The Feelies, "Stay the Course" (Bar/None). Ah, there's nothing as reliable in rock music as the Feelies. They've barely changed at all in their 40 years of operation, thank your deity of choice. And why should they? There's no sense in trying to improve on perfection. Like a straight-edge Velvet Underground, the Feelies perpetually churn out subtle variations on third-LP VU mannerisms, with introverted-dude vocals that whisper simple profundities instead of poetically describing heroin or S&M experiences. "Stay the Course"—off their new In Between full-length—echoes the Feelies' greatest song, "Slipping into Something," and that pastoral, undulant amble, adorned with gently jangling guitars, is pretty much the perfect antidote for these angsty times.
Wiscon, "Police Academy 17: Mission to Sex Beach" (self released via Bandcamp). Buoyant, pell-mell gush of synth-heavy new wave featuring the defiant vocals of ex-NighTraiN drummer Taryn René Dorsey and the efficacious songwriting chops of Paul Morgan and Stephen Devine. Exhilarating stuff.
Elkhorn, "The Black River" (Debacle). When local label Debacle focuses on freak folk, it really delivers the goods; see also Daniel Bachman, Hayden Pedigo, and Medina/Walsh. They strike gold again with Elkhorn, an American duo who here engage in sublime electric and 12-string acoustic guitar sparring, raising folkadelic plumes of burnt-orange smoke in the process. Fans of Jack Rose and Steve Gunn will flip. Look for The Black River LP on April 28.
Endless Boogie, "Vibe Killer" (No Quarter). The title track from NYC trance-rock juggernaut Endless Boogie's new album (out May 19) choogles with their trademark Möbius-strip hypnosis, sounding like a cross between something off John Lee Hooker's double album whence Endless Boogie copped their name and Swedish jam transcendentalists Pärson Sound. Vocalist Paul Major growls sotto voce like Don Van Vliet in nihilistic-hardboiled-detective mode, and when this filthy, ominous song's over, you'll want to play it again... and again.
The Light Gathering Lens, "The Terror Time" (self released). Former Seattle rock mainstay Eric Burnham (Weather Theatre) now lives in New Mexico, but back in the early '90s he cut a heretofore unreleased four-song EP titled The Light Gathering Lens, of which this is the standout. Written by the legendary English folk troubadour Ewan MacColl (composer of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"), "The Terror Time" tintinnabulates and drones with an icily desolate beauty, as Burnham's courtly, doleful vocals hint at the Anglo-folk mysticism of Flying Saucer Attack's Dave Pearce. The other three cuts are compelling, too, in a 4AD (Dif Juz, early Dead Can Dance) transported to the American Southwest kind of way. (Release date is April 21.)
Noteworthy March 17 album releases: Depeche Mode, Spirit (Columbia/Mute); Spoon, Hot Thoughts (Matador); Real Estate, In Mind (Domino); Chilly Gonzales & Jarvis Cocker, Room 29 (Gentle Threat Ltd); Adult., Detroit House Guests (Mute); Conor Oberst, Salutations (Nonesuch)