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Genre > Rock > Alt & Grunge
Savage TimesHanni El Khatib’s first idea for his Savage Times project was to do something he’d never done before. Instead, he ended up doing … well, everything he’d never done before. He’d be playing new instruments, writing in unfamiliar new ways, opening himself up to an unrelenting stream of ideas and dedicating himself totally to pure musical instinct. And the result? 19 best-of-the-sessions songs, destined for vinyl release as a Limited Edition 10” LP Box Set, as well as the kind of creative revelations that only happen when you quit looking around and start looking ahead.
Originally, he’d hoped to explode the lingering idea that he was simply a blues-rock guitar player, but that’s why Savage Times touches on everything from garage rock to punk to disco, hip-hop and even some unexpected solo-guitar self-portraiture. But on the way, he also exploded his own idea of what he could do—even maybe who he was, or would be. Savage Times was an experiment as well as an experience, that touched on some of the most personal, social & political elements to date.LP 1
1. Baby's Ok
2. Gonna Die Alone
3. Born Brown
6. Mangos and Rice
1. Come Down
2. No Way
3. Mondo and His Makeup
4. Gun Clap Hero
5. Black Constellation
6. So Dusty
1. Till Your Rose Comes Home
2. Hold Me Back
3. Savage Times
6. Peep Show
7. This I Know
8. Freak Freely
$39.9910" Vinyl LP Box Set - 3 LPs SealedBuy Now
Congrats"A cyborg dance party for a broken future that's closer than you think" - Pitchfork
"Off Your Face Euphoria" - The Line of Best Fit
"hypnotic, electronic climax-rock" - SPIN
"scuzzy, funk-fuelled energy" - FACT Mag
Holy Fuck took the world by surprise around 2005 because there was just nothing like them—a hardcore thrift-store found-object punk band with a relentless commitment to rhythm and a sense for atmosphere better matched to a close encounter of the third kind than a simple rock concert. Think Einstürzende Neubauten re-inspired by Fela Kuti with Brian Eno working as keyboard tech and every channel on the mixer set to max power. It was the best ride out there while it lasted, up to and including their 2010 full-length Latin, recorded largely in too-brief breaks while on the road. That album cemented Holy Fuck’s sound and reputation for unapologetic instrumental noise but at the end of yet another insane touring cycle, it was time to take a break … which turned into a hiatus … which turned into a chance to explore other projects and production work. (Like the bands Lids, Dusted and Etiquette, or production for Metz, Alvvays and Viet Cong.)
They’d been moving faster than they’d ever expected, especially after a 2007 sophomore release that came close to securing Canada’s prestigious Juno and Polaris Music Prize. (Not to mention festival slots at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Glastonbury, Coachella and more—plus Lou Reed said they were the best band he’d seen at SXSW.) The strategy was just to stay busy, says founder and noisemaster Brian Borcherdt, but soon they started to feel like Indiana Jones running from that boulder: “He had to step aside and let things settle!”
But there’s nothing Indiana Jones does better than the shock reveal, is there? And so in 2016 Holy Fuck suddenly announced the release of Congrats, a surprise full-length two years in the making that is by any scientific measure their holiest fuckiest release ever: “When you’re sitting still in a van and staring out the windows, you start to dream about all the other things you want to do,” says Borcherdt. “This album is exactly what we couldn’t do then.”
Checking into a “proper” studio, rather than the barn in rural Ontario where most of Holy Fuck’s records were made, Congrats was recorded by the same lineup that recorded Latin: Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt “Punchy” McQuaid, and Matt Schulz. As they worked, they discovered that Congrats was a process of refining things, Walsh says—both physically and philosophically. Their ad hoc arsenal of low-budget hi-tech toys has been streamlined down to what he calls the nervous system of the band: “What gets run through our system is the seed of the idea for our music, and the system is what we play. This record is almost a beginning—the first stage of a new way for us.”
So consider those previous albums prelude to Holy Fuck’s true breakthrough, and recognize Congrats as the moment when Holy Fuck take the chaos and craziness (and charm) that have always been at the heart of their band and not so much control it as concentrate it. Now they’re heavier, wilder, leaner, sharper, more daring and more unpredictable than ever before, on fire with the power of inspired outsiders like Suicide, Silver Apples, Can, Mission of Burma or the Monks or even Sun Ra, says Borcherdt, whose pursuit of his own kind of musical purity is exactly what Holy Fuck are after. Yes, it took them a few years, which in 2016 is supposed to be the career suicide, but they took that time to take chances. “We were told we did everything wrong,” Borcherdt says now, laughing—but really Congrats is the sound of a band doing absolutely everything right.1. Chimes Broken
2. Tom Tom
4. Xed Eyes
5. Neon Dad
6. House Of Glass
$21.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Do You Feel Ok?Since their 2013 Innovative Leisure debut, Exhibitions, Superhumanoids sound like they’ve traveled 30 years forward. Whereas their first album elicited comparisons to artists from the 1980s, Do You Feel Ok? reflects the present in all the power and clarity possible with modern technology. The synths are phosphorescent.
Lead singer Sarah Chernoff’s vocals are sleek, ethereal, and ignore gravitational limitations. With propulsive drum machines and feathery hooks, the band blends futuristic electronic textures with classic regard for songwriting. Superhumanoids are singular, but their grace at switching between dance music and rock recall similar hybrids, Darkside and Caribou.1. Anxious In Venice
2. Oh Me I
3. Norwegian Black Metal
4. Touch Me
5. Dull Boy
6. Death Rattle
8. Do You Feel OK?
9. 12 Fingers
10. I Want To Believe
11. Blinking Screens
$17.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
RaptureWhite Colored Vinyl
"Intoxicating and memorably tuneful" - Pitchfork
"Gorgeously Weary" - The Guardian
"An idiosyncratic, deeply individual voice" - Clash Magazine
The new album from Tropics, aka 27 year old Chris Ward, looks outwards, armed with a newfound confidence that foregrounds his vocal performance and songwriting.
It’s a musical progression that mirrors a personal one: the early Tropics output was all made in the idyllic, if isolated setting of Ward’s grandmother’s empty house in the seaside town of Southsea, which he moved into after graduating from university to focus on writing and recording. He was alone there - “like, really alone. For days, I had literally no distractions.” Having moved to London in 2013, Ward now splits his time between the city and the road, having played in America, Mexico and across Europe throughout the past year with his live band Keith Vaz and Morgan Hislop.
Tropics’ new full-length Rapture is the culmination of this journey. A multi-instrumentalist from an early age, Ward has always drawn on his musical upbringing when composing, but this time around he’s pushed himself to develop a fuller sound than ever with the help of Vaz, Hislop and specialist jazz drummer Gillan McLaughlin. Taking influence from Beach Boys, Max Roach and Arthur Russell, Ward has crafted an album that fuses his love of avant-garde percussion, 70s and 80s singer-songwriters such as Peter Gabriel known for pop-leaning hooks, and deep production that takes cues from ambient music.
The very first iterance of the record is the crystal clear vocal that kicks off ‘Blame’. Ward explains that performing live so much caused him to step outside of his comfort zone: “I used to be a bit dubious about using my vocal too much, and felt like my strength was in sampling and playing keys. It’s kind of switched now in that I feel a lot more comfortable just holding a microphone and losing myself.” Inspired by the vocal performances of the likes of Little Dragon and Innovative Leisure labelmates Rhye, Ward also found a new lease of life in experimenting with more androgynous vocals.
But even as his sound has greater scope than ever before, Rapture is still a deeply personal endeavour. The majority of the songs started life in Ward’s home, in front of a piano, before being built on in the studio. The first half of the record is a chronicle of a whirlwind relationship: the piano-led title track “Rapture” addresses this theme, striving for the throes of ecstatic happiness but never quite making it there. “It’s got this feeling of hope and joy, even though it is coming from a sad place,” says Ward. “It’s about the struggles in your life to get to where you want to be.” Elsewhere, lyrics such as, “You ran away just like my luck did” hint at Ward’s love for literature and his poetic touch, something he further explores on the album’s second side. Later, the album grows more ambient and the literary references more apparent. “Gloria” takes its name from the character of a frustrated wife in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned. Likewise, “Torrents of Spring” - also named for a work of 20th century American fiction - builds to a sax-led climax over two painstaking minutes, and the penultimate “House of Leaves” is “a really slow-burning ambient instrumental; it’s kind of a nod to the first stuff I made”.
Whether filling dance floors or simply filling up your headspace, Rapture is an intricate and intimate record that presents the many faces of Tropics in a more revealing light than ever before.1. Blame
6. Perfume Kinship
7. Torrents of Spring
8. Home & Consonance
10. House of Leaves
11. Not Enough
$18.99Colored Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Moonlight"Engine-revving dose of filthy, leather-clad blues." - NME
"A shit-kicking garage greaser with badass hooks." - SPIN
"Stripped- down garage rock with crunching guitars and kiss-off cockiness." - GQ
"This is desert-burned blues rock boosted by punk, soul and hip-hop" - ROLLING STONE
On his 2011 debut Will The Guns Come Out, Hanni El Khatib tried something he’d never tried before—making a bedroom-style recording of his then stripped-to-the-skeleton guitar-and-drums rock ‘n’ roll mostly for the sheer joy of making it. For his ferocious 2013 follow-up Head In The Dirt, he tried something new again, showing up at producer Dan Auerbach’s analog-dreamland Nashville studio with nothing but the clothes on his back and an open mind.
But after Head In The Dirt’s release and almost a year of relentless touring, Hanni knew he needed to go past ‘unpredictable’ all the way to ‘unprecedented.’ He needed isolation, time and the chance to experiment. So after 30 days locked in hand-picked L.A. studio The Lair, the result is the album Moonlight—the rarest and most welcome kind of album, made at that perfect point in life where confidence, experience, and technique unite to help an artist do anything they want.
That’s why it starts with a song that sounds like a Mobb Deep beat under a Suicide-style synth drone and ends with an ESG-meets-LCD Soundsystem gone italo-disco song about life and death. That’s why it collides crushing crate-digger drumbeats that’d be right at home on a Can LP or an Eddie Bo 45 with bleeding distorto guitar, bent and broken barroom piano and hallucinatory analog flourishes. (In fact, some smart producer is going to sample the drums from this album and complete the circle of life.) And that’s also why Moonlight feels like the album he’s always wanted to make: “What would it sound like if RZA got in the studio with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits?” he asks. “I don’t know! That was my approach on everything.”
It’s a personal album in the most primal sense, put together in any way that worked. Iggy Pop and David Bowie did this kind of thing on The Idiot, the Wu-Tang Clan did it on 36 Chambers and the Clash did it three times over on Sandinista. And now it’s Hanni’s turn, across 11 new lightning-struck songs, each written and recorded in its own flash of inspiration. It sounds like an album made by an endless list of collaborators, but really Moonlight was more like the first do-it-almost-all-yourself music Hanni ever made, except after six years recording and touring, he’d learned to do so much more.1. Moonlight
2. Melt Me
3. The Teeth
5. Worship Song (No 2)
8. All Black
10. Dance Hall
11. Two Brothers
$19.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Wayne Interest"Cribbing as much from Brian Wilson’s lyrical topics as they take from Dick Dale’s reverb-soaked guitar tone” - Noisey / Vic
"[The music of the Tijuana Panthers] sounds something like they had spent an afternoon with Jan and Dean sharing fish tacos with Quentin Tarantino, before laying down some 4-track recordings with The Cramps in a sunlit garage.” - LA Weekly
…the polished punx in vintage pop-snarlers like the Only Ones, the Real Kids, or Generation X.” -Spin
Live and on record, the Tijuana Panthers are a great band. You could say garage, punk or surf while describing their sound, but they’re harder to pin than that. The truth is that they write classic songs that don’t depend on tropes from any genre. They craft perfect pop and deliver it with energy and immediacy. However, the real magic of this band is in their weirdness.
Behind their picturesque portraits of daily life is an aching despair. This subtle contrast creates an eerie tension between the ideal, the real and the surreal. You suddenly realize they’re not the happy-golucky beach boys you tried to pin them as, but more akin to sexually frustrated soda jerks in a David Lynch film. And this all makes sense with the fact that they come from Southern California’s shadier city of Long Beach, not exactly the fun in the sun that California dreamers might expect.
For Wayne Interest, the Panthers team up with producer Richard Swift. The recordings took place at Swift’s studio in Oregon where the band decidedly took risks in performance and production. The risks paid off. With Swift’s direction and upgrade in fidelity, Wayne Interest sounds just as compelling in headphones as it would at a house party in East LA. It also gives the listener a closer look at the idiosyncrasies of the Tijuana Panthers, only making it clearer that there’s something off about these creeps. Their weirdness, or boldness to be whoever they may be, is what makes this band great. It’s a rare quality. The more you listen to the Tijuana Panthers the more you wonder about them.1. Four Horsemen
3. Cherry Street
4. Dark Matter
5. Sooner Or Later
9. 7th Seal
10. Everybody’s Happy Nowdays
12. Wayne Interest
13. Money Jar
14. Car Crash
$17.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Nothing Is Real"Crystal antlers aren’t really about making some shit we’ve heard before, but they do take notice of some important touchstones: powerful organ runs, ragged vocals and an ability to turn even relatively short songs into something that sounds beyond epic.”
- The Fader
"Merging psych, garage, lo-fi, prog, and countless other influences, the group easily maintains consistency despite a complete inability to be pinned to any specific movement or trend.”
"Art-garage whiplash at its finest.”
- AV Club
"It’s hard not to admire these out-there dudes”
"They’re at the point where comparisons do little justice. They’re just crystal antlers now.”
- LA Times
Currently slated for a fall 2013 release is the newest Crystal Antlers full-length Nothing Is Real, featuring cover art by famed surf/skate/graffiti legend C.R. Stecyk III and recorded as the band returns to its most fundamental roots as an agile power trio - Jonny Bell, drummer Kevin Stuart and guitarist Andrew King.
Nothing Is Real is Crystal Antlers going beyond the beyond, with songs that rattle and ricochet from desolation to delirium. Opener “Pray” sounds like what would have happened if Black Flag’s Greg Ginn had produced the first Psychedelic Furs single; “Persephone” and “Anywhere But Here” match the desperate, relentless rhythm of the Wipers with the inside-out guitar melodies of the Pixies. “Licorice Pizza” recalls lost cult-punk heroes like the Flesh Eaters or the Embarrassment. On Nothing Is Real, you’ll feel as much as hear echoes of bands like Wire, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.
As Bell puts it, “With each album, we’ve tried to figure out ways to include more of our whole selves in the recordings, while still keeping things cohesive. And from growing up in punk bands, there always needs to be that little element of something that might piss someone off. We might be using a drum machine—but we’re gonna use it completely the wrong way.”1. Rattlesnake
2. Licorice Pizza
3. We All Gotta Die
4. Paper Thin
6. Anywhere But Here
7. Don't Think Of The Stone
8. Wrong Side
9. Better Things
10. Prisoner Song
$18.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. That was also right around the time that Nirvana and Pearl Jam fueled the grunge rock explosion.
And when you want the full and real alt rock experience, you’ve gotta try it out on vinyl, and SoundStage Direct is your one-stop shop for all the best alternative rock vinyls.