Kal Marks: Universal Care [Album Review]

Kal Marks
Universal Care
Exploding in Sound Records [2018]


Who: Boston’s Kal Marks get the new year started off on the right foot. Universal Care is my first favorite new record of 2018!

Sound: Universal Care finds the band evolving into a distinctive brand of intense and monolithic noise rock. It is still Kal Marks; they have not gone soft, just more varied in their delivery.

TFN Final Take: For their fourth LP, Boston’s Kal Marks rip open 2018 with the scalding “Fuck This Guy.” It is a frightening, propulsive, almost tribal track. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what singer-guitarist Carl Shane is shrieking about, but I hope it is Trump.

Tracks two and three are more similar to the Kal Marks I have grown accustomed to from their past LPs. Noisy and dense rock. “Loosed” has a groovy bass-line fluttering around in it with punctuations of heavy guitar fuzz and ear-scouring vocals.

Track 3, “Springtime in January” sees Kal Marks step up the tempo and break into heavy punk territory. They place a disorienting pause towards the end of the track just to rev everything up for a final 30-second breakneck mosher.

“Grand Mal,” “A Place Amongst All the Angry Hordes” and “Adventure” are a few other highlights on Universal Care. Each track has its own little quirks and hooks that keep you moving through the album with ease.

The quiet clarity and honesty of “Ode” rips into your heart. Same goes for album closer “Today I Walked Down to the Tree, Read a Book…” it starts so soft and unexpected but eventually gives way to a noise-laden finale.

Universal Care is another fantastic album in Kal Marks’ remarkable discography. Highly recommended for listeners who like their rock noisy and dense. Fans of Pile, Baked, Washer, and the rest of Exploding in Sound Records artists should definitely give Universal Care a shot.

Kal Marks Website
Kal Marks Facebook
Exploding In Sound Records

Hovvdy: Cranberry [Album Review]

Double Double Whammy Records [2018]


Who: Based in Austin, Texas, Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. The duo, both primarily drummers, first met in the fall of 2014 and quickly bonded over a love for quiet music. Cranberry is their sophomore record.

Sound: If you are into current soft intricate warm jangly rock like Ultimate Painting, Pinegrove, (Sandy) Alex G or past favorites such as Low and Yo La Tengo then Hovvdy should be a great new listen for you to check out.

TFN Final Take: Pacing is everything and on Hovvdy’s sophomore record, Cranberry, the Austin duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor take you on a soft ride through 12 new tracks over 33 minutes. These disguised pop tunes have a way to get in your head with every well-placed strum of guitar, every stroke of the keys and every soft hit of the skins. This gentle wave is Hovvdy’s success because the record never tires even though the group maintains a very similar mood and execution through the entire album. What I really liked about Cranberry is the subtle bit of haze that Hovvdy places over their layered vocals. They are a little bit lo-fi and a little bit bedroom pop that consistently pulls a catchy tune together. Hovvdy is a band to just put on, relax and let Cranberry take you to another place.

Hovvdy Website
Hovvdy Facebook
Double Double Whammy Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Marriage + Cancer: Marriage + Cancer [Album Review]

Marriage + Cancer
Marriage + Cancer
Self Sabotage Records [2018]


Who: Portland’s Marriage + Cancer continue to scald everything in their path with their caustic noise rock!

Sound: Uncompromising and brutal noise rock not unlike Jesus Lizard and In Utero-era Nirvana.

TFN Final Take: It’s been awhile since Marriage + Cancer’s last release, Killjoy. That 7” came out late 2015. Marriage + Cancer has since completed its transition from Robert Komet’s other band, Nucular Aminals to Marriage + Cancer.

That transition was not just a name change; it was a drastic shift from the quirky dour-pop of Aminals to the full on rage that Marriage + Cancer now embrace. Killjoy served as a bridge between the two sounds, but this new self-titled LP shows that Robert has crossed the bridge and now resides in state of perpetual noise-laden disdain and anger.

That is not a bad thing. I happen to be a big fan of brutal noise rock and this album certainly strikes a chord with me. I have heard a few of the tracks as demos over the past few years, even reviewed a few when Robert released them in 2016 as Demonstrations II EP. Four of those tracks made it to the new LP but they sound so much more rich and full.

“Command + Comply,” “God is Tan” and “Flora + Fauna” bask in higher level of production but the album’s best track, “Gound” really shines. Maybe it is because I can faintly hear a touch of Nucular Aminals in its faster tempo and thrashing riffs. If anything, it is the lone track that gives you a bit of a respite from consistently pummeling you will endure while listening to this LP. Kind of wish there was more of it in the album.

Marriage + Cancer deliver a punishing listen. That is what they set out to do and they do it with zeal. I still miss Nucular Aminals and I highly encourage listeners to check out their discography to go along with this new and exciting direction.

Marriage + Cancer Website
Marriage + Cancer Facebook
Self Sabotage Records

– Reviewed by Daniel Taylor

Sunwatchers: II [Album Review]

Trouble In Mind Records [2018]

Who: Sunwatchers are a New York-based ensemble (featuring current & former members of NYMPH, Dark Meat, Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band & Arthur Doyle’s New Quiet Screamers) that offer a combination of avant-jazz, punk, psychedelia, Ethio-jazz and desert blues. II is their sophomore record and the follow up to their 2016 self-titled debut on Castle Face Records.

Sound: This instrumental band takes you on a ride that hits all kinds of genres that includes funk, Ethiopian and Thai music. Fans of world music-based groups like Group Doueh and Sun City Girls, multi-instrumentalist artists as well as Thee Oh Sees and King Gizzard will like this record.

TFN Final Take: “SUNWATCHERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE DISPOSSESSED, IMPOVERISHED AND EMBATTLED PEOPLE OF THE WORLD”. These are the words that are boldly displayed on the front cover for Sunwatchers sophomore album, II. It is a directive to all how deep their multi-universal music runs. Their message is really driven home on the over nine-minute “There Are Weapons You Can Bring To School” that when listened to it absolutely does not matter what language you speak because everyone will get it. The scorching upbeat “Silent Boogie” is a true highlight as saxophones and guitars go to battle and reach a compromise where both can exist on the same plain. This blending of instruments on II delivers Sunwatchers message flawlessly. This album won’t be for everyone given its instrumental tour but if you are looking to branch out and have liked King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s work with Mild High Club or some of the more experimental John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees, Damaged Bug) offerings then Sunwatchers is worth checking out.

Sunwatchers Website
Sunwatchers Facebook
Trouble In Mind Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Chiller: Chiller [Album Review]

Rockstar/Dirt Cult Records [2018]


Who: This is the debut record from Moncton, Canada punks Chiller. The band is a continuation of Feral Trash which released Trashfiction in 2014 on Dirt Cult Records. Chiller is Ilisha and Eric of Feral Trash with local friends Erin (Black Tower) and Tim (Mother’s Children).

Sound: Fresh melodic punk comes at you with both a male and female vocal. If you were a fan of Feral Trash, Chiller is for you along with other energetic sounding punk artists like Sonic Avenues, PUP and Jeff Rosenstock.

TFN Final Take: Chiller is a winner because they take their music seriously. Punk is not forgotten, it is not shelved, it is not underground. For Chiller, every delivered line on their self-titled debut sounds like it could be their last and that is what makes this debut fantastic.

The rush of layered melodies keep coming along with booming choruses that just thunder like on the first track when “Heretic” is called out multiple times. The band is completely tight, the album is a tidy 23 minutes and Chiller never stops moving. Time to turn up the stereo!

Chiller Facebook
Rockstar Records
Dirt Cult Records

– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony

Salad Boys: This Is Glue [Album Review]

Salad Boys
This Is Glue
Trouble In Mind Records [2018]


Who: Christchurch, New Zealand band Salad Boys return with their sophomore record This Is Glue. The album follows their well received 2015 debut Metalmania.

Sound: This Is Glue has plenty of riffs and melodies that are slightly fuzzed up with that New Zealand sound like The Bats and The Chills as lead singer Joe Sampson has a voice that is an interesting mix of a Bob Mould, Norman Blake and Chris Knox.

TFN Final Take: This Is Glue from the Salad Boys does not try to recreate any new wheel here as the record is a low-key jangle pop of a record that has a very “alternative” New Zealand sound which can be found on many Flying Nun releases. This home recording and slightly lo-fi sound works for the seasoned voice of Joe Sampson that drives these tracks just below the instruments. The entire swirl mixes all the parts with memorable riffs and big rock out moments.

Songs like “Under The Bed” and “Psych Slasher” have times when they bust out and where you just want to roll down the windows in the car and crank the volume up. The only real drawback I can find on This Is Glue is that its almost 45-minute running time feels a bit long as some ideas and sounds repeat themselves. Overall though, Salad Boys have a record that will play to fans of Big Star, Bob Mould and their hometown heroes The Bats. This style of rock never gets old and Salad Boys keep the genre rolling with This Is Glue.

Salad Boys Website
Salad Boys Facebook
Trouble In Mind Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Starcrawler: Starcrawler [Album Review]

Rough Trade [2018]

Who: Starcrawler are a 4-piece band from Los Angeles California and their self-titled debut was produced by Ryan Adams. The members are lead vocalist Arrow de Wilde, guitarist Henri Cash, drummer Austin Smith and bassist Tim Franco. The youngest member is 16 and the oldest is 22.

Sound: Starcrawler give you an unpolished rock n roll bash that goes back to the times of the Cramps or Runaways with a 90’s alternative edge like early Hole or L7.

TFN Final Take: Starcrawler’s debut will take you back to a time when rock was simple. Big guitars, big riffs, big lead vocals and plenty of attitude. This young group has all of those components and seriously turn up the volume dial. In a time when hip-hop and electronic groups are surging, Starcrawler is a complete throwback and at this point almost anti-commercial.

Starcrawler will not only have you thinking Stooges but possibly Alice Cooper. The care free attitude is here but lead singer Arrow de Wilde is bigger than the record and she shines on every track while the guitar and drums pulse a classic sound in every good way you can imagine. With swagger songs like “Pussy Tower” and “Chicken Woman” that are in your face lyrically, big rockers such as “Let Her Be” and “Different Angles” and the power ballad “Tears” near the end of the album, Starcrawler check off all the rock clichés in a good way.

For those that know producer Ryan Adams beyond his mostly roots rock catalog know that he is into classic pinball machines and Iron Maiden. It is no surprise he is involved with Starcrawler as they seem like the band he would front if he had a chance to do it all over again. What I liked about Starcrawler is that the album is under 30 minutes and one spin of “I Love LA” will give you the picture with its guitar solo, pounding drums and memorable chorus that will have you thinking Southern California before you can hit replay. Starcrawler will rock you!

Starcrawler Website
Starcrawler Facebook
Rough Trade

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Rick Rude: Make Mine Tuesday [Album Review]

Rick Rude
Make Mine Tuesday
TinyRadars/Sophomore Lounge Records [2017]


Who: New Hampshire’s Rick Rude make a lasting impression with Make Mine Tuesday.

Sound: Make Mine Tuesday is a stunning debut album that is sure to make people who like Built to Spill, Heartless Bastards and The Pauses swoon.

TFN Final Take: Another “Better Late than Never” review for this wonderful record. Make Mine Tuesday was released back in January of this year, so in terms of reviewer timeliness, I am way off. However, since I have been sharing this band in various Facebook music groups for the past few months and it is catching people’s attention that never heard of Rick Rude, it is still quite relevant and necessary.

Rick Rude employ a rather extensive range of sounds and influences in Make Mine Tuesday. Tracks like “Bald and Fat in Houston, TX” (great song title), “Shroud and Shell” and “Sierra L’mist” start slow with an alt-country/Americana vibe before giving way to some exhilarating Built to Spill-ish moments.

The juxtaposition of quiet moments to the heavier ones does not just occur within an individual track, but all across the LP. Instead of feeling all over the place, Make Mine Tuesday has an odd sense of continuity between the varied tracks.

When bassist Jordan Holtz provides the vocals, (her voice and the songs remind me of a mix between Erika Wennerstrom’s Heartless Bastards and Tierney Tough from The Pauses) the band sounds completely different from their earlier established sound.

If you want to hear a LP that keeps you on your toes and is not afraid to drift between Built to Spill indie rock guitar moments but also hit you with some power-pop riffs right out of a Weezer or Pixies playbook, give Rick Rude a chance. Make Mine Tuesday is one of the better releases for 2017 and this band seems to have a bright future ahead of them.

Rick Rude Website
Rick Rude Facebook
Sophomore Lounge Records

– Reviewed by Daniel Taylor

(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket [Album Review]

(Sandy) Alex G
Domino Records [2017]


Who: The bedroom pop of Alexander Giannascoli aka (Sandy) Alex G has grown substantially since we first stumbled upon his 2014 record DSU on DIY label Orchid Tapes. Rocket is his sophomore record for Domino.

Sound: (Sandy) Alex G plays a melodic pop that ranges from lo-fi experimentation to folk to indie rock. Think Elliott Smith fronting Built To Spill with now a Bright Eyes stroll.

TFN Final Take: DSU (2014) was a fantastic introduction to (Sandy) Aleg G and then I felt his boldness and risk taking went too far on his Domino record debut Beach Music (2015). It was disappointing because that should have been his break out record but it just was too weird in places for a wider audience to connect. It wasn’t awful by any mention but it also didn’t display his true talent.

Rocket is the example of why you don’t give up on an artist when they create a record you might not enjoy because (Sandy) Alex G hits a home run here. This is everything I wanted to hear in Beach Music as Rocket embraces new angles with his bedroom pop wrapped in a dusty folk on tracks like “Bobby,” the title track and “Powerful Man.” You also get his weirder side with the Auto-Tune number “Sportstar,” or the noise filled “Brick,” that reminded me of some earlier Beck tracks. All the songs here are different but not out of place. That is the gorgeous cohesion of Rocket.

(Sandy) Alex G Website
(Sandy) Alex G Facebook
Domino Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Pardoner: Uncontrollable Salvation [Album Review]

Uncontrollable Salvation
Father/Daughter Records [2017]


Who: San Francisco’s Pardoner blend and bend their influences into a rather epic debut LP.

Sound: Uncontrollable Salvation is a fantastic blend of fuzzy power noise slathered with skewed guitars, impeccable pop moments and an abundance of shoegaze noise.

TFN Final Take: Pardoner’s debut LP, Uncontrollable Salvation was an instant love. As soon as the opening track, “Blue Hell” hit my ears I knew this could be something that really appealed to my musical sensibilities. By the time I got to last track, I was ready to hear it all over again.

Pardoner hit a real sweet spot when it comes to some clever jangle/mellow rock with distorted and twisting guitars on tracks like “Blue Hell,” “Outdoor Excursion,” “Carousel of Punishment,” “Labrador” and the epic slacker journey of “Don’t Stop Believin’ In Me.” The slower Pardoner tracks showcase some seriously cool sounding shoegaze noise that would give the best Swirlies tracks a run for their money.

Pardoner really excel when they pick up the pace. Tracks such as “Hint,” “Hey Rockstar,” “Pivot Fakie” and the album’s best song, “Uncontrollable Salvation” bring a faster, heavy power fuzz vibe, mixed with those ever-present twisted and bent guitar sounds. It is like hearing a punk version of Polvo.

I am excited about the future of this band. Uncontrollable Salvation was a huge surprise for me this year. I also highly recommend that you go to their Bandcamp page and get their EPs and singles. It’s just more incredibly addictive songs that fans of Polvo, Swirlies and Sonic Youth will eat up!

Pardoner Website
Pardoner Facebook
Father/Daughter Records

– Reviewed by Daniel Taylor

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