Omni - Multi-task
Trouble in Mind Records

Whatever grain of genius was sown in Deluxe grows now in wildfire abundance, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ve just come late for the harvest. Everything about Omni’s Multi-task is bigger—the fleshed-out fidelity, the athletic leaps of beefier guitars, the more insistent grooves (I still can’t get over that ridiculous hi-hat shuffle on “Equestrian”). But that’s all to underline that the mission statement hasn’t changed too much, even with new drummer Doug Bleichner in tow. One even has to wonder if the term “post-punk” ever applied—was this muscular gallop always buried within? Were they always more Bachman-Turner Overdrive than Orange Juice? (Although, let’s face it: that 180 jerk at the end of “Calling Direct” is a perfect 10 post-punk maneuver.) – LA

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Pamela_ and her sons - Hurt Plaza
CGI Records
Pamela_ and her sons
Hurt Plaza

If Hurt Plaza were indeed a plaza, then Alessandra Hoshor’s effervescent vocals would spring forth from the central fountain. Like the L.A.-based sound architect Katie Gately, Hoshor forges breathing landscapes out of artificial babble, with several layers stacked and slanted into a precarious Janga tower. “All Out” perhaps spins into the dizziest round, with bubbles of synthesized “ohs” blending in with Hoshor’s own warped voices. “Sad Laugh,” too, beguiles with a dizzying array of laughs that pop like pistons. Whispers and murmurs lend texture to the walls, like in the 5 a.m. factory after-party of “Rush” and the clattering “Almost!” Those weird loops are what make Hurt Plaza so alien, even when the tiles on the floor look like the same damn tiles in other plazas. – LA

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Pinkest - To the Land of the Electric Angel
To the Land of the Electric Angel

what sets To the Land of the Electric Angel apart is an uncanny logic, a frame of whimsy which auteurs like Harry Nilsson and Brian Wilson could once build with ease into pop. A skewed little story winds through the absurd lyrics and spark-shooting riffs, in bits of dialogue and soliloquy—something about celluloid stars rising to astronomical heights, then crashing back down to the terrifying reality that they’re nothing special at all. “A Great Big Goodbye” prepares us nicely for the surreal conclusion with the kind of sweet, piano-laced ballad that a studio wizard like Todd Rundgren would pen; “A Crack in the Sun (Curtain Close)” rounds out the album with a Syd Barrett-y acoustic number that meditates on death, birth, and clearing “the cats from our haircuts.” Follow the lyrics (The knife under your purse? Acid vampires? We were waiting for you to die?), and nothing pans out. But follow the sounds, the psychic echoes of past masters, the procession from one unlikely idea to the next, and something clicks—namely, that Pinkest enjoy poking fun at themselves, and weaving a whole world of nonsense along the way. – LA

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Rose Hotel - Always a Good Reason
Rose Hotel
Always a Good Reason

Always a Good Reason burns slowly. Very slowly. Four months after Jordan Reynolds’ debut as Rose Hotel, the lush French horns and steel guitars of her friends from Kentucky still smolder and glow like hot coals in a fireplace. With this muted aura, the singer-songwriter explores the fragile interstices between people that often can’t be broached in casual conversation: longing, loneliness, humility, regret. “I can’t really write about anything that isn’t real to me, or something that hasn’t happened to me, or to someone close to me,” Reynolds told me in our interview. “Writing is my way to work through the things that I wish I could say to people, but I can’t say them to their face.” And that catharsis warms up anyone who listens to Always a Good Reason, too. – LA

Read our interview with Rose Hotel.

Sister Sai - Extempore
Sister Sai

Sister Sai’s ability to write and perform with a wide variety of instruments has allowed her to continually grow and evolve as a musician, but the striking simplicity of Extempore isn’t a step backwards as much as an opportunity for Saira Raza to return her focus to her first love. The cello may not be the source of her creativity, but it’s a conduit for her most intimate and resourceful work. Even though she challenges the listener with warped tones and distorted melodies, it’s obvious that Raza is writing from a place of ease and comfort rather than the experimental fringes she explored in the past. As a result, the genius of Extempore can’t be reduced to its simplicity, rather it must be tied to Raza’s ability to coax the wildest, most alien responses from her cello while creating music which is equally intense and inviting. – RR

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Sequoyah - Dream Sequence
Dream Sequence

Like his debut True Fun, Dream Sequence floats across several psychic territories, with Sequoyah Murray’s voluminous voice always leading the way into the limelight. Unlike True Fun, however, Vince Clark-esque synthpop seems to dominate the landscape; of course, as we’ve already seen from chipper “Betta” and the aptly-titled “Sublime,” Murray slots in with ease here. But Sequoyah distinguishes himself from the Depeche Mode wannabes with his vibrant array of percussion, like on the lush but intimate cascade of “Hip Entrancin’ Thing.” As with the best of post-punk’s earliest days, he invites us to enclosed worlds of rhythm that enable clear thought as much as movement. Likewise, the ambling pledge to loyalty “Is Enough” evokes the wild-eyed wonder of William Onyeabor, while the bubbling, violin-laced “Let’s Take the Time” suggests a denser cut from Arthur Russell. – LA

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Small Reactions - RXN_002
Small Reactions

Whenever I wrote about RXN_002, I painted seasoned vets Small Reactions as illusionists with fog, mirrors, mazes, mirrors and mazes. But really, this delayed sophomore effort doesn’t delude or deceive anyone, except the spiteful critic that might try to trace their influences. With keen ears for the crossed histories of post-punk and pop, the gang bend tones and melodies behind lead singer and songwriter Scotty Hoffman’s self-deprecating insights. “To me, it’s an effort of working through all those things, to connect [with others],” said drummer Sean Zearfoss in our interview. “The more specific you become, the more universal [you are].” And see, that’s not deceptive at all. Rather, RXN_002 augments truth, like a prism augments light. – LA

Read our interview with drummer Sean Zearfoss.

10th Letter - Prism Scale
10th Letter
Prism Scale

With titles like “Phase Velocity” and “Photoelectric Effect,” one might assume that this is 10th Letter’s most technology-obsessed release yet, but in many ways it is less robotic than previous releases. Most of the album revolves around downtempo backbeats, but occasionally it breaks orbit and ascends beyond the haze towards more sunny passages which thrum with ecstatic and revelatory fervor. Unlike most 10th Letter records, which reside in the balance between mind and spirit, there’s a refined sensuality to Prism Scale, and I’m not just saying that because of the saxophone melodies which pop up throughout the record. This is Johnson and crew at their most relaxed, feeding off one another’s creative energy in the form of cascading keys, gentle guitars, and shimmering soundscapes. Prism Scale is notably less frantic than his 2015 LP, Portals & Compasses, or his 2016 opus, The Revenge. Still, the underlying complexity is somehow more visible, in part because of the openness of the record. The mood shifts throughout the ten tracks are often tied into transitions between synthesizer bits and more traditional instruments, confounding any supposition that Prism Scale could devolve into a mundane, predictable record. – RR

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Tunabunny - PCP Presents Alice in Wonderland Jr.
Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records
PCP Presents Alice in Wonderland Jr.

With what angle could I possibly appraise this horizon-sized road map, where both band and listener can wander and wonder in unison? Standard practice demands landmarks for the uninitiated—things like Pavement, Guided By Voices, Television Personalities—but if I started on that route, I’d have to divide dissonance from melody and interrupt the dialogue between influences. Besides, whether they realize it or not, many other artists impose boundaries between your perception and their truth, between their artistry and your ineptitude. In PCP’s existential wonderland (and Tunabunny’s fifth album), those boundaries don’t exist. Hence, why I can never define this magical crew from Athens. For, in their boldest and bravest journey to date, definitions would only drag them down. – LA

Read our feature on Tunabunny.

Uniform - No Trending
State Laughter/Scavenger of Death
No Trending

Haunting, oppressive punk and hardcore isn’t anything new, but few bands deal out dread and malaise with the cold efficiency of Atlanta stalwarts Uniform. A couple of years in the making, No Trending never feels belabored or overwrought; instead each murky riff and deadpan vocal is infused with a cryptic energy that feels as raw and immediate as the group’s live shows. But what sets Uniform apart from many of their peers is the occasional interjection of an honest-to-god hook that helps break up the record’s grim, fatalistic atmosphere. After all, who says dark, unnerving punk rock can’t give off at least a glimmer of light? – GC

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