Tuesday always means it's time for Tuesday Reviewsday, our weekly new music segment.
Artist: Robert Pollard / Ricked Wicky
Album: "I Sell the Circus"
Songs: "Well Suited," "Mobility"
Notes: At 57 years old, Bob Pollard is one of the most prolific indie-rock stars of the last 20 years. And by star, I mean really mean, one of the godfathers.
Pollard is Guided by Voices, the beloved lo-fi band from Dayton, Ohio, who, in the last three decades, have released 22 studio albums and 17 EPs. Add to that count Pollard's 20 solo albums and you're looking at nearly 50 Lps and some 3,000 minutes of music.
But this record, under the name Ricked Wicky, precedes all that output and consists of songs written in his early teens for a nonexistent group, or, in his mind, "a sophisticated arena rock band."
What do the songs of a budding Bob sound like? No surprise here - young Pollard had the same knack for irresistible power pop that the future rock star would make his trademark. The proof is right there in the album's opening track, "Well Suited."
Where you do get the sense that there's a teenager at work here is in some of the sillier song titles, like "Uranus Flies," "Piss Face" and "Guts" - all, incidentally, among the more rocking tracks on this collection, along with the gritty number, "Mobility."
As in all Guided By Voices records, songs average 2 1/2 minutes with the longest clocking in at 3:30 and the shortest at 1:38. Now, here's an artist for the short attention span of these modern times.
Artist: Elle King
Album: "Love Stuff"
Songs: "Ex's & Ohs," "Under the Influence"
Notes: There's something really special about a girl who can handle herself on the banjo, and Elle King plays it like nobody's business. In fact, she's somewhat of a six-string savant - I saw her play at South By Southwest last year and was really wowed by her proficiency.
And also by her songs, which have a throwback feel to female singers of the 50s and sixties both from the pop realm and the country side, so maybe a touch of Patsy Cline and a hint of Mama Cass or Ronnie Spector, whose influence you can certainly hear in the song "Ex's & Ohs."
This is Elle King's debut album, but she had released an EP in 2012 which got her some valuable attention - namely that of music supervisors for Mad Men, which featured her song ("Playing for Keeps") in an ad campaign.
It's easy to hear why - she has a retro vibe that doesn't feel like shtick.
Her producers are partly to credit and she certainly worked with some heavy hitters, including Jeff Bhasker, who's most affiliated with Fun and Kanye West and Eg White who worked with Adele and Sam Smith. Patrick Carney of the Black Keys and Mark Ronson also play on the album, which was recorded in multiple studios from Malibu to Memphis to Manhattan.
Elle King's influences are many, from Elvis and Johnny Cash to the Runaways and Blondie, but they come together in a sound that really her own, which you can really hear in the song "Under the Influence."
Album: "Almost Famous" EP
Songs: "Smother," "Open Wide"
Notes: We've got a duo whose name is almost radio unfriendly. Rachel Gagliardi and Nicole Snyder are Slutever. And yes, that's a portmanteau of "slut" and "whatever," which is dumb and awesome.
As you might hope, Slutever make grungy punk that owes to Hole, Nirvana, the Breeders, and the Pixies. Or, if you want more modern touchstones: Wavves and Best Coast. This duo originally hails from Philadelphia, but moved to Los Angeles, "in hopes of becoming celebrities," as their bio says. Fittingly, their new EP, out today, is named Almost Famous. It's got six songs that shred and slink their way through themes of booze and creepy dudes, television and love, teen motherhood and friendship. Also, you can buy it in cassette form, which is always a plus for me.
Better still: Slutever are releasing their music on their own. It's also available digitally, by the way. They met at Philly's Drexel University studying the music industry and they continue to handle most band business on their own. They also both play guitar, play drums, and sing, so they pretty much win at the rock 'n' roll thing.
Artist: The Amazing
Album: "Picture You"
Songs: "Safe Island," "Picture You"
Notes: The Amazing are a Swedish supergroup of sorts. Of you listen to the track "Safe Island," you'll notice layered guitars doing a ride-like dream-pop sort of thing. That's Reine Fiske of psych favorites Dungen, who broke out here in the States in '04. There's wild drumming too, reminiscent of krautrock icons Can. Well, that's Moussa Fadera, one of Stockholm's best jazz drummers and a former sticksman for mythical Detroit singer Rodriguez. And the voice you hear belongs to a guy from another Swedish outfit that's more obscure outside of Scandinavia. The point is, they've got chops.
Also, as their name might imply, they aren't interested in pandering for our approval. They already know they're Amazing, literally. So for these guys, there's no reason they can't release singles that hover around nine minutes - as both the songs we're going to hear do. In fact, the whole album, which is called Picture You, is full of long players that span Pink Floyd-like prog, Tame Impale-like psych, Nick Drake-evoking folk, baroque pop, soft rock, and just about anything kinda meandering and beautiful.
In other words, it's great music for long drives, or long periods spent on the couch in a state of mind that allows your imagination to navigate the astral plane.