Tag Archives: Psych-rock


Holy Wave

Based in El Paso, Texas, Holy Wave (Kyle Hager, Dustin Zozaya, Julian Ruiz, Joey Cook, Ryan Fuson) is riding the wave (!) of the contemporary psych-rock revival.

Adept at combining sympathetic elements of psych-rock, shoe-gaze and dream pop, the music on Freaks of Nurture will appeal to a wide range of rock lovers. Sounding timeless yet fresh, Freaks of Nurture is a work of passionate art that transcends mere genre.

“She Put a Seed in my Ear”, “Wendy Go Round”, “Western Playland”, “California Took My Bobby Away” and so on!

Sounds Like
Temples, Tame Impala, Thee Oh Sees, Spacemen 3.

Bottom Line
Probably the most likely style of modern rock that will break into the mainstream consciousness. Hopefully sooner than later.

Official Site: https://holywave.bandcamp.com/

Buy now!



Is rock ’n’ roll in 2016 a dinosaur? Yes a fucking T-Rex! And it’s coming to rip your guts out!

But seriously, boys and girls, Seattle trio Night Beats viz. Danny Lee Blackwell (guitar / vocals), Jakob Bowden (bass) & James Traeger (drums), do not quite care whether their music is relevant or not.



Fourth album from these Brooklyn-based melodic rockers finds the band in psych-garage territory. What does that mean you might ask? Well, basically it’s mid-60s flavoured three-chord pedal-flooring bubblegum tunes with heavily reverb-drenched harmony vocals. Can’t decide whether the album is played straight or tongue-in-cheek – doesn’t really matter I suppose.

Tunes are kept simple as are arrangements but be warned that the lo-fi, echo chamber sound is artifice in the extreme. Oddly enough, the dreamy albeit atonal soundscape that is “Silent Minus” is one of my favourite moments on The Dead Age. It demonstrates that Unicycle Loves You has more to offer than the meat and potatoes spinning in a wash cycle ambience that characterizes too much of this album.

That said, one cannot help but be entranced by the much of the repetitive atmospheric motives of tracks like “Endless Bummer” and “Any Daydreaming Morning” where psychedelic flourishes rule the day, in a pleasant way. A mixed bag but worth checking out by modern rock fans.


Dreamer’s Manifesto EP

Ever wonder what rocking in space sounds like?

Little Space Donkey answers this question (indirectly) with their latest 4-track EP release, second only to their debut offering quirkily titled “Collection Of Songs That We Will Never Play Live, Ever”. You know that can’t be true.

A band from Jakarta, LSD is made up of Dhendy Mawardi and Amy Amanda on guitars, Made Indar on bass (and one of the contributing artists for this EP’s artwork), Dave Leonard on drums, and Anthono Oktoriandi on synthesizer and sampler. Young as they may look in pictures and in age, but don’t let that fool you. Their music and sound offerings as tight, united and focused  as can be.

The space sounding ambience is attributed to the inclusion of the synthesizer, which provides the musical journey into the other dimension. Not quite certain of the underlying story concept about a leader who united the world in his grasp, though. A glance through their listed influences (like Sigur Ros, M83, Explosions In The Sky, Daft Punk, The Flaming Lips and The Radio Dept. to name a handful) clearly ascertains their musical direction and genre, and then there is a surprise in mention of one of everyone’s classic favourite bands of all-time, The Carpenters (much celebrated!).

Two questions raised:
1) Are LSD really as young as appear to be?
2) Are you in space yet with LSD’s music?

Dreamer’s Manifesto is distributed as a free download at littlespacedonkey.bandcamp.com (FREE!), and you can find out more about Little Space Donkey on MySpace and on Tumblr.

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As much as we all dig the big ticket items – like the Flaming Lips – more often than not it’s the slightly less well known bands who sometimes make the biggest impact live. This is because, with smaller audiences, fans can really get up close with their heroes, like, for example at the recent memorable gigs with the Russian Circles and Mark Kozelek.



ASSEMBLE HEAD IN SUNBURST SOUND When Sweet Sleep Returned (Tee Pee)

Psychedelic rock from San Francisco? Hurm. It’s not hard to imagine stoner fans of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead getting off to When Sweet Sleep Returned back in the heady 60s. But what about in 2010?

Well, I’m not sure whether this uncanny revocation by AHISS is tribute, pastiche or drop-dead serious. I mean, after the Paisley Underground movement faded away, it seems a little pointless to be this reverential in re-creating this particular genre, which has already been totally well-mined in the past by the likes of Rain Parade, the Soft Boys and more lately, the Jupiter Affect.

Don’t get me wrong, I love psychedelic rock if executed properly and with attitude but with AHISS, it just seems a tad redundant. For fans only.

Official Site | Myspace

Buy at Amazon


PONTIAK Living (Thrill Jockey)

One of the things I have a particular fondness for are well-crafted albums meant to be heard in sequence, especially in the age of the MP3. That would explain why my interest  piqued when I received the press release for Living, the fifth record in two years by Virginia-based Pontiak, which promised “a record meant to be heard in sequence in its entirety”.

Of course, fancifully written press releases are one thing; well-written songs are another, and in that regard the three brothers Carney of Pontiak hold up rather well. At first listen the music befits the Southern origins of the record, and is consistent with their previous releases: bass-heavy, fuzzed-out psychedelia that is as Jesus and Mary Chain as it is Hawkwind.

On closer inspection, though, Living packs a heavier and noticeably more textural punch than Pontiak’s previous record, Maker—the result, perhaps, of a longer recording period. While previously the band favoured a one-take recording approach at the home studio they built at their farmhouse (bonus indie points there), they opted instead to spend four months fine-tuning the record, as well as inviting Isaiah Mitchell, guitarist for San Diego band Earthless, to drop in and contribute a few guitar licks.

The result is a cohesive album that fits the marijuana-fueled hypnotism of stoner rock into well-composed songs with a real pop discipline and still leaves space for relentless bouts of neckache-inducing headbangable jamming. You can hear it straight away in the opening track, Young, which lays down a sticky groove of chunky bass and chugging guitars. Vocals on this record are sparsely distributed—harmonies and melodies meant only to complement the playing. Even more conventional songs, like third track Algiers By Day, focus more sonic exploration than lyrical content.

No matter, because the most captivating moments on the record come when the band showcase their spacier side and push the sonic boundaries of their studio and instruments, such as the three-track sequence of Second Sun-Beach-Lemon Lady. At the heart of this record is the tension between pop-structured, dusty chugging riffs and spacier, dreamy exploration, a tension that makes it captivating. This is a record that allows for space to breathe, and what it breathes is fire.

(Samuel C Wee)



THE MAIN STREET GOSPEL Love Will Have Her Revenge (Tee Pee)

Well, it’s obvious that 70s rock has made a massive impression on The Main Street Gospel, a rock trio hailing from Columbus, Ohio. Consisting of Barry Dean (Vocals, Guitar), Ryan “Tito” Ida (Bass) and Adam Scoppa (Drums, Percussion), The Main Street Gospel dispense rather delicious morsels of cool 70s rock-channeling goodness on this, their debut LP.

High on the agenda is a hip mix of country-folk, hard rock and psych rock smarts which evokes the likes of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Cream and so on. Songs like the opening title track, Fool’s Gold, Ready to Shine, She’s A Disease and Give Your Love Away will keep all you classic rock lovers smiling.

Myspace | Facebook


CARI CLARA It’s Our Hearts They’re After LP/You Better Run EP (Deep Elm)

As a music writer, being offered hundreds of new albums/EPs for review, I sometimes rely on press releases of publicists/labels to determine which request I want to accept. My guiding principle being that I try my best to review every review request I accept. So with Cari Clara, I was somewhat intrigued by the band’s purported list of influences viz. Radiohead, Muse, Pink Floyd, Elliot Smith, Big Star, Grant Lee Phillips, Beta Band.

Cool, huh?

And so here I am pretty much astounded by this album and EP by Cari Clara i.e. Eric Diedrichs (vocals, guitar), Mark Diedrichs (keyboards, synth), Jason Arbenz (guitar, backing vocals), Greg Tudor (synth, glockenspiel, percussion, backing vocals) and Josh Hagen (drums). Why so? Not only do those cited inspirations make sense in the context of their music, they write amazing songs as well.

It’s Our Hearts They’re After is chock full of midtempo, slow burning torch songs that embrace the arcane and arty agendas of post-punk and psych-rock bands throughout the ages. It’s one of those rare albums that you’d want to swallow whole, a complete entity that must be savoured from start to end. Gorgeous.

You Better Run actually ups the ante somewhat, going all epic and gothic with the inclusion of strings and Edge-like guitar histrionics on the title track, groveling in swampy voodoo blues on Neither Weapon and A Hand To Shape) and channeling dark ghostly balladry on the Great Departure.

If you wanna know what genuine indie rock sounds like in 2010, listen to Cari Clara and you won’t go far wrong. Scintillating mope rock, angels would dance to…Simply magnificent.



THE BESNARD LAKES The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)

“Widescreen rock” is a genre I coined to describe bands/artists who paint their own new masterpieces on the broad canvas of five decades of pop-rock music. Comic fans will be aware that I “borrowed” the phrase from writer Warren Ellis who described his comic book series, the Authority as “widescreen comics”.

In my humble estimation, “widescreen rock” includes the likes of The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and the now defunct Grandaddy. Well, I’m glad to also induct Canadian band, The Besnard Lakes, into the Widescreen Rock Hall of Fame! I found the band’s sophomore effort – The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horses – akin to listening to Pink Floyd fronted by Brian Wilson, and one of the best albums of 2007.

This new album (due for release in early March), continues the fine form shown on Dark Horses, with the band drawing from the deep well of arcane rock, with references dropped to psychedelic rock, country-folk and prog throughout. With treated guitars, soaring vocals, electronic sound effects, old school keyboards, the songs here sound modern and classic at the same time – familiar and yet strange. The combination of the male-female vocal dynamic between Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas is priceless, as well.

Astute listeners will catch the heady influences of Neil Young, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, the Bee Gees and the aforementioned widescreen rock bands in fine tracks like Chicago, Albatross, The Innocent and Light Up the Night. Modern rock fans into the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and the Animal Collective (all current proponents of widesrceen rock) will definitely want to check out the Besnard Lakes.

Free download of Albatross here. A video below.

Official Site



RADAR BROS. The Illustrated Garden (Merge)

The Radar Bros. are probably the quintessential 90s alt-rock band. Having released 5 albums (before The Illustrated Garden), they have distilled the Pixies-Flaming Lips-Dream Syndicate vibe perfectly. Y’know, equal parts country-folk and psychedelic rock. Throw in copious amounts of the inspirations of Neil Young and Pink Floyd and voila! The Illustrated Garden!

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the hip and cool factor of the above references is high. And the songs on The Illustrated Garden bear this out as well. There is a weathered feel about the melodies and angular shape to the arrangements which strikes a fine balance between the classic and indie rock genres.

Highlights include the world-weary The Headlights, the obtuse and edgy Rainbow, the whacked out bluesy Quarry, the Syd Barrett-channeling People.

Official site




San Francisco-based The American Professionals dole out comfortably familiar powerpop in this four-track EP. You know the deal – loud, crunchy guitars and catchy melodies. So if you’re a diehard powerpop fan, you do get the heavy guitarwork (classic 70s styled) and the Beatlesque tunes, which suggests that the likes of Cheap Trick and the Raspberries might be strong influences.

It’s straightforward really. Personally, I like the subtle contrasts in the title track which does suggest that the band has more in its locker than loud and heavy. Always a good sign. That said, the adrenaline-pumping, bittersweet confections of Jump This Train, Down Low and Yet Another One More Time will keep the powerpop fans smiling.

In addition, check out bonus track Love is Only Sleeping, which is a gorgeous evocation of mid-60s psychedelic-garage rock.



THE LUXURY In the Wake Of What Won’t Change (Self-released)

Better late than never.

If I had listened to this excellent album in 2009, I would have certainly listed it in my top albums of that year. No doubt!

Suffice to say that this Boston-based band has produced a pop-rock classic which encapsulates everything that the Power of Pop believes passionately about music. Eclectic at its core, defiantly melodic (and harmonic) and referencing all the coolest bits of powerpop, Britpop, psychedelia, prog and post-punk (in a manner I had previously considered impossible), In the Wake Of What Won’t Change is one of those rare albums where swallowing it whole is essential to its full appreciation.

The album opens with electronic noise which seques into epic washes of sound and then kicks off with Getaway Car, a thrilling driving song that recalls Be Bop Deluxe. From then on, the keen listener needs to be strapped in for the ride as The Luxury delivers the amazing chorus of Take It Back (think: the Alan Parsons Project), the epic ‘Til Your Last Day (recalling best prog-pop exercises of Asia and Trevor Rabin-era Yes), the dynamic Next in Line, the jaunty Straitjacket and so on.

Better late than never indeed.

Official site




THE APPLES IN STEREO #1 Hits Explosion (Yep Roc)

I don’t mean to be rude but it doesn’t matter what kind of music you may personally dig, you need this truly awesome compilation in your life and like, NOW! Sure, the title is ironic but that’s irrelevant as this album takes the listener through 16 high-octane sweet chunks of pure melody. Believe me, swallowing this album whole will give you a sugar rush you’ll never forget.

You want genres? Well, powerpop, bubblegum, sunshine pop, merseybeat, jangle pop, freak beat, psych rock (and so on) are covered with much aplomb (and dollops of fun). Influences? Too many to mention but if it makes you feel any better, Beach Boys, Beatles, the Byrds, the Move, ELO et al.

#1 Hits Explosion is the perfect introduction-sampler to the wondrous delights of the Apples in Stereo, once you’ve picked up this gorgeous item you would do well then to check out them albums e.g. Tone Soul Evolution, Her Wallpaper Reverie and The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone.

So, what are you waiting for?

Official site




THE MARS VOLTA Octahedron (Mercury)

It’s no mean feat to be a progressive rock band in the modern rock scene and still be hip and cool but that’s exactly what The Mars Volta have managed to achieve. Combining classic prog influences, jazz fusion and Latin music inflections into a popular confection that has won favour with fans and critics, the band even have a Grammy award to their name.

After four critically acclaimed albums, The Mars Volta have released Octahedron – their latest LP – which the band have described as an “acoustic” album. Get your jaw off the ground, The Mars Volta’s concept of “acoustic” does not accord with conventional wisdom and thank goodness for that.

What it does mean is that Octahedron is slightly more straightforward rock than The Mars Volta followers may be used to. Thus, whilst certain amount of experimentalism may have put on the back burner (and time signatures remain fairly constant), Octahedron still commands your attention for its bold and muscular songwriting, inventive arrangements and lively performances.

Top that off with memorable tunes (!) in tracks like Since We Been Wrong, Halo of Nembutals and Cotopaxi, Octahedron will appeal to all rock fans (of any era). Especially when there are numerous nods to the acid rock of the 60s – certainly the spirit of Hendrix and the power of Cream – and its various revivals/incarnations in the decades since in this truly striking album.

Official site



DT Cover--200--jpg

CHRIS ENGLISH Dreamtown (SideBMusic)

After numerous years in the music biz, singer-songwriter English has finally released his debut solo album – Dreamtown – and all I say is: why did it take so long to get such enjoyable/likable music to us? Huh?

Better late than never is probably a better response but fans of such texturally dense & melodic brawny artists like the Beach Boys, XTC, Alan Parsons Project and Peter Gabriel will be wondering how much joy has been denied them in the intervening years. Whatever.

On the album cover, English holds the much revered Rickenbacker guitar popularized by the Beatles and the Byrds and whilst, Dreamtown isn’t too heavy on the jangle pop, the chiming signature of this famous guitar does lend its dreamy allure to the magical quality of this strong debut.

The perfect soundtrack to melancholy Sunday nights (which it is as I’m typing this), Dreamtown will envelope with luscious harmonies and atmospheric vibes that will transport you to happier climes. Tracks like the psychedelic I Can See Everything, the gorgeous Autumn, the heady Into the Blue, sunshiny Summer Revisited and jangly The River, firmly establish Dreamtown as essential listening for the Pop Underground.

Check out Chris English’s Myspace page.

Download “I Can See Everything”




Joy! I mean when band members refer to themselves as Tobacco, Power Pill Fist, Father Hummingbird, The Seven Fields of Aphelion & Iffernaut rather than Tom Fec, Ken Fec, Seth Ciotti, Maureen Boyle & Donna Kyler, well, you just know that you’re in for a treat!

Black Moth Super Rainbow is what you may call a modern psychedelic rock band. No, they don’t really sound like Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd or Roky Erickson/13th Floor Elevators (maybe in tiny doses) BUT armed with electronics and an ubiquitous vocoder, BMSR certainly give the likes of Flaming Lips, MGMT and Tahiti 80, a run for their money. And it does not hurt one iota that David (Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips producer) Fridmann is on the boards.

Basically, BMSR are particularly adept at combining the disparate elements of trippy psych-rock, smooth soft jazz-pop and epic synth riffs into one heady melange that has no problem in leaving a smile on this reviewer’s face. Despite the electronica underpinnings, BMSR’s sonic approach is organic and there’s no doubt that they are a ‘proper’ band.

The vibe on the new Eating Us album is always chilled, with intriguing keyboard patches, dynamic rhythm section work and that other-worldly vocoder-drenched vocal. Here’s an collection of tracks you can easily “float upstream” to but with enough muscle to ensure you never fall off the deep end.

The great strength that Eating Us possesses may also be its most notable flaw, the songs do tend to merge into one aggregation after a few listens but that could just mean that the album is one which you can comfortably listen to from front to finish. There is a warm consistency that lends itself to repeated airings. And that, my dear friends is a good thing.

Check out BMSR’s Myspace page.