Will Schube meditates to pedal steel solos.
Gambles– Vicious Times
It’s easy to talk about how fucked we are. It’s a little harder to do so eloquently, engagingly, and not totally cynically. And that’s not to call Gambles an optimist or an idealist, but he is able to make songs of desperation and anxiety without an accusatory tone or anger at a particular person or party (I’d be a little less eloquent in calling out certain individuals and a very particular party).
Not much (to my knowledge) is known about Gambles, but his album—produced by BOOTS and featuring playing from a member of the Walkmen—was released back in February and I’ve been listening to it non-stop since my friend recommended it to me a few weeks back. He’s somehow connected to FJM, and that connection and influence is palpable, but not overbearing. The songs on Vicious Times vary from quiet to explosive, contemplative folk to edgy post-punk.
The lyrics are sharp and remind me not only of Misty, but of his spiritual forbearers Dave Berman and Bill Callahan. While Misty takes these sensibilities and blows them up in a blender of ’70s wall-of-sound bombast, Gambles veers closer to the ’90s camp, observing and commenting in sharp, intense fragments. On “In Peace,” he sings, “Switch on the Christmas lights/Take some codeine and hold your wife.” Gambles sings the line with an intense warble, and it’s my favorite moment on the record. Scared yet sacred, a moment of utter aloneness in the arms of the one you’re closest to. And what’s more terrifying than that?
Kevin Morby– “Tiny Fires”
If you needed a reminder that Kevin Morby is an excellent songwriter, here’s a gorgeous new track, “Tiny Fires.” It’s an outtake from his tremendous Singing Saw, although it’s more expansive and engaging than some of that album’s simpler moments. A bit odd for an outtake, “Tiny Fires” wouldn’t only fit well on Singing Saw, it would be one of the album’s best tracks. Any track with a pedal steel guitar part is good in my book, and “Tiny Fires” is no different.
Preoccupations’ last record, a self-titled affair under the moniker Viet Cong, was a sharp-edged plate of post punk steel. The album was simultaneously caught in sludge and catapulting itself forward. It was mean and swaggering yet scared of its own shadow. Their first record as Preoccupations (also self-titled) is more assured and cleaner. It’s the rare album by a band that’s able to refine their sound without smudging out the edges so vital to their identity.
Preoccupations has wider ambitions than the Viet Cong record. It’s like watching a film in Technicolor on the big screen versus on your TV. It’s just bigger—it feels more important. Second track “Monotony” pulses above a guitar line that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old U2 record, and “Degraded” sounds like 80s nü wave and disco chewed up and spit out by Fugazi. It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old favorite, but thankfully, the only thing Preoccupations left behind was their prior name.
Jack Rose– I Do Play Rock And Roll / Jack Rose / Dr. Ragtime & His Pals
Jack Rose is your favorite guitar player’s favorite guitar player. The J Dilla of Americana, also gone far too young. When Rose died at age 38 in 2009, he left a void at the center of a new American guitar style, now pioneered by Steve Gunn, Ryley Walker, and William Tyler, among many others. Rose was always one of those players I had heard so much about—the musician you check out because interview after interview mentioned his name.
His discography is vast enough that it intimidated me from initially approaching it. Limited edition CD-Rs are scattered about the loosest confines of the internet, and his solo releases number in the low teens; that’s not to mention the collaborations and features he has to his name as well. The excellent Three Lobed Records has re-issued three of Rose’s albums, I Do Play Rock And Roll, Jack Rose, and Dr. Ragtime & His Pals. All three are thrilling displays of guitar virtuosity, both engaging and performative, and a tremendous entry into a discography begging for thorough excavation.
Buy the Three Lobed releases here.