Kontinuum – “No Need to Reason” (2018)

I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen Kontinuum perform live. Four? Five? We saw them at Airwaves a month or so ago and they sounded great, as always. It’s weird though – I can’t remember ever going out with the specific intent of seeing Kontinuum… it’s more that they happened to be playing on the same card as other bands we wanted to see. Inevitably we’d see them on the bill as well and say, “oh, and Kontinuum is playing there too, nice”. And they’re certainly more than good enough to keep us around to wait for them as well.

The quintet put out three albums, most recently No Need to Reason in 2018, an effort that was also their first on vinyl. I picked it up during Airwaves because hey, Kontinuum are solid. And that enjoyment I have for them live carries over onto the recording, albeit it in a somewhat different way. The tracks on No Need to Reason are more polished than the band’s live sound, lacking a bit of their on-stage punch and taking on a smoother patina (“Warm Blood” probably comes closest to reflecting Kontinuum in concert). But lest you think that’s a criticism, it’s not. The sound is just a bit different, that’s all. The three guitar attack is still here, though, creating a dense curtain of sound serving as the backdrop for what is often melancholy vocals, perhaps nowhere coming together as well as on the title track.

You can check out No Need to Reason on Bandcamp HERE. On vinyl it’s available in three different colors – black (edition of 350), blue (300), and violet (100). If my math’s right, that means the vinyl is limited to only 750 copies across all colors, so it’s fairly limited.

Grísalappalísa – “Týnda Rásin” (2019)

After nearly a decade together Grísalappalísa are calling it quits, and they’re going out in style with one final album, Týnda Rásin, the vinyl pressing including a 20-page full-sized color booklet of photos and lyrics. But despite the prettiness of the packaging, the album itself came from a dark place. Per the band:

This album is about a frequency that no one tunes into, a channel virtually hidden from our perception and whose broadcasts reach only a deep, dark void. It is an echo chamber, a path you find yourself in in the darker times of life and swallows you, ironically, by your own doing. For us, this channel represents depression, anxiety and isolation, to be at a crossroads with yourself and on the margins of society. It’s about experiencing yourself as a failure, an exposure of yourself and the sudden realisation that you won’t be the rockstar that the 16-year-old you wanted to be.

I can’t speak to Týnda Rásin’s lyrical message since the vocals are in Icelandic, but the music and the vocal tone support this view. It’s an album of varying styles, not in that there is a country song followed by something hip hop, but more within the general indie rock space that Grísalappalísa exists in (♠). Týnda Rásin lacks a sonic cohesiveness. But that’s not intended as an insult, simply an observation. You’ve got the punkish “Kvæðaþjófurinn” (my favorite track) followed by a more spoken-word-styled number in “Keyri Heim Á Þorláksmessu”, all of it tied together by and underlying angst, a sense of anomie. And they do stretch the limits, especially on the experimental, free-jazz-like “Taugaáfall Í Bónus” with its vocal anxiety mirrored by the emotional and unstructured piano.

You can give it a listen for yourself HERE. I don’t see the vinyl listed on Bandcamp right now, but this came out on the Reykjavik Record Shop imprint, so I’m sure you can contact the shop directly if you want to get your hands on a physical copy.

(♠) OK, with the possible exception of the very country “Undir Sterku Flúorljósi” that is…

Pink Street Boys – “Heiglar” (2019)

The self-proclaimed “LOUDEST BAND IN THE WORLD” (IN ALL CAPS!) is back, and they’re as sweaty and grungy and lo-fi as ever. I speak, of course, of Pink Street Boys, who are here to smoke all your cigs, drink all your beer, and probably leave behind a few new and unidentifiable stains on the furniture.

Heiglar is the Boys’ four full-length and their first on the Reykjavik Record Shop label. And it’s clear that their mission hasn’t changed – they play straight-forward garage rock. Nothing fancier than maybe an effects pedal. Elements of garage, surf, and psych meld together into a sticky stew with a slight aftertaste of last night’s bad decisions. From the surf punk of “Hvunndagshetjur” to the full-throated aggro of “Róni” to the raspy rockabilly of “Á Rúntinum” the Boys from the mean streets of Kópavogur offer no respite, no opportunity to catch your breath outside of the few seconds of silence between each of Heiglar‘s 10 songs.

The official release of this bad boy was just a few days ago, so I don’t see it up anywhere on the interwebs at the moment. That being said, I know Reynir over at Reykjavik Record Shop, that killer combo of label and record store, will be happy to sell you one, so hit him up online and get a copy of this grimy wax for yourself.

Brött Brekka – “Suicidal Brand Loyalty” (2019)

I pretty much don’t know anything at all about Brött Brekka, other than that their debut album Suicidal Brand Loyalty just dropped earlier this month. So let’s give it a spin, shall we?

There’s a bit to unpack here. Sometimes slow and sludgy, other times with an indie rock tempo, Brött Brekka continuously shift musical gears throughout Suicidal Brand Loyalty, even doing so within songs. They tagged themselves as “mathrock” on Bandcamp, and for once that is an apt description. I’m no expert on timing signatures, but there’s disjointedness to some of the passages, that sort of uncomfortable feeling you get when you hear non-standard timing. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Not at all. “Give Me a Minute” is an all-too-brief high point, a heavy jam with a bit of early 2000s vocal disdain clocking in at 1:19, though it bleeds seamless into “Minute Give” as if the pair were in fact the same song. “King of the Moon” carries a punk vibe, particularly in the vocals, though with a very unpunk guitar solo. Meanwhile the spoken vocals on “The Twelve” are reminiscent of something Cake might have done, but with a lot more attitude.

Suicidal Brand Loyalty is available for streaming and purchase at Bandcamp HERE.

The Outfield – “Play Deep” (1985)

It’s a bit odd that a band from the UK would name itself after a section of a baseball field, especially if they weren’t fans of the game to begin with. The trio originally recorded a demo under the name The Baseball Boys, a reference to the baseball-themed gang in the movie The Warriors (1979), (♠) which makes a bit more sense, and despite recognizing the need for a better name they still ended up with something baseball related. Why The Outfield in particular? Well, according to an interview the band did with the Los Angeles Times in 1986 they simply came up with a list of 10 possible names to replace The Baseball Boys, and The Outfield was the one they liked the best. As fans we’d like to think there was something more to it, but there it is.

The baseball theme continues with the name of The Outfield’s debut album, 1985s Play Deep. While somewhat of an oversimplification, “playing deep” in the context of the outfield indicates that either (1) the batter at the plate has a reputation for hitting the ball far, and/or (2) that runners are in scoring position and the manager has decided he’s more concerned with preventing a ball from going over the fielders’ heads than he is with one of the baserunners scoring on a single to the outfield. Does “play deep” have any meaning as it relates to the 10 songs on Play Deep? I sincerely doubt it as none of the songs appear to have any ties to the game. The Outfield flirt on and off with the baseball theme in later album titles as well, specifically Diamond Days (1989) and Extra Innings (Unreleased) (1999), plus the comps Playing the Field (1992) and Big Innings (1996), but I don’t think they ever recorded a song that had anything to do with the so-called National Pastime. Come to think of it, there aren’t a lot of baseball songs out there with the notable exception of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and to a lesser extent Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” and Meatloaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” (the latter is only metaphorically about baseball, though it does include Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto as the play-by-play guy, so bonus points). (♣)

By the time Play Deep came out and “Your Love” made an unsuccessful run for the top of the charts my baseball career, such as it was, had ended. I played two seasons of Little League for the Fortune Personnel team (named after our corporate sponsor… capitalism digs its claws into you early in the US) in, I believe, 1982 and 1983. And yes, I played in the outfield. At the major league level the three outfield positions tend to have consistent profiles and abilities – the center fielder is fast and has a good arm; the right field needs a great arm to make the long throws to third base; and the left fielder… well… the left fielder can hit and is generally not known for his defense. In fact sometimes he’s a defensive liability. In the little leagues it’s even more noticeable. See, when I played, the rule was that every player had to appear in at least two innings if they showed up for the game. And left field is where you hid the suckiest kids, the ones who couldn’t catch or were slow or ambivalent about being there. If memory serves, I believe that over the course of my baseball career there was only one game in which I played somewhere other than left field. Oh, and I couldn’t hit for shit either.

Two things strike me about Play Deep. First, the harmonies are brilliant. Second, these songs have a certain quality about them that just sounds like The Outfield. I can’t place it, but there are other bands and performers like this as well. Bruce Hornsby, for example, has this “thing” he does with the piano that seems to be on every one of his songs that, the second I hear it, I’m like, yup, that’s Bruce Hornsby. In fact, I got to see Bruce perform once – he played the National Anthem on piano at, ironically, a Seattle Mariners baseball games years and years ago. And guess what? He made the National Anthem sound like a Bruce Hornsby song too.

There’s one thing that has always confounded me about “Your Love”. I get it that the narrator is having a tryst with an old flame. After all, right at the start we establish that his new lady is out of town. Josie’s on a vacation far away… But what I always wondered about is the line, You know I like my girls a little bit older. Is this him telling the girl he’s inviting over that part of why he’s with Josie is because Josie is a little bit older, or is he still into his nameless ex because she’s a little bit older? Somehow I feel like this is an important distinction. One of these ladies is “older”, but which one? I posed this question to Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, and she looked at me like, “is this a serious question?” It is. But I suspect I’ll never know the answer. Either way, he’s a dirtbag Josie, and you should leave him.

(♠) “War-riors… come out to play-ay….”

(♣) To be fair, there are others, especially if you want to go back to the 1940s and 50s. There are also plenty of novelty songs dedicated to specific teams or players, and even songs by baseball players themselves, such as my personal favorite “Phillies Fever” (1976). Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke)” (1981) is a classic as well, with the added benefit that Willie (Mays), Mickey (Mantle), and The Duke (Duke Snider) were all outfielders. See? It all comes full circle.