Short reviews of noteworthy music, both new and old, that I’ve been listening to lately.
“Lunar Days” by The Clientele
If you suddenly felt the need to look outside to see if the skies were getting a little greyer and colder, or if the leaves were changing colors, then it’s probably because The Clientele just announced Music for the Age of Miracles, their first new album in seven years. The album came about after bandleader Alasdair MacLean started jamming with an old friend who was a master of the santoor (a dulcimer-like instrument from Iran) and realized he had a new album’s worth of material (more details here).
“Lunar Days” is the album’s first single, and it’s everything you’ve come to expect from The Clientele: exquisite arrangements, delicate guitars and a fluid bassline, and of course, MacLean’s lazy voice and expressionistic lyrics, all tinged with melancholy and pining. And just like every other Clientele song, “Lunar Days” makes one yearn for autumn just a little bit more (especially if you’ve been experiencing the sort of abysmal heat and humidity we’ve had here in Nebraska lately).
Music for the Age of Miracles will be released on 9/22 by Merge.
Complekt by Landing
Existing at the cross-roads between Slowdive and Low, with some heady psychedelia (à la Amp or Flying Saucer Attack) thrown in, Connecticut’s Landing creates haunting music that is certainly spaced out, but not so spaced out as to diminish or downplay its sonic and emotional beauty.
Complekt is the band’s most recent full-length, and it’s as good a starting point as any. The aptly titled “Light” opens the album with diaphanous guitars and Adrienne Snow’s vocals before giving way to the title track’s fiery psych-out. “Shifts” sets your expectations with buzzing drones only to confound them as eerie, nocturnal pools of sound begin to form. The album’s centerpiece is the 10-minute “Grow,” which finds Landing traveling deeper and deeper into ghostly guitar notes and Amp-like psychedelia.
I’m still making my way through the band’s considerable output — they’re nothing if not productive — like their 2014 self-titled album and the various EPs that really explore the band’s ambient and psychedelic tendencies. Their upcoming Taeppe EP promises to be something particularly special; the one song that’s currently available is one of their most gorgeous songs to date.
“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Daysleepers
Fact: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is one of the greatest songs of all time. Its brilliance as a sweeping, cinematic ode to alienation, regret, and unrequited love is such that, even if The Smiths had recorded nothing else, it alone would’ve forever cemented their place in the annals of music.
One therefore doesn’t cover a song like this lightly, and so The Daysleepers’ rendition is very faithful. There are no detours, revisions, or egregious remixes, because why mess with perfection? However, The Daysleepers do up the atmospherics a bit, as is their wont. The guitars chime just as much as Johnny Marr’s but with some additional gauziness, and the male/female vocals are swathed in several layers of reverb.
The result is a cover that feels more like a memory than a slavish reproduction, as if The Daysleepers are trying to evoke the rush of hearing the song for the very first time (and knowing instantly that it would be one of those songs in your life). All told, a brilliant return for The Daysleepers (this is their first release since 2014’s “Dream Within A Dreamworld” single) and a reverent tribute to one of alternative music’s finest compositions.
“Turn Off the Lights” by Psychic Temple
Chris Schlarb’s acclaimed Psychic Temple project could be described as “psychedelic,” “progressive,” and “jazz,” which is unfortunate since that might cause some to dismiss it out-of-hand for being too pretentious or something. But those descriptors do pack some truth to them, especially the first one, on a song like “Turn Off the Lights” (the first single from the band’s upcoming IV album).
Much of that is due to Dave Easley’s pedal steel, from which he coaxes gorgeously trippy sitar-like tones. The song as a whole is one of the poppier things that Psychic Temple has committed to tape, like the Beach Boys at their most “out there” even as the song is grounded by the vocals of Schlarb and legendary singer Terry Reid.
For all of the avant garde flourishes in Schlarb’s music, there’s nothing pretentious about it at all — and “Turn Off the Lights” is a perfect example of that.