A comfortable and familiar aura surrounds Ovlov's fuzzy, shoegaze-tinged indie rock, like meeting someone for the first time and feeling like you've known them your whole life. This sense of security is a bit ironic, considering the Connecticut crew led by Steve Harlett is known for constantly breaking up and getting back together. "Land of Steve-O," the first single from the group's forthcoming record Buds, marks the group's return; the title alone invokes the aforementioned divine déjà vu with the reintroduction of the endearing character Steve-O, who last appeared in 2017's Greatest Hits, Vol. II with "Strand of Steve-O."
"Land of Steve-O" utilizes one of the band's usual song formulas: steady verses followed by an explosive chorus with staticky riffs and Harlett's inviting intone: "Don't feel crazy / When you walk around your town / Just call your friend Steve-O," he sings. Intensifying at the end, the track transcends into an unhinged, euphoric catharsis before fading and forcing us back into reality.
Few things have taught society more about the essence of time than the global pandemic.
For some, it was an endless dragging of months spent waiting for the outside world to open its doors again. For many artists, it was a time for creation, innovation and introspection.
Maxshh is the creative solo project of Max Goldstein (Tundrastomper, Fred Cracklin, Omeed & The Natural Scene), who has a new album Bonus Flowers, set to release Sept. 24.
As said by Goldstein, this pandemic and “a compromise between a limited instrumental palette and an unkempt imagination” were the impetus behind the project. Armed with nothing but his guitar and computer, Goldstein was prepared for battle. To say he spent his time wisely would be a heavy understatement: Bonus Flowers will be his third album release in the past year.
The latest single released from the album, “Thanks for the Crabapples” is based on the well-known television show, Adventure Time. Goldstein puts an acoustic spin on his favorite episode to create the playful track. His voice takes on an ethereal nature that complements the simplicity of the song. The video, directed by Jim Warren, embraces the boundless creativity in the world of animation and provides an intimate glimpse into an individual’s innermost daydreams.
Goldstein conceived, birthed and allowed this album to mature during a time of pure isolation. Within the cycle of nature, everything is set to blossom, if given the right amount of time and patience. In this case, Bonus Flowers bloomed right before our eyes.
Max Goldstein likely needs no introduction for those of you who are denizens of Massachusetts’ DIY scene, but for anyone unfamiliar with his groups Tundrastomper, Fred Cracklin, and Omeed & the Natural Scene, the Western MA native creates a wide range of sounds—from shred-heavy, mathy pop to improv-y free jazz—held together by a common spasticity and lo-fi aesthetic. Yet his solo moniker Maxshh sees Goldstein going fully experimental, with the latest installment from the project arriving this fall via Exploding in Sound.
His quote-unquote acoustic album Bonus Flowers drops September 24, but for now we’re getting the first single, “The Stone and I and Everybody,” which stays true to that denomination with a gently strummed opening, subtly escalating into moody, chugging acoustic guitar reminiscent of Yellow House before getting totally off track with some feedback-heavy electric guitar riffs in a Pile-like catharsis. While you probably couldn’t say it’s any weirder than Goldstein’s previous work, it’s certainly more unpredictable of a journey.
Good post-punk should keep you on your toes, combining the unease of losing your balance on a tipped chair with the momentum of a packed dance floor. (Also, great bass tone.) It’s a tall order nearly 50 years into the subgenre’s lifespan, but Stuck—and their great bass tone—are up to it.
Content That Makes You Feel Good, the newest EP from the Chicago-based band and first on Brooklyn’s Exploding in Sound, finds them returning to their hometown’s Jamdek Studios, with guitarist/vocalist Greg Obis handling engineering and mixing in-house this time around. While it’s barely been 18 months since their last release, Change Is Bad, the band belies both that title and their own name on Content by sharpening the edges of their sound and expanding their lyrical center outward.
Change is Bad tracks like “Plank II” and “Wrong Question” nodded broadly at societal and systemic ills, but Content stays focused on those targets for its entirety, calling for action with the pointed titles and lyrics of “Serf the Web,” “City of Police,” and “Playpen of Dissent.” That conceit isn’t the only refinement of their already tightly-wound sound, though: Obis has backed away from wholly in-the-red vocals for a more measured, almost-drawl that’s at times not dissimilar to Nick Cave’s. This welcome wrinkle keeps the sincerity of the EP’s subject matter at something of a remove, balancing its earnestness with a shot of vinegar.
But what is even the most conceptually sound post-punk without lockstep guitars or the aforementioned bass tone? Bassist David Algrim’s tone has moved closer to Chicago forebears Shellac’s razor-Slinky sound on Content, but not at the expense of their jagged, precision-targeted guitar skronk, which still arrives at the welcome juncture of AmRep-style noise and Wire/Gang of Four geometry. (Obis and Donny Walsh’s guitars are panned consistently throughout, which helps distinguish them as they careen around.) Keyboards have also started appearing in the nooks and crannies of the songs as well, and Obis wisely uses subtle, lo-fi tones rather than, say, speaker-rattling Moog drops.
Content’s greatest strength, though, is its sense of contrasting space. Songs contract and expand like lungs, hurtling towards abrupt drops, with tightly-picked patterns giving way to airy chords. Closer “Playpen of Dissent” drones to a claustrophobic, thickly-textured finish, underlining the dread its optimistic-on-paper closing lines—”I have to talk to my neighbors/ I have to talk to my coworkers”—might entail after a year and change indoors.
The EP’s promo materials gamely acknowledge the challenge of keeping things fresh, but Obis and co. needn’t worry. By simultaneously tightening the contours of their sound and stretching out, Stuck at this point is anything but.
Are we working from home or have our homes turned into workspaces? It’s been an urgent question for the past year and a half as the pandemic continues, and it’s what Stuck, a post-punk Exploding In Sound Records band, are reckoning with on this new track “Labor Leisure.” “There’s no worth without work/ There’s no joy without pain/ A quantum state of play/ When labor and leisure feel one and the same,” vocalist Greg Obis intones. It’s from the band’s forthcoming EP, which is sardonically titled Content That Makes You Feel Good.
Read what Obis said about the song:
“Labor Leisure” is about the dissolving boundaries between work life and home life. As we are constantly reminded about how we can optimize our productivity, our diet, our free time etc, we internalize that “hustle mindset” and it negatively reflects in our personal lives. Often it can make what we do for fun feel like a task.
I particularly struggle with maintaining these boundaries between work and play, and it can suck the joy out of my free time. As an audio engineer, it is my job to be critical, and as a result I can become harsh and judgmental towards things as simple as playing a video game, reading a book, making dinner. I think a lot of people probably feel this right now as folks continue to work from home on top of the other ways our personal and work lives become intertwined.
This song isn’t the only one on the EP to touch on neo-feudalism; that work life and home life are becoming the same thing. When that happens, work becomes inescapable, and you don’t actually have the freedoms that capitalism promises you.
This song follows “City Of Police,” a more experimental single that’s as full of lyrical frustrations as “Labor Leisure.”