Bottle It In (Matador)
Caveat: I was a big fan of Kurt Vile’s 2013 album Wakin on a Pretty Daze until I went to his show and watched him basically perform the album note for note. What was entrancing became plain boring, and it’s been hard to hear his subsequent stuff without lingering bitterness. Despite enjoyable moments, like the sun-dappled “Rollin With the Flow,” Bottle It In doesn’t make amends over the course of nearly 80 slack-ass minutes. Vile still sounds like the class clown who smiles at the teacher and gets away with it; his songs are still formless six-string meanderings; and he still writes stoner’s journal lyrics that come off less buzzed than blunted.
Tokyo’s Kikagaku Moyo released one of the best psychedelic albums of 2016, House in the Tall Grass, which included the head-turning monster groove of “Green Sugar.” When Masana Temples opens with a two-minute drone, it makes you wonder if the band has stared a Relix feature in the face and blinked, but the album gets on track, another gooey suspension of acid rock, Japanese folk, and kraut-y groove. The results are reminiscent of Dungen and Boogarins, varied and engaging, and Temples also gets a perfect closer in the folky, acoustic “Blanket Song.”
Paycheck (Nice Swan)
Nineties vibes abound on this four- song EP from Amsterdam’s Pip Blom —which is the singer’s name and also the band name, because, great name. Pip Blom has been building a catalog slowly over the last couple of years, releasing a song or two at a time, which seems a wise move since there ain’t a whole lotta variety, jam to jam. But bent guitar notes and bratty sexiness reminiscent of Kim Deal animate the raucous “Pussycat,” the choogly “The Shed,” and the menacing “Come Home.”
Ethers (Trouble In Mind)
Ethers rises from the ashes of Chicago bands Heavy Times, Outer Minds, Radar Eyes, and The Runnies, the combined four names of which should give you a good idea of what Ethers sounds like: solidly built, unpretentious Nuggets-y punk rock. Reporting for duty are garagey organ, stabbing guitar chords, bass flapping in the breeze, and rudimentary but stalwart drumming. Bo Hansen doesn’t have much range to his weathered, slightly wounded voice—but you probably knew that, too—also, that it doesn’t much matter.
Magic Ship (Bella Union)
Eight years after their debut, vocal trio Mountain Man picks right back up and makes an album so gorgeous it hurts. Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath met in college, but their voices blend so seamlessly it’s hard to believe they’re not triplets. On her work in Sylvan Esso, Meath’s vocals are delivered in electropop wrapping paper; here she and her singing partners are unadorned, save for an occasional acoustic guitar. Though there’s an unmistakable Appalachian influence (they even cover the traditional “Bright Morning Stars”), Mountain Man transcends homage and histrionic revivalism. Their voices, pure but not precious, sound like they spring from the ground; of course we can hear birds singing back from time to time. From the trancey “Rang Tang Ring Toon” to the longing “Blue Mountain” to the timeless “Fish,” Magic Ship is a serene delight.