The AGP’s Top Albums of 2019 [Belated Editors Edition]

Decks

When I started to compile this list and reflect on the releases and events that shaped my 2019 the year was coming to an end and I for one couldn’t have been happier about that. In full disclosure in the early stages of working on this piece I put a playlist together and named it 2019 – Go Fuck Yourself. A bit low brow but a title that accurately surmises my sentiment for those 365 days that occupied 2019. In addition to some personal challenges I was faced with last year the world continued to deliver heartbreaking blows with the deaths of two of my all time favorite artists, David Berman and Daniel Johnston, respectively. But, as I was often reminded in 2019 there is power and catharsis in music and sometimes a great song can change your day and perspective in under 3 minutes, or less in some cases. 2019 was an exceptionally strong year for music and brought both new releases from long standing favorites, indie legends and exciting new acts that captured my attention and provided the soundtrack to a year that is gladly in the rearview. This list could have easily been expanded to 40 albums if not more, however these 20 records are the ones that I turned to the most, connected with, played loudly in the car, on long runs in the woods, and forced upon my friends and loved ones. Let’s try to see past the fact that It’s already February, better late than never I suppose.

Sample picture

20. Gruff RhysPang! (Rough Trade)
Former Super Furry Animals leader, Gruff Rhys follows 2018’s Bablesberg with a magnificent album of pastoral chamber pop about the decaying state of the world sung entirely in Welsh with production assistance from South African electronic artist Muzi.

Bandcamp | Stream | Rough Trade Records

Sample picture
19 . The Black WatchMagic Johnson (Atom Records)
The long running Los Angeles dream pop concern, The Black Watch issued yet another gem in a string of engaging, literate and infectious LP’s with Magic Johnson. Not even my east coast pro Celtics bias could deny the strength of this album and shimmering pop sounds within.

Bandcamp|Stream |Atom Records

Sample picture

18. SneezeFin (Midnight Warewolf / Tor Johnson Records)
Boston grunge punks, Sneeze first popped onto my radar in 2011 and I’ve followed along closely over the past 9 years as they’ve released a remarkably consistent string of releases. Fin follows 2016’s excellent Rot EP and finds the trio delivering there most varied and anthemic album to date.

Bandcamp | Stream | Tor Johnson Records | Midnight Warewolf Records

Sample picture

17. Peyton Pinkerton Ex Tomorrow (Darla)
The former New Radiant Storm King, Pernice Brother, and Silver Jew, Peyton Pinkerton returned this year with what has turned out to be my favorite of his solo offerings. Ex-Tomorrow is filled with intelligent and exquisite guitar driven pop songs. What more could you possibly need?

Bandcamp | Stream | Darla

Sample picture

16. FCKR JR I’m Sorry Mom and Dad (Born Yesterday Records)
Late last summer Ben Grigg (Geronimo!, Whelpwisher, Future Biff) unveiled the full length debut from his latest project, the fantastically named FCKR JR. A staggering blend of shoegaze, ethereal guitar lines, and considerable pop hooks. Slippercore is real!

Bandcamp | Stream | Born Yesterday Records

Sample picture

15. Versus – Ex Voto (Ernest Jennings)
A very welcome return from a band I’ve admired since the early 90’s. Versus deliver this new set with finesse and refinement of a band that’s been at it for 3 decades but one that’s not satisfied to rely on their past accomplishments. Ex Voto is an infections and arresting LP that finds it’s creators sounding recharged and as vital as ever.

Bandcamp | Stream | Ernest Jenning Record Co.

Sample picture

14. Horse Jumper of LoveSo Divine (Run For Cover)
Boston’s slowcore concern HJOL made the move to Run For Cover Records for their 2nd LP and found the band pushing their sound into exciting new directions with a blissful marriage of beauty, sadness, and noise.

Bandcamp | Stream | Run For Cover

Sample picture

13. DiivDeceiver (Captured Tracks)
On Deciever Zachary Cole Smith leads Diiv through their most accomplished song cycle to date, while adding a new density and a fresh coat of grime to the shoegazers sonic pallet, providing new vibrant texture to dark tales of addiction and recovery.

Bandcamp | Stream | Captured Tracks

Sample picture

12. Christian FitnessYou Are The Ambulance (Self-Released) Cardiff’s Andrew “Falco” Falkous delivered his sixth LP, under the moniker of Christian Fitness with You Are The Ambulance and further solidified himself as formidable songwriter and grade A noisemaker. Flippant post-punk anthems filled with razor sharp wit from the Mclusky/Future Of The Left fronter.

Bandcamp

Sample picture

11. The Astounds Ancient Flying Ghosts (1262936 Records DK) A new record from Dean Wells (Capstan Shafts) is cause for celebration especially when said album is as good as Ancient Flying Ghosts. 10 songs in under 20 minutes for an euphoric lo-fi blast and oh so many hooks!

Bandcamp | Stream

Sample picture

10. Possible HumansEverybody Split (Trouble In Mind)
It took Melbourne’s Possible Humans 7 years to release their debut full length, Everybody Split. After self -releasing the album in Australia Everybody Split saw wider release this summer courtesy of Trouble In Mind Records. Recalling the blissful jangle of early REM, The Clean, and The Feelies while distilling those influences into a unique and engaging debut LP.

Bandcamp | Stream | Trouble In Mind Records

Sample picture

9. J. RobbinsUn-Becoming (Dischord)
30 years deep into a remarkable career with bands like Jawbox, Goverment Issue, and Burning Airlines J. Robbins issued his first solo LP ripe with thoughtful and honest post-hardcore anthems.

Bandcamp | Stream | Dischord

Sample picture

8. Brat Curse Brat Curse (Anyway Records)
Columbus OH’ Brat Curse specialize in fuzzed drenched power pop and on their 2nd LP they deliver 12 infectious ear worms that seem to stick with me for days. This superb collection of concise and exhilarating mid-fi indie rock unveils a new favorite each and every visit.

Bandcamp | Stream |Anyway Records | Just Because Records

Sample picture

7. Smug BrothersServe A Thirsty Moon(Self Released)
Smug Brothers’ creative force, Kyle Melton set up a home studio earlier this year and proceeded to record three new albums. Attic Harvest arrived in February then All Blur Spark was delivered in July, both of which are absolute gems and worthy of your attention. However, the material on Serve A Thirsty Moon seems like a step forward. A bit more anthemic, focused and affecting. This album has been in constant rotations since it’s November release.

Bandcamp | Stream

Sample picture

6. Honey RadarRuby Puff of Dust (What’s Your Rapture?)
Philadelphia’s Jason Henn and friends delivered yet another satisfying and timeless album of hook heavy lo-fi pop with Ruby Puff of Dust. The latest offering sounds like it could’ve been easily released at any point in the last 30 years but as luck would have it came to us this year with quantum sized hooks and sweet melodies under a thick layer of tape hiss and buzzing guitars.

Bandcamp | What’s Your Rapture?

Sample picture

5. Pernice BrothersSpread The Feeling (Ashmont Records)
September brought the 1st new album from Pernice Brothers in nearly a decade with the 11-track, Spread The Feeling. The album features appearances from past Pernice Brothers alum as well as a stunning collaboration with Neko Case, but what keep me reaching for this album over and over is an exceptional song cycle from Joe Pernice, chock full of beautiful lyricism and striking melodies.

Bandcamp | Ashmont Records

Sample picture

4. PileGreen and Gray (Exploding In Sound)
For the past 12 years Boston’s Pile have delivered 7 LP’s of arresting post-punk while somehow upping the anti with each release. Green and Gray follows 2017 excellent A Hairshirt of Purpose and takes yet another step forward in the evolution of the band’s sonic capabilities. Rick Maguire delivers a stunning song cycle throughout Green and Grey while leading Pile through a well-balanced album filled with jagged noise and striking melodies.

Bandcamp | Stream Exploding In Sound

Sample picture

3. Hallelujah The HillsI Am You (Self-Released)
The three years it took for Hallelujah The Hills to follow up 2016’s A Band Is Something To Figure Out was in fact well worth the wait. Who knew while Ryan Walsh was promoting his exemplary first novel, Astral Weeks: A Secret History Of 1968 he was also hard at work along with his band mates crafting Hallelujah The Hill’s flawless new LP. I Am You contains quantum sized hooks, accomplished and varied instrumentation, as well as Walsh’s greatest lyrical contributions to date. A masterful LP from start to finish.

Bandcamp | Stream

Sample picture

2. Guided By VoicesZeppelin Over China / Warp and Woof / Sweating The Plague (GBV Inc.)
2019 was the year a perennial favorite delivered 3 exquisite LP’s in a 12 month span and provided the arduous task of picking a favorite. Zeppelin Over China is a 32 song monster and arguably the crowing achievement from Robert Pollard’s most recent and technically proficient line up Guided By Voices. May I refer you to Your Lights Are Out? A personal favorite from an album choc full of life affirming rock songs.


Stream

Sample picture

Guided By VoicesWarp and Woof (GBV Inc.)
Compiling tracks released on 4 EP released between 2018-2019, Acid Rock, Umlaut Over The Ozone, 100 Doug’s, and Wine Cork Stonhenge. If you think it’s just another in the long line of Robert Pollard releases or an odds and sods collection you’d be dead wrong. Warp and Woof is a superb LP and one of Guided By Voices most varied and infectious albums in recent memory.


Stream

Sample picture

Guided By Voices Sweating The Plague (GBV Inc.)
As I mentioned in a recent review Sweating The Plague contains some instant ear worms, but the tracks that really satisfy are the songs that reveal their greatness and subtle complexities over repeated listens. All three of the albums Guided By Voices released this year offered an overabundance of riches and each further proves Bob and this exemplary line up of musicians continue their hot streak but on Sweating The Plague, GBV goes all in on a menacing and gargantuan rock record that gets better with every visit.

Bandcamp |GBV.Inc ~ Rockathon Records |Stream

Sample picture

1. Purple MountainsPurple Mountains (Drag City)
The fist time I heard this album it struck me to my core. Delivered in mid-July, Purple Mountains marked the return of David Berman after walking away from Silver Jews and music entirely in 2011. After David’s tragic suicide in August it took me a lot of time to return to this devastating and beautiful record. These 10 songs are his final artistic statement and in the aftermath of his death they hold even more weight and insight into David’s struggles. It’s remarkable that he was able to pull this off while in the grasps of such debilitating demons. Purple Mountains is outright masterpiece and I don’t throw that M word carelessly or often. In this case it’s completely warranted, but I like many others would give it back in second to change the course of his tragic end. DCB Forever and ever.

Bandcamp |Drag City Records |Stream

Honorable Mention: Pavlov’s Puss – Comfort Food | Halfsour – Sticky | Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk | The Gotobeds – Debt Begins at 30 | Kal Marks – Let The Shit House Burn Down Starflyer 59 – Young In My Head |Pedro The Lion – Phoenix | Mike Krol – Power Chords | Lud – Yellow House Trigger Cut – Buster | David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights – Bobbie’s a Girl | Uranium Club – The Cosmo Cleaners

Review: Guided By Voices – Sweating The Plague

STP
For someone that has lived with this the 3rd LP of 2019 from Dayton, OH indie rock luminaries, Guided By Voices since last summer, I sure took my sweet ass time getting around to submitting my unsolicited evaluation. Before I dive in, allow me to digress on a personal note. 2019 has been a tough year for me personally with plenty of ups and downs, with a whole lot of uncertainty as to what the future will hold. So, for this to be the year for my beloved Guided By Voices to deliver three LP’s, It’s not an overstatement to write the following: these albums and the songs that occupy them couldn’t have been released into the world at a better time. In February Robert Pollard and co. kicked off the year with the exceptional 32-track double album, Zeppelin Over China, the hook fest that is Warp and Woof was delivered in April, and last month the band issued their most concise outing since 1987’s , Sandbox with Sweating The Plague. Has anyone ever started review with a thank you? I suppose it doesn’t bode well for objectivity but then again, this blog is in fact named after a Robert Pollard song and after 13 years I feel like you should know what to expect by now. The point I’m struggling to make here is that there is catharsis in music, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be heart on your sleeve confessionalism or cry in your pillow emo, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when executed correctly, of course. The 68 songs that Bob and Guided By Voices unleashed into the world this year gave me something to cling to when I felt like things were slipping from my grasp and when I needed them most, so I am forever grateful for that and for this band I have obsessed over since 1994. Now that I have that off my chest lets proceed headlong into Sweating The Plague.

Unlike last spring’s immediately accessible and infectious Warp and Woof, Sweating The Plague takes a more subtle approach and reveals itself over repeated listens. Not to say there aren’t a handful of instant earworms within. For instance, both Street Party and Ego Central High come charging out the gate with mammoth hooks and stunning melodies. There are still days when I wake up with the latter’s chorus “Find your elevation while you can” bouncing around my head. A fine way to drag oneself out of bed and face the challenge of a brightening new day. Plague’s radio ready, should be hit (if radio didn’t completely suck), Heavy Like The World is a stunning pop song that only Bob Pollard could write and then re-write. The re-recording of The Suitcase 2 gem, I’d Choose You, is the gorgeous centerpiece of Sweating The Plague. Last May I was standing next to the person that will soon be my x-wife at The Paradise in Boston as Doug Gillard began to play the songs opening chords when I caught that look, you know the look, the why are you freaking out look? I was having a moment that will forever be connected to that song. I attempted to explain, turning to her to say it’s I’d choose you! It’s on Suitcase 2! She just nodded, smiled and pretended to care. Before long I realized it wasn’t what I thought it was, it was even better. From that moment on the that balcony with a big part of my past that song instantly became the anthem of an excruciating year, but one that delivered more hope through melancholy and beautiful melodies than anything I’d heard before.
“Heavy like the words on your tattoos”.

Considering the bands output, especially this year, us Guided By Voices fans certainly are a spoiled and lucky lot. Any concern over the albums shorter track listing quickly subsided after spending time with these 12 songs. The line-up of Doug Gillard, Bobby Bare Jr., Mark Shue, and Kevin March continue to shine supplying varied and adroit instrumentation throughout to complement an exceptional song cycle with not one skippable track in the set. Sweating The Plague never loses momentum, in fact as of late I’m completely stuck on the albums final three tracks, with the infectious and anthemic Immortals, My Wrestling Days Are Over which features the band playing along with Bob’s demo giving the track a decidedly lo-fi feel, and my current favorite of the LP, Sons of the Beard, a fantastic multi-part and epic prog rock track, complete with strings and a liberal dose of synth that Keith Emerson would be down with. It’s been a marquee year for Guided By Voices with each of their three releases being as vital and unique as the next but with Sweating The Plague, Guided By Voices delivered something special, an album that is equal parts dense, subtle, and completely exhilarating. Some albums hold extra meaning because they help you get through the hard shit and some albums are special because they contain great songs that stick with you long after the record stops spinning, for me Sweating The Plague is both.

Sweating The Plague can be obtained at Rockathon Records/The Factory Of Raw Essentials

Back Chorus: A Conversation With Tobin Sprout

TobinSproutandBand2017

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Tobin Sprout. The musician, songwriter, illustrator, surrealist painter, and former Guided By Voices member was incredibly generous with his time and was willing to field my questions on his upcoming music and art projects. He shared some thoughts on the now 25 year old Bee Thousand, his former bands 1994 masterpiece and we even chatted a bit about his short lived but superb band, Eyesinweasel.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Last summer marked the 25th Anniversary of the release of Bee Thousand. How do you feel that the album stands up after all these years?

Tobin Sprout: I think it’s as strong as ever. B-1000 could come out today and sound just as relevant as it was in the 90’s. Time makes the masterpiece. I think a lot of the music today draws from this album.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: When is the last time you listened to it?

Tobin Sprout: It’s been awhile. I will have to sit down and listen to it.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What was the one song on the album that you enjoyed playing Live the most?

Tobin Sprout: I think we played everything on the album at one time or another. Queen of Cans and Jars, love the riff. Tractor Rape Chain has that chord slide that’s hypnotizing. Smothered In Hugs just pounds power chords, its getting louder. I still play Awful Bliss into Mincer Ray in my sets, love playing those too. Mincer Ray I just play a D most of the time, the bass carries the rest. Echos Myron was always a great one to play live. On a lot of the album I used a guitar to play bass, and EQ the 4-track to give it more bottom. That’s how I recorded the end of Echos, it was easier to hit those notes on guitar than a bass. I think we just didn’t have a bass available at the time. I guess the one I liked playing most was I Am A Scientist, I think it was the hit and the one that really got the crowds up, loved the video too.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Over the last year I’ve seen that you’ve been recording new material. What can you tell me about those tracks and plans to release your next album?

Tobin Sprout: I have an EP and an album pretty much finished. Working on getting a label right now. The EP will come out first, it has a remixed version of Supersonic Chairman and 3 other songs. It’s more guitar driven than the LP. The LP will be called Empty Horses or The Return. Its very piano driven, and a bit darker than the EP. It was recorded mostly with my Band at Tommy Schichtel‘s Studio Goon Lagoon in Grand Rapid. Tommy on lead guitar, Gary Vermillion on Drums, and Steve Vermillion on bass. Also did some of the recording at my studio in Leland Mi. A song called Every Sweet Soul was recorded by Ferris Henning. Ferris also did a video for the song. Hope to get the EP out before the end of the year. The Album will come out next year. Then hope to tour it.
More to come!

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell me a little bit about your current art related projects and/or a follow up to your children books, Tinky Put His Little Moon To Bed and Elliott?

Tobin Sprout: My Wife Laura is also an artist, she does 2D and 3D mixed medium. Uses old magazines and found objects. She calls it Life In A Box. She just had her 4th show at the Old Art Building here in Leland. We also do collaborations, where she gives me a box and some found pieces and I Paint something on the box and give it back to her to add something. It’s interesting to see how the original Idea changes into something different.She also has written a follow up to Tinky that I am going to illustrate. Elliott is out of print, but I plan to re edit it and make it available on Kindle, along with another book I wrote before Elliott called April and Elliott. Still painting and might release a booklet with the EP of my paintings.

Tobin

The AGP: What was the creative process like behind the new releases?

Tobin: I worked with the band as much as possible. Mostly at Tommy’s studio in Grand Rapids. I would send demos to Gary and Steve so when we meet at Tommy’s they would have ideas and had worked out the structures. Tommy would be placing mics and running the tape machine so would add his parts later. It also gave him time to think about his guitar parts. Once we have the basic tracks, I would add vocals and overdubs. By the next session Tommy would have his parts recorded, so we would spend time adding whatever we felt was needed then mix. At one point we also brought in Drew Howard to play pedal Steel on Breaking Down and All In My Sleep.

The AGP: As you mentioned the album is more piano driven than the EP, so I’m wondering if you had a vision going into the studio and how does the recording match up with that?

Tobin: I don’t think I had a vision but the album just grew into two different albums. About two thirds of the album worked really well together which stayed on the final album. And the others were put on the EP. Not that one was better than the other. The album is more darker piano along with a few simple acoustic pieces. Where the EP is straight up two guitars, bass and drums.

The AGP: I was in attendance for The Cambridge, MA Eyesinwesel show that ended up being captured and released as Live In The Middle East on that tour and to me there was something very special about that line up that night performance. What comes to mind when you look back at that creative period, those two releases, and the subsequent tour?

Tobin: Gary and Steve (Vermillion) were in the band then, might have been the first tour with them. Don’t remember it being one of our better shows but it seems to be a favorite of a lot of people. It was recorded by the CBC from a mobile recording studio. It was recorded digitally to tape.

*Live Photo of Tobin Courtesy Of Mike White

Thanks again to Tobin for the time and for the follow up to our 2010 interview.

The AGP Top 25 of 2018

top-25

A trying year politically delivered an incredibly strong year in music. With  excellent albums by some 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.