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Tolan McNeil, Circus Devils, Anne Lindsay, Sarah Jane and Corey Heuvel

First off, a note to let you know that I’m done with the haiku, for now. It was interesting, but it’s time for another shift. So, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a full-page diatribe, it will be what it will be.

Ready? Go!

Tolan McNeil – Give ‘Er

We offer our MASSIVE thanks to Andrew, formerly of Red Cat, for ensuring we got our sweaty little hands on the happy sounds of this long-sought record. Thanks heaps, Dude! We love Tolan, here at the KMA, and what a treat this record is. Completely brilliant guitar work all over the place, whip-smart thoughtful and funny lyrics, and a wry wink and a smile that comes naturally. This is the stuff of dreams, of talent displayed boldly, of music that ought to be heard by everybody everywhere. This country-tinged truckrawk rules!

Circus Devils – Gringo

Here we have wee-hours basement experimentation done slightly more quietly, so as not to wake up the house. Every Pollard record has a mood – here it’s a brilliant, gentler breeze fuzz-rockin’ us from the summer of love.

Anne Lindsay – News From Up The Street

If you can you get Anne Lindsay, Jason Fowler, Al Cross and Oliver Schroer (among many others) together, you just know the resulting record is going to be a blast. To me, it sounds simultaneously like being down east, and those Scottish bands that have been taking old standards and dressing them up in new clothes, and jazz torch song vocals and instrumentation and some ‘world music’ and… Wow!

Sarah Jane – Kind Of Day It’s Been

We caught Sarah Johnston at this year’s Knox Youth Showcase (may Knox R.I.P.), and here she offers up a tasty disc of Lisa Loeb-like acoustic folk pop songs mixed with a sense of the blues that feels great. Her vocals, in both English and French, are powerful and clear, and what she’s saying needs to be heard. Yes, I liked this very much, indeed. Keep an ear open for her, folks. Hers is a name you should be hearing more shortly.

Corey Heuvel – Evers

Another performer to whom we were introduced at this year’s Knox Youth Showcase (may Knox continue to R.I.P.), Corey’s disc is a display of guitar and songwriting prowess that got multiple plays here in our house. My only complaint is that, as a 5 track EP, it’s tasteful but I’m greedy and find it a bit short… A full album is anticipated, Corey!

Circus Devils – Ataxia

The unapologetically prolific Robert Pollard is back with yet another great record under the banner of the Circus Devils. Alternately prog-rocking out, taking spacey trips into psychedelia, and offering up poetically beautiful and weird lyrics has always been this project’s raison d’etre. In fine flying form yet again, most tunes are kept so short they seem to be sketches rather than fully-formed songs, which is simply Pollard’s well-known ADD approach to writing a seemingly endless supply of greatness.

Ataxia is messy, slightly spastic and sounds completely great. What’s not to love? Half of this might sound like a soundtrack to some visionary art school project, probably for fans only, but anyone can get to this brilliance if they just open their minds. You should get this record.

Track Listing:
01 Under Review
02 I-Razors
03 Freedom’s Monster
04 That’s The Spirit
05 Backwash Television
06 The Girls Will Make It Happen
07 Mayflower Brought Disease
08 Stars, Stripes And Crack Pipes
09 Ataxia
10 Nets At Every Angle
11 Hi I’m Martha, How Are You?
12 Lunatic Style
13 Get Me Extra!
14 I Found The Black Mind
15 He Had All Day
16 Fuzz In The Street
17 Rat Face Ballerina

Circus Devils – Ringworm Interiors

I’ve spent a lot of time in these KMA pages extolling the amazingness of Mr. Robert Pollard. His output is so vast and varied that my mind regularly boggles at the mere thought of it. The flagship over the years was Guided By Voices, of course, but there has been a universe of side projects over the years, too. And now a solo career to boot! It seems countless.

I’ve made a habit of searching for any and all of these releases I can find, over the years. And this record was always one that eluded me. I don’t know why. Maybe I was never in the right place at the right time, or maybe I just wasn’t meant to find it until now. But I was starting to get the feeling that it was out of print, just based on the usual places not having it for so long. Well, thanks to Stu at the super-awesome Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon (Hi Stu!) I now have my very own copy to love and enjoy.

And enjoy it I did. The best thing about these side projects is the experimentation with noise. The man is fearless and endlessly creative. Put him together with Tim and Todd Tobias, as has happened several times over the years, and the result is always interesting, highly listenable (mostly – there are some tracks that are jags into solid noise that some people might skip) and, most important of all, it’s all challenging to ear and brain. The combinations of instruments, his playfully weird lyrics and their unique song structures turn this disc into solid gold, for a fan like me.

The sound quality ranges from excellent to poor, as usual, and while there may be weird tracks, the unspoken (but understood) intent, as always, is to rock. And rock they do, here. Hooray! And song lengths here (as is also usual for the man’s records) range from North Morning Silver Trip’s 0:18, to the 3:10 of Let’s Go Back To Bed. These track lists are the equivalent of going to see a fringe festival musical. Awesome! I mean, they pack 28 songs into less than 43 minutes. I love it.

Yes, I am seven years behind in hearing this record, which might make you wonder how much of a fan I am. But this is the beauty of the Pollard discography – there’s so much of it to try to take in, and the search for new (to me) additions is always on, so I never know when one of these beauties will show up. Even more beautiful is the thought that this record was made when GBV was still around, so this becomes a time capsule of a sort, too. The songs still stand up today, no question. And it also becomes a snapshot of Pollard in a period of his peak which, in my opinion, he hit and never left.

Right on.

Track Listing:
01 Devilspeak
02 Feel Try Fury
03 Buffalo Spiders
04 World 3
05 Blanks
06 North Morning Silver Trip
07 Ringworm Interiors
08 Spectacle
09 You First
10 Knifesong
11 Kingdom Of Teeth
12 Oil Birds
13 Lizard Food
14 Not So Fast
15 Apparent The Red Angus
16 Playhouse Hostage
17 Straps Hold Up The Jaw
18 Correcto
19 Star Peppered Wheatgerm
20 Silver Eyeballs
21 Decathalon
22 Peace Needle
23 Drill Sgt. Soul
24 Protect Thy Interests
25 Let’s Go Back To Bed
26 Sterility Megaplant
27 New You (You Can See And Believe)
28 Circus Devils Theme

Circus Devils – Sgt. Disco

32 tracks!! Awesome!

Imagine my glee when my buddy Stu (Hi Stu!) from the Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon (you should all be shopping there constantly) sent me this next wonderful missive from Mr. Robert Pollard’s unending creativity barrage, the new Circus Devils album called Sgt. Disco.

Maybe you don’t care, but I do and this album is friggin’ awesome. In Madonna’s Gazebo? What a great song title (and a cool song). And it only gets better from there. Every song here is a gem. Seriously. This record is poetic. It rocks. It clinks and clunks. It jams. It is weird (and oh boy, it gets weird – War Horsies’ “hamburger hills and hot dog trees” will make you wonder…). But all of that aside, it’s wonderful. It’s full of ideas and different vocal and musical approaches. It’s well-produced and sounds great. In other words, it’s another Robert Pollard release. I love it.

I’m starting to wonder if Robert Pollard isn’t a bit like Stephen King. You know, prolific to the point of being kind of unbelievable. Not that we really disbelieve, but how can one human being tap into so much stuff? Cranking out so many ideas, all of which are great (or – some of which is – at least passable in their catalogue). They must work all the time. They must never sleep. My sister and I had a theory that Stephen King must have grad students, whom he pays to be quiet about it all, who have learned to write in his style and who take an idea he gives them and flesh out most of his novels. I don’t think this is the case with Mr. King, really, it just seems a more plausible explanation for his non-stop output.

Same goes for Mr. Pollard. I think he must have music in his veins and it’s just reached a point where everything he does is a neat idea and worth recording. It’s been that way for yonks. Hence so many albums every year. Hence so much great music being offered to superfans like me. Hence my fervent searching for everything and anything (with his name on it) that I can get my hands on. He inspires that kind of loyalty simply by virtue of his brilliant output, by just being who he is.

Only fans collect this stuff, probably, and that’s a damn shame. Y’all should hear it. You’d learn so much, about music and about yourself and about your limited tastes.

Sgt. Disco will kick your ass.*

Track Listing:
01 Zig Zag
02 In Madonna’s Gazebo
03 George Took A Shovel
04 Pattern Girl
05 Nicky Highpockets
06 Love Hate Relationship With The Human Race
07 Brick Soul Mascots (Part 1)
08 Break My Leg
09 Outlasting Girafalo
10 The Assassin’s Ballroom (Get Your Ass In)
11 The Winner’s Circle
12 The Constable’s Headscapes
13 In Your Office
14 New Boy
15 Puke It Up
16 Swing Shift
17 Happy Zones
18 The Pit Fighter
19 Bogus Reactions
20 Hot Lettuce
21 Safer Than Hooking
22 Dead Duck Dinosaur
23 Do This
24 Brick Soul Mascots (Part 2)
25 Caravan
26 Lance The Boiling Son
27 War Horsie
28 French Horn Litigation
29 The Baby Never Smiled
30 Man Of Spare Parts
31 Rose In Paradise
32 Summer Is Set

* There’s a funny sticker on the packaging that says “FILE UNDER CIRCUS DEVILS! If we find this in the Guided By Voices section, we’re going to kick your ass! Sgt. Disco.” Haha. But I also meant it that the album itself is great and will ‘kick your ass’ with its awesomeness. But you knew that. Right? Right. Only the best for you, Dear Readers, from your loving content providers, here at the KMA!

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