Tag Archives: Merge

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.

New Mountain Goats: As Many Candles As Possible

Video: the Mountain Goats – “As Many Candles As Possible”

the Mountain Goats - As Many Candles As Possible (Official Lyric Video)

Directed by Lalitree Darnielle. From Getting Into Knives, due October 23 on Merge.

Remember back when the Mountains Goats announced Songs for Pierre Chuvin how John Darnielle causally mentioned that “the entire band was decamped at an undisclosed location working on the next Mountain Goats album” when the pandemic started raging out of control and “the work schedule [they] had planned for spring probably wouldn’t be panning out”?

Well, they apparently got enough done in those first few days of March to make a whole album out of it. And that undisclosed location? Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee. So that’s pretty cool.

“As Many Candles As Possible” is the first single from the project and it’s a good one. I’ve been getting a little discouraged but the lack of guitars and abundance of what I half-jokingly call “jazziness” on recent Mountain Goats studio stuff, but this sounds like a badass rock and roll song with some gnarly lead guitar. It also features howling Hammond B-3 courtesy of Charles Hodges, the legendary Memphis organist who played on all the Hi Records hits recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios.

So yeah, the Mountain Goats are digging into that deep Memphis soil, from the earliest days of rock and roll, through the funky soul of the sixties, all the way to the garage stomp of the Cramps, and beyond.

Seek out a cave by the ocean while you wait out the rain
Dial down the weak bits and crank up the gain.

Yeah!

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

New Bob Mould: American Crisis

Video: Bob Mould – “American Crisis”

Bob Mould - American Crisis (Official Video)

From Blue Hearts, out September 25 on Merge.

Holy shit, Bob Mould’s not fucking around. Nobody like an old punk to articulate existential rage!

Welcome back to American Crisis
No telling what the price is
Wake up every day to see a nation in flames
We click and we tweet and we spread these tales of blame

“‘American Crisis’ is a tale of two times,” says Mould. “Past Time and Present Time. The parallels between 1984 and 2020 are a bit scary for me: telegenic, charismatic leaders, praised and propped up by extreme Evangelicals, either ignoring an epidemic (HIV/AIDS) or being outright deceitful about a pandemic (COVID-19).” Telegenic? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Reagan, maybe. But our current fuhrer is about as physically repulsive as a human can be.

“These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.” Sock it to ’em, Mould!

Drummer Jon Wurster adds, “We cranked this out a couple months ago when everything was only slightly less fucked up. Proceeds go to @blackvisionscollective and @outfrontmn.”

This is exactly what we need right now. More, please!

Bob Mould: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

Video: The Mountain Goats – “Until Olympius Returns”

the Mountain Goats - Until Olympius Returns

From Songs for Pierre Chuvin, out now on Merge.

It’s hard not to feel doomed these days. Democracy, empathy, our general welfare: all of these things have been eroding away for the past few years. Longer, of course, but the erosion has ramped up lately like the rising waters of Lake Michigan eating away the shoreline.

Maybe it was inevitable. It’s probably irreversible.

This pandemic and the response to it might be the final nail in the coffin. Will our culture survive?

Our temples are record stores, independent book shops, and small restaurants. Our ceremonies are sweating with strangers in dark clubs with live music. Will any of that even exist in a couple years?

I hope so. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t.

Do you think the fourth and fifth century pagans throughout the Roman Empire thought about stuff like that while the Christian mobs and Roman armies were systematically wiping them off the face of the earth?

On Songs for Pierre Chuvin, John Darnielle goes back in time to an era that’s hardly recognizable anymore: the 1990s. It was a time when dudes sat on the living room floor and recorded earnest songs about ancient esoterica into boomboxes. They dubbed copies of their cassettes and passed them around to their friends, who dubbed copies and passed them around to their friends, who picked out their favorite songs and compiled them onto mixtapes to impress pals and woo women. The world was physical and the exchange of these artifacts took place in dorm rooms and shitty apartments, face-to-face or delivered to mailboxes.

I first became aware of the Mountain Goats at the tail end of this era. All Hail West Texas was the last album that John Darnielle recorded on his Panasonic RX-FT500 portable cassette player. Since then Mountain Goats albums have gotten gradually more sophisticated, recording in professional studios, adding a bass player, then a drummer, eventually even a saxophone. Darnielle’s compositions have matured as well, as has his musicianship, and several recent recordings feature Darnielle on piano instead of guitar. 2017’s Goths features no guitar at all. It’s jazzy.

Continue reading The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

New Waxahatchee video: Lilacs

Video: Waxahatchee – “Lilacs”

Waxahatchee - Lilacs (Official Video)

Directed by Ashley Connor. From Saint Cloud, out March 27 on Merge.

There’s something about the interplay of the guitars on this that reminds me of “Some Kind of Love” by the Velvet Underground. Which is always a good thing.

If I’m a broken record, write it in the dust babe
I’ll fill myself back up like I used to do
And if my bones are made of delicate sugar
I won’t end up anywhere good without you.

Katie Crutchfield talked to Rolling Stone about writing the song. “I was just in a bad mood. Through all of my personal growth and the path that I’ve been on, you have these days where you slip back into bad behavior and patterns of thought. When I wrote that chorus, I was like, ‘All right, we’re going to make this a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.’”

She also recommends watering your flowers with Topo Chico: “Lilacs have a longer lifespan if they drink soda water.”

Good tip!

Waxahatchee: web, twitter, amazon, wiki.

Continue reading New Waxahatchee video: Lilacs