Jimbo Mathus — Blue Healer (Fat Possum Records)
The Mississippi roots-rock wizard Jimbo Mathus released Blue Healer earlier this spring on Fat Possum Records. Co-produced by Mathus and Bruce Watson, Blue Healer was recorded at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi, an all-analog "recording palace" that the duo found to be the perfect place to explore Mathus' blend of old-school tones and kinetic energy. The title Blue Healer (not to be confused with a breed of cattle dog with a similar name) refers to a character that Mathus dreams up on the title track, a comforting female presence that provides the album's protagonist with the "healing" that he needs. Mathus isn't exactly reinventing his sound with Blue Healer, but with so many good psychedelic roots-rock songs on one album, he really doesn't need to.
Favorite Track: "Shoot Out the Lights"
For Fans of: Squirrel Nut Zippers, King Louie and the Loose Diamonds
Nights Like These — Old Youth Culture (self-released)
Metal band Nights Like These returned to the studio earlier this year to crank out Old Youth Culture, their first full-length album without the help (and financial backing) of Chicago's Victory Records. To celebrate the release of Old Youth Culture, the band held a show last weekend at the Hi-Tone, where aging metal fans lived up to the title of the album by slamming into one another for nearly the entire show. Old Youth Culture is the first of the three full-length albums by Nights Like These to fully capture how powerful the band is live, meaning the recording is raw, loud, and unrelenting. Front man Billy Bottom's howl is still intact, and the evolved songwriting on Old Youth Culture is evidence that the band's equipment wasn't just collecting dust while they went on hiatus for five years.
Favorite Track: "None More Hated"
For Fans of: Cursed, Converge, Coliseum
Bag Head — Self Titled Demo (self-released)
File under most likely to be criminally underlooked. I can't imagine that the punk scene in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is teeming with amazing young talent, but that didn't stop Bag Head from releasing one of the best punk tapes of the year. The information available on Bag Head is limited, but the small online presence they have claims that the group features four young adults who consider themselves to be "Hattiesburg's most hated." If this group of miscreants ever gets tired of kicking up dust in Forrest County, they'd fit in nicely with what's going on in the more aggressive scenes of Memphis music. With just about every song clocking in at under a minute, Bag Head's first offering of noise is sure to please even the shortest of attention spans.
Favorite Track: "Pity"
For Fans of: The FU's, Gang Green,Belching Penguin
Modern Convenience — F*ck with Fire (PVX Hex Records)
Modern Convenience has been the creative project of Mikey Bibbs for quite some time, and the Memphis native played local dive bars constantly before moving to Nashville and re-forming the band. The album's artwork (designed by Mac Blackout) seems to be an homage to Bibbs' time spent playing the Midtown dive-bar circuit, as his head is literally exploding out of the Madison Avenue pavement and a corner of the Memphis music venue Murphy's is visibly present. On F*ck with Fire, Bibbs seems to be trying out the sound he mastered in Memphis on a new rhythm section, and the result is some of the tightest Modern Convenience recordings to date.
Favorite Track: "Gaga"
For Fans of: Antique Curtains, Lost Sounds, The Daily Void
Deering and Down — "You're the One" (BAA Records)
Deering and Down released "You're the One," last month, with the announcement that the track was the lead-off single to their eighth studio album. Opting to record at Easley McCain studios instead of Willie Mitchell's Royal Studio (where the band recorded their last album, Out There Somewhere), "You're the One" is an esoteric love song that sits somewhere between dream pop, modern soul, and what Deering and Down call "sexy music." The new album from Deering and Down is set to be released "later in 2015," but pay attention for song announcements in the form of music videos coming throughout the summer and fall.
For Fans of: Julee Cruise, Lana Del Ray
SVU — Self-Titled (self-released)
Special Victims Unit is the project of Tyler and Ivy Miller, two prominent members of the street punk scene in Memphis and the driving force behind the Memphis Punk Rock Festival, which recently concluded its third year. SVU belong to a different faction of the "Memphis punk scene," one where bands like the Gloryholes and Banned Anthem are favored over the garage rock bands that make up the more accessible "Goner scene." The separation between the two microcosms of Memphis music definitely exists, even if the bands that make up the different scenes aren't that far removed from one another.
On their Self-Titled album (released in March of this year), SVU display an ability to switch between pop-punk and ska leanings into full-on hardcore, with vocalist Ivy Miller doing something different with her voice on almost every song. The 10-song, Self-Titled debut from SVU is a good introduction to another side of Memphis punk rock, and the band will stay busy this summer playing multiple shows (including an appearance at Creepy Fest in New Orleans) and writing a new EP.
Favorite Track: "Supermarket Fantasy"
For Fans of: Assorted Jellybeans, Screeching Weasel, NOFX