Circuit Des Yeux, "Paper Bag" (Drag City). The most distinctive female rock vocalist working today (step back, Joanna Newsom), Haley Fohr (aka Circuit Des Yeux) returns with a preview of her forthcoming album, Reaching for Indigo (out October 20). CDY's 2015 LP In Plain Speech was one of the most compelling of that year (think Scott Walker tackling Nico's Marble Index or a distaff version of Tim Buckley's Starsailor). "Paper Bag" begins with a spiral-eyed Bitchin Bajas synth whorl and Joan La Barbara-like ululations before shifting into ominous, metronomic krautrock in 5/4, with cosmic-folk inflections. After two listens, it's become my favorite song of 2017. What a rare and special beauty Fohr unveils here.
Gary Numan, "My Name Is Ruin" (BMG). The music of LA via UK new-wave electronic icon Gary Numan has drifted toward heavy metal in recent years, not always to winning effect. This new song carries some of Gaz's heavy inclinations, but embeds them into a grandiose, orchestral-electronic showpiece that blossoms into one of those "world going to hell" anti-anthems common to aging musicians trying to maintain relevance. "My Name Is Ruin" is a majestic contribution to the subgenre; one can imagine Trent Reznor nodding his head in approval. The track appears on Savage: Songs from a Broken World (out September 15). The press release describes it as "an album with a narrative that's set in an apocalyptic, post-global warming Earth in the not-too-distant future. There is no technology left and most of the planet has turned to a desolate desert wasteland. Food is scarce, water even more so and human kindness and decency are just a dim and distant memory. Western and Eastern cultures have merged, more because of the need to simply survive than any feelings of greater tolerance or understanding. It's a harsh, savage environment, as are the survivors who still roam across it." Thanks, Trump.
Selene Vigil, "Sha La La" (self-released). 7 Year Bitch vocalist Selene Vigil returns with a solid gut-punch of a rock song that won't disappoint her old band's hardcore following. Featuring guitarists Ben London and Ryan Leyva, bassist Drew Church, drummer Davey Brozowski, and Vigil's bravura vocals, "Sha La La" scorches with a calculated causticity, evoking Seattle rock's '90s halcyon nights. The sweet levity of the chorus wonderfully contrasts with the bitter, vengeful verses about an experience that laid the song's protagonist "so low," as Vigil growls, "They said someday you're gonna laugh about it/I said I ain't never gonna laugh about it." Look for Selene Vigil's album, Tough Dance, this fall. (Selene Vigil et Amicis perform Saturday August 5 at Slim's Last Chance.)
OCnotes, “They Never Send They Sons to War” (self-released via Bandcamp). Stranger Genius nominee OCnotes now resides in Arizona and he's still as prolific and inventive as ever, as his newest full-length, Doug Morris, proves. Skittering among hiphop, warped R&B, disjointed jazz funk, and Black Constellation electronic legerdemain, Doug Morris flaunts Otis Calvin III's mercurial talents... and it makes me wonder why no label's signed him yet. “They Never Send They Sons to War” is like the strangest Shabazz Palaces joint inhabited by the spirit of Funkadelic circa Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow. Funk in a molasses vortex—can you get to that?
Nearby, “Nearer Still” (No Genre). Nearby is Irene Barber, who has shone on Seattle's music scene as guitarist/vocalist of XVIII Eyes, Dust Moth, and with Stranger Genius Erik Blood's live band. She just dropped a new Blood-produced EP titled Garden Exercise from which "Nearer Still" hails. It reveals an intimately romantic singer/songwriter side to the oft-boisterous Barber, who not that long ago carried a one-off Led Zeppelin tribute band to astronomical heights. Barber makes good on her self-described "Luxury Bedroom" sound on "Nearer Still," which comes across like a Northwestern Cocteau Twins, buoyed by lustrously chiming guitars, punchy, splenetic beats, and vocals that radiate a resilient delicacy. [Nearby performs a live session at KEXP Thursday August 10. Barber's band will consist of bassist Blake Madden (Hotels), backing vocalist Audra Boo, and guitarist Ryan Frederiksen (These Arms Are Snakes, Dust Moth).]
Noteworthy August 4 album releases: Randy Newman, Dark Matter (Nonesuch); Briana Marela, Call It Love (Jagjaguwar); Naomi Punk, Yellow (Captured Tracks); Guantanamo Baywatch, Desert Center (Suicide Squeeze); Jane's Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual: Alive at 25 (Warner Bros./Capitol/EMI/Triple X); Black Grape, Pop Voodoo (MCA/Universal); Accept, The Rise of Chaos (Nuclear Blast)