New York Music Daily

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Category: psychedelic pop

Cupid’s Nemesis Bring Their Catchy Retro Guitar Pop Sounds to the Rockwood

By last summer, when a substantial number of venues began breaking free of lockdown restrictions, it quickly became obvious that there wasn’t much left of the New York rock scene. However, that brain drain has opened a window of opportunity for some of the remaining talent here, much of which probably would never been able to score a gig at a “name” venue like Rockwood Music Hall on a weekend night That’s where power trio Cupid’s Nemesis are playing on Jan 28 at 10 PM.

Their new ep, Sleepover – streaming at Bandcamp – is a competent take on Big Stir Records guitar pop. The three brief tracks include a cynical, scruffy Shirts-style new wave tune, a decent, bittersweet powerpop anthem and an early 60s-style proto-Merseybeat number that could be an early song by the Who.

Their debut album, which they released last year, has a lot more detail, stylistic breadth and guitar textures – and it’s up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. The band – guitarist/frontman Erik Reyes, bassist Antony DiGiacomo and drummer Declan Moy Bishow – stake their claim to a catchy mid-sixties four-chord Britpop sound in the opening song, Time Traveling Man, with keening roller-rink organ and layers of acoustic and electric guitars.

All of My Friends is a punchier midtempo take on Jacco Gardner sunshine pop. Then the group make trip-hop out of a jazzy Burt Bacharach-inflected sound in Amores. The best song on the album is Best Friends With a Ghost, a similarly jazz-tinged miniature that clocks in at barely a minute twenty-five.

The band leap forward thirty years into gritty indie pop with I Don’t Care. Then they go back to the sixties, bringing back the organ and adding some flute in Scary World, a gently strutting psych-pop tune.

Reyes hits his chorus pedal and DiGiacomo plays fuzz bass up to an unexpectedly swirly spacerock chorus in Drop Out. The album’s slow, catchy, melancholy concluding ballad is simply titled Me. Considering the more raw, stripped-down sound of the ep, the band may be going in a more straightforward direction, something you can find out this Saturday night at prime time.

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Allusively Sinister Lyrical Brilliance and Slyly Cynical New Wave Tunesmithing on Ward White’s New Album

“Ice cream chords” is a derisive musician’s term for cheesy, predictable changes. In the age of autotune, Microsoft Songsmith and indie rock, ice cream chords have come to reflect a rare level of craft. On his fourteenth album, streaming at Bandcamp, Ward White celebrates those and many more serious changes via various levels of subtly venomous humor, meta, and a classic anthemic sensibility.

At this point in his career, the songwriter who got his start around the turn of the century working the corners of what was then called alt-country has reached rarefied first-ballot hall-of-fame terrain typically reserved for people like David Bowie and Richard Thompson. It is not hype to say that White ranks with both: he can sing like the former if he feels like it, and like the latter can be a force of nature on the fretboard. But ultimately it’s tunesmithing that distinguishes him the most. He’s dabbled with glam, allusively macabre nonlinear art-rock (his Bob album topped the best-of-2013 list here) and new wave. Most recently White has been mining a jangly yet unpredictable three-minute song vein packed with triple entendres, literary references and frequent violence: Elvis Costello meets Warren Zevon out behind the Rat in Boston circa 1983.

This album is a slight change of pace, somewhat more lighthearted and new wave flavored: lyrically, it’s more of a Bond sci-fi weapon than a switchblade. The ravages of time are a recurrent theme. The opening number, Shorter is probably the only chorus-box guitar song ever to reference both 70s one-hit wonders Brewer & Shipley and the Police. Pulsing tightly along with White’s terse guitar and bass textures, Tyler Chester’s keys and Mark Stepro’s drums, it’s a slicker if equally aphoristic take on Tom Warnick’s Gravity Always Wins.

White can’t resist paying a visit to the Mr. Softee truck to kick off the more powerpop-flavored but similarly metaphorical Rumors: the guitar solo joke is too hilarious to spoil. With lingering tremolo guitar, airconditioned organ and a loping beat, DeSoto is not a reference to the proto-conquistador but an old Chrysler brand: violence and madness make their first appearances, quietly if not particularly efficiently.

Mezcal Moth – which has a cruelly funny spy story video on White’s homepage – is a return to skittishly strutting, cynically imagistic new wave with goofy late 60s/early 70s guitar effects. This is what happens when you eat zee bugs!

Spacy keys waft over ominously lingering tremolo guitar and gospel-tinged piano in the album’s title track, a slow, coldly imagistic anthem contemplating the perils of fame and selling out….among other things. The pace and the jokes pick up again with Like a Bridge, although the song also has the cruelest Vietnam War allusion ever committed to vinyl or its digital analogue.

“Ever get the sinking feeling your best years are behind you?” White asks in Born Again, one of his signature, meticulously detailed portraits of a real sicko. “That spattered pattern on the ceiling, that’s how they’re going to find you, you stayed too long.”

Horses is not the Patti Smith song but a subtly bossa-soul flavored original. “This inkblot Camelot is eating on me every day,” White muses and hits his fuzz pedal before continuing with an offhandedly sinister John Perkins-style deep state tale. The band pick up from a goofy Men at Work strut to lush Byrds jangle and back in Prominent Frogman: “You can bend me all the way to ten though my offer stands at nine,” White gnomically advises. There’s screaming subtext here, the question is what.

Signore is a seedy end-of-vacation scenario that wouldn’t be out of place in the Steve Wynn catalog, White tossing off some unexpected flamenco phrasing amid the warpy synth, terse piano and wry guitar-sitar lines.

The funniest joke on the album is the guitar riffage that opens 50,000 Watts Ago, but it’s only of many in this subtly caustic middle-finger salute to mockingbird radio. “I didn’t earn this nametag just by doing what I’m told/You’ll never move that Trinitron until the black-and-whites have been sold,” White warns over a distantly ominous midtempo psych-pop backdrop on the album’s final cut. Slouch.

Several of these tracks could easily qualify for best song of 2022, as could this album as a whole. Stick around a couple of weeks for when the year-end lists hit the front page here, a little late, and find out where this lands.

A Catchy, Tantalizingly Textured New Album From Dot Dash

On their Bandcamp page, Dot Dash provide a long list of artists they’ve shared the stage with over the years, from the Psychedelic Furs, to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, to straight-up punk acts like the Dickies and 999. But the Washington, DC power trio have more of a melodic 90s sound that comes across as a psychedelic pop take on peak-era REM…without the Georgia band’s pretentions. Their new album Madman in the Rain proves they still have plenty of catchy hooks and vocal harmonies left in the tank. And they always leave you wanting more: few of these songs clock in at more than three minutes.

Hunter Bennett’s snappy, counterintuitively melodic bass propels the first track, Forever Far Out, frontman/guitarist Terry Banks building an enveloping blend of textures over Danny Ingram’s hard-hitting, straight-ahead drums.

Track two is Space Junk, Satellites, a pulsing, chiming, bossa-tinged tune with roller-rink organ from mystery sideman Geoff. Tense & Nervous has an aptly skittish drive that brings to mind the early 80s Boston scene, then Banks turns up both his reverb and his treble over Bennett’s gritty, swaying drive and the keening organ in Animal Stone.

That same dynamic persists in the interweave of guitar multitracks and growly bass on the album’s gorgeously pensive title track

Banks hands over the melody line from his icy chorus-box lead to a wry early 80s bass riff in Airwaves. Then with Trip Over Clouds the trio put a trebly, pouncing 90s-style take on late Beatles psychedelia.

With its bounding, rising bassline, Saints/Pharaohs is the closest thing here to vintage REM, Ingram peaking out with his surfy drum rolls. The band make a return to wistful territory, but with layers of bristling jangle and clang in Lonesome Sound: it could be an East Coast version of the early Long Ryders.

Imagine a young Matt Keating fronting the Who and you get Everything = Dust. Wokeupdreaming could be REM covering a late 80s Jesus & Mary Chain song, with a good singer out front. The band wind up the record with a cheery, Happy Mondays-style romp, Dead Gone. If classic tunesmithing from the past thirty years is your thing, roll down your windows and crank this thing.

The Lost First Steely Dan Record with Linda Hoover on Vocals Finally Sees the Light of Day, Half a Century Later

Linda Hoover was 19 when she fronted the first version of Steely Dan.

Except that Steely Dan didn’t officially exist yet. That would have to wait a couple of years. What was most tragic about Hoover’s experience is that as good as the album she made with them turned out to be, it never came out.

Until now.

1970 was the peak of the radio-and-records era. Hoover had a beautiful and extremely versatile voice with a big vibrato equally suited to blue-eyed soul and folk-rock. She’d been courted by record labels since high school. She finally took a deal with a mobbed-up jazz label, Vanguard, but their owner cancelled the release after finding out that he wouldn’t get the share of royalties he’d been expecting. Little did he know he’d be missing out on a piece of history.

Hoover would go on to lead bands in her native Florida, where she still resides, but never reconnected with the crew she’d made the record with. Finally, the long-lost album, I Mean to Shine, has been released on vinyl and is streaming at youtube.

Although Hoover was already writing songs and playing guitar by the time she recorded it, a young Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were brought in to helm the project on bass and keys and contribute the majority of the tracks. Future Steely Dan contributors Denny Dias, on acoustic guitar, and Jeff Baxter on lead also played along with John Discepolo, an excellent drummer who’d worked with Fagen and Becker previously.

The album gets off to a false start with the title track, a Memphis soul tune with strings, horns and an awkward lyric that doesn’t measure up to Hoover’s expressive vocals. Barbra Streisand would later cover it. Who knows, who cares.

Track two, Turn My Friend Away, is where the good stuff kicks in. It’s a sad, strummy, catchy alienation anthem that wouldn’t be out of place on any of the early Steely Dan records. It ends sudden, cold and seemingly unfinished.

The Roaring of the Lamb is a fascinating example of the early Steely Dan style, a swaying soul tune with trumpet, flute and Fagen’s usual thinly veiled litany of drug references. “What a shame they start them off so young, who’s to blame for this one?” Hoover wants to know.

Roll Back the Meaning has snappy Becker bass, some colorful drumming from Discepolo, spare blues work from Baxter and triumphant harmonies from the bandleader. Then she flips the script with the spare, fingerpicked Autumn, a flute-spiced chamber-folk ballad which prefigures what Linda Ronstadt would do on her Silk Purse record.

Jones is an unlikely Becker/Fagen janglerock ode to heroin: “A monkey on a silver string really ain’t that bad…do you recall the gallery, the writing on the wall, all the words and the wine, me believing they were mine,” Hoover reflects. In a twisted way, it’s the best song on the record.

Hoover elevates Richard Manuel’s In a Station over Canadian hippie faux-country and follows with an original, Mama Tears, which has her most electrifying vocal harmonies here. The last of the “Steely Dan” songs, City Mug, comes across as maybe half of a character study.

Hoover improves on Stephen Stills’ 4+20 with a straightforward, uncluttered folk-rock rendition and closes the album with The Dove, an elegantly organ-driven ballad. Much as this is a period piece, it’s a good one and a must-own for diehard Steely Dan fans.

Fun fact: Hoover’s son Toft Willingham fronts popular reggae party band Spiritual Rez.

Horror Movie Marathon Bring Their Troubled Keyboard-Pop Surrealism to Queens on the 9th

Horror Movie Marathon would have made a good fit for this year’s installment of the long-running annual October-long celebration of dark music here. Their latest single, released this past summer, is Flirting At a Funeral, a scenario that could be even more problematic if, as in the case of this song, it’s your dad who’s doing it. The key line is “You can drag everyone down to hell but it’s not gonna save you.” If catchy keyboard-based pop with strangely troubling lyrics is your thing, they’re playing Bar Freda in Ridgewood on Dec 9 at 8:30 PM; cover is $10

Horror Movie Marathon put out their lone full-length album so far, Good Scare – also up at Bandcamp – on one of the creepiest dates in recent memory: October 18, 2019. That was the day that the Bill Gates-sponsored plandemic rehearsal Event 201 was held. The album isn’t anywhere near as sinister or prophetic, but there is a persistent if allusive sense of disquiet beneath the distantly Beatlesque melodies. You could characterize frontman/multi-instrumentalist Will Rutledge’s songs as Elliott Smith in a less opiatedly dark mood, or maybe Ward White Junior. The Eels are also another obvious influence. Another New York band, Office Culture, also come to mind, although the sarcasm here is a lot more opaque and surreal.

The album is Rutledge on a bunch of instruments – keys, guitars and lapsteel – joined by Alex Molini on keys and bass and Will Ponturo on drums, alonb with a couple of flaring lead guitar breaks from Peter Katz. They open with Las Vegas, which comes across as Sean Lennon in an odd tempo. The group follow with the ragtime-ish piano pop of The Broadway One and then Chewed a Hole in My Cheek, churchy organ-fueled gospel-pop through a xanax haze.

We finally get some tasty, luridly tremoloing funeral parlor organ in Jack O’lantern. Sarcasm reaches a deliciously memorable redline in Costume Contest, a tantalizingly brief pickup-bar scenario. Rutledge looks at a well-loved October-long ritual through the glazed and embittered retail eyes in Halloween Party, which rises to a majestic, Lennonesque peak.

He really hits a brooding, immersively cinematic vein with Warm & Dark, then the song suddenly morphs into an I Am the Walrus psych-pop ballad. I’d Love To See Your Show (But I Just Can’t Go) is another funny one: it will resonate with any struggling musician trying to get the crowd out to an important gig. “All my OCD’s are in town and I’m obliged to hang out with them,” Rutledge advises with regrets.

Junk Food Paradise is a cautionary tale that ends with a neatly snaky bass-and-piano duet. “Guess I have to own my own bullshit if I want to make it out alive,” Rutledge muses in the album’s title track. “The hand is your phone and your phone is your grave,” he warns. The final cut is It’s All In My Mind, a bizarre remake of the Tennessee Waltz.

A Darkly Lyrical, Tersely Enveloping Debut From Supergroup Night Crickets

It’s hard to imagine a more apt album for Halloween month, 2022 than supertrio Night Crickets‘ debut release, A Free Society, streaming at Soundcloud. The band – iconic noir songwriter and Bauhaus bassist David J, Violent Femmes co-founder and drummer Victor DeLorenzo and multi-instrumentalist Darwin Meiners – take their name from a David Lynch request for a sample of crickets at night rather than during the day. There’s a big difference!

To what degree does the album title reflect that anguish and desperate hopes of the post-March 2020 era? A handful of the songs are imbued with David J’s laser, Gogolian focus on grim imagery; others are more psychedelic, often with spare dub touches. His incisive, purposeful bass riffs are as masterful as always. Although the trio made the album over the web, the mix is seamless.

The opening number is a characteristically stylish, tense urban tableau set to a terse, minimalist trip-hop vamp:

Black leather on the inside and New York around the corner
And the devil is on your doorstep
‘Cause he knows you’re staying in
Although part of you is always out
Your life is wearing thin

Candlestick Park is a Meiners tune, a catchy, slowly swaying, vividly detailed late 80s reminiscence told from the point of view of a former vendor at the windswept San Francisco Bay stadium. They follow with Amanda’s Mantra, a brief, catchy, synthy new wave bounce.

“Imagine a free society where the horses can run free and wild, ad hoc, without variance or concern,” David J intones over a steady, trippy, Jah Wobble-esque dubwise groove in the album’s title track, “Where the boss and pagans can be at peace in the house of apes.”

Meiners takes over on the mic with more spoken word in Roman À Clef, another hypnotic vamp that brings to mind Flash & the Pan. Lingering Lynchian guitar and ghostly string synth mingle over a catchy bass loop in Soul Wave. Then DeLorenzo builds a colorful lowrider soul groove in Little Did I.

“There’s nowhere to hide, there’s nowhere to hide you,” is the mantra in Sloe Song, an uneasily atmospheric tableau. David J intones a cynical parable about mockingbird media over DeLorenzo’s ominously regal drumwork and Meiners’ oscillating tanpura in The Unreliable Narrator.

The band bring back the Indian dub influence in Down Below and follow with Return to the Garden of Allah, the closest thing to David J’s ominous, allusive rainy day bedroom-goth sound from the 80s.

With its gothic organ stroll, Sacred Monster is the album’s darkest track: it comes across as a more organic take on Flash & the Pan. The band give a shout-out to the filmmaker whose quip they nicked for their bandname in the final cut, I Want My Night Crickets!, a surreal, energetically dub-inflected pastiche. Let’s hope these three smart, theatrically-inspired veterans give us a follow-up to this offhandedly sharp, smart collaboration.

Rogers & Butler Bring Their Erudite, Classic Riffage and Guitar Anthems to the Chelsea Piers

In terms of purist, catchy rock craftsmanship in 2022, Rogers & Butler’s new vinyl record Brighter Day – streaming at Bandcamp – is as good as it gets. Guitarist Stephen Butler’s American powerpop sensibility makes a good anchor for singer Edward Rogers’ more artsy, psychedelic blend of 70s Brummie rock, Bowie surrealism and more towering European-flavored sounds, from the Church to Oasis. Their six-stringer bandmate Don Piper’s production puts luscious guitar up front with the vocals, bass and drums in the back where they belong. The duo are opening for the brilliantly lyrical Amy Rigby on a killer twinbill on Oct 3 at 7:30 PM at City Winery; you can get in for $15.

Notwithstanding the bright chord changes and singalong melodies, there’s a frequent undercurrent of unease here, echoing Rogers’ work over the past several years. Although it’s likely that a lot of the songs here date from before the plandemic, themes of alienation and despair filter to the surface in places. They open with the title track, which comes across as beefed-up Big Star: “Six feet apart or six feet underground, the choice is yours to make,” Rogers rasps sarcastically.

Where Does the World Hide rises from a skittish midtempo new wave tune to a big nocturnal alienation anthem: “Every second’s a lifetime when no one ever returns your calls,” Butler confides. They follow with Last Reply, a distantly elegaic, Beatlesque piano ballad, Chris Carmichael overdubbing himself into a one-man string orchestra.

Spiced with Joe McGinty’s Fender Rhodes, Learn to Live Again is a more lithe, sparely arranged take on Willie Nile-style powerpop, a cynical chronicle dotted with plandemic imagery, “scarred stale reminders of where we’ve been.” It’s hardly optimistic.

Marmalade Eyes, a cautionary tale about a femme fatale, begins as a wary acoustic-electric waltz, then the band morph it into a steady powerpop update on 60s psych-pop. Over layers of guitar jangle, spare piano and floating mellotron, Rogers chronicles a carefree stroll along a main street of junk shops and t-shirt vendors in A Perfect Market Day. Yet beneath the surface, in the context of the events after March 2020, it’s heartbreaking. Who knew we would ever miss something as mundane as browsing in a vintage store?

The band follow Butler’s burning garage rock-tinged stomp Desire with Cabaret, a wistful Spanish guitar waltz by Rogers that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 70s Al Stewart record. The best song on the album is The Sun Won’t Shine, a haunting, death-fixated backbeat anthem that could be ELO from the latter part of that decade but with harder production values.

The band close the record with Oh Romeo, a Celtic ballad with an elegant interweave of acoustic guitar and mandolin, and then A Brand New Tomorrow, a Daytripper knockoff with extra guitar multitracks. It was fun to watch an early incarnation of the band pulling their show together about three years ago; it’s validating to see how well these two veteran tunesmiths complement each other.

Greta Keating Brings Her Catchy, Eclectic Tunesmithing to the Lower East Side

Although there’s a long history of family legacies in folk music around the world, and plenty of cross-generational jazz pollination, rock tends to die with the first generation. The good rock legacies are a very short list: the Dylans (Bob and Jakob), the Rigbys (Amy and Hazel), the Lennons (John and Sean), with the Allisons (Mose and Amy) at the top of the list if you count brilliance that transcends jazz and Americana.

Add the Keatings to that list. Greta Keating is the daughter of Matt Keating – whose prolific and darkly lyrical songwriting career spans janglerock and soul, and goes back to the 90s – and his wife Emily Spray, a somewhat less prolific songwriter but an equally breathtaking singer. In this case, the apple didn’t fall far. Greta Keating has a soaring voice, writes catchy, anthemic songs, has a flair for the mot juste and like her dad plays a number of instruments. She’s bringing those songs to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 7 PM.

Also like her dad, she writes a lot of songs. Her Soundcloud page has a bunch, some which could fall into the bedroom-pop category, others which are more fleshed out with acoustic and electric guitars, judicious piano, organ and occasional synthesized strings.

Keating has a thing for starry, drifting Julee Cruise-like tableaux, and there are a bunch here, including It’s a Drug, Ain’t It Strange and Hungry Dog. My Perfect Man is torchier, in waltz time, as is The Cold Makes Me Think, a hazy, spacious piano ballad that brings to mind A. A. Williams.

Keating goes into opaque trip-hop in Betwixt and Between, then reaches for quietly venomous, cynical Lynchian pop vibe with 15-Year-Old Boy. Too Late to Lay could be an early Everything But the Girl song with more delicate vocals, while Head Down to My Toes is a determined adventure into big assertive anthemic stadium rock.

How Could You Be But You Were is a bittersweet, swing-tinged stroll. The best song on the page is Small As I Felt, where she raises the angst to redline over Orbisonian crescendos: it screams out for sweeping orchestral strings and a kettledrum.

A Girl With Cheeks Damp is another stunner, a brooding plunge into jazzy 70s soul. The funniest tune on the page is Adderall Song: crystal meth makes people do the craziest things, huh?

The rest of the many songs in this long playlist range from soul (Hard to Please), to driving, sarcastic rock (My Body Is Allergic); dreamy Stereolab sonics (Out of Nowhere) and fingersnapping Peggy Lee jazz (Shadow Shadow).

There’s even more on Keating’s youtube channel, including a Telecaster-driven powerpop shout-out to girl-bonding empowerment. If the future of New York rock tunesmithing is your thing, Keating’s songs will resonate with you.

A Gorgeous New Album and a Williamsburg Gig by Purist Tunesmith Alice Cohen

Alice Cohen plays purist, often gorgeously melodic, artsy rock anthems and sings with an unpretentious delivery that’s sometimes cheery and sometimes borders on conspiratorial. On her new album Moonrising – streaming at Bandcamp – she plays most of the instruments herself, building a lush bed of acoustic and electric guitars and vintage synths over an unobtrusive drum-machine beat. Multi-reedman David Lackner and multi-percussionist Adrian Knight flesh out Cohen’s elegant arrangements. She’s playing Union Pool on August 24 at 9 PM. Since the venue has fallen under the spell of surveillance-state digital ticketing, the cover charge there lately has been measured in dollars and cents. It stands to reason that the door girl will round it up to sixteen bucks for those of us who are ahead of the curve and have gone to #cashalways.

Cohen opens the record with Wild Wolf, a swaying, twangy, Lynchian trip-hop ballad: this “eight-track Cadillac cruising through the milky way” seems to be on its way back from the Black Lodge. Then she looks back to the bittersweet starriness of 80s janglerock in Bodies in Motion. It could be a track from the Church’s Seance album, with a woman out front.

Cohen picks up the pace with Life in a Bag, an insistent, 90s-flavored downstroke anthem spiced with neoromantic piano flourishes. After the starry keyboard instrumental Inner Galaxies, she goes back to a pensive, richly textured sway with Under Chandeliers, her watery guitars and glimmering keys mingling with Knight’s vibraphone and Lackner’s echoing, spiraling soprano sax.

Baby’s Fine is a surreal mashup of early 80s new wave pop with hip-hop lyrics: it’s hard to figure out where the sax stops and what could be an old Juno synth kicks in. Vanilla Tea is a glistening backbeat stadium rock nocturne without the bombast – an oxymoron, sure, but just try to imagine.

The driftiest, most opaque song on the album is Telepathic Postcards. Cohen follows that with Queen Anne’s Lace, a breezy, jazz-inflected ballad in a Stylistics vein that she takes ten years forward in time – or forty years forward, depending on how neo-retro it seems to you. She closes the record with Fragile Flowers, following a serpentine series of chord changes with Lackner’s sax floating above. It’s been a slow year for rock records, at least compared to what we were used to before March of 2020, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.

A Lusciously Layered, Anthemic New Art-Rock Record From Charlie Nieland

The 2020 totalitarian takeover didn’t stop Lusterlit mastermind Charlie Nieland from making another album: he pretty much did it himself, with a little help from outside. His latest release, Divisions – streaming at Bandcamp – is much more lush and majestically textured than you would expect, considering the circumstances. Predictably, it’s more guitar-centric than Lusterlit, although the songs are just as darkly luminous, with echoes of 80s goth and 90s Britrock. And they’re catchy as hell.

His trebly guitar through a cheap amp explodes into a majestic roar in the slow, swaying opening anthem, Always on Fire. Kleptocrats in basic black populate this grim, arson-infested gentrification-era Brooklyn tableau. Nieland is a one-man band, blending all the guitars, bass and keys, with a rotating drum chair shared by Brian Geltner, Billy Loose and Lusterlit’s Susan Hwang.

Nieland’s icy chorus-box chords and keening slide lines linger over hypnotic, suspensefully droning bass in the album’s title track: if Wire played long songs with an American accent, this might qualify as such.

Exploding is a catchy, bulked-up, artfully layered powerpop ballad. Violinist Heather Cole and cellist Patricia Santos build a lushly orchestrated coda in The Falling Man, which could be the Jayhawks taking a stab at a mid-90s Blur song. Then Nieland strips down the sound for I Refuse, a buzzy fuzz bass-driven new wave tune that wouldn’t be out of place in the Dada Paradox catalog.

He builds an insistent, minimalist menace before bringing the echoey guitars into The Land of Accidents, a broodingly rhythmic existentialist exploration. Meta Incognita, a metaphorically loaded explorer’s tale, has a tricky 15/4 beat and lush synth orchestration over insistent guitars.

Another Night on Earth is slower and starrier: the Eels meet Stereolab. Tightrope is not the ELO classic but an original, and it’s the album’s catchiest anthem, Hwang a one-woman choir wafting overhead.

Then Santos becomes the orchestra in Skin, a dreamy ballad, the Smiths without the pout. Nieland turns up the chilly guitars in So Few Have So Much, a swaying, syncopated dreampop song.

The allusively ominous Some Things You Keep to Yourself and the album’s closing cut, Pawns, could be late-80s Siouxsie with a guy out front – and superior production.