[sic] Magazine

Asteroid No.4 – Northern Songs

Veterans on the psychedelic underground, Bay Area-based band (The) Asteroid No.4 are up to album No.10 with Northern Songs and it’s a doozy. Stripped of their now-usual cast of guests, Northern Songs is all A4 all of the time and it does them the world of good, their trademark 12-string, 60s jangle supercharged with rocky reverb and shoegaze shimmer, leading to a less whimsical album than some in the back-catalogue. Northern Songs is a strongly melodic, fuzzy delight start to finish – over two decades since they first began, it may even be their best to date, an album that’s nostalgic and soothing in equal measures during troubled times.

With only a few notable exceptions, The A4’s touchpoints have always been British and so it remains on Northern Songs. The five-piece thus continue to draw from the Jesus & Mary Chain’s deep wells of scuzzed-up melody, Spaceman 3’s woozy neo-psyche and Ride’s speaker-filling reverb, Scott Vitt’s sometimes folkish, fey vocal corrupted with distortion and drizzle of 80s guitar, a track like the wonderfully dreamy “Stardust” bringing to mind the arms-aloft indie-pop of a band like fellow-Brit lovers the Pains of Being Pure At Heart.

These masters of that serene guitar wash that renders any guitar melody heavenly offer up peel after peel of it, glorious “ohs”, “woahs” and vocal harmonies utterly mesmeric, the cascading fuzz and swooning simmer of the epic closer providing some late-night neon and romantic what-could-have-beens in a Lost in Translation OST style. An infectious mix of surfy garage that recalls Crystal Stilts, blissful waves of Primary Colours organ drone and rickety percussion, the opener is just as perfect nearly 40 minutes earlier, Vitt’s reverbed vocal here a heavy-hearted moan that bobs along in the flow.

And in the middle, there’s “Paint It Green” with its major David Bowie “Heroes” vibes, mild psychedelia crunching into a wall of feedback like some cosmic crash test dummy. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the title track, a gorgeous slice of fragile Byrds-like psych-folk that’s as true to its title as the album is as a whole for these are all – to a track – great songs, when so much these days is just noise. There’ll be few more satisfying listens this year.

Best track: “All Mixed Up”

~Northern Songs is released 18th September 2020 via the collaborative Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud Records.~