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Local Record Reviews

Angry Angles, Bo-Keys, and Alicja-pop.



Angry Angles — Angry Angles (Goner Records)

The latest Jay Reatard reissue from Goner Records focuses on almost all the recorded material from one of his most underrated bands: Angry Angles. In a feature on the Angry Angles that appeared in the Flyer in January, Goner Records co-owner Zac Ives called the band "the perfect time for Jay," as it marked an important period in his career. Angry Angles would be the last time Reatard ever wrote songs with someone other than himself, save for a few appearances by drummer Billy Hayes on the Matador Records singles and a couple recording sessions with Seth Sutton (Useless Eaters) that were never released.

The 17 tracks on Angry Angles span the band's short but productive career that included the release of a handful of singles and a couple live recordings that weren't available until now. While a couple of these songs would wind up on the seminal Jay Reatard album Blood Visions, Angry Angles serves as a window into the world of one of Memphis' most prolific and popular songwriters of the last 20 years. Songs like "You Fell In," a track about the '70s horror movie The Pit, and "She's Dead" have long been buried treasure featured on the Memphis garage punk map but were widely unavailable due to the songs' being released on small-run singles. Then there are the cover songs, the amazing "Blockhead" (Devo), "Memphis Creep" (Oblivians), and "The 15th" (Wire) all point to not only what was influencing the Angry Angles, but also to the direction that Jay Reatard's solo years would take.

While the Reatards reissues showed a young delinquent honing his craft and the Lost Sounds reissue showcased an "I can do anything" mindset, the Angry Angles album shines light on a local artist who was about to explode on the national scene before burning too bright.

The street date for Angry Angles is Friday, May 20th, but Goner Records has been selling the album since Record Store Day. If you're lucky, this piece of Memphis history may still be available on limited color vinyl. One can only hope Goner will dig up some unreleased Final Solutions songs next.

Favorite Song: "You Fell In"

The Bo-Keys — Heartaches by the Number (Omnivore Recordings)

Recorded locally at Electrophonic Studio, Heartaches by the Number is the third album from local soul group the Bo-Keys. Produced by Emmy winner Scott Bomar, the 10-track album is a genre-bending experience that features originals as well as covers by artists like Swamp Dogg and Merle Haggard. Local guitar player John Paul Keith joins the Bo-Keys on this album, and other guests include the Masqueraders and Hi-Records artist Don Bryant.

With the intent of sounding like a collection of songs you'd hear on a jukebox in a honky-tonk bar in Mississippi, Heartaches by the Number mixes original Bo-Key songs with country standards from Hank Williams, as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Charlie Rich, and Ray Price. While this could be dismissed as a cover album, the Bo-Keys put their signature sound all over these songs, and lead singer Percy Wiggins has never sounded better. On songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "The Longer You Wait," Wiggins is at the top of his game, proving that the Bo-Keys can tackle any genre and still make it undeniably their own.

Favorite Track: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"

Alicja-pop — Rats: Home Recordings 2009-2013

(Certified PR Records)

Alicja Trout has been quietly creating off-kilter pop songs under the name Alicja-pop for the past seven years. Recorded in her home, the 10 songs on Rats: Home Recordings 2009-2013 showcase the singer's versatility as a songwriter, as the tracks are far removed from her bands like River City Tanlines, Lost Sounds, or Fresh Flesh.

"I come from loud rock-and-roll bands like Lost Sounds and River City Tanlines, but I have another side. I love pop hooks and fun melodies. I love keyboard icing and lyrics about sweet love. These are my songs I never really intended for anyone to hear. I was just making sounds for my own enjoyment," explains Trout on the liner notes of this album. While this must be the most "chill" record Trout has released, it's still a complex creation, with the vibe of the album changing direction with each passing song. "Close ur Eyes" features tons of analog synth with a jangly guitar riff buried underneath, while "I Play the Fool" finds Trout doing her best pop croon over a classic Memphis garage-rock riff.

One of Trout's best qualities as a songwriter is her ability to make writing music seem so effortless, and that skill is on full display throughout Rats. Sure, it's a compilation of four years of songwriting, but there is a cohesiveness here that holds these one-and-done songs together.

If anything, Rats shows that Trout can venture into new musical territory without sounding like she's just goofing around in a home studio. The song "Shadow Hills" is probably the most far-removed from the bar-rock anthems she created with the River City Tanlines, as it moves into some baroque pop territory. The liner notes imply that record label Certified PR chose 10 songs out of a plethora of home recordings Trout has accumulated over the years, meaning there's got to be more gems sitting around somewhere. Hopefully, the next collection is released soon.

Favorite Track: "I Can't Remember."

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