Previously on Tinnitist: No matter how many albums I manage to hear and review, hundreds more slip through the cracks. Luckily, the holidays give me time to go back and nab some gems before they’re too far gone. There were plenty this year: It didn’t take me long to find more than 100 worthy titles that I missed in 2019. I’ve been sharing them here over the past few days. Here’s another batch (in alphabetical order, more or less). I’ve included Bandcamp links wherever possible so you can buy straight from the source. We now rejoin our program, already in progress:
Rainbows Are Free
MY TWO CENTS: “Recommended if you like: Uriah Heep, Electric Wizard, or King Crimson,” advises the bio of these Oklahomans. I can’t argue with that. Though I would add that it should also go down smooth with those who enjoy heavy grooves, tom-tom avalanches, megaton riffage, post-Sabbath space-sludge and an overall ambience of impending doom.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Head Pains is Rainbows Are Free’s third full length album, and follow up to 2014’s Waves Ahead of the Ocean. The completion of Head Pains heralds a return to RAF’s heavy psychedelic roots as witnessed on their breakout album, Believers In Medicine in 2010. Although it may be considered a return to form, Head Pains further exhibits the band’s unique voice — setting them apart from contemporaries of heavy psychedelic, doom, and stoner rock with whom they’ve shared the stage. Often appearing in costumed stage dress, the band, fronted by the soaring and snarling nigh 7-foot cyclone of weirdness that is Brandon Kistler, continues to shock and amaze fans by introducing an element of good-humored theatrics to accompany their live sonic assault.”
Sunchokes Deluxe Edition
MY TWO CENTS: If I ever feel self-destructive enough to put together a list of Albums I Missed In The Last Decade, Sunchokes will be on it. This set of scrappy, ramshackle pop-punk was cut back in 2014 by singer-guitarist Carmen Perry and her Ohio band, then called Sports. Five years later, it’s back — and should also be on the to-do list of anyone who digs Camp Cope or Juliana Hatfield in her wilder moments. Like me, you have no excuse for missing out this time.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Remember Sports recorded Sunchokes in 2014 while Carmen Perry attended Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. The album has been long out of print. Now with three records under their belts, it’s a great time to revisit it. The lo-fi production and effortless pop melodies endeared it to those who heard it, and for its fifth anniversary the mini-album has been remastered.”
Year Of The Fly
MY TWO CENTS: This intimidatingly aggressive Chicago power trio know how to bring the noise. But on their latest full-length, they wisely complement all that chaos and cacophony with canyon-sized guitars, accessible post-grunge songcraft, atmospheric experiments and even some tender ballads. So you get the best of several worlds.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Salvation have always been experts at hammering out no frills, no nonsense, no bullshit noise rock, and on Year Of The Fly, they’ve perfected their take on the genre, sounding cleaner, meaner, and bigger than ever before. The band hunkered down at legendary Chicago studio Electrical Audio. They had three days, a roll of two-inch tape, and a batch of killer cuts. In the past, the band had recorded every aspect of their songs live in the studio, with no extra time to fuss or overthink, but this time the approach was slightly different: the album’s nasty, aggressive base tracks were laid down live, and they later took time to overdub vocals, pianos, organ, and other artistic embellishments. The result is a beautifully raw recording rife with crushing noise punk that takes sudden turns into unexpected but welcome heady realms.”
5 + 7
MY TWO CENTS: A little mystery goes a long way. U.K. outfit Sault get it — while they put out two acclaimed albums in 2019, the artists themselves have remained firmly in the shadows. Good thing you don’t need to know anything about them to get hooked on their infectiously groovy brand of funky fare. Speaking of getting it: Now’s your chance.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The incredibly elusive band Sault’s debut fuses African, soul, funk and post-punk vibes amongst other flavours … Without pausing for breath and hot on the heels of their exhilarating debut album 5, Sault return with 7. The signature hybrid of funk, dance, post-punk, soul and disco is front and centre once again, confidently delivered with their typical fearless nature. If 5 had you out of your seat, 7 will have you dancing in the streets … Spread the word, Sault are back at it! The band are set to go from strength to strength becoming one of the most prolific bands of 2020 with a barrage of material up their sleeves.”
MY TWO CENTS: The oppressive right-wing assholery of Reagan and Thatcher helped spur and galvanize the ’80s hardcore scene. Given the state of things right now, a resurgence seems inevitable — and if this firebreathing crew from New Jersey are leading the charge with their 20-minute set of spleen-venting angst and abuse, we’re in good hands. Open wide.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Nestled along the Jersey Shore, in the cradle of a state where companies like Bayer and Global Pharma Tek set up shop, School Drugs release their debut full length release to a drug riddled nation. The album features 10 tracks of highly medicated yet seldom sedated hardcore punk. A true Adderall blitz through the genealogy of the genre that brings to mind the likes of Black Flag, Poison Idea, and Bad Brains. Based on a steady diet of 80s classics, School Drugs are still pissed, only now they know how to express it: fast, loud, angry with a cheeky grin, proper fucking punk. Every component – name, tempo, stage antics, artwork – is a pushback, a reminder of what punk is, why punk is, and how punk is. It is necessary to wipe the slate clean periodically, remembering the formula but starting again. Welcome to the age of School Drugs, class is in session; pay attention.”
Scott H. Biram
Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram
MY TWO CENTS: We all have different sides — including roots-rocker Scott H. Biram. When he isn’t raising hell on his albums, the Austin one-man-band is singing the gospel. This compilation collects 10 of his most heavenly numbers, including some previously unreleased fare. Play the rest of his music on Saturday night, then load this up for Sunday morning.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Known as The Dirty Ol’ One Man Band, Scott H. Biram has a deceiving penchant for songs about God, religion and spirituality. Each of his releases has some representation of religious fervor and appreciation for traditional gospel music — just in some cases, Biram spins them in a perverse, hellbound way that only he can. Sold Out to the Devil is a collection of this particular God-fearing side of Biram.”
MY TWO CENTS: Some artists have nothing to say. Bournemouth singer-songwriter Scott Lavene has plenty. And he tells it like it is on this uniquely transfixing album. Toggling between wry monologues and amateurish folk-pop balladry reminiscent of Ian Dury, Lavene comes off like an old pal who spins blackly hilarious stories to you at the pub — then gets up onstage to win over the rest of the crowd with his tipsy karaoke. He might be broke, but he doesn’t need fixing.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Scott Lavene has the lyrical smarts and the fairground bark of an Ian Dury, the incisive wordplay of a Costello and the deadpan pop of Madness in his creative DNA, along with the street poetry of an Essex boy version of Lou Reed, the dislocated funk of Talking Heads, the jellied eel lyrical bounce of Chas and Dave, and the inventive surreal see-saw of a Tom Waits, and many other nonconformists. It’s an intoxicating brew that he makes his own in a collection of wonderful quirky songs.”
Not As Bad As It Seems
MY TWO CENTS: “Did you ever get the feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing?” Brighton’s Dan Reeves asks a few seconds into his latest Soft Walls album. Sure — but it won’t take you long to realize that his self-doubt aside, the dusky-voiced multi-instrumentalist knows exactly what he’s doing on this charmingly rough-hewn, home-made set of sizzling indie-rock, power-pop and experimental excursions. Not bad at all.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Soft Walls’ third album Not as Bad as It Seems was a long time coming. Rabid enthusiasm, ground down by the slog of getting through a week. Falling out of love with what you felt defined you. Losing more than you thought you could lose. It’s hard to keep going when you don’t know why you’re doing it. Yet still, Dan Reeves, the sole proprietor of Soft Walls (also guitarist in Cold Pumas and former overseer of the Faux Discx label) kept going. Just, very slowly. The race is over, but the tortoise is still determined to get over the line. What else is there to do?”
MY TWO CENTS: Quantity meets quality in the music of German contemporary blues-rock singer-guitarist T.G. Copperfield. Talkin’ Shop was apparently his fourth album of 2019, and since even he can’t keep up with that level of output on the promotional side, it may not have been his last. Either way, his rugged songs, tastefully potent guitar work and shady vocals make it obvious he knows what he’s talking about.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Tilo George Coppperfield is a Rock and Roll songwriter with roots in Americana and Blues. Also known as the driving force behind southern rockers 3 Dayz Whizkey where he honed his skills as guitar player and highly-talented song-architect.”
MY TWO CENTS: Soul and R&B can seem stuck in the past, thanks to all the nostalgists and throwbacks out there these days. London’s Tawiah is here to drag the music into today’s world on her debut album, fusing up-to-date songwriting and production with topical lyrics about her life, spirituality and sexual identity. A fine start. And high time.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Tawiah is somewhat of a trailblazer in the world of alt-soul. Despite this being her debut album, she’s long-established in the UK music scene, having previously self-released two EPs and a mixtape, as well as high-profile collaborations with Cinematic Orchestra, Blood Orange, Mark Ronson, Kindness, Cee-Lo, Wiley, Zed Bias and Eric Lau. It’s finally time to unleash a full solo project into the world. Starts Again is an exploration of her identity as a queer woman of colour, raised in a pentecostal family, and a determination to express her musicianship in all its raw glory, free of the constraints of major label wrangles from before.”
MY TWO CENTS: Are they not Devo? No, they are U-Bahn. Hailing from Australia but named for some reason after Berlin’s rapid-transit railway, these 21st-century Spuds come bearing all the robotic rhythms, grating guitars and mutant wailing you expect from some new traditionalists with uncontrollable urges. Which reminds me: Where did I leave my Energy Dome?
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Melbourne-based quintet U-Bahn intelligently take all the new wave / retro-pop references you might expect but twist them into new shapes. With endearingly on-point lo-fi production values, U-Bahn is like something that’s dropped out of a portal from the past.”
MY TWO CENTS: New York duo Urochromes make a helluva first impression with their colourfully pissy handle. Thankfully, their debut album Trope House backs it up with strong, steady stream of raw, messy and invariably captivating post-punk idiosyncrasy and intensity. Count on them to make a big splash — one way or another.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “On their first long player, Urochromes complement their catchy-as-fuck punk bangers with colorful experimental rock that choogles forth like the waters of the Mississippi River Delta where it was recorded. There are classic Urochromes chargers that pair Dick Riddick’s concise and explosive playing with some of Jackieboy’s best sketches of uptight, paranoid characters on the edge.”