April 19, 2017


Will Schube’s guitar style decidedly lacks aggression.

Tom ArmstrongThe Sky Is An Empty Eye

Tom Armstrong’s 1987 LP, The Sky Is An Empty Eye returns for a second go around thanks to Tompkins Square. While the label normally dwells in expansive and vast—almost frantic—guitar music, Armstrong’s songs cover an opposite terrain. When pitted against the classic players—Fahey, Chapman, Basho—Armstrong’s music comes across with the quietness of a church mouse. But where his songs lack speed and aggression (I can’t believe I’m using the word ‘aggressive’ to describe solo acoustic guitar music), Armstrong replaces these traits with a quiet patience and an innate ability to pick out subtle tics and shape them into full-song structures. Take “Thunder Clouds,” a track that uses the slide guitar as a quiet accent to his nimble guitar plucking. The record is available now, and four tracks are streaming for perusal. The Sky… is a record created by an amateur and the low stakes approach Armstrong took when creating it reflects in its homespun approachability.

B Boys“Energy”

An a-side from the B Boys. Get it? The song is called “Energy” and that’s what it is. A tumbling ball of punk tropes balled together into a particularly snarling three-and-a-half minute burner. These Brooklyn boys find themselves halfway between Parquet Courts and Fugazi. A rather nice home to call your own. The video takes cues from the Beastie Boys, treating New York as both a prop and a character. It’s not particularly unique, but it’s fun. The band’s debut, Dada, is out June 16th on Captured Tracks.

Michael Nau“Light That Ever”

Michael Nau has a nice mustache. He makes good music, too. That’s enough for me. If you’re looking for much more you’re bound to be disappointed by this life.

Nau makes sun dappled pop music, Stax-esque soul marked with hints of psychedelia and the deadpan heartbroken delivery of someone like Cass McCombs. I like “Light That Ever” because it touches on a number of tangentially related subgenres—freak folk, modern soul, downcast indie pop—and crafts them into something unique and distinct. The drums quietly sizzle and the backup singers are deployed sparingly in tandem with a nice horn line. “Light That Ever” is off of Nau’s forthcoming Some Twist, out June 16th on Suicide Squeeze.

The Districts“Lover Lover Lover (Leonard Cohen Cover)”

Musicians shouldn’t be allowed to cover Leonard Cohen. He’s a sacred angel and us mere mortals have no right to stomp on his legacy with re-interpretations of his singular vision. Don’t tell that to The Districts. The Philly band takes on “Lover Lover Lover” for a Record Store Day 7”, the b-side to “Ordinary Day,” a wonderful track I wrote a few words about for Aquarium Drunkard.

The Cohen original, which was featured on his ‘74 classic New Skin for the Old Ceremony, finds the Canadian poet backed by a choir of lovers, while the Districts isolate singer Robby Grote on the world’s loneliest island, yelping to a lover across the ocean. The guitar is spiny and sharp, the drums strategically unleashed for cascading accents. The Districts have yet to announce a debut, but when they do, perhaps I’ll allow another Leonard Cohen cover. But only one.

Midnight Sister“Leave You”

Midnight Sister is a brand new band signed to Jagjaguwar. The duo consists of singer Juliana Giraffe and multi-instrumentalist Ari Balouzian. The band’s first track, “Leave You,” is an updated take on ’70s heartbreak, heavy on vintage-tinged piano and falsetto vocals. The drums funk things up a bit, and there’s a really nice use of cymbal work at the beginning of each verse; it’s a subtle touch, but it’s the sort of thing that can separate a great song from something middling. “Leave You” is great because of the way it’s various minute details coalesce into something far greater than each individual part. It’s a tiny two minute track, quick enough to keep our Snapchat focus for its duration while establishing a clear enough tone to give an idea of who, exactly, Midnight Sister is.

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