Ten Kens, Ten Kens (Fatcat, 2008)
Despite how awesome it would be if the band Ten Kens was comprised of ten men named Ken, it isn’t. But these four guys from Toronto do manage to create the sound of ten guys. Like Broken Social Scene meets Shudder To Think, their debut album is sonic layer over sonic layer of dramatic, fuzzed out guitar-centered indie anthems. Formed five years ago by founding members and songwriters Dean Tzenos (guitar) and Dan Workman (vocals), Ten Kens cycled through various rhythm section folk before finding Lee Stringle (bass) and Ryan Roantree (drums). The album lends itself well to a game of “Name That Influence” (various tracks make hard nods to Slint, Sonic Youth, Shellac, Black Sabbath and assorted early 90s Sub Pop favorites) but still manages to bring enough new stuff to the table to avoid being derivative. Tracks like “The Alternate Biker” and “Worthless & Oversimplified Ideas” show Ten Kens have a knack for going from melodic jangle to full guitar onslaught and back without losing the coherency and melodic drive that propels the whole show. Echoing the underlying economic sentiment of our times, the album closes with a dark, down tempo track called, “I Really Hope You Get To Retire” in which Workman sings, “You’ll pass this on to me some say, afford to save some day.” Whether he’s cursing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or just stating the obvious to his many indie-predecessors, Ten Kens should sleep tight, because they’re clearly making wise investments. — Laura Witkowski
The Oscillating Fan Club, Feverish Dreams As Told By… (Loco Gnosis, 2008)
MP3: “Party Hat”
Just when you thought Detroit’s rock underbelly was done cooking up inspirational and original jams (we’re talking the likes of Wildcatting, Prussia, and Dutch Pink), the Oscillating Fan Club‘s Feverish Dreams As Told By… comes along and drops a massive and awesome surf-influenced psyche-rock bomb directly on our heads. Formed in 2004 by high school chums Ray Thompson and Pierce Reynolds, the OFC came together over a joint love for 1960s Brit-pop and the more experimental sounds of string wranglers like Sonic Youth and Television. After kicking around for a few years — releasing one EP entitled Beatles Catting Wildly for local-indie force Loco Gnosis in August of 2007 — the OFC have honed their influences, and the result is this 16-song strong monster of an album. Rowdy tracks like “My Grave Face” may nod to the Pixies, and “Suburban Lovers of the Dead” would appeal to anybody looking for a perfect modern combo of Tapes ‘n Tapes’ quirk and the Shins at their most amped up, but mostly, these dudes are digging on some different shit all together. While other groups waste their time searching for the perfect pop moment, or perhaps beating a dead horse, the OFC are busy digesting and regurgitating reverb-drenched surfedelia (“Party Hat”), Eastern European-style guitar skronk (“7 Nights in Khartoum”), and space-aged bachelor pad inspired instrumentals (“Acoustic Jellyfish”) — all flanked by moments of psyche-rock brilliance that wouldn’t be out of place on Olivia Tremor Control’s classic Black Foliage album. It’s the kind of stuff that would make Thurston Moore, Frank Black, and local psyche-pop hero Matthew Smith (of Outrageous Cherry) freak out with enthusiastic glee. Plus, these guys put on a live show that is as unpredictable and unhinged as the directions they choose to take on Feverish Dreams; a winning combination, if you ask us. Score another one for Detroit’s new school of weird. — Ryan Allen
The Oscillating Fan Club’s Record Release Party, w/ Zoos of Berlin + Kindle • 8/2 • The C.A.I.D.