There's something downright spooky about Lo. The latest EP from Seattle post-punk trio Peeping Tomboys feels like the soundtrack to summer ghost hunting, wandering darkened forests alone, or a Craft-style calling of the corners. Moody Mike Watt–style bass lines crawl through the five songs, combining with echoing shoegazey guitar riffs to create epic, meandering songs that sound like a darker, less spaced-out Slowdive. Lara Hilgemann's powerful vocals rise out of the heavy sludge, belting out imagery of daggers and branches scraping on glass in soulful croons that easily shift into raw-nerved howls that feel like invocations. "Thievery" opens the cassette with a lyric that sounds like a dare: "And when we run in the night, we'll be trailing sparks behind us/And you can follow our trail, but you're never going to find us," Hilgemann belts. On "Calypso," the singer and guitarist awakens from a nightmare, totally creeped out, and turns to a Ouija board, which spells out the title of the song. Though it clocks in at less than 20 minutes and the tempo never reaches anything that calls for more than a slow head nod, Lo feels powerful the whole way through, sliding effortlessly between pretty and menacing. Peeping Tomboys have created a tape that's the musical equivalent of unabridged fairy tales—you know, before the blood and gore was cut out. It's the good kind of creepy. ROBIN EDWARDS
You couldn't write a better introductory statement to an album wrapped in confidently somber tones than Justin Paul Vallesteros did with the line "Take the time to know how alone you are." The opening words to "Komorebi," Nausea's second single, may at first sound defeated, or at least cautionary, but in them, there is strength.
Where the drum machine sounds and poppish rhythms of Craft Spells' 2011 debut, Idle Labor, were united in their ability to make strangers dance, Nausea announces solidarity in the telling of lonely moments that the solitary among us can relate to. For example, the line "The morning came and it went, then you're left with no one else again/Only to yourself you went, you leave to be yourself again," from "First Snow," demonstrates both the album's underlying theme and its occasional lyrical simplicity. It's emotion, rather than depth of prose, that carries the album, but Vallesteros is effective when he needs to be.
Since moving to San Francisco from Seattle a couple years back, Vallesteros—and his Craft Spells project—have lain low. In the album's press release, the dormancy is credited to an inability to break into San Francisco's music scene, which resulted in the abandonment of the guitar for a full year; all of Nausea's songs were instead written on the piano, which Vallesteros turned to in hopes of breaking free from his creative slump. In their final versions, the songs have been filled out beautifully, to the point where they are full working bodies. The band's work around him, as well as the production and post-production, have all worked wonders on his ideas. TODD HAMM
Feng Shui Capital of the World
To say the release of stoner-rock outfit WEEED's first official album has been worth the wait would be an understatement: It's a thing of greasy-haired, heavy-lidded beauty. Kicking off with the Cro-Magnon stomp of "Morning Prayer" reminds me a little of the Boredoms beginning Super Ae with "Super You"—the monstrous gatekeeper to scare off those whose brains aren't properly wired for the trip yet. But as soon as the follow-up plays—the sunbaked, dust-mote-light guitar interlude "Some More Grass," a trippy watercolor of tone and temperance—you quickly realize WEEED are more than a merry band of Sabbath-worshippers.
The majority of the album is instrumental, and when there are words, they're almost comically inscrutable. The entirety of the lyrics to seven-minute-long "Motorcycles" could fit scrawled on your palm: "They're wearing goggles/They're riding motorcycles/Can't stop this buzzing in my head." Finale "Falling into the Earth" beats the entire country of Iceland at its own fire-and-ice game, tempering volcanically furious guitar eruptions with cool-as-a-cucumber Rhodes-laced breakdowns, an ebbing and flowing composition that never loses the listener's interest over the course of its nearly 15-minute run time. In fact, "Falling into the Earth" works perfectly as a microcosm of the album as a whole—a skillfully tense push-pull between contrasting elements: heavy and soft, goofy yet serious, chaotic but gorgeously melodic. The boys are hoping to have a vinyl pressing ready in August: the preferred method of receiving these prehistoric frequencies. KYLE FLECK