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

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy [Album Review]

Car Seat Headrest
Twin Fantasy
Matador Records [2018]

Fire Note Says: Car Seat Headrest give the original 2011 Twin Fantasy a shot of rock adrenaline.

Album Review: Twin Fantasy is a re-recorded, re-imagined new version of Will Toledo’s 2011 self-released Bandcamp record of the same name. Toledo will for sure take some critical hits for this as many were waiting for the proper follow up to the excellent (and TFN #1 2016 record) Teens of Denial. Sure, I was initially disappointed about this approach as well but when you take a step back and hear the new version of Twin Fantasy you will get it.

Toledo’s 2011 version was recorded at age nineteen on an inexpensive laptop and follows his DIY lo-fi approach. It works and is a solid record but now Car Seat Headrest has taken those ten (already good) songs and given them a mobile fidelity type of range that gives each track an entire new depth and life. The full band approach enables each song to explode like the rock song shoes they were originally meant to fill. According to Toledo, he took eight months of mixing just to get the drums right on this new version so you know that this project is not a throwaway.

What I like on the newly re-imagined Twin Fantasy is how everything is cleaner. Being a big fan of lo-fi groups, that is a hard statement for me to make but this record doesn’t lose any of its innocence from the bigger sound. Where before, I think lo-fi for Bandcamp Car Seat Headrest sometimes meant compressing the vocals, guitar and drums. This soaring difference can be heard right away on the first track “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” as the layered vocals now swirl around the listener for a different experience. The acoustic guitar on the 1:30 simple song “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” now has a true strum and when Toledo pleads “we don’t want you to die,” the song is able to focus in on the seriousness of his vocals. One noticeable lyric change on the record is on the rocker “Cute Thing” when Toledo now sings “God give me Frank Ocean’s voice and James Brown’s stage presence which replaces the original lyric which was “give me Dan Bejar’s (Destroyer, Wolf Parade) voice and John Entwistle’s (The Who) stage presence.” Appealing more to the masses? New heroes? Who knows but only the dedicated will notice. I also liked here how the track listing remains the same and Twin Fantasy is now a bit longer with some of the expanded arrangements.

Fans that have been there from the beginning might have some issues getting into this new version but if you remember Car Seat Headrest’s Matador debut, Teens of Style (2015), collected and re-recorded old tunes as well. The band’s current and expanded fanbase should completely love this record. The album was already great and now it has been tuned up for the seven-piece band to hit the road. Every track soars higher and wider and should get the maximum volume. What the project may lack in originality it earns back all respect with execution because Twin Fantasy for sure will be one of the bigger guitar records you hear this year.

Key Tracks: “Cute Thing” / “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” / “Sober To Death”

Artists With Similar Fire: Cloud Nothings / Ron Gallo / The Strokes

Car Seat Headrest Website
Car Seat Headrest Facebook
Matador Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

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

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

Jeff Rosenstock: POST- [Album Review]

Jeff Rosenstock
Polyvinyl Records [2018]


Fire Note Says: Jeff is back!

Album Review: Jeff Rosenstock started off this year with a bang as he released his third LP digitally for FREE on New Year’s Day! That is right – free. Now, I am sure we have all had the experience of downloading free music and feeling there was a good reason it was free. Well – you absolutely will not be saying this about POST-. The former leader of the ska/punk collective Bomb The Music Industry!, Jeff Rosenstock has quickly found himself a leader in the modern punk rock movement.

In a time when hip-hop and electronic music is taking the headlines on major music festivals (which we can’t still understand), Jeff Rosenstock is releasing his rally cry against the current social tensions and politics of today. POST- is full of big sing along anthems, call out vocals, chants and straight talk. One listen to the over seven minutes “USA” will capture the vibe especially for the “we’re tired, we’re board” chant near its conclusion. This high energy rhythm never slows and continues regardless if the track is 1:41 like “Beating My Head Against A Wall” or the soaring over 4-minute Rosenstock power ballad “TV Stars.”

There is some good music coming our way in 2018 but the scene has still been looking bleak overall. WORRY. (2016) was a fantastic release for Rosenstock and POST- equals its likability. The record has quickly turned my attitude around and will be a solid release to crank loud all year long. Thank God for Jeff Rosenstock – 2020 anyone?!

Key Tracks: “USA” / “Yr Throat” / “Beating My Head Against A Wall”

Artists With Similar Fire: The Queers / Titus Andronicus / Ted Leo

Jeff Rosenstock Website
Jeff Rosenstock Facebook
Polyvinyl Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

(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

King Krule: The OOZ [Album Review]

King Krule
True Panther/XL Recordings [2017]


Who: London’s Archy Marshall is a well-known and respected artist in the UK and has released work under his own name, Zoo Kid and King Krule as The OOZ is his sophomore release.

Sound: King Krule has a unique sound that blends multiple styles of jazz, garage, psychedelic, blues, trippy beats and indie rock that is guided by Marshall’s veteran Paul Weller, Nick Cave and Tom Waits type voice with a Mac DeMarco, Ariel Pink and Girls style.

TFN Final Take: There is always at least one of these type records like King Krule every year that takes multiple spins to finally connect. The OOZ is that record in 2017 without a question. It is so out there and all over the place that it is easy to dismiss quickly as its runtime is over an hour. What happens though, is that its pieces keep sucking you back into King Krule’s world. The jazzy stroll of “Czech One,” the dark Beck type shaker in “Dum Surfer,” the sinister vocal delivery snarl during “Vidual” to the schizophrenic “Half Man Half Shark,” The OOZ has something new for you every time you hear it. That is the fantastic part about this record which keeps it fresh, timeless and entertaining.

King Krule Website
King Krule Facebook
True Panther Sounds
XL Recordings

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

U-Men: U-Men [Album Review]

Sub Pop Records [2017]

headphone approved reissue

Who: From 1983 to 1987, the U-Men were the hype of the Seattle Underground. The band recorded a handful of singles and one full length album in 1988. This new collection features the U-Men’s entire studio-recorded output plus 5 unreleased songs.

Sound: You might expect the early days of full grunge here but even though the U-Men has that spirit they were more a blend of The Sonics, Link Wray, Pere Ubu, and Captain Beefheart with an aggressive post-punk edge.

TFN Final Take: The U-Men should have been well known. They should be a band that today is talked about much like other area bands of that time like the Melvins, Wipers, Green River and Mudhoney. My guess is that when they called it quits in 1989 it was too early as hair bands were still a thing. With that said, Sub Pop has released this anthology that is an absolute testament of how cool the U-Men were. Their music is brooding, dark, feisty and is led by the swagger of frontman John Bigley that just sounded like he didn’t give a damn. That is the glue of this noisy and raw output from the U-Men because their music is absolutely focused. It doesn’t have big hooks or melody like some of the successful grunge bands of a few years later, but U-Men win you over with their guitar work, sporadic tempo changes and just the idea that they know how to party. One spin of the flyin’ “Freezebomb,” “They!,” or “Green Trumpet” and you will be a fan for life.

U-Men Website
U-Men Facebook
Sub Pop Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Protomartyr: Relatives In Descent [Album Review]

Relatives In Descent
Domino Records [2017]


Who: Detroit’s Protomartyr are a post punk band that has just released their fourth lp and first for Domino Records.

Sound: If Nick Cave fronted a modern era post punk band with a refined edge and a spoken word style that is like The Hold Steady you would find yourself with Protomartyr. The band should appeal to fans of Joy Division, Mark E Smith, and METZ.

TFN Final Take: The underlining intensity of Protomartyr’s fourth long player, Relatives In Descent, is where the band captures your ear and you follow every line singer Joe Casey delivers. This is a record that sits with the world’s current skepticism and how finding the bright spots have become harder and harder.

With Casey steering the boat and navigating these treacherous lyrics, Relatives In Descent falls on Greg Ahee’s scorching guitar riffs that jolt you into order when you listen to this record. The opening track, “A Private Understanding” simmers and broods for two minutes before the song explodes with the band coming at you full force. “Windsor Hum” has the same vibe before the almost chalk board screeching guitar flips the song upside down as Casey tries to calm you singing “everything’s fine, everything’s fine.” The big rocker on the record is “Don’t Go To Anacita” and it will have you singing out the chorus loud and proud in no time. It is exactly the kind of energy you always want music to generate in everyone.

Relatives In Descent is one of the better thought provoking slow burner rock albums you will hear this year. Its grind is its triumph, its peaking explosive moments are its strength and Casey’s leadership style will have you following anywhere. I feel this is Protomartyr’s best album to date but I also sense that it is only still scratching the surface of what this band still has to offer. Detroit’s Protomartyr may take you places you don’t want to go in the beginning but you will quickly find yourself not wanting to leave.

Protomartyr Website
Protomartyr Facebook
Domino Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

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