Sterling • June 28, 2014 (re-released August 21, 2015)
Tideland burst on to the scene back in 2010 formed from members of bands like pg. 99, Sail, and Pizza. Their first two albums, Asleep in the Graveyard and Lost Bets, owed much of their punk sensibilities to the previous bands. Halfway through Lost Bets, the punk starts to grow into grunge and alternative. Angular elements seeped into the soil, heavily indebted to the distortion of Dinosaur Jr., while other songs sprouted into Sonic Youth territory. They really hit their stride in 2013 when they harvested their third album, Lull, and scuffed up their bright new shoegaze like a crunchier, fuzzier Swervedriver.
To follow up on the popularity of Lull, Tideland released Love Luster in June 2014. Unfortunately, the album never made it beyond a digital download and the band has since called it quits. Last month, however, Protagonist Music released a cassette version of Love Luster as one last grungy swan song for the trio. As I listen to it on repeat for the umpteenth time, I say a prayer to all the gods of dead and splintered bands: please, let this one live.
The Diamond Center
Crystals for the Brass Empire
Richmond • August 11, 2015
The Diamond Center has a reputation for migration, relocating over the years from Athens, GA to Lubbock, TX to Richmond, picking up musicians and influences along the way. If you follow the “Messenger of Wonder,” you’ll be asking when Nancy Sinatra dropped acid and joined The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Softly muting their Sixties vibe by the time they reach “California,” the vocals tilt in favor of Hope Sandoval. After five years in Richmond, they relocated again to Austin, TX, but the album’s available from three Virginian labels (Funny/Not Funny, Egghunt, and Steady Sounds). Sic semper Texas.
Harrisonburg • September 1, 2015
The Step Pets’ eponymous debut evokes Ben Kweller writing songs for Presidents of the United States of America (e.g. “Put You In A Box” and “On Display”). Mike Gombas, ex-Counterfeit Molly frontman, jinxes you by sweetly singing misanthropic lyrics over upbeat rock. “Everything In My Life Is Broken” throws a monkey wrench in Beach Boys harmony and “Out Of The Pages” sucks the wind out of Chicago. The last four songs are my favorite, reminiscent of the only Foo Fighters album I like, The Colour and The Shape. With applause and apologies to Mike, this is the Real Molly.
Norfolk • June 28, 2015
Maybe she’s vain, but she’s definitely a wordsmith and coy enough to leave the “i” out of her cover art. Like a lesbian Lauryn Hill, or a “female Lupe Fiasco” as an online fan wrote, Vainsmith is capable of capricious flows. What she lacks in vocal speed she makes up in listenability, thumping on harder tracks and smooth as Erykah Badu’s silk dress for sensual jams. Saxy boom bap reigns supreme unless love strips down to bass and flute. “God Bless The Child” is the likely single, forging compromise between Vainsmith’s anxieties and desires with two words, “Let’s ride.”
Grief's Infernal Flower
Richmond • September 18, 2015
Grief’s Infernal Flower carries “Two Urns” through the snow, trudging and mourning for eight minutes. “Forest Clouds” clocks in at nine (this is doom metal after all). If that’s not your crown of thorns, skip to “Sparrow” or “Aition” to hear Dorthia Cottrell’s siren-like vocals. For the rest of us who like to get stoned and wade through the cosmic horror of sludgy bass and drop-D tunings, Windhand has prepared this swamp for you. Fourteen minutes of ambient noise and soul-rending slog makes “Kingfisher” my favorite. That, and Cottrell singing about “all-seeing, all-knowing desolation.”