The AGP Top 25 of 2018

A trying year politically delivered an incredibly strong year in music. With  excellent albums by some of established favorites like Guided By Voices and Superchunk as well  formidable releases from rising acts such as Twin Foxes, Darklands, Ovlov, and Kal Marks we had plenty of sonic splendeur to keep us chugging along. In our first installment of 2018 in review we take time share some our favorites of the year. Most of these are available on Bandcamp, so if there something here that lands in your wheelhouse please consider supporting these artists in any way you can.

*Photo above taken at AS220 in Providence by Eleanor Dean

Heavy Rhythm: An Interview With Doug Gillard

dougThere has been many pivotal moments in the life of Guided By Voices. The bands 1993 performance at CBGB’s during CMJ New Music Seminar as well as when Robert Pollard scrapped what is now referred to as the “classic line up” (the first time) in favor of fellow Ohioan’s Cobre Verde on Mag Earwig and more recently Doug Gillard’s return to the line-up in the summer of 2016. Since that point Bob and co. have been on tear releasing a string of exceptional LP’s with GBV as well as with ESP Ohio, a project that features Gillard as well as current bassist Mark Shue and GBV producer and audio engineer Travis Harrison. On Monday GBV will play a sold-out show at The Sinclair in Cambridge for what will be their first Boston area appearance in over two years, a momentous occasion indeed. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of talking with Doug Gillard about the recording process for the forthcoming double LP, Zepplin Over China, the bands current 2.5 hour Live set, and his continued solo and production projects. A huge thank you to Doug for taking the time and fielding our questions.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What can you tell us about the next Guided By Voices LP, the 32 track Zeppelin Over China?

Doug Gillard: Its a double album (vinyl), and completely diverse. It ranges from heavy songs to songs with strings, to just one electric guitar with Bob singing. We are very proud of this album, and its not really like any Guided By Voices album released to date.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: With the band being spread out geographically, what was the recording process like this time around?

Doug Gillard: We recorded about a third of the album’s music together as a group to 2-inch tape, then others we individually played or sent in parts for at different times. When the music was completed, our producer/engineer Travis Harrison traveled to Dayton from NYC to capture Bob’s vocals for the album. I did some string, horn and piano arrangements for the album as well.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is there track or perhaps tracks on the new album that stands out for you or one that you are eager to play Live?

Doug Gillard: We are already playing You Own The Night and Rally Boys live in our set, soon to put in My Future In Barcelona, which I think will be in by the time we hit Boston. I can’t wait to play Holy Rhythm live.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Before the release of the next GBV full length, there are plans to release two EP’s this November, Winecork Stonehenge and 100 Dougs. What was the creative process behind those EP’s?

Doug Gillard: There are 2 more EPs being released after those as well to complete the cycle, namely Umlaut Over The Ozone and 1901 Acid Rock. They all have songs hovering around 2 minutes or less, 6 songs per vinyl EP, and play at 33 rpm. Bob wrote the songs for each one fairly quickly, and we actually recorded a lot of the guitar/bass tracks while in the van on our tours. Travis is along with us, brings some gear, and we monitor through the rented van’s stereo speakers. Kevin did his drums at our friend Ray Ketchem‘s Magic Door studio in Montclair, NJ to kick it all off. Later next year after these vinyl EPs are released, all songs from the EPs will then appear collectively as an album imagined and re-sequenced by Bob entitled Warp And Woof.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: In terms of gear, your trusty black Les Paul has been your go to guitar for years. What is it about that guitar that keeps you reaching for it?

Doug Gillard: Its just dependable. Really durable (don’t jinx this, Doug), and the bridge pickup is a mid 70s DiMarzio Super 2 that just has a unique bite to it. Its a ’76 Custom I bought from someone in Akron when I was 19 and I keep it maintained a bit, but I don’t have to do much. Its heavy as shit, too, which I hate these days, but hey, you gotta sacrifice your sacroiliac for your life’s work every now & then.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What is your current gear set up on this tour?

Doug Gillard: Currently its the Les Paul, a G&L Tele as backup, an old Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo head, Marshall 4×12 cabinet and a bunch of pedals. Pedalboard is ever-evolving. Not so much evolving, as that implies some kind of goal or an end, but it will always change as our set changes, and as I discover new pedals & sounds.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How do you come to work with Eternal Summers over the years?

Doug Gillard: I met them when they opened for Nada Surf in 2012, and we exchanged music. They were gearing up to record a new LP, and asked if I would produce them. That became The Drop Beneath LP. They made 2 subsequent albums and keep getting better. Nicole Yun from Eternal Summers just completed a solo album and I play on a few of the songs. Its a really great record.

The AGP: What do you look for in a projects or bands you work with, weather producing or supplying instrumentation?

DG:I don’t know exactly. I have to like the songs and the vision or direction of the band. That’s a really subjective thing I know, so its just a vibe, generally.

The AGP: Since re-joining Guided By Voices in the summer of 2016 the pace of recording and Live performances has been unparalleled. Is that something you were prepared for going back in as full time member of GBV?

DG: I was to a degree! At that point, I think he felt rejuvenated a bit and started writing more frequently and knew that the band was now complete with no need to source outside people to do more experimental or prog colored side projects. Its all in-house.

The AGP: You recently played a set with Travis Harrison and Mark Shue in support of The Moles in New York City. Do you have any plans to record with that line-up or perhaps revisit ESP Ohio with Bob?

DG: I’m working on solo things, and have finished a couple here and there. I’d love to play more shows with Mark & Travis for sure. Bob hasn’t mentioned another ESP Ohio but we’re ready to do one if he calls one day and says he wrote that album. It was so much fun to do.

The AGP: Has your busy schedule afforded you the time to work on solo recordings for a future release?

DG: Yes, here and there. We have breaks, and when we’re not recording Guided By Voices records or overseeing a session for (Bob’s discovery) Cash Rivers & The Sinners (2 albums out now and available through Rockathon Records and Midheaven) there is some time to write and record.

The AGP: It’s been a little over two years since GBV played Boston, what can the sold-out crowd at the Sinclair expect from the bands anticipated return?

DG: We’ll be playing material from the upcoming 6-song EPs, at least 3 songs from Zeppelin Over China, several from Space Gun, and some ol’ fave chestnuts for a 2.5+ hour show. Wear your Depends™.



*Photo Credit: Ana Morales– Long Island City, Queens, NY

Guided By Voices – Space Gun [Review]

space gunHow does a writer stay objective when tackling the latest recording from an artist that he’s been passionately following for over 20 years? It’s arduous task no doubt, especially with the singular work ethic and output of Robert Pollard, but one I’ll happily embrace. Whether you are an obsessive that collects original pressings of Acid Ranch, Nightwalker, and Cash Rivers or merely a fan of the mid-90’s trifecta of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under The Bushes, Under The Stars this latest collection requires your immediate and uninterrupted attention. The material found on Space Gun equates to one of Pollard’s best outings in recent memory and one that can sit proudly next to the band most revered recordings. A logical and exhilarating next step to last year’s How Do You Spell Heaven? and August By Cake.

With the news of Space Gun, also came the caveat that this would be the only Guided By Voices album released in 2018, a newsworthy event unto itself. Over past month or so, I have had the opportunity to really dig in to this LP and that decision seems warranted and necessary. It’s fair to assume that Bob has another album in the can but it’s telling that instead of rolling into his next side project or another GBV release he is exhibiting restraint to give the songs that occupy Space Gun their due. I recall reading that Matador had tried and failed to temper Bob’s release schedule during GBV’s 90’s stint with the label, I guess that goes to show us all, that only Bob can hold back the flood.

Normally on first exposure to a Pollard related release there are those tracks that jump out immediately and then there are the growers that slowly unveil themselves over repeated listening. With Space Gun nearly every song has immediate charms and considerable hooks. The album opens with the sound of an automatic hand towel dispenser before chiming guitars and strong rhythms take hold while Pollard delivers a commanding vocal on the title track and drives the four minute song headlong to a glorious conclusion with the refrain “ all day long…”. From there the album is off and running at a brisk pace before slowing slightly at the blissfully melodic and hook laden Ark Technician. The current lineup of Guided By Voices is a formidable one to say the least and they provide varied and charging instrumentation to accompany one of Pollard’s finest songs cycles. On Liar’s Box Pollard delivers in my estimation a standout on album full of standouts. A song that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Universal Truths and Cycles or Earthquake Glue. The track begins with angular guitar lines, throbbing bass, and pounding drums before Pollard steals the show with a soaring chorus that proves to be the LP’s most euphoric moment, only to be heightened by a sensational closing guitar coda from Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr. On Sport Component National GBV delivers a 3 part rock opera that distills Bob’s prog, psych and pop leanings beautifully into a 3 minute fist pumping anthem. Then comes That’s Good, a track that first came to light on GBV’s Suitcase 3 in its skeletal form, but on Space Gun the track is given the full band treatment complete with strings and the results are staggering. To my ears, the melancholy drenched track is a distant cousin to the GBV classic If We Wait with immaculate production, courtesy of Travis Harrison. Throughout this LP, Pollard leads this incarnation of GBV through a varied and exhilarating 15 songs in 39 minutes, but not a second is wasted. Space Gun is a herculean rock record that is equal parts power and beauty from the unparalleled creative force of Robert Pollard.

Order Space Gun from Rockathon

2017: The Year In Review | Top 10 Albums

top LP'sThrow another year end list on the fire! With the last days 2017 looming, we have selected our favorite LP’s of the year. This was another banner year for the independent music being made in the American Northeast corridor. We also saw exceptional records from rising as well as established acts and in one case we got the first new recordings in a couple of decades. We thank you for your continued readership and support of this site. Stick around because we have a big 2018 planned.

We wish you an incredible Christmas and New Year filled with beautiful noise.

10. Milked – Death on Mars [EiS]
MilkedFormer Geronimo! front man, Kelly Johnson returned last summer with a new project armed with 9 songs about a sci-fi future, drenched in fuzz. Well, my obsession with album has only deepened since posting our review. Whether on the frantic sludge rock of White Punks In Angst or the pop hook fest that is Goodbye Durango Death On Mars is a remarkable debut album, buzzing with cathartic post-punk.

Stream: Spotify |Bandcamp | AGP Review 

9.Beverly TenderWhat Have You Done To My Water? [Disposable America]
6a287-unnamedAfter the high bar set up by 2015’s Lord Mayor Makes 1,000 Speeches, Beverly Tender had their work cut out for them if they were to match their self-released debut EP.  Well, as you’ve probably guessed Beverly Tender exceeded all expectations with a superb collection of skewed pop and angular guitar anthems. The one noticeable flaw is the brevity of this set, but luckily it stands up wonderfully to repeat listens. Just put it on at a day long loop.

Stream: Spotify| Bandcamp| AGP Review

8. SlowdiveSlowdive [Dead Oceans]
slowUK Shoegaze legends reunited in 2014 to some shows in their homeland and luckily for their stateside fans expanded the live dates to include two tours of the U.S. over the past few years. On Slowdive the band deliver a near flawless record overflowing with droning ambience, C86 influence pop, and their signature guitar haze. However, what makes this LP so exceptional is that Slowdive manage to create something completely unique while retaining just enough of the elements of what made their early recordings so captivating.

Stream: Spotify|Bandcamp

7. Rick RudeMake Mine Tuesday [Sophomore Lounge | Tiny Radars]
rickThis New Hampshire collective provided the year’s biggest eureka moment with Make Mine On Tuesday. With twin guitar interplay reminiscent of Keep It Like A Secret era Built To Spill and the scrappy lo-fi charm of early Guided By Voices, Rick Rude delivered the year’s most addictive listens. For all the heavyweight influences and comparisons on Make Mine Tuesday the ensemble manages to carve out a space all their own and on tracks like Bald & Fat in Houston, TX and Sunhead they delivered one of the years most varied and sonically diverse LP.

Stream: Spotify|Bandcamp

6. The New Year Snow [Undertow]
SnowThese Texan’s have held a very special spot in my heart since discovering the incredible and sadly retired Bedhead (92-98) back in college. Since then I have followed along with Matt and Bubba Kadane’s post Bedhead outfit, The New Year. Early on the band seemed to expand upon the slo-core path of their earlier work, but over the past 4 albums The New Year has become an archetypal institution all their own. Snow represents another step forward for the band and finds the Kadane’s turning in a stunning new collection of sparse, deliberate, and beautifully arranged pop songs.

Stream: Bandcamp

5.Bad History Month Dead And Loving It: An Introductory Exploration of Pessimysticism [EiS]
Dead For the better part of 10 years Sean Bean has captured our attention with intelligent lyricism ripe with self-deprecation, first as Boston’s anti folk noise duo Fat History Month. In relative short time he amassed an impressive catalog of full lengths, EP, split releases, and plenty of basement shows. Dead and Loving It… marks the first official release under Bad History Month moniker, a name Bean adopted from FHM’s excellent 2013 release. This new LP is an incredible study of self-examination and existentialism. It’s also an album that display’s Bean as a gifted songwriter. Dead And Loving it is work of substance and emotion that offers a glimpse of hope out the despair exhibited thought out the LP, particularly on The Church Of Nothing Matters. Bleak as fuck, but completely stunning from start to finish.

Stream: Spotify|Bandcamp

4. Mount EerieA Crow Looked At Me [P.W. Elverum & Sun]
a crowFor those unfamiliar with this story, Phil Elverum the man behind both The Microphones and more recently, Mount Eerie suffered an enormous personal loss after his wife died due to an inoperable cancer in 2016. He recorded these songs shortly after her passing in the home they shared with their newborn daughter while utilizing her instruments. To say this is a devastating record is a bit of an understatement, but for all the sadness that drips from these songs there’s both beauty and honestly in these tracks as well. A Crow Looked At Me is an incredible cathartic document of loss, remembering the little things in life, and finding a way to dust ourselves off and trudge on for the people that need us most.

Stream: Spotify |Bandcamp

3. PileA Hairshirt of Purpose [EiS]
pileIt’s been something to see Boston’s post-punk goliaths Pile, evolve from their inception in the mid 00’s to the string of superb full lengths. On A Hairshirt of Purpose, Pile manages to exceed the lofty expectations set by 2015’s You’re Better Than This with an album that pushes the bands sounds in new and exciting directions while retaining their gift for combining dexterous and complex instrumentation paired with honest self-reflection. On album number six Pile have delivered their finest record, at least until they get around to recording the next one.

Stream: Spotify|Bandcamp

2. Guided By Voices – How Do You Spell Heaven [GBV Inc.]
heavenIn April Robert Pollard’s issued his 100th full length release with August By Cake a sprawling 32 track double album which in addition to some instant Pollard classics featured songwriting and vocal contributions from Doug Gillard, Mark Shue, Kevin March, and Bobby Bare Jr. Then in the heat of August Pollard delivered GBV album #2 of 2017, How Do You Spell Heaven? A concise and focused effort reminiscent of the TVT years and arguably Pollard’s most accessible set of songs since Isolation Drills. The album kicks off with The Birthday Democrats, a catchy as all hell guitar pop anthem of the highest order. How Do Spell Heaven? Is the album casual fans have been dying for GBV to record and one the obsessives will embrace, which further proves that Robert Pollard shows no signs of slowing down or delivering a sub-par album. Not bad for a guy who just turned 60th with 101 LP’s to his credit.

Stream
Spotify

1. Meat WaveThe Incessant [Side One Dummy]
meatThe Incessant had our backs in 2017. It was there to comfort us during the early days of a certain narcissistic idiots Presidency, to cure our workday frustrations, and could be heard by anyone within an earshot of our vehicles on summer road trips. Meat Wave fronter Chris Sutter wrote the bulk of this set in the aftermath of the dissolution of 12 year relationship and he voices his displeasure throughout the album. The Incessant is a jagged noise pop opus with plenty of wit, spite, and pop hooks. The album isn’t all cacophony, Sutter takes a deep death on Birdland, only to bludgeon us with biting and arresting lyricism, “down into the valley surrounded by scum, no point in climbing out, you burned everyone you love.”

Stream: Spotify|Bandcamp

Photo Credit: Noel Kelly of The Hush Now @ The Davis Square Theater

2017: The Year In Review | Top 25 Tracks

AGP tracks 2With the end of our calendar year upon us, many of us blogging types turn to cast a gaze over the past 12 months and deliver a year end recap. It’s been a few years since we  completed this exercise, but with a year as strong as  2017 was, the opportunity to spotlight the releases and artists that one could’ve found clamoring from the AGP offices in  the past year was too good to pass up. We have compiled the 25 songs below that ended up in heavy rotation on our turntables as well as on the various streaming platforms we frequented this year. You’ll probable notice the  bulk of favorite tracks have origins in the American Northeast which speaks volumes about those artists, labels like Disposable America and Exploding in Sound Records, not to mention the thriving scenes in Allston, Northampton,  Brooklyn, and Providence.

25. Protomartyr – A Private Understanding

24. Soft Fangs – Honey Colony

23. Big Heet – On A Wire

22. Lost Film – I Forget

21. Kindling – Wait

20. The Bats – Rooftops

19. Milked – Goodbye Durango

18. Yankee Bluff – Like An Insect

17. Black Beach – Cluttered Head

16. The Spirit of The Beehive – Cops Come Looking

15. Tobin Sprout – Cowboy Curtains

14. Rick Rude – Bald & Fat In Houston, TX

13. Two Inch Astronaut – Can You Please Not Help

12. Twin Foxes – Own Eyes

11. Infinity Girl – Don’t Believe

10.  Tery Malts – Cheap Mimicry 

9. Out – Wound Up

8. Downtown Boys – A Wall

7. The Cherry Wave – Don’t Start

6.The Persian Leaps – Picture My Reaction

5. Slowdive – Star Roving

4. Meat Wave – Leopard Print Jet Ski

3. Pile – Texas

2. Guided By Voices – Low Flying Perfection

1. Bad History Month – The Nonexistent Distance

The Flying Party Is Here: Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are + Guided By Voices – Please Be Honest

photo description

Prior to tonight’s Boston return of the newly reconstructed Guided ByVoices, we feel obliged to point out two recently released LP’s from Robert Pollard. Bearing in mind the arduous task of keeping up with Bob’s unhuman like output is no easy feat, however when he turns in two LP’s of the caliber of Guided By Voices’ Please Be Honest and Robert Pollard’s Of Course You Are,we feel compelled to share some thoughts on two records’ who’s songs haven’t left our headphones for very long since their respective release dates.

Back in March Pollard released Of Course You Are. For his 24th solo, full-length he enlisted assistance from his Wicked Ricky collaborator and current GBV guitarist Nick Mitchell to take on all instrumentation, recording and production duties. The LP finds Pollard delivering his most concise and accessible song cycle in recent memory.

The 12 track album reaches just over the 30 minute mark with each song exhibiting Robert Pollard’s unmatched ability of delivering skewed and exhilarating rock songs drenched in pop, prog, and psychedelia. It’s been 30 years since he released his first official Guided By Voices recording, yet somehow he continues to create material that presents a tenable argument that his best work may not be behind him. Pollard has taken to performing a handful of songs from Of Course You Are during the current GBV tour, and for good reason. With tracks like Promo Brunette, I Can Illustrate, and Collision Daycare, Robert Pollard delivers an album filled with beautiful melodies and arresting pop hooks.
photo description
Reportedly, it wasn’t until Please Be Honest was near completion that Robert Pollard realized that he had recorded a new Guided By Voices record. Pollard wrote, recorded, and played every instrument on the album. Understandably, the LP has gotten comparisons to classic GBV LP’s like Bee Thousand and Vampire On Titus,due to the lo-fi aesthetics at work here. We prefer to stay away from comparison’s to the bands most revered recordings and let Please Be Honest stand up on its own merit, to which it has plenty. The album is one of the more varied and at times challenging sets in the GBV cannon, with immediate and infectious tracks like The Quickers Arrive and Kid On A Ladderwhich finds Pollard blending the guitar pop of late era GBV with those beloved recordings that took them from the basement to indie darlings in the early 90’s. Additionally, on Please Be Honest, Pollard discharges off kilter sludge rock on Glittering Parliaments, Hotel X (Big Soap) and horror post-punk on the jarring yet captivating Nightmare Jamboree.

On the albums blissful and melancholic title track is where we find Pollard’s strongest and most memorable melodies of the new set. With the dissolution of the “classic line-up” there was plenty to be skeptical of when Pollard announced he was releasing a new GBV LP that could’ve easily been a solo or side project, however Please Be Honest sounds undoubtedly like a Guided By Voices album; superb songwriting with massive pop hooks and Pollard’s one man show musicianship is the albums surprising secret weapon. I’m reminded of one of the interview segments in Banks Tarver film Watch Me Jumpstart (and I’m paraphrasing) where Pollard is asked where all his songs come from and his dead pan response rings truer today than ever,  “Hey, I’m Guided By Voices” . Indeed Bob, indeed…

Guided By Voices play The Paradise tonight with support from Nap Eyes.

No more posts.