Times New Viking’s tour of America’s legendary indie-rock labels continues with their first release for Merge after a few albums on Matador and then Siltbreeze. By 2015, they’ll be on SST, and by late 2015, they’ll be suing Greg Ginn. But right now, in 2011, they’ve done the inevitable and tidied up just a bit. The overwhelming fuzz and full-blown levels of past TNV joints have given way to a slightly more presentable sound. The fidelity’s still low — this ain’t no Mutt Lange production — but Dancer Equired doesn’t scrape out your eardrums when you listen to it on headphones. The album feels less urgent and reckless, but you may also find it easier to focus on the songs, which are a vital part of the record-making process that Times New Viking have excelled at. The always-present kiwi-pop influence — these folks obviously love the Clean — is more blatant with the band’s new-found noise reduction. The continuous hitmaking of Present the Paisley Reich might be gone forever, but Dancer Equired offers up enough catchy pop jams to warrant a listen.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/119662-times-new-viking-dancer-equired/#ixzz1QJKL7L7k

Let’s Wrestle are another pack of young British guitar owners, and although they haven’t crafted much of an identity outside of being amiable wiseasses, that’s all you need if your songs are catchy enough. This kind of noisy, overdriven, guitar-heavy pop music is hardly confined to any era, but if Nursing Home came out in ’92 or ’93 — during that brief window when major labels let their guards down and signed legitimately good bands in a desperate search for the next Nirvana — they would’ve gotten at least as much radio play as Eugenius or Teenage Fanclub. Lyrically, Nursing Home combines the intelligent snark of Art Brut and the teenage fixation of “Blue Album”–era Weezer with songs about playing computer games in the suburbs and hanging out with friends. The production from Steve Albini ensures that it’s not too slick or processed. These short, humble pop songs amble along like the Wedding Present if David Gedge had a wrist injury that cut his inhuman strumming speed in half.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/122647-lets-wrestle-nursing-home/#ixzz1QJLBZxzV

It’s weird to write about a guy who operates this close to the classic singer-songwriter template and not even consider the lyrics. The acoustic-strumming, banjo-picking Kurt Vile chooses fine words, and he certainly puts them in a specific order, but none of them have much to do with why his music works. Much of Smoke Ring for My Halo sounds like early Simon & Garfunkel with a concussion, but Vile’s blurry psychedelic folk rock is more interested in atmosphere than in messages or wordplay. It’s not quite ambient music for lo-fi vets, but neither does it try to penetrate Vile’s trademark haze. His fourth LP in as many years offers up 11 more sluggish drones that are as transfixing as they are indistinct, and perfect for anybody who digs new-fangled folksy biz but can’t handle beard ‘n’ banjo clown shows like the Mumford bros. Vile’s voice, a high whine somewhere between Lou Reed and J Mascis (his current touring partner), just adds to the smoky backdrop. He’s mastered the tuneful shrug, the song that sounds unfinished and tossed off but sticks fast to your brain and keeps revealing a depth you hadn’t noticed.

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Hey, it’s another Robert Pollard record. Today must be a day. We can’t even joke about how prolific this guy is because we’ve heard ’em all a million billion times already. This is the second album under the Lifeguards moniker from the former Guided by Voices frontman – another prick for the weary ears of the Pollard faithful. Lifeguards reunite Pollard with Doug Gillard, the former Death of Samantha guitarist who was Pollard’s main foil during GbV’s second half, and with whom Pollard made the excellent Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department album way back in pre-post-racial America. It’s been 12 years and dozens of records, but that’s still Pollard’s best non-GbV album. Waving at the Astronauts, by contrast, shares the problems that have plagued much of his recent work. There are legit hooks and pleasant melodies here, but nothing that will monopolize your mind. Those moments are surrounded by dull, perfunctory riffing tinged with a hint of Pollard’s proggier inclinations. A couple of gems here will pop up on your obsessive friend’s next Pollard mix (probably “They Called Him So Much” and “Sexless Auto”). The rest won’t make an impression.

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Faust are like the anti-Who: only the rhythm section remains. Not all the other members have passed, but drummer Werner Diermaier and bassist Jean-Hervé Péron are the only founders who play on their latest effort. Maybe it’s unfair to judge this release against records made by a full complement of German hippies 40 years ago, but even with the past set aside, it’s a bummer. It lacks the playfulness of the early Faust records, where the band’s experiments with jazz, folk, and raunchy rock and roll were coated with acceptable degrees of avant-garde theatricality. Here, Diermaier, Péron, and their partners James Johnston (from Gallon Drunk and the Bad Seeds) and artist Geraldine Swayne stick to listless noise-rock improvisations. Opener “Tell the Bitch To Go Home” is telling – a five-note bass-and-organ pattern thuds along forthrightly as guitar noise gradually expands and collapses on the edges. Like the album, it’s neither minimal nor maximal enough, settling for an indeterminate middle ground that doesn’t quite satisfy. “Dampfauslass 2” builds up a fine jam that ends too early. Swayne’s vampy vocals would sink “Lost the Signal” if it weren’t already an aimless slog. The second track, “Herbststimmung,” might be the best; this soothing feedback blur could easily have fit on 71 Minutes of Faust. In the end, Something Dirty is a minor footnote to a legendary discography.

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Yep, the music industry is still dying. Eric Bachmann, the singer/songwriter behind Crooked Fingers and ’90s indie-rockers the Archers of Loaf, knows from experience. After working with major indies like Merge and Saddle Creek, Bachmann gambled that he could promote himself as well as any label, and he self-released the previous Crooked Fingers LP. It disappeared with little blog lust or Pitchfork hype.

When the time came for a follow-up, Bachmann appealed directly to his fans. He set up a Kickstarter account to fund a sequel to his well-loved 2002 covers EP Reservoir Songs, raising more than $12,000 in a few days. A $15 donation reserved a vinyl copy of Reservoir Songs II; larger sums could net fans tickets to Crooked Fingers shows and even a private concert.

Still, Reservoir Songs II isn’t just fanservice. Bachmann recasts old chestnuts like Glen Campbell & John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” and Merle Haggard’s “Shelly’s Winter Love” as atmospheric and melancholy folk pop. His raspy croon flirts between Tom Waits and Neil Diamond, evincing a weary resignation that contrasts nicely with the music’s bright textures. Reservoir Songs II might not match the first volume’s depth, but it’s a pleasant diversion for dedicated fans.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/music/105204-crooked-fingers-reservoir-songs-ii-2010/#ixzz0u8lJVTri

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If there’s one thing this world needs, it’s more good-natured willful incompetence, at least in the realm of noise rock, and not, y’know, governance. We’ve had enough incompetence in that area. Thankfully, the world is also where Germany’s Titmachine hangs out. Also thankfully, Titmachine is not and never can be the president (and not because they’re girls, but because they are Germans. I’m sure there’ll be a girl president some day. Maybe even in Germany!). Titmachine’s second single of ’08 features some more awesome Flipper-style nonsense, a thudding monolithic fury topped off with shrill German shouting. Their cover of German new wavers Palais Schaumburg’s “We Build a New City” attains a startling modicum of semi-professionalism, but “1989” puts that fear to rest. It’s like an imperial march collapsing in on itself. Now, I just have to remember to CTRL-F and replace the word “incompetence” with “primitivism” before sending this in.

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