Chad VanGaalen, Shrink Dust (out now, Sub Pop, subpop.com)
Shrink Dust is a country record. There’s lap steel guitar all over the place, and VanGaalen croons longingly about how “last night I weighed my sin” and how he’s gotten “hung on Lila,” one of the many mysterious lady muses he’s written about over his career. Alongside the lap steel and harmonica are kraut-rock freakouts—like the blissful motorik beat of “Where Are You?”, in which VanGaalen screams the title in a wash of reverb like an astronaut suddenly cut loose from his spaceship. Those turned off by the shift to the softer country vibe here will quickly find solace in the fact that this is still the weird, morphing, Technicolor universe VanGaalen’s treated us to for years. He recently erected a giant grinning monster head on the roof of his home in Alberta so the kids at the nearby children’s hospital could look out at it. A father of two, he also recently started an improvised hardcore band with his children, called Crocodile Teeth & the Snugglers. That childlike world of animation, grinning monsters, and imagination is as radiant as ever on Dust, which is replete with tunes like “Monster,” something the Wiggles might have written if they’d just done a bunch of acid. Don’t let the lap steel fool you—these are space cowboys, and they will guide you through the Wild West of a ceaselessly creative mind.