burst and Reaganomics was seen for the fraud it was, we were lucky enough to have gotten to the technological point where the “dot-com” bubble arose and arose fast – fast enough to boost the Dow Jones and NASDAQ to record levels, even to where, at the end of 2000, the US had its first spending surplus in something like 40 years or so, only to be wasted by the Republican reptiles who weaseled their way in to the White House and, within a year, got us back into deficit spending. Anyway, the point I think he was making was that Nuclear Bombs “saved our lives” because they kept any more WWThe BuddhistIIs from breaking out because of the fact that the 5 biggest powers of the world were all armed with nuclear weapons, plus China, by about 1964 or so (or was it ’65?). There’s more to the song than mere statistical, recent world history from the past 80 years – there’s the line that goes “I’m alive because of nuclear bombs/But millions of people had to die/So I could be born” and the fact that there were all these people who had to make sacrifices so that the people in the rich, free nations of the world, especially America, could live prosperous, fat lives, without fear or worry. In the end, this isn’t a “pro-US-defense-posture” song; it’s more of an ironic denunciation of the things that kept the world in check all these years – look what happened to places like the Balkans after the fall of the USSR. Or the breakup of the Soviet (and before that, the Russian –White Russian) Empire- countries that scrambled for independence the way Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc. did after the fall of the Berlin Wall – former SSRs like Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine – which, of course, is now in the news a lot, with Putin, the new tyrant of Russia, where things are not so rosy anymore, trying to get Ukraine to join back with the Russian “Federation” and not go towards the European Union – Putin already showed force by taking the Crimea part of Ukraine, a mostly Russian-speaking, resort area that, in the old Soviet era, many party officials would vacation at, in their fancy Dachas.

Anyway, I’m not here to go on about the state of the world today, I just thought I saw a parallel in that song to the past 50 or so years and the more one listens to it, the more ironic the lyrics sound.

Another great song is “Some Good Things Just Have to Die”, a song about loss and the depressing fact that, it is true, that too often, we hear about the deaths of talented, great people – whether they’re in music, film or politics or writers, etc. It’s kind of like the old saw that “only the good die young”.

“The House Across the Streets Feeds on Broken Families” is a song that talks about a memory of a neighborhood where a house exists that seems to be cursed as the succession of families that move in there seem to always end up to disintegrate into violence and anger and eventual dissolution, as seen through the eyes of a young boy who just wants to be left in peace to “play his video games”. By the end, he’s singing aloud that he wishes the house would just “stay empty/stay empty”

I hope this is a more cohesive write up of the brilliance of Kye Alfred Hillig and his troubadour-style atmosphere. The quiet, soft melodies of the songs, belie a realistic, unabridged look at various personal as well as social ills and the state of the many, confusing realities of the world. I must say, the songs themselves, the pleasing melodies, the mellow but haunting acoustic guitar accompaniment are fabulous by themselves, but it’s the mining of the rich material that make up the brilliant lyrics that really complete the album. –KM.

The Rentals

Lost in Alphaville

Polyvinyl Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                        Lost in Alphaville cover

About 23 or so years ago, Matt Sharp co-founded the “math-rock” cult wave called Weezer. Things were going well after the success of their debut album, which would turn out to be one of three self-titled albums, each tinted with a different background color (blue, green then red), they surfed to alt-rock star status via two interesting videos that got airplay on MTV (“Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly”), directed by Spike Jonze. Then, after a sizable amount of touring, etc, they returned to the studio to record what would turn out to be a sharp left turn for the band, Pinkerton. After things were finished with Pinkerton, Sharp would find himself given the axe; shown the door; kicked to the curb –whichever way you wanted to put it. No one really seemed to know why – except the usual reasons: “artistic/musical differences”, which, in the case of Weezer, probably translated into “didn’t get along w/Rivers Cuomo”.

After Sharp’s abrupt departure, Weezer lost a big chunk of what made them such a catchy band in the first place and why their debut album still stands out as their most popular, grooviest album and even though Pinkerton was, like a lot of albums which come out after a successful album but goes in a quite different direction and is, at first received somewhat poorly by myopic music critics, people who dug the “hit” tunes which received airplay on commercial radio, etc., but which, at a later point in time, upon a re-evaluation, gets metamorphosis into a “forward thinking”, “innovative” and, the ever-popular “ahead of its time” classification, Pinkerton is now seen as quite a musical feat for Weezer and critics – writers and self-appointed ones alike – say that this follow-up to their eponymous debut (now, also in retrospect, due to the two other self-titled albums, albeit with differently tinted backgrounds, known as “the Blue Album”) was a brilliant direction to go in, instead of doing a sophomore release that has more of the same.  A good example of this, from the 1970s, is Lou Reed’s solo masterpiece, Berlin, which was the follow-up to his hugely popular Transformer .  Unfortunately for the radio listening masses and easily confused rock critics, Berlin was not just a rehash of Transformer; instead Berlin took a sharp turn and went in a completely different direction:  Berlin was a “concept” album that dealt with depressing, introspective, heartbreaking ideas, like screwed up relationships, speed freaks, German whores, bad mothering and a generally misanthropic, almost nihilistic take on things.  This really freaked out the same reviewers who, not much earlier, were raving about what a killer album Transformer was; now they were pissed off because Reed had totally messed with their minds and he didn’t give them what was expected of a sophomore solo effort.  But, if you look around the internet, or read things about great albums of the ’70s and so on, Berlin now seems to be loved universally by critics and listeners alike.  In my opinion, Berlin was a better album than Transformer – I especially love “Oh Jim”.  So, when Pinkerton ran into a similar situation, it was deja vu – all the same complaints, the lack of radio-ready singles, etc., which, after time went by turned into this brilliantly conceived work that is still a charm of the Weezer catalog.  Well, for that you can, in part, thank the great songwriting skills of Matt Sharp, who was gone after Pinkerton.

After wondering where to go next, Sharp finally found the perfect niche and with no advance hype or warning, assembled The Rentals, which was Sharp’s new creative vehicle. The Rentals debut album, The Return of The Rentals, in 1995 was a shiny new example of why Sharp matters so much and what Weezer had just lost by ousting him so unceremoniously. They would play a good amount of club dates and get around, but for the most part, The Rentals seemed to be almost a side project to nothing. They didn’t get around to recording their next album until 1999’s Seven More Minutes. Now, 15 years later, they have just released what sounds like their best work yet, since moving on to a new label – Polyvinyl Records – after recording the first two for Maverick/Warner Bros.

Lost in Alphaville, their new album, is a wonderful work. It finds Sharp having re-worked The Rentals’ lineup, which now includes Jess Wolfe and Heidi Laessig on vocals, Ryen Slegr on guitar, Lauren Chapman on strings and Patrick Carney on drums, with Sharp playing bass and keyboards and singing lead vocals. Guitarist Ryen Slegr comes from a band The Rentals once toured with, Ozma, while Patrick Carney is the former drummer from the Black Keys and Lauren Chapman, the string artist, used to be with The Section Quartet.

When all six Rentals fused together their division of labor, each doing a spectacular job in their respective roles, the aggregate sound that comes out of this is a sonic tour de force. You’ve got Slegr’s whirling, jarring guitar, the driving beat of Matt’s sometimes distortion edged bass playing along with the plump, juicy buzz of his synth playing, on a classic Moog machine. Those are adorned with the beautiful harmonics of Matt, Jess and Heidi, the lushness of the three singers fusing as one mixed with the slick work of Chapman’s string arrangements. As for Matt’s solo singing – he has a great sound that reminds me a little of someone whom most people haven’t heard – Chris Holmes, who was the singer/songwriter and main force behind Yum-Yum. When I heard Sharp singing, it was Holmes’s voice that came to mind. I’ve heard Sharp’s singing described as “layers of detached, voyeuristically breathy vocals” and that is not a bad description.

Mostly recorded in Los Angeles, Lost in Alphaville did get a couple sessions done in Nashville, TN, of all places, with Patrick Carney; they then wrapped things up in New York.

Recording the album, Sharp encouraged the band to do as much improvising as would work; each member of the band brought their own, unique talents to the fore, so, he figured, why not work that in to the band’s advantage? The result, as one can hear, is a wonderful synergy of the talents each member brought to bear.

Then, back in L.A., Sharp brought all this material together, mixing in an experimental, crafty way; knitting the sounds into incredibly wrought soundscapes. The process was so inspired that some tracks had up to 200 tracks of individual sound parts. In the hands of someone less capable, this kind of manipulating and remixing, engineering, etc. might have turned into a cacophonous mess, but in the lithe hands of Matt Sharp and company, Lost in Alphaville became this awesome, ear-candy sweetness of an album. There is some groovy psychedelia in here that totally transcends the pop genome of the basis of what these songs might have turned into in other hands.

Going back in time a little bit, the Rentals, weren’t completely idle from 1999 up until just releasing this opus. They released a few EPs in 2007 and 2009. The 2009 EPs were a three-part project, entitled Songs About Time: there was a “Chapter One”, “Chapter Two” and a “Chapter Three”. 2007’s EP, which was put out on Boompa Records (Songs About Time was self-released), was entitled The Last Little Life EP. There was a fourth chapter to the Songs About Time series that appeared on the Ernest Jennings Record Co. label, which was also known as Resilience. Little more than just keeping themselves busy and jumping into other artistic endeavors, the Rentals seemed like they weren’t really into the full-time set-up of a busy status quo band. Maybe that’s what makes Lost in Alphaville so special: after so much time, this album really stands out head and shoulders above the many CDs Weezer has run through. They do have a cult fan base, but when you burn the candle brighter, it burns out that much sooner. Is that what Matt Sharp has been afraid of? There’s really only one way to find out: see how fans react.

In fact, The Rentals are already set to play some club shows in September: in the beginning of the month they’ll be doing some dates in California: In Hollywood, on the 5th, at the Henry Fonda Theater, on a quiet spot on Hollywood Blvd, about 2 blocks or so east of Vine Street. Then, they travel to Pomona, also in LA County to play at the Glass House on the 7th and the very next day they’ll be up in San Francisco to play at the legendary Slim’s on 9th Street, just off of Market (Boz Scaggs owns it or used to own it, I’m not sure of the ownership status right now). Then, there’s two weeks until they show up on the East Coast – in Philly, Asbury Park, NJ and finally at Irving Plaza in NYC. Hopefully, if things go well at these shows, they may map out a more extensive tour and let more of the country se them.

As far as the music on Lost in Alphaville goes – every tune really rings out and has something catchy or groovy to it. A few solid mentions include: “Stardust”, “1000 Seasons”, which brings out the psychedelic side; the plaintive, sweet “Damaris”, “Seven Years” and then, for a finale, they do “The Future”, a six-minute slow ride that is a smooth sailing tune which is mesmerizing and glides you out on a wondrous note.

For The Rentals’ hardcore fan base, I think Lost in Alphaville will really be a rush. To anyone else, newcomers, average fans of delightful, unobstructed, not A&R supervised indie music, this will prove to be one of the top releases of 2014. I’m that confident. Plus, being already August, I can’t see too much more coming out that could surpass the fine musicianship, talent and plain hard work that is Lost in Alphaville. If you’re thinking about it – either order it now, or go to Polyvinyl’s website and check out what they have to say about it, at http://www.polyvinylrecords.com – you can also browse through the rest of the Polyvinyl catalog there, while you’re at it. Do enjoy it! -KM.