ANALOG ADVENTURES: Handwritten Inclusions

I get a lot of random records, tapes, and books in the mail, because publicists forget that outlets for which I used to work aren’t around anymore, or someone finds the address hidden on my website, or… whatever. This is a way to keep them from piling up uselessly in the corner of the office.

The OSYX
Can I just say that handwritten notes are the best goddamn thing in the world to get with a record? There’s something to be said for vinyl randomly showing up at one’s house, sure, but not only did the OSYX‘s self-titled debut include a note about their label, This Could Go Boom! (more on that in a minute), but TCGB!’s Ara Casey included a postcard going a little further into what the label’s about. Casey describes the TCGB! model as being like “Soundgirls meets Dischord…” It’s a nonprofit label, amplifying the music works of womxn and nonbinary artists, and while, yes, we review everything that comes through the door here for Analog Adventures, a mission like that gets your record pushed up to the top of the stack.

As to the OSYX’s record: right off the bat, the striking logo artwork from guitarist / vocalist Selena Benally grabs you. It’s the sort of thing which is distinctive, but not pigeonholing. This LP could be any number of genres, but you’re not going to know what it is until you drop the needle. Flipping the cover over and seeing that the OSYX has violin, cello, and banjo, in addition to the usual guitar / bass drums instrumentation, along with three credited vocalists is another eyebrow-raising bit of interest.

So, what have we, here? Big sounds. Opening cut “Carry It With Me” grinds along like a freight train, with the harmonies soaring being the sneered lead vocals. Its industrial groove sets the pace for the next pair of songs, “Six Feet Under” and “Bicoastal,” but the instrumental, “Dog Fight,” which ends the first side, picks up the pace and swings a little bit more.

Side B kicks off the with dirge-like sea chanty, “Scavengers,” and concludes with the building, climbing, and soaring “Bad Omen,” which – judging by reviews – is how the OSYX ends their sets, and I can see why – the way this song mixes banjo strums, a pounding rhythm section, and wordless vocal cries leaves you wrung out and ready for a drink afterward.

The OSYX’s debut album is out Friday, October 11, on This Could Go Boom! You can snag it from Bandcamp. Our copy came on heavyweight black vinyl with a download code, but there’s a limited-edition blue version available, as well. The inner sleeve is one of those fancy anti-static, no-scuff plastic liners, too, which is a nice audiophile touch.

AFI’s All Hallow’s E.P

Just in time for Halloween, AFI‘s All Hallow’s E.P. gets a 20th anniversary reissue. Another collaboration between Nitro Records and Craft Recordings, this is the third repress of what was originally a 7-inch record. Since the initial release, it’s been on 10-inch in various colors, but for this anniversary edition, we get a picture disc.

Now, I’m not normally a picture disc person: I certainly don’t seek them out, because the older versions were basically a sheet of paper between two sides of clear vinyl, and the sound quality was fairly atrocious, to say nothing of occasional splitting. Nowadays, however, picture discs sound pretty good. I’ve been listening to these four songs pretty much since they came out, and even cranked through the stereo, All Hallow’s sounds good and punchy.

The A side features the original EP artwork, and there’s a colorized version of the original center label pumpkin (with a 20 kind of photoshopped next to it) on the B side. The jacket has a cutout on the front to showcase the artwork on the disc, but it’s a little fuzzy, due to the antistatic sleeve the record comes in. I appreciate the irony of keeping the disc in good shape, so you can play it, but at the expense of a picture disc’s entire raison d’être. There’s a lyric sheet, too.

This and The Art of Drowning are kind of like AFI’s last gasp as a punk band before really leaning hard into the goth-edged pop stuff. I kind of miss the hardcore AFI I saw play a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Crazy” during an all-ages matinee that Ensign didn’t show up for. Anyhow, the key cuts are the cover of the Misfits’ “Halloween” and “Totalimmortal,” which I like way more than “The Boy Who Destroyed the World.”

AFI’s All Hallow’s E.P. is out on Friday, October 26. You can pre-order it from the Craft Recordings store.

Other Americans OA2

Speaking of EPs, the Kansas City dance-pop foursome, Other Americans, just dropped their latest. Entitled OA2, it’s four tracks, along with remixes of each. The cassette version of the EP comes on pink, which is dope as hell, and the artwork on the J-card is striking. Looks like artist josh Berwanger (of the band Berwanger, Only Children, and the Anniversary) has picked up some skills from his buddy, Jay Shaw.

The music is pretty darn lovely. It’s very Electric Youth, but it hits a little harder, thanks to the band’s background in bands like the Architects and the Late Night Callers. Think of Berlin’s Pleasure Victim and a song like “The Metro” as a template, ran through the modern filter of something like the liberated joy of Icona Pop’s “I Love It” (especially on “Runaway King”) or the darkly lascivious throb of Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La” (on the MensaDeathsquard SparklingDoom remix of “Salt Mines”).

This isn’t to say that the band is just pulling from these artists. Oh no no. “Ship of the Desert” is gloriously Italian, despite hailing from the Midwestern confines of Kansas City, and really, the way this whole EP sparkles, it might as well be dusted with glitter and sprayed with champagne. I wish I had a way to tell you how to get it, but I don’t, so I’m sorry. You can find it on Spotify to hear (and you should), but man, these cassettes just look so cool.

Daystar The Complete Recordings
When a band calls their record The Complete Recordings, you kind of assume that it’s a posthumous discography. Such is not the case for Portland’s Daystar, as this is actually their debut LP, getting released courtesy of a successful Kickstarter campaign for the pre-order. I was in on the “RIYL: Big Star, Badfinger, Zeus, the Raconteurs, Cheap Trick” aspect of the band, because obviously, but it was when I dropped the needle on the LP that I really thanked my lucky stars that the album showed up in my mailbox.

Sure, they have all of those bands’ hallmarks – harmonies, catchy guitars, solid riffs, and melodies for days – but the manner in which Daystar pulls all of this together is just brilliant. Case in point: the boogie of “People Get Lonely” is the best boogie-rock version of the Jayhawks I’ve ever heard in my life, and I can’t get enough of it. All told, The Complete Recordings ends up being the perfect Sunday morning record. It makes me want to drink coffee and a pet a cat while sitting in the sunshine, just getting deep into the songs.

Oh, and throwing it back to the handwritten note from TCGB!, the cats in Daystar autographed the LP mailer the LP came in. That’s pretty cool, and a nifty little touch, but it’s when you start digging inside the LP jacket that you find the really cool stuff. The liner notes are in a screen-printed, hand-stitched booklet? The download code is on a postcard, and they give you two of them, so you can send one to a friend. It’s absolutely joyous to discover these things as you spin the record, and it really shows just how much thought a band can put into making a record special without going nuts on spot varnished covers or crazy vinyl variants.

The Complete Recordings is out Friday, October 26, and you can pre-order it on Bandcamp.

Faultfinder Brother’s Milk

Kansas City’s Faultfinder broke up last year, but their second LP, Brother’s Milk, just came out last month on Black Site, the record label cooperative responsible for recent releases from the likes of Truck Stop Love, Chess Club, and Red Kate. While the label’s manifesto states “Music is not a business; Punk is not a brand, and DIY is not a lifestyle to be consumed,” a lot of the releases on Black Site have had a distinctly midwestern punk ‘n’ roll flair to them, so Faultfinder’s “marriage of Black Sabbath and Flipper” comes as a refreshing change of pace.

It’s dirgey as fuck, sounds like the sound of the world ending, and reminds me nothing so much as the sludge-punk version of Apocalypse Hoboken. If there’s something I’ve always wanted, it’s more bands to take the yoke of angry-yet-depressed vibe and dissonant edges of the Chicago band’s House of the Rising Son of a Bitch, and goddamn if Faultfinder didn’t do it in their own, inimitable way.

And now they’re gone. Fuck.

The artwork looks kind of gothy and maybe like black metal, but songs like “Fruitless Hump” are stop-and-start, lurchingly menacing pieces of doom punk which should be listened to in a blacked-out basement, preparing for the inevitable end of the world. Like the packaging, it’s black and white on black. The heavyweight, 140-gram vinyl will survive the impending apocalypse, while providing its soundtrack.

Faultfinder’s Brother’s Milk is out now from Black Site and available to buy on Bandcamp.

Bombadil Beautiful Country

Our last release came in the mail on a rainy Saturday, and couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. If there was a rainy Saturday LP, it’s the latest from Durham, North Carolina’s Bombadil, Beautiful Country. I’ve been a fan of the band since a co-worker introduced me to them back around the time of their debut in 2006. Since then, I’ve kind of drifted in and out of listening to the folk-country trio, but damned if this record wasn’t the best point of re-entry.

Maybe I’m just burnt out from far too many folk-punk bands, or indie folk groups, or just so much fucking strumming that I wonder if anyone can fingerpick at all anymore, but the plucked notes of “On A Seashore” brought me so much joy that I almost missed Kate Rhudy’s counterpoint vocals to the glorious harmonies of Daniel Michalak, James Phillips, and Stacy Harden.

Same goes for me reading the lyric sheet: I wanted to know just why a song was called “Pillows and Prine,” then started reading along for “Goodwill Socks,” and just kept flipping the record over to luxuriate in Beautiful Country, that I completely missed the series of essays from the band members and friend Ken Rumble. They’re heartwarming, and if you read them while listening to the racing (for Bombadil, at least) instrumental, “Girl With A Kite,” you might tear up a little.

Bombadil’s Beautiful Country is out now on Ramseur Records and available to buy on Bandcamp.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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