"The Witch (Made to Measure)"
Well, that'll teach me to lose track of Clinic for a few years. All of a sudden these Liverpool dudes have let some grit and circumstance into their over-mannered garage rock. It's a very, very good look for 'em—even though they remain about as thrilling as a glass of warm milk.
CONTROLLED DISSONANCE VS. LIVING IN PHOTOGRAPHS
"Love: Washout Mix"
This has gotta be what the overall ambiance sounds like on the outskirts of purgatory as wayward souls drift into heaven. The angry storm clouds clear, the distant rumble of thunder subsides, and the sun shines down on you serenely, reassuring and paternal, as if to say, "Calm down, that cut will heal, everything's gonna be all right, let's go get a 7-11 Slurpee."
"Blown Out (Gold Doubloons and Pcs of 8)"
An avalanche of cringe-worthy metaphors—cf. "She's the glue that holds me together/She is my pirate treasure," ugh—is almost redeemed by the electric boogie-blues tricks pulled here. Almost.
These Portland, Oregon, instrumentalists and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra are like two sides of the same coin, except where those fun-for-the-whole-family globetrotters traffic in symphonic winter-solstice majesty, Grails offer a down-tuned, guitar-heavy version of same that's too muscular to be post-rock and too coherent (lately, anyway) to be noise.
THE NORTH SEA
Keep out, no trespassing, solicitors will be shot on sight: normals, this means you. So this Oklahoma drone mensch (Brad Rose, take a bow) barricades himself and his compound with barbed-wire drones studded with serrated radio refuse, razor-tipped scree guitar, and a hovering cloud of carnivorous feedback, just daring you to try and get at him.