A decade ago, you could send away for masterpiece CD-Rs from labels that existed only as P.O. boxes in Brooklyn, Asheville, South Bend, Berkeley, Chicago, etc. This was a time when a person and a guitar and tape recorder could, and often did, produce music of otherworldly power, particularly when placed for an amount of time in a remote location. A woman and a flute and a mountaintop cabin and a staggering supply of Diet Mountain Dew = a pretty EP of rambling pastoral jams. A man and a sleeping bag and a mandolin and a mini-disc player/recorder and a couple bags of Trader Joe’s pork jerky = a legend is born. This was a rich era for music, and there were so many fly-by-night (in a good way) labels, with gnomic, never-updated websites, and byzantine ordering procedures, that there was always something new to be discovered, some puzzle to solve, some new shipping rate to calculate. Rafi Bookstaber’s Late Summer is exactly all that: it’s pretty, it’s contemplative, it’s full-on slow-flowing riparian jams, it’s freaky, it’s muted, it’s latent, it’s the random disc you take a chance on and end up loving for a long, long time.
One day you wake up to find yourself in a soft-focus universe. Everything you lay eyes on is haloed with golden light, as though the aura of each person and object has been feathered or blown out. Sounds, too, are layered, gauzy, wispy. A voice, coming from a point of origin you cannot locate, calls out to you with a request. You agree to the request. What happens next will bewilder your senses and fill you with a sort of regretful wonder. What happens next will utilize silk wall-hangings, candles, and incense in extremely unorthodox ways.
Deerhoof vs. the Hives. Deerhoof absorbing the Vines. Deerhoof take the genome of garage rock and apply generous amounts of fucked-up enzymes and amino acids to arrive at something both twisted and fun, like a miniature woolly mammoth that can sing in human language. All of Deerhoof’s new album, the Magic, is like this. They are definitely the kind of band that you know what you’re getting with their music–and what you’re getting is unpredictability, and they never disappoint.
Aloha’s new album is built around a sense of escape. It’s in the music, the lyrics, the track titles too: Signal Drift, Faraway Eyes, Ocean Street, Flight Risk. This is, I imagine, the same kind of appeal by which Jimmy Buffett’s insane shtick works (though let me add here that Aloha’s music is infinitely more elegant, subtle, and enjoyable than Buffett’s (I know many people love Buffett, but he, like Don Henley, is a way gross leathery suntanned satyr who exists as a sort of emblem of all the failures and, let’s say, weird and disgusting exudations of Boomer-era capitalism—no offense, Parrotheads)), i.e., drop your shit and let’s go. Leave work. Drive to the beach. Or get on a plane. Or board a boat. It’s time to leave behind all the worries and shit. In that sense, you can bet that this is a fun/appropriate album for summertime excursions (pedestrian or reckless).
Do you want to experience a simulation of the vibrant/volatile emotional texture of an existence in which most events precipitate states of intense joy or incandescent anxiety or seething anger? Depending on your answer to that question, you may absolutely love the Hotelier’s new album, or you may wish to merely dabble in it. This is music reminiscent of early & mid-00s stuff that showed up on the mixtapes exchanged by the brooding, the overwrought, the passionate, the sullen (myself included), e.g. Saves the Day, Piebald, Juliana Theory, Gloria Record, Braid, Jets to Brazil, which is all maybe not quite canonical emo, but close to it. Much like Into It. Over It.’s recent record, the Hotelier’s (great) album doesn’t so much recreate that era’s music as it does nod to it on its way to doing something else. This record is mostly bright and optimistic: a summer spent outdoors; drinking beers in the park; an unexpectedly pleasant road trip; you catch the fireworks from a hill way up above town; you find peace in everyday pleasures, the ones you used to take for granted.
Part of the dynamic of “Stronger”—maybe that move from the verses to the chorus—reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, though the actual components of the song don’t resemble FM (if that makes sense—it’s like the ‘shape’ of a Mac song is hidden in here, somehow, like a weird sonic Easter egg. The spirit of Christine McVie is present). Or I could be hearing this all wrong, which is a very real possibility too. Anyway, it’s a good song, it’s catchy, it’s almost summer, what more do you want? Blast this from your shoulder-perched boombox.
Chamber, chambre, camara, kamer, camera, Kammer. Or ventricle. It’s an invitation to his literal heart. Come in, he says, make yourself at home. I haven’t opened up this space in quite a long time, it might be a little dusty, but it’s still comfortable, still functioning. The last tenant left it a mess, but it’s since been cleared out, aired out, cleaned up. You’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like.
You’ve got your commemorative prints right there in that corner. You’ve got your handmade wooden bowls over on that stand. Postcards, here. Posters, here. Necklaces, rings, and other jewelry, here. Magnets over by the register. Cold drinks in the case at the back. Toys for the kids along the wall. Themed snacks in that display: assorted gums, branded pretzels, and proprietary chews. This is the culmination of your experience. Take home a piece of what you saw. When you get asked about what you did on your vacation, don’t you want to be able to show people? Show them how much fun you had?
[This is all to say that Savoy Motel’s song is aptly named, surprising, and entertaining. It’s a little chintzy, but enjoyably so. It’s flashy, it’s ephemeral, it’s not responsible, and it’s good.]