Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg

Hung Toys – Lurid (Album Review, Stream)

hung toys

There have been several dozen records unveiled in the past few weeks that merit attention. One of the latest in that string of releases has been flying completely under the radar despite the pedigree of the musician responsible. While Geronimo! weren’t the most well-known band but they meant a lot to a small but devoted following. I was happy to count myself among the converted and having the band headline this site’s first showcase on their farewell tour was something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. However, the more you pour yourself into something, the more it stings when the container shatters.

While Geronimo! is officially over, a few of the bands members are working on new projects- the latest being guitarist/vocalist Kelly Johnson’s solo venture Hung Toys. Earlier this week, Johnson’s project released Lurid a full-length collection that finds the songwriter immediately diving back into the propulsive effects of his old project. Opener “Gotta Drink Some Water” is a monster of a basement punk song that’s as bruising as it is intriguing. It’d be easy for the rest of Lurid to fall short in the song’s tremendous wake but Johnson manages to subvert and expand central ideas across the rest of the record, exploring a range of styles that recall everyone from Terry Malts to, of course, Geronimo!.

All of Lurid comes off as an incendiary gut-punch and only the title track, the record’s sprawling closer, exceeds the 2 minute and 10 second mark. At times the record plays like a gambit and runs the risk of appearing as a genre exercise. By the time the record’s halfway mark gets highlighted by the searing instrumental attack that is “Blendered”, it becomes clear that Johnson’s songwriting is too capable (and substantial) to be reduced to something that hackneyed. Lurid is a record that rewards investment and begs for repeat listens, wielding its unerring immediacy as a formidable weapon. Powerful, brute, and spectacular, Lurid stands as one of 2015’s most welcome- and unexpected- entries.

Listen to Lurid below and explore a list of some of the best records to surface over the past two weeks.

The Yolks – Don’t Cry Anymore
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs
Alimony Hustle – BNOC b/w Zero Chill
Bob Keelaghan – Country Fresh: A Ghost Guitar Soundtrack
Hot Flash Heat Wave – Neapolitan
James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg – Ambsace
Salad Boys – Metalmania
Astronauts, etc – Mind Out Wandering
Nuclear Age – The Distinct Sounds of…
Pontiak – NOPE/JEPPE
Roger Lion – Roger Lion
Media Jeweler – $99 R/T Hawaii
Broomfiller – Third Stage Propellor Index
Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed
Baston – Gesture
Yonatan Gat & Gal Lazer – Physical Copy
Carroll – Carroll
Blonde Summer – Paradise
Alone at 3AM – Show the Blood
Tedo Stone – To the Marshes
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Sicario
Diät – Positive Energy
BIG|BRAVE – Au De La
Rat Columns – Do You Remember Real Pain
Wand – 1000 Days
Tommy Stinson – L.M.A..O.
Lucern Raze – Happy & Astray
Summer Twins – Limbo
Blessed Feathers – There Will Be No Sad Tomorrow
Daniel Klag – Reality and Self
Dead Heavens – Adderall Highway
Loma Prieta – Self Portrait
Spencer Radcliffe – Looking In
Holy ’57 – Au Naturel

Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)

Diet Cig VIII

And the hits just keep on coming. While Wednesday was packed to the gills with great new content, today’s haul may make it look slim in comparison. A few music videos made their marks and included the likes of Cotillon’s hazy “Convenience“, Julia Holter’s tender “Feel You“, and In Tall Buildings’ deceptively intuitive “Flare Gun“. Full streams made just as strong of an impression through incredible demos from Dan Webb & the Spiders and Chondria, while Seulah and Bad Bad Hats capped off the format’s Thursday run with a pair of intriguing long-players (Phase III and Psychic Reader, respectively).

As for single streams, the week managed to get even stronger via the staggering amount of genuinely great new songs that were made publicly available. Yuck sounded reinvigorated on “Hold Me Closer“, Wild Moth revealed a set of ever-sharpening teeth with “Buried“, Le Tour embraced their most eclectic sensibilities in “Friend“, and Long Limbs gave Art Is Hard another notch in their white-hot winning streak through the release of “Past Tense“. Heaters continued to dive down the nightmarish psychedelic rabbit hole they’ve been traversing in “Propane“, FUR struck the perfect balance between power pop and indie pop with the charming “Creature“, Glass Vault produced some compelling dream pop with “Sojourn“, SOCIETY released the transcendental, genre-demolishing “Protocol“, and James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg’s ethereal acoustic duet “Up of Stairs” ensured the day was packed with intensive listening.

While, as always, all of those titles hyperlinked above are worth the traveling that accompanies a click, today’s feature (once again) falls on two familiar faces: Diet Cig. Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman already made a strong impression with what proved to simultaneously be one of the most hyper-charged and carefree releases of 2015, Over Easy, which has continued receiving attention and picking up accolades as time surges forward. Now, they’re set to capitalize on that momentum with a just-announced 7″ that’s headlined by “Sleep Talk”.

Guitarist/vocalist has always reveled in a blunt honesty that’s delivered with a coy wink and the opening lines of “Pillow Talk” provides that approach with an ample spotlight. As a narrative wind-up, those insights quickly slide the scale from sly to scathing until the moment of truth hits, accompanied by a frenzied burst of downstrokes and power drumming. It’s a moment of self-acceptance that feels like it’s bordering on catharsis, underlined by the couplet that toppled the breaking point: “Only here under obligation/it’s hard to pretend this is a vacation.”

What follows is a surprisingly wrenching tale of self-exploration that’s anchored in the ruins of a relationship. Just as a charging middle section seems like it’s threatening to speed off into a reckless oblivion, “Sleep Talk” scales itself back for an absolutely gorgeous final figure. Luciano’s vocals are overlayed to provide a slightly unsettling (but frighteningly compelling) chorus effect as a bed for the most expressive and refined guitar playing of Diet Cig’s (admittedly limited) discography to date.

It’s a genuinely stunning moment in a great song that suggests Diet Cig may have much bigger things in store for the horizon. As the last refrain of “If I told you I loved you/I don’t know who/it would scare away faster” comes cascading down, it becomes very clear that “Sleep Talk” isn’t just going to stand as a defining moment in the emerging band’s career but as a deeply personal monument to a lot of people harboring varying levels of insecurity. This is damaged romanticism at its absolute finest and yet another perfect example of why people should be paying even closer attention to a band that’s not even close to getting their due.

Listen to “Sleep Talk” below and pre-order the 7″ from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter (in conjunction with Art Is Hard) ahead of its September 18 release date here. Beneath the embed watch a live clip of the duo performing the records B-side, “Dinner Date”.