CIMS Indie Fresh
Iron & Wine follow up their 2018 Grammy-nominated full-length Beast Epic with Weed Garden, a collection of material that began about three years ago. The six-song EP features songs that were part of the writing phase for Beast Epic, but went unfinished. They were part of a larger narrative for principal songwriter Sam Beam, who ran out of time to get them where they needed to be for inclusion on Beast Epic. Weed Garden also includes the fan favorite “Waves of Galveston.” While on tour last fall, the final pieces of material took shape and a sense of urgency prevailed in bringing these characters full circle. To resolution. To completion. In January, Beam and company hunkered down in Chicago at The Loft recording studio to capture these six songs. No more, no less. Weed Garden joins the good company of previous Iron & Wine EP’s – The Sea and Rhythm, Woman King, In the Reins – and in 2018’s attention-span challenged world that's not a bad thing.
I've Tortured You Long Enough is the tongue-in-cheek title of Mass Gothic's second album. Husband/wife duo Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri have always dipped in and out of each other's creative spaces, advising on their respective outputs and supporting one another. But, until this record, they had never completely committed to doing an entire album as a duo, sharing an equal load. The result is a record packed with the tension, chaos and beauty of a fluid and cathartic two-way conversation. In a universe that increasingly threatens our abilities to communicate and coexist, their creative union isn't just inspired but important. When Heroux put out Mass Gothic’s 2016 debut, following the end of his prior band, Hooray for Earth, he did so as a solo entity. Plagued by insecurities and anxieties, Heroux wasn't ready to deal with putting his trust and confidence into another shared project. So what changed? He can't exactly pinpoint when the phrase “I've tortured you long enough” came to him, but it became a mantra, almost a premonition. He had tortured his own psyche long enough, and was particularly in need of forcing himself out of his comfort zone and letting go of that prior stubbornness. And the phrase has a broader application, too. “It covers so many bases but it's taken on extra meaning in the past couple of years when everybody is at each other's throats, frustrated and confused all the time,” Heroux explains. Heroux and Zambri wrote I’ve Tortured You Long Enough while bouncing around the country without a place to call home. From working in a rented cabin in upstate New York, to living out of a car with a duffel bag of clothes, to crashing with their co-producer Josh Ascalon in LA, to ditching a mixed version of the album and rerecording the whole thing, the band worked tirelessly while their lives were totally in flux. “Maybe we wouldn't have been able to do it if we were anchored at home. We were forced into it. Jess was trying to open me up and if we could have just sat on a couch and thrown on the TV it probably wouldn't have worked.” The album was ultimately recorded in Brooklyn with Rick Kwan, and Chris Coady mixed the record and Heba Kadry mastered it. The final product recalls the frantic energy of Animal Collective and the celestial torch-bearing of Bat for Lashes, and reveals a remarkable arc. It begins from a place of uncertainty, disquiet, and self-doubt, and concludes with the comfort in knowing that you can be both independent and successful in a relationship.
IDLES with "Joy as an Act of Resistance." is an attempt to be vulnerable to their audience, to encourage vulnerability; a mere brave naked smile in this messed up new world. They have stripped back the songs and the lyrics to their bare flesh to allow each other to breathe and to celebrate our differences and act as an ode to communities and the individuals that forge them because without our community, we’d be nothing.
Across two decades, eight albums, and a multitude of singles, splits, and EPs, Alkaline Trio has built a reputation as a defining act in punk rock’s modern era. Formed in Chicago by vocalist-guitarist Matt Skiba in 1996, the band would come into its own with its debut album Goddammit in 1998. Since then, the band has continually evolved, incorporating new influences with each record while achieving artistic, critical, and commercial success along the way. It’s been 5 years since Alkaline Trio released their last studio album, My Shame Is True. In that time, they’ve toured the world, sold over a million records, including a 20th Anniversary – 8 LP live box set, recorded on their 2014-15 Past Live tour. Since those Past Live shows, Andriano and drummer Derek Grant both released solo albums, and Skiba joined blink-182, releasing the chart-topping album California with the band. Alkaline Trio’s live shows have always been thrilling due to the fact that, even as the band ascended through the ranks of punk, they always retained the feeling of three friends excited to be on stage together. “When I think of a Trio live show,” says Skiba, “I always go back to the humble beginnings of the band, and I want that to always be in this band.” Alkaline Trio closed 2017 with a coveted opening slot for The Original Misfits, a band Skiba describes as his “first love,” Alkaline Trio is primed to step back into the spotlight. “We have the wind at our backs, it seems,” says Skiba. “Every aspect of the band—be it business or artistically or whatever—it feels like the Gods are in our corner.” Andriano agrees, and says that he’s ready to make the band’s best record yet. “I wanna be a band that people want to hear new stuff from. Because I feel like I’m still in a band that wants to write good, new music.” “Is This Thing Cursed?” will prove that good, new music is worth the wait.
There was something sinister about Crooked Fingers, both the name of the project and the music that Eric Bachmann wrote at the helm of its ever-shifting lineups over 15 years. He retired the moniker a couple of years ago, but with his third album under his own name, the transformation feels gorgeous and final and irreversible: No Recover. The drunken louts and red devil dawns are a thing of the past now, monuments to a different time. Bachmann, husband and recent father, has some new lenses through which to view the world. But while No Recover is decidedly mellow and reflective, do not mistake it for the work of a relaxed, satisfied songwriter, sitting on some Georgia porch with a stalk of wheat between his lips, gently rocking a cradle with his foot and whistling an old tune. No, the Eric Bachmann of 2018 seems to view life with a sort of disgruntled maturity and righteous resignation. No Recover is both harrowing and beautiful, and its mellowness can be deceiving. The album is mostly just him, a classical guitar, some treated rhythm tracks, and otherworldly drop-ins from singer Avery Leigh Draut and guitarist Eric Johnson, Bachmann’s old pal from their Archers of Loaf days. He’s got a lot on his mind, only some of it pretty. The sunset on the album’s cover might be the end of a cruel world for the duo in “Jaded Lover, Shady Drifter,” who introduce No Recover; they feel like flip-side lovers, both sonically and lyrically, of the couple at the center of Bring On the Snakes’ “The Rotting Strip.” But that dark sentiment is quickly reversed with “Daylight,” one of Bachmann’s most stunning vocal performances ever: For a guy who earned his stripes by shredding his vocal cords in the ’90s, he sure can croon. And though the words cast some shadows—“fight for your life,” he implores—ultimately there is hope. “If you try, you can be loved.” Same goes, to a less direct degree, for “Waylaid,” the record’s jauntiest song, and a meditation on failure and love that leaves room for Johnson’s bright-but-mournful electric guitar to take center stage. But leave it to Bachmann to save the best for last: No Recover ends with one song for his wife and another for his son. “Wild Azalea,” for Liz Durrett—who also makes a brief appearance earlier in the album—is pure ’70s AM gold, including the tinge of sadness that the best of that era embraced. And “Dead and Gone” offers wistful, Bachmann-style comfort to a child. It’s vulnerable and giving, a lifetime promise that somehow intertwines regret and hopefulness. In that way, it perfectly encapsulates No Recover—and Bachmann himself—circa 2018. He’s got a lifetime of experience behind him, and a catalog that runs the gamut from fiery to scary to simply beautiful, sometimes all at once. But it also feels like a new beginning. Here’s to another 25 (or more!) years of watching him grow.
On September 7, Katie Crutchfield’s ever-shifting musical project Waxahatchee returns with the Great Thunder EP. Featuring a collection of songs written with now-dormant experimental recording group Great Thunder while Crutchfield was also writing the Waxahatchee albums Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp, the original recordings have mostly faded into obscurity. Unearthing and reimagining them with producer Brad Cook at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin was a cathartic experience, she says. On the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Out in the Storm, Crutchfield found herself looking to take a sharp turn away from the more rock-oriented influences of her recent records towards her more folk and country roots. “I would say that it is a complete 180 from the last record: super stripped-down, quiet, and with me performing solo, it’s a throwback to how I started,” writes Crutchfield. “Overall, the EP is a warm, kind of vibey recording.” Some of the songs on Great Thunder, like “Chapel of Pines” and “Singer’s No Star,” stayed the same and will be recognizable to those intensely familiar with Crutchfield’s catalog to date, while closer “Takes So Much” was built back up on piano from the bones of the original version, surprising even the songwriter: “Until then, I didn’t realize how beautiful this song was.” As Crutchfield entered April Base to record, she became ill but opted to forge on, beautifully stretching her voice to its emotional limits.