Hartle Road — Maxx (Jenny Records)
Hartle Road have been gigging around Memphis and Oxford, Mississippi, for a while now but have only just recently picked up traction at dive bars around Midtown. The band hails from Columbus, Mississippi, so it makes sense that they'd make the drive to Memphis to draw a fan base, which now includes a lot of musicians loosely or directly associated with Goner Records. On Maxx, the band's debut LP, Hartle Road flirt with garage rock, Krautrock, and '60s psychedelia. Album opener "New!" is most certainly a nod to German band Neu!, and the song is aiming at the same target that bands like Neu! and La Düsseldorf hit back in the '70s.
The other nine tracks on Maxx stay within the groundwork laid out by "New!," with a few detours into post-punk thrown in for good measure. While things start to get weird on "To the Maxx," there aren't a whole lot of wrong turns on Maxx. The 10-track album is a concise and fully realized piece of work, and it serves as an interesting first look into the outsider world that the members of Hartle Road must find themselves living in given their home base.
It's a safe bet that this is the most interesting band from Columbus, Mississippi. Hell, they might even be one of the most interesting bands currently on the Murphy's/Lamplighter/Hi-Tone dirt circuit. Maxx was recorded in Mississippi by Myles Jordan and Max Hartleroad (hence the album name) and is available on vinyl and on cassette through Jenny Records. If you like Krautrock, off-center psych rock, or identify yourself as any kind of weirdo, Maxx is definitely recommended.
Favorite track: tied between "Garbage Wizard" and "Lemmy"
Various Artists — The 123s of Kid Soul (Numero Group)
Much like the record label Light in the Attic, Numero Group is responsible for digging up some of the best "forgotten music" out there, from stoner rock to forgotten soul. The 123s of Kid Soul is a collection of kid/teenage singers and bands who were seeking the same fame that the Jackson 5 found with their kid-centric songs. The album features 19 tracks, and while some might be a little, umm, childish, this isn't a kids-only affair, especially "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" cover by the Brothers Rap. If you were a fan of the Home Schooled compilation that came out on Numero a decade ago, The 123s of Kid Soul should definitely be in your collection.
Favorite Track: The Dynamics — "I'm Free, No Dope for Me"
NOTS — Cosmetic (Goner Records)NOTS opted to record their follow-up album to We Are NOTS with Keith Cooper instead of Doug Easley, making for a less polished, more "garage" sound.
Album opener "Blank Reflection" starts with a snare-centric beat before the synth rolls in and Natalie Hoffmann's familiar scream takes command of the song. The following eight songs don't exactly reinvent the sound that NOTS has been creating for the past four years, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Punk music — or synth punk, if you insist on calling it that — doesn't need to reinvent itself to remain relevant or interesting, and the members of NOTS know that. So do their fans.
Keeping that in mind, Cosmetic serves as an excellent second helping of NOTS. The songs are mostly short and sweet, and the dissonant synth parts have been brought to the front of the mix, which was probably a product of the Keith Cooper treatment. His studio might be getting a few more phone calls from local musicians once this album drops.
Favorite Track: "Cosmetic."