By Tom Reardon, June 2019 Issue.
Exploring the mind and body can be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to music. The highs are often really high, but the lows … well, the lows can be devastating. Luckily for us, three records have come out recently that will not only make you think, but also want to move, as well. Sit up, take a listen, and maybe dance in your chair or boogie on down the road.
Ex Hex – It’s Real
Hailing from the White Mountains of Arizona, Gorky represents what has to be a bit of an anomaly in rural Arizona. The band, which is led by Jesse Michael-Geronimo Valencia (who is a supercool and incredibly busy man who is the mastermind behind the proposal to create a new county in Arizona and the author of a new book on the infamous band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre), delivers the garage-y, indie rock goods on Mathemagician, which is their third full-length record. If you dig early Weezer (when they were not making shitty cover records) but also like a sprinkle of The Pixies and a dash of The Strokes, and a really nice nod to Tucson faves, Lenguas Largas, you have Gorky. That’s broad, I know, but listen to songs like “AM Radio” and see if you don’t fall in love. Valencia is the primary songwriter here, but his bandmates round out the sound nicely, especially drummer Ben Holladay who drives the songs with precision. The first single, “Action Pants” is a hook-y bit of garage rock that nods heavily towards Portland, Oregon’s Dandy Warhols. Picking up a copy of Mathemagician is highly recommended.
FEELS – Post Earth
Los Angeles quartet FEELS has been rocking the west coast for the better part of this decade and we are lucky for it. Guitarists/Vocalists Laena Geronimo and Shannon Lay shine, glimmer, writhe, and twist on Post Earth, the band’s new release for Wichita Recordings. That is not to take anything away from the extremely adroit rhythm section that is Amy Allen on bass and Michael Rudes on drums, but Geronimo and Lay’s entwined vocals and dueling lead guitars are nothing short of intoxicating. Case in point, “Awful Need” which is the second song on the record blends beautifully sung vocals with guitar lines that would make Fugazi’s Ian Mackaye proud.
In fact, FEELS would fit right in on Washington, D.C.’s legendary Dischord label perfectly. Waves of intricate guitar playing and powerful dual vocals are more than just reminiscent of Mackaye’s Fugazi, they seem to pick up right where the seminal pre-indie, post-punk legends left off. “Find A Way” is simply brilliant, mixing haunting instrumental interplay with a shouted chorus of “Now I wonder if we will find a way” which includes bassist Allen in the mix, as well. This band has it all. They are pretty, powerful, and have something to say. What is not to love? Explore your FEELS today.
LSD - Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present… LSD
Admittedly, I have listened to Sia a lot. I’m a fan, so when I heard about her new collaboration with Labrinth and Diplo, who I had only heard of, but not yet explored, I was definitely curious. There is a lot going on Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present... LSD but it’s not really a good or bad thing to be so busy. It feels like the record starts to fully hit its stride on “Genius.” The track has a way of worming into your consciousness as Labrinth and Sia introduce each other’s verses while seemingly acknowledging somebody’s genius (hopefully not their own) over a groovy beat.
Unfortunately, the record never seems to scale any higher heights than “Thunderclouds” which you may recognize from the Samsung commercials it was featured on and seemingly played, ad nauseum, on every TV channel, everywhere. “Thunderclouds” is a very cool song, but by the time you pop Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present... LSD on your favorite medium for playing music, you may already be sick of it. The songs that truly feature Sia’s amazing voice stand out the most for me, but a fair amount of this record is a jumbly mess of production wizardry that overrides the talent of the collective parts of this music making supergroup. Proceed with caution armed with a hearty red wine and edibles.