Noisy and a little bit of pretty, please.
Mall Walk — Criminal Code/Container (2015)
Hands down, my favorite new band right now. Hailing from Oakland, these guys just write some damn songs, buddy. The a-side is a layered and catchy tune that manages to straddle noisy and jangly and simultaneously make such a thing appear effortless. The flip is quite possibly the noisiest thing they've yet done. I hope this is a table setter for a full length. Here's the band playing 'Criminal Code' live. Key tracks: 'Criminal Code', of course
Mall Walk — s/t (2014)
Cassettes! They're back! RUN. A cheap and easy way for bands to get their music "out there" in a physical sense, I can't be that mad when they include a download code (as this does). Plus, this is really good. Just have a listen to the opener and marvel at how well-constructed it is, just as a song. The bar is set right then and there and it's adhered to very strictly through all of the the EP's five songs. The noise-encrusted middle section on 'Teen Missing' shows obvious debts to Sonic Youth, but elsewhere, it's hard to pin down just what these guys are doing that makes them so special. The mastery of songcraft, perhaps? I can't call it, but I damn sure love it. This one should've appeared on my favorites of 2014 list, but we can't all be there right when it happens, y'know. Check them out on Bandcamp or their website. Key tracks: 'Unsold' and 'Treadmill'
Ty Segall — Singles 2007-2010 (2011)
All sorts of noisy modern punk sounds from the prolific Ty Segall. A majority of the songs clock in at 120 seconds or less and there's lots o'distortion and killer riffs, duder. Some of it sounds like T.Rex with no budget. Other parts of it seemingly have no business being so tuneful. But mostly, it's snotty vocals and sludgy melodies. Good music for riding the bus to, 'cause it makes you feel a little badass. Spotify. Key tracks: 'Caesar', 'Lovely One', '...and then Judy walked in' or 'So Alone'
Pullman — Turnstiles + Junkpiles (1998)
An all acoustic affair from post-rock icons Chris Brokaw (Codeine), Bundy K. Brown (Gastr del Sol, Tortoise), Curtis Harvey (Rex) and Doug McCombs (Tortoise). It's on the prettier, decidedly Windham Hill-ish end of the acoustic spectrum, going for pure mood and melody over technicality. Not to slight it, because the melodies are ace all the way through, and far from simple. It's wonderful Sunday morning music and a great little detour in the respective catalogues of all involved. Spotify. Key tracks: 'Gravenhurst' and the emotional centerpiece 'Deer Hill'
Destruction Unit — Live in San Francisco (2014)
And then, things got wildly psychedelic. Mountainous portions of delay and distortion on top of already fuzzed out guitars make for something that's like shoegaze, but altogether darker. It's got a rumbling melodic bass low end to the whole stew of sounds that keeps it anchored, otherwise this would sound like an all out noise free for all. Must've been pretty punishing —or alternately, mind-clearing— to be there in person. YouTube. Key tracks: the sidelong rendition of 'Night Loner' seems like a pretty useful statement of purpose
Destruction Unit — Deep Trip (2013)
In the studio, the band dials it back, ever so slightly. Just to give you an idea of what's going on here, the LP comes packaged with a sheet of 900 fake tabs of acid. So, yeah. No pretenses here about what they're going for. Still, there's a wonderment in this music, as harsh as it can be at times. You gotta figure, for as astral-sounding as it is, there's some real thought behind it. And when taken to its logical extreme, it can get a little discordant and ugly, but it always retains that sense of travel, of exploration. Great music for hot days. YouTube. Spotify. Key tracks: 'Bumpy Road' and the most focused the band gets on 'Night Loner'
Dorthy Ashby — Dorothy's Harp (1969)
In further "woe is me" tales, I once had all of Dorothy's Cadet albums, except this one (which has been ever elusive, until this Japanese CD reissue), but I traded them all in for probably stupid reasons. So, here I go, venturing into the world of Dorothy Ashby for a second time. And this time, I'm starting off right, as I can cross another one off my want list of sampled tracks: 'Cause I Need It' (a wonderful original tune, among an album of mostly covers) is such a majestic and gorgeous little ditty. I can listen to it on repeat, fergoodnessakes! The rest of the album is definitely in the mode of the more commercial ventures going on at Cadet around the time, as Dorothy mainly plays themes and variations thereof, with very little actual soloing going on. It's tastefully arranged by the great Richard Evans, so this doesn't detract from the album's quality. Wonderful music. YouTube. Key tracks: 'Cause I Need It' and the lush (even for this album) 'Reza'
Stereolab — Peng! (1992)
The Groop's first proper album is so fully formed, it only makes sense that they only got more polished as time went on. The opener is surprisingly calm. Then, blam, here's the warm, distortiony Groop you know and love. It's all good fun throughout until the last track layers its way through your headphones for one of the prettiest 'Lab tunes and possibly their best closer ever. Surprising how easily this stuff goes down. YouTube. Spotify. Key tracks: 'Surrealchemist', the super dreamy 'Enivrez-Vous' and 'Super Falling Star'
Stereolab — Margerine Eclipse (2004)
And here, on the band's eighth proper full length and first after Mary Hansen's untimely death, the Groop is in full on space bachelor pad mode. It's a very calm affair — perhaps unexpectedly so, considering the circumstances. Lush, succulent and sumptuous are words that come to mind to describe the goings on here. 'Margerine Rock' is about as lively as things get. As it stands, kind of a lower tier work in their later catalogue, but still up to their very highest of standards. Worthwhile, if you're a fan. YouTube. Spotify. Key tracks: 'Vonal Declosion', '...Sudden Stars' and 'Dear Marge', which ends in an honest to goodness dance party, if you can believe it