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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Returning engineer Phil Hartunian from prior EPs, Days You Were Leaving, the full-length debut of Los Angeles indie trio Rose Dorn, stays loyal to the home-recorded, melancholic folk-rock that earned them a record deal with Bar/None. Rarely deviating from middling tempos and languid atmospheres, the album invites elevated feet and rain-sheltered porches. That imagery is partly suggested by Big Thunder," an over-seven-minute scene-setter that opens with the sound of steady rainfall, then a single, decaying note on the guitar. The track gathers momentum slowly, building a makeshift melody one note at a time before co-vocalist Scarlet Knight enters over two minutes in with a weary "Stay in bed till two/It's warm outside and my room is red hot and everyone is blue." The rain-scored narrative is punctuated by guitar-generated sound effects and organic sounds like bird calls and whistles before it locks into a rhythmic waltz over broken chords. Eventually, drums and distortion factor in. Functioning as an overture that leaves 'em wanting more, it leads into the bouncy "Shaking," which changes tempos with singers and points of view. The cinematic presentation makes an impression early, and the album goes on to deliver hypnotic and catchy '90s lo-fi-descended indie rock with a rickety impressionism that extends to lyrics about dreaming, sleep, and anxiety, including trippy lines like "Some light's harder to break down than plastic/Peaking through you." Song highlights include the harmonically modulating "Heaven II" and the lush, meandering "Deathwish," though the quality control here is consistent. It's an intriguing and promising debut, especially considering Days You Were Leaving was held back from release until Knight graduated high school. ~ Marcy Donelson
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 26, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 21, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 8, 2019 | Bar - None Records

Before he appeared on the radar of many in the indie community with a tuneful collaborative EP with Jay Som (2018's Nothing's Changed), singer/songwriter Justus Proffit had a couple of promising cassette releases under his belt establishing him as a disciple of Elliott Smith (and likely Smith's post-college band, Heatmiser). 2015's Magic was a noisy, pop-punk-informed EP, while 2017's Ups/Downs was stripped-down and intimate, but Proffit's melodicism and angsty lyrics commanded both. A year after Nothing's Changed, he returns with his full-length and Bar/None Records debut, L.A.'s Got Me Down. Inspired by a dark period for the Los Angeles native that included serious physical injury and the loss of multiple friends to overdoses, the album mixes raw, impulsive rock with complex chords and memorable melodies, essentially combining elements of his previous work, but with purpose. The record opens with a glitchy, noise-injected instrumental passage before launching into "Shadow of the Cross," a structured but unrefined blend of feedback, grunge-like distortion, and harmonic guitar pop that perfectly encapsulates the album's mix of anger, sadness, and resilience. On the next track, Proffit even sounds a little like Smith on the yearning "Solidified" ("Take me back to my childhood/Take me back"), a more straightforward, electric-guitar singer/songwriter tune. It should be said that Smith is not the only influence here, if the most evident, as the record incorporates a pastiche of alternative influences, particularly from the '90s. Later on, the melancholy beauty of "Painted in the Sound" would possibly undermine the other tracks' raucous nature except for its own loose, live, and slightly out-of-tune qualities. That imperfection is also reflected in lyrics peppered with words like "stuck," "deadbeat," and "decompose." While the album was recorded in a studio with engineer/producer Alex Resoagli, its impulsive sound was channeled by Proffit, who played all the instruments on the recording. The most intimate song by far on L.A.'s Got Me Down is an untitled bonus track for physical formats that really belongs on any encounter with the album. It includes a brooding Proffit with strummed guitar and harmony vocals, closing the album with a symbolic abrupt end to tape hiss via the sharp click of the stop button. ~ Marcy Donelson
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1990 | Bar - None Records

Between Dave Schramm's stints in both Human Switchboard and Yo La Tengo, Ron Metz's years with Human Switchboard, and Al Greller's work with Peter Stampfel, the Schramms had plenty of miles under their collective belt when they recorded their first album, Walk to Delphi, and if the results suggest the band was still fine tuning their musical personality, there's no arguing they play with tremendous skill and authority on these sessions, and Dave Schramm leaves no doubt that he's an unusually gifted guitarist and songwriter. The striking balance of pop, rock, and folk that the band found on Little Apocalypse was still a few years down the road, and in many respects Walk to Delphi is lighter and hookier than much of what would follow from this band, though it manages to fall a bit short of "radio friendly" -- as tuneful as Schramm's tunes are here, and as winning the performances may be, there's a dark undercurrent to songs like "Out of the Earth," "He Has Got a Gun," and "The Way Some People Die," which belies their seemingly upbeat surfaces. But for a band taking their first turn at bat, the Schramms sound remarkable confident on Walk to Delphi, and with good reason, given the quality of the material and the easy skill Schramm and his bandmates bring to these recordings. Like much of the Schramms' body of work, Walk to Delphi slipped through the cracks on its first release in the United States (the band would fare better in time in Europe), but it's certainly a record that demands rediscovery, and fully rewards the search. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 22, 2019 | Bar - None Records

In the course of a very eclectic career, Alex Chilton went from singing blue-eyed soul with the Box Tops to British Invasion-influenced pop with Big Star, seriously bent proto-punk in his early solo period, and good and greasy R&B covers after he relocated to New Orleans in the '80s. But one of Chilton's recurring sidelines was his fondness for crooning old standards in a warm, jazz-infused style. His take on "Nature Boy" during the Big Star Third sessions was just the tip of that iceberg, and Chilton would occasionally cite Chet Baker Sings as a favorite album and a serious influence on his vocal style. Chilton cut a fine album of solo acoustic takes on the classic songbook, 1994's Cliches, and in the '90s he recorded several sessions with bassist and producer Ron Miller for his jazz group Medium Cool. Songs from Robin Hood Lane is a collection that brings together cuts from Cliches and highlights from his sessions with Medium Cool (some previously unreleased), and this album is a warm, breezy delight. Chilton's phrasing on these performances is easygoing but from the heart, and his interaction with Miller and his sidemen shows just how much he learned from the great jazz singers of the '50s and '60s. The title Songs from Robin Hood Lane refers to the Memphis neighborhood where Chilton grew up, and many of these songs were on steady rotation on the family's hi-fi set. It's clear Chilton loves these songs, but his delivery speaks to a lot more than nostalgia -- as a gifted songwriter himself, he knew what made a great tune work, and he weaves his voice around the lyrics and melodies with the panache of a seasoned veteran and a star student. On the cuts from Cliches, Chilton's guitar work is simple but full of snap, and reveals another facet of his often-underappreciated instrumental skills. At just under 32 minutes, Songs from Robin Hood Lane is paced like a vintage vocal LP, and if it's a long way from rock & roll, this music speaks to a side of Alex Chilton's musical personality that clearly meant a great deal to him, and this is a low-key gem suitable for dancing and romancing. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 22, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Rock - Released February 8, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 6, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Rock - Released January 23, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 14, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 14, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Rock - Released May 26, 2015 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 24, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 24, 2018 | Bar - None Records

Alternative & Indie - Released July 20, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 13, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 15, 2018 | Bar - None Records