Wooden Shjips, West
Much like Wooden Shjips’ main man Eric “Ripley” Johnson did with his other minimal, dream machine band Moon Duo, the third release from these Bay Area cosmonauts finds them dialing back on the one-note rock explorations. Instead of the primitive mesmerism that that the group has dosed listeners with from their very first release, the Shjips here keep it concise, while also letting in a bit more of that California sun for the appropriately titled West. Rather than simply being satisfied with a holy trinity of Detroit garage rock, Doors-y L.A. minimalism and New York’s Suicide-al sneer, the metronomic pacing allows in more pop melodies, usually delivered by Nash Whalen’s Wurlitzer or Ripley’s own guitar leads. There’s a bit more swing to the drumming of Omar Ahsanuddin on the Spaceman 3-indebted “Flight” (incidentally the longest song on the album even though it only clocks in at seven minutes) that allows Whalen’s organ ample space to unfurl. The bouncy “Looking Out” sounds like Alan Vega on a rollercoaster, phasing in and out while closer “Rising” runs the fuzzed-out “Crossing” backwards to equally head-warping effect. West‘s pleasures are best summarized on the maracas-propelled pop of “Lazy Bones,” which finds time — via Ripley’s stratospheric solo — to rocket into outer space, yet come screaming back to earth in less than four minutes.