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Tag: bobby vacant

Gorgeously Tuneful Janglerock and Psychedelic Pop from the Immigrant Union

Most New York fans of 90s rock probably have the Dandy Warhols‘ two upcoming Music Hall of Williamsburg shows somewhere on the radar. They’ll be there on Sept 19 and 20 at 9; general admission is $25, and considering that they sold out the Bell House, a larger space, last time they were there, you might want to get there early. But the Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer also has an intriguing, gorgeously tuneful janglerock side project, the Immigrant Union, with Melbourne, Australia singer Bob Harrow. That unit will be in town about a month afterward from Oct 21 to 25 at venues still to be determined. Their excellent second album, Anyway, is due out shortly: there are already a couple of singles up at Bandcamp.

As you might expect from a jangly Australian band, there’s a definite resemblance to the Church. The opening track, Shameless, pairs two deliciously clangy electric guitars with a steady acoustic track in the background: when the piano comes in, the Jayhawks come to mind. Harrow’s unpretentious, clear vocals, pensive lyrics and a lusciously intermingled web of guitars on the way out completes the picture and sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Alison isn’t the Elvis Costello song but a bitter, Byrdsy backbeat psych-pop anthem about getting out of smalltown hell: Don’t Go Back to Rockville, Oz style. I Can’t Return slips swirly organ in between sitarlike slide guitar and glistening Rickenbacker jangle. Wake Up and Cry could be a folk-rock flavored Church cut from the mid/late 80s albeit without that band’s enveloping lushness. The album’s epic title track has plaintive harmonies and a slow psych-pop sway much in the same vein as the Allah-Las – who have a killer new album of their own. Another artist they bring to mind here is George Reisch, the multi-instrumentalist who’s done such elegantly melancholy work with Bobby Vacant and Robin O’Brien.

From there the group segues into In Time, adding light southwestern gothic touches a la Saint Maybe, then go completely into spaghetti western with the nonchalantly menacing desert rock shuffle Lake Mokoan. The Trip Ain’t Over has a wryly tiptoeing acoustic-electric Rubber Soul-era Beatlesque pulse. War Is Peace takes a snidely faux-gospel Country Joe & the Fish-style swipe at clueless conformists, and the US as well. The final cut, The End Has Come has a flickering, nocturnal C&W vibe not unlike the Church’s Don’t Open the Door to Strangers. You want the cutting edge of 2014 psychedelic pop, this is it. Is this album the catchiest, most melodically attractive release of the year? Very possibly. Hopefully it’s not the last one these guys put out. Watch this space for further info on those October shows.

Creepy Apocalyptic Songs from Tim Foljahn

Tim Foljahn’s new album Songs for an Age of Extinction, out on Tuesday on Jennifer O’Connor’s Kiam Records label, is a masterpiece of gloomy, psychedelic retro rock. As the title implies, it’s about as far from optimism as you can get. Musically, like Rachelle Garniez (see yesterday), Foljahn looks back to other eras for his influences; swirling Pink Floyd grandeur, doomed Nick Cave neoromanticism, hushed gospel rapture and a dark rustic folk ambience that reminds of Swiss-based cult songwriter Bobby Vacant. Foljahn’s baritone voice is often hollow and haunted; when it’s not, the former Townes Van Zandt and Cat Power collaborator takes on a laconic country twang. Much as many of the arrangements are often ornate, they’re also terse: no wasted notes here. The lyrics are a litany of apocalyptic signs – it’s not clear whether the world ends because of nuclear war, Fukushima-style poisoning, global warming or all of the above. What is clear by the time the morbidly starlit, ten-minute closing instrumental comes around, building artfully from a minimalist light/dark dichotomy to an inescapable vortex, is that it’s gone for good.

With its oscillating layers of sitar mingling with guitar, the hypnotic title track, which opens the album, draws a straight line back to George Harrison. “Dying trees stand shore to shore, animal lovers in their midst, we’re heading for your holy war,” Foljahn sings with a tired, stoic resignation. The second cut, All Fall Away is a doomed gospel tune with a gorgeously ominous, all-too-brief Wurlitzer organ solo. Faded gracefully blends Kirsten McCord’s cello with washes of Foljahn’s slide guitar for an ambience that’s part Atomheart Mother-era Floyd, part Richard Buckner, with an ending that simply and cruelly seals the deal. With its web of blues-tinged fingerpicked guitar, the dark folk War Song is the closest thing to Bobby Vacant here, building matter-of-factly to atmospheric ambience with slide guitar, nimble bass, violin and echoey Rhodes piano behind a forlorn soldier’s tale.

New Light hypnotically overlays two sets of lyrics in the same vein as David J’s Stop This City, a warmly bucolic scenario contrasting with an apocalyptic nightmare. The god in Foljahn’s God Song is strictly Old Testament: “I’m not gonna leave you a sign, and I’m not gonna leave you alive,” he announces while the band channels Country Joe & the Fish at their creepiest circa 1967. Foljahn’s stinging, reverb-toned acid blues licks against a macabre funeral organ dirge give this song a mighty, surreal wallop, setting up the deathly spacious sonics of the closing theme. Without question, this is one of the most haunting albums of recent years: let’s hope it turns out to be a cautionary tale rather than a prophecy. Foljahn, O’Connor and their bands are currently on tour, with a stop at Union Pool on March 4 with Amy Bezunartea and Kleenex Girl Wonder opening the show at 8.

Bobby Vacant Strikes Again

Bobby Vacant and the Weary’s 2009 album Tear Back the Night is a high point in recent rock history, a richly arranged, sometimes crushingly intense mix of darkly lyrical folk-rock and more ornate, crescendoing anthems. Since then, Swiss-American songwriter Bobby Vacant has hardly been idle, going against the tide with an enterprising new label, Weak Records, who’ve so far put out an entertaining album of eclectic Americana rock by the Jesus Taco. And now Vacant has a new album, Virginia Neon, credited to Bobby Vacant and the Worn this time around (multi-instrumentalist George Reisch, a.k.a. the Weary being replaced by bassist/singer Brigitte Meier a.k.a. the Worn). It’s almost but not quite as bleak, considerably more diverse and a lot louder than its predecessor, juxtaposing quiet acoustic songs with some unexpectedly fiery, energetic rock. And where Tear Back the Night went for lush arrangements, this has much more of a DIY feel. Leonard Cohen fans will be salivating all over this record.

The best of the 14 tracks here include both rockers and quieter fare. Surprisingly, the one that stands out as an instant college radio hit is the funniest one. With a strikingly simple, distantly apprehensive bass-driven hook that goes jangly and irresistibly catchy on the chorus, Nobody’s There is a wry catalog of ways to get attention. That’s how it works on a literal level, anyway – all these songs are minefields of symbolically loaded detail. The Jesus Taco’s Brett Davidson’s Man or Astroman style surf guitar drives the rumbling southwestern gothic opening track, Lay Me Down, while Run, a vigorous, exasperated garage-punk escape anthem with a Diddleybeat bounce, wouldn’t be out of place in the Steve Wynn catalog.

Among the quiet songs, Snow in April evokes the David J classic Stop This City, with its torrents of spoken-word images and vivid late winter milieu. The most intense track here is The Road, a hypnotic folk-rock song in a Tim Buckley vein:

I drove across the USA
I saw pain in every face
Headlights chasing down the dawn
Lost souls, every one
Carry on…

There’s also When You Burned My Eyes, whose wistful, almost sentimental vibe only adds to the title’s intrigue; the stately baroque folk of St. Peter’s Island; Without You, an interestingly funky take on Joy Division-esque gloom; Where You Live, a lullaby as a young Jonathan Richman might have done it; Shiny Pearl, an unexpected detour into acoustic soul music; Wild Wind Blows, an allusively menacing banjo tune; and Skylark, which mines a Pale Blue Eyes-ish Velvets vibe. It’s good to see such a tersely compelling songwriter holding onto the momentum of his previous album, with contributions from several artists including Per Blomgren (ex-Radio Dept.) on drums and luthier Tyko Runesson adding thoughtful melody and texture on about fifteen fretted, keyboard and wind instruments.

Two Tracks You Might Like

Bobby Vacant & the Worn’s new video Nobody’s There is surprisingly upbeat, apprehensive and distantly creepy rock from the Swiss-based songwriter whose 2009 album Tear Back the Night with noted Chicago producer/multi-instrumentalist George Reisch was one of that year’s best. This rocks a lot harder yet more opaquely than this guy’s recent work (those reverb tank explosions kick ass…). And the video – old Midnight Cowboy-style neon-lit downtown Main Street footage from the 60s – is choice. From the forthcoming album Virginia Neon, due out on Swiss label Weak Records next month.

And speaking of relevant socially aware songwriters, Stephan Said has a completely kick-ass new site  with a global mix of related, politically-fueled artists, plus a new album, difrnt, and some killer tracks up at soundcloud including Aheb Aisht Al Huriyah (the classic 1920s Mohammed Abdel Wahab levantine anthem I Live the Life of Freedom), updated for the Traquair Square/Zucotti Park era with a gently swaying trip-hop/rock edge that gives way to a blistering psychedelic guitar solo at the end. The other tracks on the page, including the more hip-hop flavored Take a Stand give you a taste of how eclectic this guy is.