The Well Wishers's Jeff Shelton is among the first of several artists forced into involuntary quarantine this year to actualize the fruits of their labor during this inadvertent downtime. In the five-month span Shelf Life was written, mapped out and executed, the man in question did not master any exotic instruments like an Alphorn or Sarrusophone, nor did he tap into his subconscious for a concept piece on nucleosynthesis, and heck, Shelf Life isn't even that long-promised album of Deftones covers he's had on the back burner for waaaaaay too long now (gonna keep us in suspense another year, huh Jeff?). In the grand scheme of things, Shelton's eleventh entry into the Well Wisher's saga is essentially business as usual. Thematically, Shelf Life isn't steeped in the trials and tribulations of the odious pandemica that is 2020. Instead it's another airtight collection of linear power pop, teasing the Posies and what seems like a never ending wellspring of inspiration so many of us absorbed back when Not Lame mail order ruled our snail mail and in-boxes. Plenty of crunchy delights here ("We Grow Up" & "Hide Away"), the occasional amped-out surge ("All the Same") and even a comparatively tranquil respite "Secrets and Lies." Shelton's overall trajectory is a gracefully maturing one, but you'll no doubt mistake Shelf Life for anything other than a Well Wisher's album. You'll find it on Bandcamp, Amazon and Kool Kat.
Boasting a prolific stripe wide enough to give Robert Pollard a run for his money, this year, L.A.'s Black Watch are kickin' Covid's derriere as well, with Fromthing Somethat checking in as the band's second full length of 2020, following quickly on the heels of Brilliant Failures. So much of what I opined of that record I'm tempted to cut and paste here, but, I did something with Fromthing that I typically vow from doing with any current release that I'm dedicating press to - I read the accompanying bio.
Frontman John Andrew Fredrick reveals that there were no rehearsals for the album. I would assume this isn't to say that not everything we hear is the first or second take, but dense, billowy constructs "Saint Fair Isle Sweater" and "Such Like Friendly Demons" sound gloriously labored over, and hardly bear the vibe of something knocked off in a couple hours. Furthermore, this is one of the most diverse records B/W have spawned, skirting from "The Nothing That Is'" danceable, New Order-esque textures to the post-punk throb of "The Lonesome Death of Mary Hansen," to the melancholic but sonically bold strains of Fromthat's penultimate "For Always Then to Keep." As is almost standard for a Black Watch record there's no shortage of Fredrick's Anglophile-caressed connective tissue emanating throughout, upping the depth ante all that higher. With their nineteenth album in the book, the Black Watch make the perfect case for a millennium-spanning, open-ended career. Fromthing Somethat releases this Friday on Atom Records, and is also available physically and digitally through Bandcamp.