Noise Pollution: On Parson Red Heads, WHY?, & More

Noise Pollution returns with a look at new music from Parson Red Heads, WHY?, and more.
By    July 28, 2017


Will Schube sings with a whisper.

Noise Pollution returns after an extended hiatus. You may have heard some of these tunes, but the column is aimed at showcasing some of the stuff you may not have.

Parson Red HeadsBlurred Harmony

If you went to the Echo at any point during the mid-2000s, chances are you caught a Parson Red Heads set. The band, after relocating from Eugene to Los Angeles, turned the LA haunt into a second home of sorts, testing out their various blends of psych-folk, Fleetwood Mac-esque shimmer, and Laurel Canyon roots rock. In fact, I remember a show I went to back in ‘09 in which Red Head Evan Way played a solo set. The headliner that night? J. Tillman, now known as Father John Misty. Parson Red Heads are here to stay.

And there are very few bands who write songs as confidently catchy, as sturdy in structure as Parson. The new record, Blurred Harmony is more of the same—in only the way Parson can do. The consistency isn’t boring, it’s one of the few things we can rely on. Blurred is equal parts Big Star power pop, Neil Young canyon calls, and Mamas and Papas jangle. They have no contemporaries, because no one else has been this consistent in LA’s chew and spit cycle. And if you need a Parson fix, you know where to find ‘em. They’ll be at The Satellite tonight. The same as it ever was, but different enough to keep us coming back.

WHY?“The Barely Blur”

WHY? albums tend to end with songs about death. Suicide, mostly, but death too. Elephant Eyelash closed with “Light Leaves”: “When my balls are finally big enough to do it/I don’t want no casket/No saddle/No see through plastic mask.” Alopecia ended with telephone wires and a stack of phonebooks, Eskimo Snow with Yoni Wolf recounting all his words for sadness, like eskimo snow. Mumps, Etc.’s finale was, well, you get it. WHY?’s newest record, Moh Lhean, ends with more of an inquiry. “The Barely Blur” is an existential musing on why we’re here. “What mad stork/Brought us/Dropped us/With no schematic and no map/Where every perfect nest/Disintegrates.” It’s not about Yoni dying, it’s about all of us doing so.

Moh Lhean is my favorite record of the year and WHY? is my favorite band. Very rarely do you find a band of 30-somethings coming off their worst album to date—and album I still enjoy—return with something inventive, fresh, yet still true to what made ‘em stick. That’s what they do with Lhean, the band’s first record since 2012’s disappointing-by-comparison Mumps, Etc. “The Barely Blur” aims for the cosmos, with the music slowly fading out, leaving a low hum to close out the record, then, eventually, silence. The video is a slow motion slog through the journeys of various runners, an examination of the things that keep us moving. Wolf comes to the realization that we keep going because, well, we have to.

Trevor Sensor“High Beams”

Trevor Sensor sounds a little bit like the Tallest Man On Earth, in that he’s got a guttural, aggressive voice that holds few comparisons. You either love it or you hate it. I love it. It’s the sort of voice that emits emotion without an ounce of effort, but the skill comes from the subterranean, it’s in the details. “High Beams” is drenched in love lost and vintage vibes. The drums start and stop like your beat down car that’s got one more road trip in it, until it doesn’t. The organs sit just above the surface, subtle work yet the glue that keeps this song together. Sensor’s voice need not be tampered with, it’s that magnetic. “High Beams” is off Sensor’s Andy Warhol’s Dream, out now on Jagjaguwar.

F.J. McMahonSpirit of the Golden Juice

F.J. McMahon put out a private press record in 1969, released into a world a million light years from where we’re at now. But the songs remain, a product of both McMahon’s talent and our unending ear for the past. Spirit of the Golden Juice is mysterious and delightful, filled with warts-and-all tunes thanks to McMahon taking this thing lo-fi before lo-fi was cool; or even existed. The record’s coming out August 11th on Anthology Records, a subdivision of Mexican Summer doing great work on lost artifacts from a time we lost and will never regain. In one sense, it’s nostalgic, in another, this sort of innocence isn’t feasible today. Thankfully, it once was.

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