For second time in the last few weeks, the Roundup is dedicated completely to 2014 releases this time around. As the clock ticks down to next Saturday's big event, Record Store Day, and the wealth of releases that will be flooding stores around the country, I've been trying to get a handle on some of the recent music to come out and make a short list of things to search out. A few albums on this week's list are certain to make it on that list, and hopefully yours too. A nice mix of rock genres on here, and definitely up tempo stuff for the most part as I continue to welcome in the warmth of spring. Enjoy.
Fireflies - In Dreams: Just released this past week is the Chicago dream pop bands third album, and it lives up to its title. This a beautiful sleepy record, taking inspiration from shoegaze and folk, combining them into a dreamy blend. It conveys the feeling of a sophisticated children's book, and I've always been a sucker for albums like that. It reminds me of Mojave 3 or a more mellow Joyzipper, or perhaps a more pop version of Mazzy Star. Either way, it's joyous and makes for a wonderful morning springtime record.
The Black Angels - Clear Lake Forest: The Austin neo-psychedelic band is releasing this 7 song EP on colored vinyl for Record Store Day next week, their first release since last year's Indigo Meadow. Since their 2006 debut, they have released four consistently good rock albums that are just the right blend of psychedelic and garage. This is no different, and is perhaps their freshest sounding release in years. There isn't a bad song on here, but "Linda's Gone" is perhaps the most interesting and different from the rest of their catalog. This is definitely going to be on my search list when I make my annual Record Store Day travels.
Kimono Kult - Hiding in the Light: Formed earlier this year, the band features Omar Rodriguez Lopez and John Frusciante, along with the singer from Omar's other band Bosnian Rainbows. This debut EP was released digitally back in March and features the synth sound that both Omar and John have been into lately. Teresa's vocals are reminiscent of Yoko Ono, though more melodic. It's got a nice groove to it, and manages to stay away from anything too grating, but it lacks the spark that makes their other work so appealing. An interesting listen for fans, but otherwise not much more than a curiosity. Hopefully with the recent news, Mars Volta will be back in action and Omar will contribute to a proper prog release.
Squadda B - 10th Grade Dropout: The Oakland rapper has released six albums in the last three years, and 19 mixtapes since 2009. Out this past month, this is his 20th mixtape. It's easy to say that perhaps he's stretching himself to thin, and this release would certainly support that assumption. The laid back groove wavers between a chill out vibe and just plain laziness. There are moments where the record hints at the potential of something good, if only it had the chance to develop more. "Tell It Like It Is" and "Cash Click Floe" are the only tracks that will get any repeat playtime, the rest is pretty forgettable.
Varsity - Thanks for Nothing: Released last week on limited edition blue cassette was this debut EP from the Chicago based trio that sounds a bit like Best Coast with a garage rock feel. There's also a '90s alternative vibe that sort of intrigues me. Only five songs, but often that's enough and it seems like just the right amount for this album. The band is clearly just beginning to click, and could potentially put out a damn fine album one day. A fun little introduction that has them on my watch list. "Jackie" and "Despite the Warning" are my favorites, and the album is available at their bandcamp site for a "name your price" download.
Chain & The Gang - Minimum Rock N Roll: This is the fourth album from Ian Svenonius' garage rock band that formed in 2009. Ian has fronted very influential bands like Make-Up and Nation of Ulysses, and written an incredible book of rock essays entitled The Psychic Soviet. I was excited for Chain & The Gang's debut, but left a little underwhelmed. This album however feels like a proper return to the vital sound of Make-Up, a band which still amazes me. It has a raw energy that fuels an intense paranoid rhythm. From beginning to end, it delivers and is easily his best release since Make-Up disbanded back in 2000. "Devitalize," "Never Been Properly Loved," and "I'm a Choice (Not a Child)" are among the stand out tracks.