Tag Archives: Merge

New Titus Andronicus video: An Anomaly

Video: Titus Andronicus – “An Anomaly”

Titus Andronicus - "An Anomaly" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Patrick Stickles. From The Will to Live, out September 30 on Merge.

Patrick Stickles can seem like a pretty serious fellow. Intellectually ambitious to the point of being heavy. But then when you’re least expecting it, he goes to Paris and throws down the funk bone! His moves — especially during the guitar solo — will assure you that Stickles doesn’t take himself that seriously after all. His groove is like your uncle at the wedding reception who’s been enjoying the open bar and is really getting into that one Lady Gaga song.

The lyrics, on the other hand, aren’t as silly as the video.

It was God that made our bodies but the devil made our brains
And we revel in our autonomy as we drive ourselves insane
They say God can make no error so it must have been his plan
To create a world of terror by the instruments of man.

Whoa. Heavy, right?

Stickles talked to Rolling Stone about the song:

The titular anomaly is that the natural world is quite a violent place. If these dogs didn’t have guardians providing them food, what would they do? They would go kill a rabbit or something. They don’t mean any harm, it’s not evil. That’s just the way it is. In the same way that, dare I say, the Covid-19 virus is not an evil thing. That’s not to say I’m a fan of it, we shouldn’t try to protect it. But it’s a living organism, it has the will to live, and it’s going to do whatever it takes to prosper.

Much of the time the will to live is translated into the physical world in some form of violence or brutality. This is true of humans, but at a certain point, humans stopped being part of the natural world — they weren’t in the food chain anymore. So this violence ceases to have utility. But it seems to me that those impulses haven’t gone away, even though we don’t need them anymore. That’s translated into more advanced, effective, and atrocious forms of violence, up to and including the atom bomb. That’s fairly anomalous, isn’t it? There’s nothing natural about the atom bomb, or a self replicating nanobot that will eat the Earth. That’s evil in a way that a dog eating a rabbit is not. If the Devil is real, that’s it.

While you’re reading that, feel free to open another browser window so you can see him dancing in your peripheral vision. It balances out nicely.

Stickles is clearly a complex guy: thoughtful but still goofy. I like that in a person. And in an artist. It’s also amusing that he’s totally embracing the Big Dumb Rock sound of Def Leppard and Boston. Still sounds like Titus Andronicus, of course, but passing through a Rockman X100.

God damn!

Titus Andronicus: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Titus Andronicus video: We’re Coming Back

Video: Titus Andronicus – “We’re Coming Back”

Titus Andronicus - We're Coming Back (Official Video)

Directed by Ray Concepcion. Single out now on Merge.

Speaking of training montages, watch Patrick Stickles get himself back into fighting shape by trading his Modelos for smoothies, tuning up the van, and working out.

“I do not claim to be any kind of athlete,” Stickles says, “and after three intense days of shooting this video, I have been, and continue to be, more sore than ever before. It’s rough getting old, but I have never shied from suffering for my art, nor do I intend to pursue a path of such cowardice in the future.”

So what does the future hold for Titus Andronicus? Nobody’s saying anything definitive right now but this cover of the 1983 punk anthem is a not-particularly-subtle clue that we can expect new music and shows. Hopefully soon.

“All I can tell you right now is that Cock Sparrer gave us the most open-hearted and uplifting song in all of British punk’s second wave, perhaps even of any wave, foreign or domestic. I have wept to this song many times over the years, and it is a joy to share our version with the world.”

It’s a joy to hear it.

Don’t get worried, don’t get scared
We’re fighting to get there
Never doubt we’re gonna get through
We’re gonna run, we’re gonna crawl, kick down every wall
It won’t be long we’re coming back to you.

Titus Andronicus: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Titus Andronicus video: We’re Coming Back

New Mountain Goats video: Training Montage

Video: the Mountain Goats – “Training Montage”

the Mountain Goats - Training Montage

From Bleed Out, due August 19 on Merge.

Oh this is good. I understand why bands like to change things up over time and grow artistically or whatever, but I also appreciate it when they go back and throw their old fans a bone. In 2020, at the beginning of Covid, when we were all terrified and hopeless and locked down, John Darnielle recorded and released the first Mountain Goats album recorded entirely on his Panasonic boombox since 2002’s All Hail West Texas. It was like a comforting hug from a friend you hadn’t seen in years. The protagonists on Songs for Pierre Chuvin are all defiantly doomed pagans in the process of getting wiped out by the early Christian Roman Empire, and it was exactly what we needed in that moment.

Other than Chuvin the recent Mountain Goats albums have seen the band go in a more lush, almost jazzy direction with Darnielle spending more time on piano than beating the crap out of his acoustic guitar. Then last year, out of nowhere, for reasons that only make sense in these decidedly unroaring twenties, a song from 2002’s Tallahassee went viral on TikTok. “No Children” is a spiteful divorce anthem that drives a nail into the coffin of Darnielle’s characters known as the Alpha couple.

This new song sounds like it would fit better next to anything on Tallahassee than In League with Dragons or Dark in Here. I’m not suggesting that the Mountain Goats are trying to crassly capitalize on their unexpected moment in the sun, since the new album was secretly recorded back in January 2021, months before anybody was choreographing dance routines to a chorus of “I hope you die!” But it’s got more of that old-school (well, mid-school, I guess), 4AD-era Mountain Goats feel. That’s the era I love unreservedly.

Darnielle describes the vibe of the new album: “I got this idea to write a bunch of songs where they were all uptempo mini-action movies. Plots, characters, heists, hostages, questionable capers, getaway cars, all that stuff. Gas pedal glued to the floor. Eventually, as you might guess I wanted at least one song where the tempo relaxed a little and that’s the title track but otherwise buckle up.”

Add to that the fact that it was produced by Bully’s Alicia Bognanno who also plays on it, and you know it’s going to be great. Can’t wait to hear the rest!

The Mountain Goats: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Mountain Goats video: Training Montage

New Superchunk: Endless Summer

Video: Superchunk – “Endless Summer”

Superchunk - Endless Summer (Official Lyric Video)

From Wild Loneliness, out February 25 on Merge.

It’s 54 degrees right now here in Michigan and the meteorologists say it might get up to 60 tonight. Now I understand that there’s a difference between weather and climate but this is fucked up.

Now I’m a broken record
I’m a year-round bummer, but
I’m not ready for an endless summer.

Mac says the new song was “written on New Year’s Day 2020 which was unseasonably warm here in North Carolina. Of course, by the time we recorded it, ‘endless summer’ had other meanings… The 7” sleeve features Roe Ethridge’s beautiful photos of broken beach umbrellas which capture the vibe of the song perfectly.”

“Endless Summer” features the harmonies of Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley. The rest of the upcoming album contains contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Mike Mills, Wye Oak’s Andy Stack, Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, Owen Pallett, Kelly Pratt, and Franklin Bruno.

New Mac McCaughan: Circling Around

Video: Mac McCaughan – “Circling Around”

Mac McCaughan - Circling Around (Official Video)

From The Sound of Yourself, due September 24 on Merge.

Isn’t Mac McCaughan’s voice comforting? The Superchunk frontman always makes me feel better.

I often think about his December 2016 single, “Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)” and how we naively hoped it might not be as bad as we feared. But it was. It was worse. And it’s not getting much better. Not any time soon anyway. But hey, at least Prince can’t die again.

“Circling Around” feels like acceptance that we’re going to be stuck in this loop for a while.

X’s in the carpet of where I walked a path through to the floor
Kinda looks like a target but I’m not getting my hopes up anymore.

Mac says, “Here’s a song for wherever you’re wearing out a path & thinking your thoughts.”

Mac McCaughan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Mac McCaughan: Circling Around

New Torres: Thirstier

Video: TORRES – “Thirstier”

TORRES - Thirstier (Official Video)

From Thirstier, out July 30 on Merge.

New songs from Mackenzie Scott are always welcome and it’s been fun to see her evolve from her quieter, moodier 4AD material into this dynamic new Merge era. Her videos are always interesting in the way they present domestic carnality in unexpected ways. This new video for the title track of her upcoming album is no exception.

Our hero frolics at the shore while her love interest sits naked on the branch of a tree with her back to us, toes in the beach grass. Torres videos are sensual without being vulgar. I’m sure a clever point could be made about the male gaze, but I’ll leave that to smarter people.

Keep me in your fantasies
Baby, even though you live with me
The more I look, the more I see
As long as I’m around, I’ll be lookin’ for a nerve to hit
The more of you I drink, the thirstier I get.

When adults in long-term relationships talk about sex it tends to be either boring or gross. Unless it’s in a Torres song.

New Torres: Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head

Video: TORRES – “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head”

TORRES - Don't Go Puttin Wishes in My Head (Official Video)

Video by Emily James. From Thirstier, due July 30 on Merge.

In 2018, Mackenzie Scott who records as Torres was dropped from a 3 album deal by her label 4AD “for not being commercially successful enough.” Then in 2019 she was picked up by Merge who released Silver Tongue last year.

Who knows what it even means these days to be “dropped” or “signed” to an indie label? Do labels still provide tour support or an advance on recording costs? Or do labels just promise to distribute and promote your stuff? Maybe that’s enough.

Regardless, Merge isn’t f-ing around and they’re releasing a new Torres album just 18 months after that last one. Hopefully, this means that Silver Tongue was commercially successful enough for everybody.

The leadoff single sounds beefier than her previous material. Scott has always come across as very cool verging on icy, but on “Wishes” she’s really belting it out. Her vocals are raw and intense. It’s a survival powerhouse that calls to mind the rollerskating anthems of Pat Benatar. Scott herself calls it her “relentless arena country star moment--my shameless Tim McGraw cheeseball hit.” Let’s hope so!

For a while, I was sinking
But from here on out, I swear I’m swimming.

Scott says, “I wanted to channel my intensity into something that felt positive and constructive, as opposed to being intense in a destructive or eviscerating way. I love the idea that intensity can actually be something life-saving or something joyous.”

The video was shot in her apartment, so if you’ve been hoping for an update to Joe Pernice’s “Indie Rock Cribs” this might be as close as you’re going to get.

Via For the Rabbits.

Continue reading New Torres: Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head

New Hiss Golden Messenger: Sanctuary

Video: Hiss Golden Messenger – “Sanctuary”

Hiss Golden Messenger - Sanctuary (Official Video)

Directed by Saleem Reshamwala. Single out now on Merge.

Oh man, I get the feeling Hiss Golden Messenger knows how we’re all feeling.

You want good news
You want sanctuary
But when you try to get real
They break you on the wheel.

Good news has been in short supply lately. Even when we get good news, the good feelings are short lived, as we immediately get bombarded by more bad news. Think of the Georgia Senate elections. It was like, “Woo hoo, the good guys won!” Then, what, an hour later a bunch of insurrectionist goons were breaking into the Capitol? What the fuck? How are we supposed to deal with this?

Meanwhile an infectious disease is spreading wildly across the country, killing 4,000+ people a day now. And good news: We’ve got a vaccine! Immediately after: Oops, we have no way of administering it to the people who need it. The county websites are a mess, redirecting seniors to hospital websites, where navigating to any useful information is hit and miss. It’s hard to not feel doomed.

Feeling bad
Feeling blue
Can’t get out of my own mind…

But a good song can make you feel better for a few minutes. And you can play it on repeat if you need to. That little light’s gotta last a while.

Hiss Golden Messenger: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Teenage Fanclub: Home

Video: Teenage Fanclub – “Home”

Teenage Fanclub - Home (single edit)

From Endless Arcade, out March 5 on Merge.

You can never go home again. Yeah, it’s a cliche and painfully overused but it’s overused because it’s also painfully true. You can wander the streets of your neighborhood but they’re slightly different, like in a dream. Old haunts are under different names, old friends are…older. So, no. You can’t go home again, but one of the magics of music is you can return to familiar feelings. Neurons deep within the folds and creases of your brain can fire again. You can’t go back, but you can imagine what it would be like if you could. That’s how I feel when I hear the jangle and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub.

Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows BBC Session

My introduction to the Fannies was like so many bands and artists in my youth: via mixtape. Jake had slipped in an alternate take of “Everything Flows” onto a yellow Maxell cassette. The loud guitars layered with pristine harmonies seeped perfectly into a brain already prepped by an obsession with The Stone Roses.

We get older every year
But you don’t change
Or I don’t notice you’re changing

Nearly thirty years on, Teenage Fanclub is still chugging. Their long Scottish locks are shorn and their skin isn’t as smooth, but whose is? The raucous youths who stormed Reading in 1992 are now more mature, more refined, more…still. And maybe that allows more space for the songs themselves. Maybe I’m just getting older too.

Teenage Fanclub - Reading Festival 1992

The new single, “Home” is classic latter-day TFC. It’s pretty and touching and nostalgic without being morose. Give a listen and feel at home again, if only for four minutes.

Teenage Fanclub: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Mountain Goats video: Get Famous

Video: the Mountain Goats – “Get Famous”

the Mountain Goats - Get Famous (Official Music Video)

Directed by David Hollander. From Getting Into Knives, due October 23 on Merge.

I love the Mountain Goats. There were a few weeks this spring when Songs for Pierre Chuvin very likely kept me from losing my marbles. Everybody I know has struggled with the anxiety, anger, and depression that this pandemic has caused. We all deal with our emotions in different ways. I listened to the Mountain Goats and fired up my chainsaw (don’t ask).

But before John Darnielle recorded that lifesaving effort on his Panasonic boombox at home, alone, in lockdown, his band had already wrapped up recording a new album in Memphis, with special guests like guitarist Chris Boerner from Hiss Golden Messenger who plays on this new single, as does legendary organist Charles Hodges.

The belief that you’re destined to become famous is a weirdly American thing, and this song picks up on some of that desperation, and hints at some of the dangers. Or does it? Darnielle doesn’t typically dabble in sarcasm and it’s easy to hear this celebratory jam as affirming that little Kardashian on your shoulder, encouraging you to go ahead and post that selfie.

The bobbleheaded video comes across as super earnest as well. How can you not root for these nodding little guys? I sincerely want them to be famous!

Darnielle says:

David Hollander and I met last year and I saw a fellow traveller in him — a guy who likes to get an idea and wrestle with it until something weird and cool happens. I played him the demo of “Get Famous” last July and he picked it up immediately — this would have been within a week or so of writing it, which is kind of a special time in a song’s life — and I knew I’d want him on board to express some of the dread that lurks underneath its mid-tempo Mott the Hoople-inspired jaunt. I wasn’t sure if bobbleheads could really capture that level of giddy anxiety, but David’s visions play for keeps — the first time I saw the camera resolve on my bobblehead in a way that made it look like it had changed its expression, I almost fell out of my chair. Proud to have a video this left-field for our dark little song.

So I dunno. I guess it can be read as dark. But it sure sounds fun!

(Also, the fact that the Jon Wurster bobblehead looks like Jesus is some righteous #rocknrollweirdness.)

The Mountain Goats: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.