Witching Waves – Crystal Cafe (HHBTM Records)
Witching Waves bash the bleak mid-decade slump with raging pristine minimalism and slithery post-punk tunefulness on their latest creation Crystal Cafe. This album grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. The pounding tribal punk beats, chunky bass lines, and scratched fuzz guitar lay the foundation for the insanely catchy noise pop vocals of drummer Emma Wigham and guitarist Mark Jasper. Aggressive art punk and experimental garage noise collide, creating a new animal born of anger, despair, and frustration. The grungy symphonic grind of Pink Flag era Wire blends into the white-hot intensity of early no-wave and Vaselines grandeur on this 11 track full length of manic rock meditation.
Heavy with hooks and rawboned single noted phrasing, tracks such as “Twisted”, “Seeing Double”, and “Make It Up” deliver pleasantly eardrum-piercing candy. The intense and deliberate detachment in “Pitiless” and “Flowers” offers a somber detour into the band’s more introspective moods. The red-hot single off this collection is the irresistible and unnerving “The Threat” with its new-wave inspired melody and sophisticated dirty pop production. This is one of my favorite albums of the year so far and definitely a worthy addition to your vinyl or digital library. If the end of the world sounds this good, I hope that it comes tomorrow.
Great Lakes – Wild Vision (Loose Trucks)
Ben Crum, with his latest incarnation of the long running Great Lakes, mischievously remodels Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky with the subtle abandon of Whiskeytown. The singer-songwriter sheds the psych-folk of earlier releases in favor of a darker roots rock approach sprinkled generously with whispered indie intensity. An uplifting melancholia guides the exposed mid-tempos and edgy alt-country ballads. “Swim to the River” and “Kin to the Mountain” demonstrate a firm grasp of mid-70s Neil Young and Rolling Stones country tinged laments. “Bird Flying” and “Blood on My Tooth” are notable standout tracks, extended harmonies fueled by decadent chord changes and brooding percussion.
“Wild Again” perfectly captures the essence of this record with its hallucinogenic slow burn and sweet but bitter psychedelic country choruses. Vibrant but low-key female harmonies accentuate Crum’s unique understated vocal delivery throughout this collection of song, adding to the strength of the refrains and nuanced transitions. Wild Vision is a warm reinvention of Crum’s subliminal artistic vision, every song a crucial component in its soothing shadowy stroll.