New releases that aren't leaked suddenly maybe aren't as magical as Stephanie Davidson or Witchbeam's dispatches from New Orleans or Free Music or YouTube videos or marathon premiums. But they happen just the same.
Baroque Primitiva - Alvarius B (Poon Village)
The promise of the Sun City Girls was that anything could happen at any time for any reason at all, and combing through their infinite body of work digs up all kinds of things that do happen, but Alan Bishop's new LP under his Alvarius B moniker is a space that (to be honest, I only suspect) is mostly new. And if it's not, it's still one of the most creative bedroom pop albums to come along in a while. But, even after the accessible leanings of 2005's Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset, who expected a Bishop to pull an R. Stevie Moore-style cover of "God Only Knows"? But, really, that's only a token cover. (Might as well mention a dry/wonderful take on John Barry's "You Only Live Twice" here, too.) Baroque Primitiva uses classical pop forms as a vehicle for Bishop's ethno-guitar meltdowns and fucked up humor. The loveliness makes an unexpectedly bitchin' frame for a guy who is only a guffaw away from transforming back into Uncle Jim.
Sonny Smith's 100 Records vol. 2: I Miss the Jams - "v/a" (Turn Up)
Probably not enough good things to say about Sonny Smith, who released the killer Tomorrow Is Alright last year, has been penning a column for Arthur, and spearheaded the bananas 100 Records project last year. Smith invented 100 fictional 7-inches by 100 fictional acts and commissioned cover art by 100 artists and then wrote enough A & B sides, to build a functional jukebox. Turn Up has two volumes of the tunes -- CD or five-45 box. With the exception of the East LA garage-punk of Cabezas Cortades ("Teenage Thugs"), few of the songs actually sound much like their names or illustrations, but it's a stupid argument: the songs are great, from the spazzed '90s lo-fi of Versatile Kyle's "Sick Girl" (whose cover does look like a fictional label from the go-go days of Olympia indie) to the girlgroup pop of Earth Girl Helen Brown's "I Wanna Do It" (whose cover suggests some sad sack protest numbers from, again, perhaps the Pacific Northwest). Or there's Prince Nedick's "Back In the Day (I Can't Stand It)," which looks like Japanese New Wave and sounds like The Monks. The music isn't as eclectic as the covers, which all tend to sound like the Sunsets, but that doesn't mean it's not totally awesome.
Social Music Record Club
Yeti/Chemical Imbalance/'buked & scorned el duderino Mike McGonigal returns with the subscription-only Social Music Club, which plays like a blown-up library of a typically eclectic Yeti mix. Got a couple volumes from heavies (members of The Clean and Sun City Girls), a disc of Jamaican gospel from the '60s and '70s, with a whole other batch to follow (last minstrel Abner Jay, and a heap of recent garage rock).
Cloudcraft (The Clean's Hamish Kilgour and itinerant beardo Theo Angell) make good on the jam: five long cuts with "Raga" in their names (the very traditional "High Tea Midmorning Raga") that are more than drift, less than daft, sometimes aren't instrumental, but rarely have words. Though there is occasional screaming. Ephemeral without being wispy. Once/future Sun City Girl Sir Richard Bishop takes off for the planet Venus, too, on Graviton Polarity Generator, a move beyond the heavy picking that's dominated his post-Girls work, and into some guitar/organ zones that match daintily with song titles like "Dingbatica Cathedral" and "Ectoplasm" and some serious mind-fractal Alex Gray-type cover art.
The songier corners of the Social Music Club's vast leather-filled library are occupied by a split single-sided 45 by Kilgour's Clean colleague, Bob Scott and The Bats, and Chicago's Califone. The Bats' contribution, "Holiday," is typically unassuming (it'll serve any ol' holiday, even just a weekend jaunt to the shore) and functionally catchy, though maybe not as good as their amazing Don't You Rise EP last year. Califone go for the simple/profound/stately holiday tune jugular with a mellotron/tambourine-vibing "Silver and Gold" that's actually quite effective. The deep cut winner of the set, following McGonigal's work on the Fire In My Bones compilation, is Noah Found Grace, collecting Jamaican gospel sides from the '60s and '70s. "Jamaican" and "gospel" are, perhaps expectedly, a boss combination, and there are heart-stoppingly evocative mutations of familiar melodies everywhere, especially Glen Francis's "All My Days Are Numbered."
Let's Do The Classics - The Mattoid (Thee Swan Recording Company)
Stupid/awesome covers from Nashville sung by a Finn. With added obscenity and a member of Lambchop. I never thought I'd ever have to hear another version of "Hallelujah" -- or, for that matter, "Here, There, and Everywhere," "I'm So Excited," or "America." And I bet, dear reader, neither did you. But we were both wrong. And so was I for, that matter, about assuming that this was The Mattoid's debut. Apparently, singer Ville Kiviniemi is en route back to Finland, which makes the 'toid's "America" well... not quite poignant, but not quite anything else, either.