Essential New Music: The Sword’s “High Country”

Sword

The Sword delivers the gawd-damn goods every single time. We’re simple folk and we just want some heady, heavy, nerdy grooves to get us through our stupidgoddamnmotherfuckin’ day, and the Sword delivers. We just need a record that gets the blood pumping our beleaguered brains out of our skull and away from this desk and these invoices and those emails and that damn thing that should have been done two days ago, but fuck it because it’s Tuesday. And the Sword delivers. Every. Single. Time.

High Country, the Austin band’s fifth album, is no different, and may just be its most cogent, crushing work to date. It lacks the “concept album” PR line of the band’s previous works, but the LP certainly falls within its narrative and sonic oeuvre. The Sword is still stonery as hell, crafting a guitarmony-laden trip into the metal abyss, only this time it’s in a mystical Cormac McCarthy/Joe Walsh/James Gang sense. And frankly, we could all use some Joe Walsh vibes in our lives.

Songwriter/guitarist J.D. Cronise creates a fresh new universe in which to explore his recurring occult fascinations and storytelling arcs. There is a noirish grit to the narrative that shines brightest when juxtaposed against the horns of “Early Snow” that recall the ghosts of Muscle Shoals. Whether it’s the weird ’80s gated guitars of “Seriously Mysterious” or way-moremenacing-than-it-should-be blooze jam “The Bees Of Spring,” the Sword continually updates ridiculous classic-rock tropes in the most wonderful of ways.

—Sean L. Maloney

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From The Desk Of Matt Pond PA: “Ravenous” Soundtrack (Especially “Boyd’s Journey”)

Matt Pond PA‘s The State Of Gold is of a piece with the singer/songwriter’s previous work in its tension between plaintive longing and earnest affirmations. Paradoxically, it’s a confident album about having doubts; it looks outward as well as inward. Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on him.

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Pond: People tend to dismiss Ravenous. Understandably, since it’s a poorly received Westward Expansion vampire flick loosely based on the Donner Party. Perhaps that doesn’t draw you in. But if it hadn’t been gutted by the production company and if the original director had stayed on to completion, I believe it would’ve been a ridiculous masterpiece. Even still, I love its bursts of rich cinematography coupled with confused campiness. Further, the soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman reigns supreme. Maybe supreme is a lofty title in the presence of modern greats like Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman, Cliff Martinez, Vangelis, Howard Shore, John Carpenter, Alexandre Desplat, Rachel Portman, Gabriel Yared, David Wingo (we’d love a new Ola Podrida album, if it’s not asking too much). Try turning this soundtrack up as you pass through the Sierra Nevadas or the Rockies on an overcast day. Scan the rise and the fall of the unforgiving mountains, the valleys unfolding as you race and brake downward. These are the moments I love and live for on tour. The quiet cinematic moments which occupy my abstracted memories. I’ve seen most of these roads a million times. The only way forward is keep finding new ways to shoot it with my eyes. And the right music to score it with on the stereo.

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Film At 11: Peaches

Later this month, the world will be blessed with another album from electronic superstar Peaches. Her patiently awaited, and already critically acclaimed upcoming LP, Rub, will be released on I U She Music via INgrooves. Peaches just released a new video for “Close Up,” with features Kim Gordon as Peaches trainer as she prepares to enter into the world of Mexican wrestling. At first, things seem pretty typical (think Rocky style training), but then things get really, really weird. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Reuben Hollebon

ReubenHollebon

Reuben Hollebon won’t be releasing his debut LP, Terminal Nostalgia, until early 2016, but loyal MAGNET readers can preview his track “Faces” right now. Hollebon’s quivering whisper is reminiscent of early Bright Eyes, the moody track following the lines of the more straightforward side of Fevers And Mirrors. Download “Faces” below.

“Faces” (download):

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Essential New Music: The Chemical Brothers “Born In The Echoes”

ChemicalBrothers

2015 seems like a good time to be the Chemical Brothers. Their familiar flavor of broad-minded psychedelic techno is worming its long way back toward hipness via spiritual successors like James Holden and Daniel Avery, even as the ever-more-vertiginous drops of the EDM boom make their iconically block-rocking bombast seem unthinkably subtle by comparison.

Following 2010’s streamlined synth-fantasia powerhouse Further, Born In The Echoes revisits the rockier, guest-studded template that elevated their classic ’90s LPs, but also marred much of their ’00s output, enlisting a crew of alt-rock vocalists (St. Vincent, Beck, Cate Le Bon) who contribute a bit of personality without overwhelming—or even dominating—their respective tracks. But vocals, despite appearing in some form on nearly every track, are rarely the focus—tellingly, this album’s appointed swirling, acidwashed “Setting Sun” analogue/“Tomorrow Never Knows” homage (“I’ll See You There”) is largely instrumental.

Two decades after their debut, the Chems remain committed to their singular vision, still plying those heady, slamming breakbeats and reverently swooning synths, continuing to breathe new life from the echoes.

—K. Ross Hoffman

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From The Desk Of Matt Pond PA: Kingston, N.Y.

Matt Pond PA‘s The State Of Gold is of a piece with the singer/songwriter’s previous work in its tension between plaintive longing and earnest affirmations. Paradoxically, it’s a confident album about having doubts; it looks outward as well as inward. Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on him.

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Pond: I’ve decided to settle down in Kingston, N.Y. I don’t know if settling down includes drinking bourbon and listening to the drone of my guitar feedback until four in the morning. But this is where I live. The police have only shown up for one noise complaint. I believe that’s considered a passing grade in neighborliness. Beyond that, I’ve started cultivating friendships with my fellow villagers. The writers, the cobblers, the computer programmers. We’ve all gambled and won on this place. I guess it really boils down to the shape of the Catskills on the horizon. It’s a shape I want to see every day. It’s a shape I love.

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Film At 11: Looper

Looper has just released a new video for, “I’m A Photograph,” a track appearing off Offgrid:Offline. The clip features a series of vintage photographs of the band, as well as fan-submitted photographs. Partnering with Lomography, a camera company dedicated to simplistic-yet-creative photography, the band held a competition in which fans were asked to send in their 10 best summer photographs, with the winners being included in the video. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Fractures

Fractures

Fractures is an Australian electronic act, aiming to release its debut EP early next year. If “Reactor” is any indication, Fractures is worth keeping an ear to the ground for, brandishing an impressive balance of ambience and infectiousness in this carefully layered track. Download it below.

“Reactor” (download):

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From The Desk Of Matt Pond PA: “Paris, Texas” (Followed By Neil Young’s “Harvest”)

Matt Pond PA‘s The State Of Gold is of a piece with the singer/songwriter’s previous work in its tension between plaintive longing and earnest affirmations. Paradoxically, it’s a confident album about having doubts; it looks outward as well as inward. Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on him.

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Pond: I met Harry Dean Stanton after playing a show at the Troubadour. I’ve only ever wanted to meet two people in this world: Mr. Stanton and Mr. Neil Young. The way they both capture and convey the spare beauty of deep emotion blows me away. In the bright flurry of last call at Dan Tana’s, I awkwardly reached through his drunken entourage to shake his hand. I told him what I’d always wanted to tell him. “Sorry for bothering you, but I just wanted to say that Paris, Texas was one of the most beautiful movies ever made and it’s a true honor to meet you.” On beat, his eyes sleepily rose from his beer and he said, “Thank you. Those were the good years.”

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Matt Pond PA: The State Of Doubt

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Robbery, member turnover and unresolved paternal issues can’t crush Matt Pond PA’s creative spirit

“I don’t know anything right now. Music is hard these days, but the harder it is, the more I fight, I guess. I don’t know. Or the more I fight, the harder it becomes. One way or another.”

That’s Matt Pond, whose band Matt Pond PA is on a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of its sixth album, Several Arrows Later, in advance of its ninth, The State Of Gold. Pond says the jaunt is a bit of an experiment within the uncertainties of the music business, a way of reconnecting with an audience before coming back later in the year after the new LP comes out. The tour was going well, but less than two weeks later, after a gig in Chicago, the band members would be robbed of their computers, money and passports—making things even harder and further testing Pond’s resilience.

The first MPPA album, Deer Apartments, came out in 1998, and the band has gone through many incarnations—and many cello players—since. As Pond moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn to Bearsville, N.Y., the group’s personnel turned over several times. The core is now Pond and guitarist Chris Hansen; the cello player is Shawn Alpay.

“It’s just a fluid thing; it’s life,” says Pond. “You can all swear to some kind of oath, but people die and people get married. All sorts of crazy things happen. I just tried to find a way to accept anything that happens personnel-wise. I like playing with a lot of different people. You get a lot of different feels, and you have amazing experiences.”

The cello, although its prominence has waxed and waned over the years, has been a MPPA signature. On The State Of Gold, it weaves through “There Were Times,” but it takes a backseat to New Order-like sequencers and synthesizers on “Take Me With You.”

“I think on this new album we wanted to expand rhythmically—that was our biggest concern,” says Pond. “There’s something about putting more polyrhythms into the music that makes it more complex, but also loosens it up. There is cello on the album, but it’s not the distinctive element.”

Pond has talked in the past about the influence of the Electric Light Orchestra’s early records on his predilection for cellos, but the source runs even deeper into his childhood growing up in New Hampshire.

“I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this,” says Pond. “My dad really liked classical music. He tried to play cello, and he was terrible at it. I wanted to impress my dad, but he was unimpressable. Adding a cello into our band didn’t impress him. Don’t we live in our parents’ shadows? My father was a really difficult person, too. He was a humanitarian and a minister, but while he did great things, he did terrible things, too. ‘Oedipal’ isn’t the thing, though. There’s got be a thing where your father is probably one of the greatest people you’ve ever known, but probably one of the worst, too. And then there’s ELO.”

There may be more New Order than ELO to The State Of Gold’s blend of guitars, cello and synthesizers, but it’s of a piece with Pond’s previous work in its tension between plaintive longing and earnest affirmations. Paradoxically, it’s a confident album about having doubts; it looks outward as well as inward. “As long as we know, we don’t know anything,” Pond sings at the climax of “The Starting Line.” “I’ve been a friend of doubt/I don’t know doubt anymore,” he sings in the chorus of “No More No.”

“I don’t know anyone who is certain of anything or who doesn’t doubt themselves and vacillate,” says Pond. “For me, it’s a visible, palpable rhythm between everything. Buying a coffee, walking around, everything. I can’t play disaffected; I can’t play confident, completely; but I love what I do, and I love doing it.”

And that love is what keeps Pond fighting through the vicissitudes of the music business, of constant changes in personnel, of the writer’s block that he faced leading up to this album—of robberies, even. And he loves writing songs; that’s one thing Pond does know.

“Playing onstage, sex—those are all great,” he says. “But when you understand what you are actually trying to say in a song, that’s the best feeling. At least I have a purpose for that second.”

—Steve Klinge

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