NEW California X + preview of Sleater-Kinney & The Decemberists

2015 is poised to be a good year in music. There are several highly anticipated albums set for release including a Will Bulter (of Arcade Fire) solo album, the first Modest Mouse album in over 7 years, and more.

This week, California X impressed me with their sophomore release, Nights in the Dark. For fans of 90s alternative rock, this album (from Don Giovanni Records) is one of those “seems old but sounds so new” releases.  Read the full review below.

Next week, there are several notable releases.  Among them, are Sleater-Kinney‘s comeback album, The Decemberists‘ latest effort, and the first Belle & Sebastian album in 5 years.  I preview the first two albums mentioned below.


California X – Nights in the Dark (Don Giovanni, 2015)

Garage punk band California X roars into 2015 with a great album called Nights in the Dark. For their sophomore release on Don Giovanni, California X brought back producer Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr, Speedy Ortiz). The result was an album heavily influenced by 90s alternative, especially bands from their current location of Western Massachusetts (the band formed in 2012 in Connecticut and recently relocated to Amherst, MA).

The album starts off with “Nights in the Dark.” It is straight-forward rock song with the scream-it-out chorus “Just give me time/ Cuz I don’t wanna leave anybody behind..So please be kind/ and I will share these nights in the dark.” One can just imagine the band playing this song at a basement or house party show. Its a song of joint enjoyment with hope of steady footing.

“Summer Wall, Part 1” could be off Slint’s Spiderlands, with a low slow-jam burn.  The tempo quickly transitions to “Summer Wall, Part 2,” a guitar–driven post-punk jam.  It is this juxtaposition that makes this album so compelling.

In “Red Planet,” there is a fair bit of backing vocals peppered in.  “Hadley, MA,” is the most obviously Dinosaur Jr-ish song with a fuzzy bass-line and muted vocals. Guitar solos break up each verse.  “Blackrazer, Part 2” is another stand-out track.

Intense rock-and-roll takes a break in “Ayla’s Song” and “Garlic Road,” two slow-strummed acoustic instrumental tracks. The latter has a lovely piano melody with conjures memories of Badly Drawn Boy. These tracks show the band can do more than just rage; California X can compose lovely hymns as well.

California X’s sound is a nod to their predecessors.  There is something noteworthy about the way in which they do it.  Something about their combination of Western Mass fuzz with post-hardcore guitar riffs and smart arrangements that makes it sound slightly new.  This band is posed for a good (or great) 2015.

Sleater-Kinny‘s No Cities to Love showed up on NPR’s First Listen. I must say the album is quiet a powerful statement.  The album shows how talented these musicians are and how well their talents harmonize. While I will have a full review up next week, it is definitely posed for being a best of the 2015.

iTunes is streaming The DecemberistsWhat a Beautiful World/What a Terrible World.  I was into 2009’s The Hazards of Love. While I sort of enjoyed 2011’s The King is Dead, it left something to be desired.  After only a few listens, I wonder if this album marks a departure from their longform operas and a return to a simple aesthetic. There doesn’t seem to be an over-arching story line or a cast of reoccurring characters. While it breaks my rule of “songs written about being a song,” “A Beginning Song” became my favorite after only a few listens.


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