Check out releases from Mike Coulter, Great Northern, Edith Crash, Atomic and Rami Dearest
[Editor’s note: Year-end inventory has revealed a bunch of interesting music we really-truly-honestly meant to get to but didn’t. So in the interest of closing the book on 2015 …]
Mike Coulter, “Saviors”
Lifter were a grungey alternative-rock quartet who vanished after one album in 1996 in a sea of Interscope apathy and problems related to singer-guitarist Mike Coulter’s heroin addiction. Coulter resurfaced later as one of the characters in drummer/author John Albert’s brilliant 2005 book, “Wrecking Crew: The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates,” a story about a bunch of misfits who found redemption by playing adult league baseball.
Coulter’s musical redemption finally arrived this year with the release of “Saviors,” a long-in-the-works solo album helmed by producer Norm Block. It’s almost a novel itself, a jaw-dropping 73-minute double-LP in which the 51-year-old looks on the bright side (“Summer” and “Lollipop”), nods at the dark side (“My Favorite Shirt” and “Saviors”) and finishes with the 18-minute Swans-meet-Spiritualized opus “Waitress.” Block, who released the album through his Cautionary Tail imprint, pulled out all the stops, getting some 20 musicians to contribute on the album, including the likes of Jen Turner and Jonny Polonsky.
“I would like to think people can take away some kind of redemption from listening to this,” says Coulter, who for years “didn’t want anything to do with music” but gradually found that he missed it. “Five years ago I had just gotten out of rehab again and it was something I turned to, just trying over and over again to get out of the bleakness of drugs. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great people in my life — people’s who’ve been ready to help me battle my personal demons.”
And, as it turns out, help him create what he calls “the record I’ve always wanted to make.”
Great Northern, “Tremors”
Great Northern’s ascendant pop anthems first became the toast of Silver Lake in the mid-Aughts, and the duo of Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixler released two albums, “Trading Twilight for Daylight” and “Remind Me Where the Light Is,” on L.A.-based Eenie Meenie Records in 2007 and ’09, respectively. “Tremors” was actually started in 2010 and finished in 2013, but the duo released only a trickle of singles, including the explosive “Holes” in 2012. Finally, in June of this year, they quietly released the album on Bandcamp (and embarked on a new project called W.A.R.S.). A cynical observer might posit that if Stolte and Bixler were twentysomethings instead of, well, older, some label would have come calling about “Tremors,” with its big choruses, Stolte’s emotion-drenched vocals and sharp, atmospheric production. Whether propelled by guitars or synths, the songs in sum are the best of the duo’s catalog. If this indeed is their swan song, it’s a pretty great flight.
Edith Crash, “Partir”
No album in recent memory makes me wish I could revisit my high school French than Edith Crash’s “Partir.” The title, of course, translates to “go” — and the songs in general fit into the many meanings of that simple verb. Crash, who was born in Perpignan, France, and spent her teen years in Spain before moving to Los Angeles, pays tribute to her late mother on the album, a guitar-and-drums affair that accentuates her intense poetry (thankfully, the lyrics on Bandcamp have translations). Produced by Alain Johannes, “Partir” is folk like Patti Smith folk and blues like PJ Harvey is blues. She performs as a one-woman band [she’s playing the Lost Knight, right before Avi Buffalo, on New Year’s Eve], so be prepared for a haunting, yet compelling, set. “Perdu La Foi” translates to “Lost Faith” and starts: “Prayed to God / Don’t see a thing / Neither his hand / Nor a gleam of hope / Seems like this is the end.”
Atomic Tom, “ERA”
Alternative rock quartet Atomic Tom are another band on the rebound from rocky major-label dealings — they released “The Moment” in 2010, parted ways with Republic in 2012, moved from Brooklyn to L.A. in 2013 (losing a founding member in the process) and spent the better part of three years recording “ERA” in their Silver Lake apartment. “All the songs on this album were written and inspired by circumstances,” singer Luke White says. “Having dropped our label, lost half our team, lost our bass player, all our finances dried up, we felt our backs against the wall. We felt a loss of all the momentum we had built. We were overwhelmed by the idea of starting from scratch again. We felt pretty badly beaten up.” There’s no shortage of motivational fodder on the album, which recalls a lot of Brit-rock heroes over the past decade or so (and perhaps the Killers). “Now or Never” reflects on the band’s move-forward attitude; in “Music Makes the Heart Grow Stronger,” a chorus of vocals advise where to go when “everyone’s against you;” and “Someone to Love” ought to be on rock radio, some way, somewhere.
Rami Dearest, “Chairs With Arms”
Perhaps the most left-field release of the year came from Rami Dearest, who is Rami Perlman — once of the L.A. dance-rock band Something for Rockets (an album and two EPs, 2004-07) and now, working as LondonBridge, a resident DJ at Space Yacht in Hollywood. It turns out that in the months post-Something for Rockets, he made an album with Tom Biller, Mike Fratantuno, Jeff Kite, Max Bernstein, Michael Corcoran and Eric Goldman. It was shelved for more than five years until Perlman, in kind of oh-by-the-way fashion, posted it to Soundcloud as a free download. It’s a wry, catchy pop album, whether the songs are piano-based (“Pictures on the Wall”) or guitar-driven (“You Offered Up Yourself.”). It’s not embeddable, so go here to stream and download “Chairs With Arms.”