Bully, "Focused" (Sub Pop). One of Sub Pop's most charming recent signings, Bully dropped another single off their winning 2017 album, Losing. "Focused" starts out like a slightly more robust Young Marble Giants—all subtle, luscious tension-building—until the song explodes with a Breeders-like cannonball of fuzz-toned fury. "I AM TRYING TO STAY FOCUSED!" Alicia Bognanno repeats with increasing intensity, and, whoa, talk about a relatable chorus...
Fu Manchu, "Il Mostro Atomico" (New Damage). The big news is stoner-rock mainstays Fu Manchu have lured Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson to chip in some Canadian prog-blues mojo and spacey, ectoplasmic feedback to the gargantuan, Black Sabbath-esque power-trudge of this 18-minute juggernaut. I realize it's asking a lot of you to check out a song that lasts nearly a third of an hour, but the feeling of invincibility "Il Mostro Atomico" will instill in you will be worth the time investment. You can find this atomic monster cut on Fu Manchu's Clone of the Universe (out today).
Bitchin Bajas, "2303" (Drag City). Sorry (not sorry) for including Chicago's Bitchin Bajas in every Inbox Jukebox column I possibly can, but they refuse to stop making sublime cosmic drone music that puts me in the ultimate-peace zone. Whattaya gonna do? So just give in to the Bajas' beautific ambient soundcloud of the gods and drift away from the soul-grinding madness we grudgingly agree to call "reality." This might just be the best 23 minutes of your day. If not, at least I tried.
Hard Roller, "We'll See You Again" (self-released). Even if you're a vegan, you sometimes need some meat-and-potatoes rock in your listening diet. And if you want to get that stuff homegrown, head to Hard Roller's Bandcamp, where their self-titled album will administer a heavy, classic-rock beatdown in the neighborhood where Jimi Hendrix, Free, and Soundgarden loiter with malicious intent. Composed of venerable Seattle rock aces Andrew McKeag (guitars, vocals), Scott Giampino (drums), and Jonah Bergman (bass), Hard Roller here forge a menacing groove, topped off with a guitar riff that explores the flamboyant, metallic zone between Joe Perry and Kim Thayil, and singing that radiates a vengeful machismo that almost scales Chris Cornell-ian heights. There are no Hard Roller shows on the horizon, but you can catch Andrew McKeag's band on April 14 at Slim's Last Chance.
Kenneth James Gibson, "Far from Home" (Kompakt). Among many other things, Kenneth James Gibson used to release twisted, experimental techno for Seattle's Orac Records in the early '00s. Over the last quarter century, his musical career has taken several expected and surprising detours under a dizzying array of aliases. From space-rock to IDM to shoegaze to dub-wise techno to yet other styles, Gibson has maintained strong quality control, even as his discography has grown exponentially. Now he finds himself on Kompakt, Germany's powerhouse of minimal techno and pop ambient, with an album—In the Fields of Nothing, out March 9—that skews toward the latter mode. "Far from Home" wafts like a vapor, its Harold Budd-like piano murmurs, wispy synth washes, distant choral voices, and brush-slapped drums coalescing into a widescreen epic that makes Pink Floyd's early-'70s space ballads sound bombastic. "If you felt alive, I couldn't tell/It's coming to an end," Gibson sings with benumbed pathos, his voice seemingly emanating from a dark cloud. These vocals are the ideal accompaniment to music that conveys heavy feelings of estrangement with the most ethereal sonic elements. (Note: This video is directed by Hazel McCarthy and is filmed by her and Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb and Black Line; both worked on the Bight of the Twin documentary about vodun with Genesis P-Orridge.)
Noteworthy February 9 album releases: Various Artists, Black Panther: The Movie (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope); Holy Motors, Slow Sundown (Wharf Cat); David Duchovny, Every Third Thought (King Baby); Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending (Domino); Wombats, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (Kobalt); Legend of the Seagullmen, Legend of the Seagullmen (Dine Alone); Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (New Damage); The Monochrome Set, The Maisieworld (Tapete); Ezra Furman, Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union); John Tejada, Dead Start Program (Kompakt); Joan as Police Woman, Damned Devotion (PIAS); Palm, Rock Island (Carpark); B. Fleischmann, Stop Making Fans (Morr Music); Ezra Feinberg (of Citay), Pentimento and Others (Related States); Nina Simone, Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Sessions (Bethlehem); Tal National, Tantabara (FatCat).