Jagwar Ma - Howlin’
Jagwar Ma have at least one Huge Fan: Noel Gallagher recently claimed he was too busy singing the praises of the Australian synth-rock duo to reform Oasis. Given the famously hard-to-please Britpop guitarist’s upbringing on the dancefloor-minded “Madchester” pop scene, it’s plain to see the elder Gallagher’s attraction to the music of Jagwar Ma members Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield (who claims Noel was his childhood hero). The music of debut album Howlin’ features grooving bass and pulsing 808s akin to the Happy Mondays, and tracks like the Tough Alliance-groove of “Exercise”, the hypnotic pulse of “Four”, and the bouncy “Uncertainty” would have fit right in at the Hacienda nightclub. The duo also channels the Stone Roses at their most psychedelic on “Man I Need”, invoking guitarist John Squire’s sonic guitar eccentricities. Though Jagwar Ma are far from a nostalgia act, and Howlin’ is a diverse and engaging record that demonstrates the duo’s alacrity to evoke their predecessors while exploring a unique modern edge to dance-rock.
Standout track: “Uncertainty”
J. Roddy Walston & the Business - Essential Tremors
Formed in Cleveland, Tennessee in 2002, J. Roddy Walston & the Business return with their third album Essential Tremors, named after a nervous-system disorder singer/guitarist/pianist Walston suffers from. Known for their frenzied live performances in which Walston is known to bang down furiously on his upright piano (he insists on an actual piano rather than a less-heavy keyboard: you wouldn’t make a guitarist play a keytar, he claims), the now Baltimore-based quartet infuse their hook-heavy rock n’ roll with a Southern swagger reminiscent of early Kings of Leon on Tremors. Opener and first single “Heavy Bells” propels with fuzz-rock guitar fury and Walston’s throat-shredding vocals, kicking off the record on a high note (literally). “Black Light” is a Black Keys-style thumper, and “Take It As It Comes” is another rollicking highlight with lyrics to match the band’s roll-with-the-punches groove.
Standout: “Heavy Bells”
Moondoggies - Adiós I’m a Ghost
The title of Moondoggies’ third release on the Hardly Art label is as much a gag as it is a mantra: frontman Kevin Murphy claims “I hope this album relays our want to have no form”, i.e. like a ghost. Murphy is probably referring to the Seattle five-piece’s flux in the band’s lineup and tonal shifts, because the songs on Adios certainly have form. Elements of folk, southern blues, and Pacific Northwest indie all factor in to Moondoggies’ current manifestation, in the vein of fellow northwesterners Blitzen Trapper. The record ranges from energetic jams akin to the band’s earlier albums like “Red Eye” and “Don’t Ask Why” to easygoing country-tinged gems like “Midnight Owl” and “Stop Signs”. Given the new sounds and genres Moondoggies have successfully embraced here, Murphy and company are taking strides towards the “boundary-less existence” they aim to achieve.
Standout track: “Don’t Ask Why”