Friday, March 24, 2017

Brad Pot - Brad Pot (Slovenly, 2017)

Brad Pot
Brad Pot

Rating: 7 cherry candies out of 10

It feels like all of the punk bands that have come out of Australia over the past decade or so have been custom formulated just so that I would love them - and Brad Pot continues that proud tradition. Eleven songs in twenty four minutes, this is straight-forward buzzsaw punk with heavily distorted vocals and a little bit of synth here and there.  I think I might compare every punk band to something Jay Reatard was a part of, and in this case I'd go with his first outfit the Reatards.  You could probably throw some Spits references in there too if you wanted.  This whole album is so aggressive and immediate, it feels like Brad Pot are racing themselves to get it over with as fast as possible.  No duds at all, with "100 Bills" getting my nod for top track. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Run The Jewels - RTJ3 (Self-Released, 2016)

Run The Jewels

Rating: 9 dizzy eardrums out of 10

Hey look, another middle aged white dude who loves Run The Jewels!  That's definitely a unique thing that warrants further investigation!  Seriously, no one needs to hear another dipshit like me expound on the awesomeness that is El-P and Killer Mike.  They manage to feel both old school and modern at the same time, which is probably exactly why RTJ appeals to people like me.  There's about a million well written reviews already out there if you care to read such things, but here's the deal - if you're on the fence about Run The Jewels, they make it easy for you: go to the link above and you can download their album for free and decide for yourself if this is the best hip hop group of the last decade (hint: it is). 

Side note: this came out so late in 2016 I'm probably putting it on my best of 2017 list because fuck it why not.  It's probably going to be better than almost anything released in 2017 anyways. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jeff Rosenstock - Worry. (SideOneDummy, 2016)

Jeff Rosenstock

Rating: 7 ice cold cold sores out of 10

Occasionally I listen to the podcast "Who Charted?" - they almost always talk about music, usually of the top 40 variety, and I almost never like what they're talking about (but I listen anyways because Howard and Kulap are funny).  A comedian by the name of Matt Besser was a guest on the show a few weeks ago talking about his favorite songs of 2016, and one of his selections was by Jeff Rosenstock - I was immediately hooked.  Apparently the dude came up playing in ska-punk and pop-punk bands that were somewhat popular, but I'd never heard of him because that's definitely not my scene.  This album is probably best described as (mostly) grown-up pop punk...a little less agro, a little more acoustic guitar.  You can definitely hear how his old scene influenced what Rosenstock is doing now though, particularly with his reliance on sing-a-long choruses - but many of the songs are so damn catchy you don't even get mad about this overused deviceI think Besser's song pick was "Wave Goodnight to Me," and I'd have to concur that it's the best track here -it was stuck in my head after only one listen.  Most of the album is quite strong, but occasionally he resorts to his ska-punk past - the track "Rainbow" is particularly, um, not good, but nobody's perfect.  There's enough here to make this more than worth checking out. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Nada Surf - Peaceful Ghosts (Barsuk, 2016)

Nada Surf
Peaceful Ghosts

Rating: 8.5 pink skyscrapers out of 10

Hey, I'm writing about another live album!  This time it's the brilliant pop act Nada Surf, a band that can basically do no wrong in my book.  This past summer they played some gigs in Austria and Germany with local orchestras, and "Peaceful Ghosts" is the recorded output of (I assume) those gigs with the best takes cobbled together.  As with any release of this nature (assuming you're already a fan because a live album seems like a weird place to start listening to a new act), only one thing really matters - how does the recording sound?  The answer: brilliant, mesmerizing, moving.  In fact the recordings are so clean that other than the polite applause at the end of each track, you might think these are just alternate studio takes with an orchestra added.  And the orchestra WORKS...I mean really works.  They should look into actually recording some songs like this in the studio on their next album.  Like most official live recordings, "Peaceful Ghosts" almost works as a "best of" also: this is packed with classic songs like "Blizzard of '77,"Blonde on Blonde," "Rushing," "Inside of Love," and so many more.  Of course not every song I wanted is on here, but that just means they can release another live album like this include an entirely new group of their excellent pop gems.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Notwist - Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff (Sub Pop, 2016)

The Notwist
Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff
Sub Pop

Rating: 8 museum debts out of 10

I didn't really have any intentions of writing about a live Notwist album - honestly, I've not paid a ton of attention to them since "Neon Golden," though there probably aren't a ton of albums in my collection that I've listened to more than that one.   Thing is, even though live records are often write-offs in my book, this is good - really fucking good.  The "Neon Golden" songs are why I decided to give "Superheroes, Ghostvillians + Stuff" a listen, but the recording sounds so fantastic that I've even enjoyed the tracks I don't know and it's inspired me to spend some time listening to their last couple of records.  There is an energy & life here that is hard to really describe or quantify but it makes for an album that's even more engaging than their studio output, and that's rarely the case (at least for my ears).  Built to Spill's "Live" from 2000 might be the last release of this nature to make me feel this way, and like on that record the band really lets the songs "stretch their legs" if you will...quite a few are twice or even three times longer than their studio counterpart.  This doesn't always work, in fact it rarely works, but it definitely works here. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Terry Malts - Lost At The Party (Slumberland, 2016)

Terry Malts
Lost At The Party

Rating: 7.5 fragile egg chairs out of 10

Terry Malts first record "Killing Time" was one of my favorite releases of 2012; their second effort "Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere" was still decent, but a step down from their debut.  Given that, I wasn't sure what to expect from this third outing "Lost At the Party" - a continuing (very slight) downward trend, or a return to their previous form?  Luckily, it was the latter - the differences between this release and the last are subtle and I'm way too dumb to accurately put them in words, but this batch of songs has a little more punch or sheen (or whatever you want to call it) to them that was missing on the last pass.  As always, the Terry Malts sound is cold and very eighties, a combination of punk and new wave and pop...they're more or less a modern version of XTC, Jesus & Mary Chain, and/or Echo & the Bunnymen depending on the particular songI mean that as a compliment, for the record, as I've loved all three of those bands for much of my life.  It's not so much that Terry Malts are ripping off those bands as they are re-imagining the same sounds for a new, current audience.  Opener "Used To Be," "Won't Come To Find You," and "Seen Everything" are my picks for best tracks but there isn't a weak spot in the entire procession. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teenage Fanclub - Here (Merge, 2016)

Teenage Fanclub

Rating: 8 sand toddlers out of 10

I've been thinking for a few months on what to say about this latest Teenage Fanclub record, "Here."  I'm not sure I have a lot more to go with other than "sounds a lot like Teenage Fanclub" and "really damn good."  For my money, this is the best pop band in the world, and nothing about "Here" changes my mind about that.  If you enjoyed their last couple of records on Merge, "Man-Made" and "Shadows," then this is a must buy.  In fact, this is the best of these three records that I think of as their "mature pop" years.  "I'm In Love" and "Thin Air" is up there with one of the best one-two punches to start any of their records.  Maybe a few more mellow tracks than this band usually features, but even those are terrificIf you've never listened to this band, go get "Bandwagonesque" or "Songs from Northern Britain" first - otherwise, a worthy buy to be sure. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Preoccupations - Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar, 2016)


Rating: 7.5 eco-warrior latrines out of 10

Preoccupations used to be called Viet Cong, a band I had never heard of until there was a bit of hubbub over their name.  Apparently it was offensive to some folks - I'm guessing the Vietnamese - though I'm not entirely sure why, as it's the name of a group that fought with the North Vietnamese and not a slur I don't think.  I think a good rule to follow is that if you're a bunch of white dudes, don't name your band after anything that in any way has any connection to another culture, even if it seems non-offensive.  Non-white culture obviously - I can't imagine anyone would give a shit if you named yourself after somethingFrench or German, well, maybe not anything Nazi related.  Unless you're a Nazi band, in which case I guess it makes sense.  Maybe don't be in a Nazi band though, okay?  That seems like a dumb thing to do.  Let me state for the record that Preoccupations are not Nazis, though they are Canadian.  The Stampeders and Pilot are also Canadian, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.  

Uh, where was I?  Anyways, old band with a new name, first record I've heard by them, and I like it quite a lot.  Sounds like the perfect combination of Wolf Parade, Constantines, and the Walkmen (token non-Canadian reference).  One of those rare cases where I was in a record store and heard this album playing and actually asked the clerk who it was.  I never do that - either I already know who it is, I'm too embarrassed to admit I don't know who it is to the music nerd clerk, or my desire not to talk to people is greater than my desire to know what it is.  I guess I could have just used Shazaam.  

This review has been almost entirely useless and pointless.  Just check this record out, it's worth a listen for sure. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lambchop - FLOTUS (Merge, 2016)


Rating: 7.5 big box deals out of 10

If you've ever wondered what would happen if Lambchop recorded a record where nearly all of the vocals were sung through tweaked-out autotune, have I got a treat for you...  Honestly, it works a lot better than you might expect.  Then again, when it comes to Kurt Wagner & company, it's best not to have any set expectations because they're surely gonna fuck with them in their own subtle way.  Even by Lambchop standards this is a very mellow album, more piano-led electronic lounge music than the off-kilter orchestral country in which the band typically traffics.  "FLOTUS" begins with the twelve minute long "In Care of 8675309" that sounds like the best song Bon Iver didn't write; ends with the eighteen minute long "The Hustle" that could have just as easily been on Wagner's electronic side project Hecta; and inbetween, tracks generally meander between different combinations of electronic beats, piano/keyboards, and (mostly) distorted vocals.  It sounds different from other Lambchop records, but right at home at the same time. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lydia Loveless - Real (Bloodshot, 2016)

Lydia Loveless

Rating: 7 Arkansas hair pieces out of 10

I discovered Lydia Loveless by seeing her live at Hopscotch Music Festival a couple of years ago, and I've been totally infatuated ever since. I listened to her last record "Somewhere Else" to the point where if my loved ones actually cared about me, they would have been worried about my health with the level of obsession I was displaying.  I listened to it so much that it has had a negative effect on my reaction to her other records, because when I listen to this other material I just want it to be exactly like "Somewhere Else."  I listen to "Real" and enjoy it (especially the second song "Longer"), but about halfway through I'll start getting impatient and want to just put on "Somewhere Else."  Sometimes when I have this obsession with an artist it will subside and I find I can more easily enjoy their other offerings, sometimes not. It might take another Loveless album or two to figure out exactly where I stand here. 

Oh yeah, I should probably talk at least a little about Lydia and this record - she gets lumped into the alt-country world (or even worse, the stupid moniker "country punk"), and her voice does have the occasional twang to it, but these days, and on this new record especially, she's a lot closer to Beth Orton or Aimee Mann than she is Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn.  Shit, if you cleaned up the guitar in "Heaven" a little bit you could probably convince someone it was Everything But the Girl...that song is a little weird here, not going to lie.  It's a good record overall though, and I would imagine her fans who aren't idiots like me can enjoy "Real" just fine. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Flock of Dimes - If You See Me, Say Yes (Partisan, 2016)

Flock of Dimes
If You See Me, Say Yes

Rating: 7.5 speedy game changers out of 10

Flock of Dimes is the solo project of Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak...and like with Wye Oak, it's more or less universally fantastic.  The woman has the Midas touch when it comes to writing pop songs. I would be curious to know how she decides when she writes something if it's for Wye Oak or Flock of Dimes.  A few years ago you could have said Flock of Dimes lacks the live instrumentation (particularly the guitar) of Wye Oak, and is a little...I dunno, dancier.  But then more recently Wye Oak released tons of songs on "Shriek" and "Tween" that fit exactly that description, so I'm really not sure what the difference is.  I guess it's just that Andy Stack isn't on this record, but given that he plays electronic drums as often as he plays real drums on Wye Oak songs these days, even that fact isn't really obvious.  I'm not sure where I'm going with this meandering nonsense...let's just say if you like Wye Oak I would be shocked if you didn't like Flock of Dimes, because the two sound mostly the same.  And that's ok, because Jenn Wasner is so damn talented and amazing no matter what the band name is on the record, I'm in. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wilco - Schmilco (dBpm, 2016)


Rating: 7 winged paintings out of 10

Hey, Wilco made another album, and it totally sounds like Wilco!  It's as Wilco-y or even Wilco-ier as the last album they put out!  Pretty much everything they've released since "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" has hit me the same way - I would be somewhat lukewarm to middling on the record to start, would randomly listen to it on occasion, and then a couple of years later would find that I quite like (but don't love) the album.  There is one major reason for this - the departure (and then much to early death) of Jay Bennett.  Tweedy knows songwriting, but Bennett knew pop hooks, and together they crafted some of my favorite records of all time - "Summerteeth" in particular is likely one of my top ten records of all time.  Without Bennett, Tweedy can meander and get a little long winded, and certainly adding Nels Cline's guitar wankery didn't help, but there's still enough there to hold my attention.  So "Schmilco" is just ok right now...but I would be all my money that by this time next year you could ask me again and I would say it's a pretty damn good release.  

And now I'm going to go listen to "Summerteeth" again. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

ISS - Studs (Self-Released, 2016)


Rating: 8 glasses of frozen hamburger juice out of 10

ISS is Rich from Whatever Brains (now of Bodykit) and another dude from Brain F≠, and together they make this industrial punk that's got kind of pop vibe too it?  Because Rich is singing it's impossible for me not to automatically compare this to Whatever Brains because I've listened to them so damn much, but it's as if the goal here was to write the songs in the style of Le Tigre, and this is what came out.  I hear this particularly in the first two songs "Part-Time All the Time" and "Five Hours to Midnight."  Possibly thecraziest track is "Peniss Envy," where I guess they decided they wanted everyone to think they were a Revolting Cocks cover band.   

Only fifty of these tapes were made, so if you see one grab one.  It's only ten minutes long (six songs total), so you'll never get bored.  According to Rich/Sorry State, "some of these songs will be on the new FULL LENGTH TAPE on NEW BODY TAPES out later this year. that will be pro dubbed. These kinda sound shitty. Sorry!"

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Constantines - Constantines / Feist 7'' (Arts and Crafts, 2008)

Constantines / Feist 7''
Arts and Crafts

Rating: 8 blood moons out of 10

This ended up being a very informative seven inch!  The a-side is Constantines and Feist combining forces to cover the classic Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton song "Islands in the Stream."  But then I'm looking at the back of the sleeve and it says the song was written by the Gibb brothers, aka the Bee Gees!  According to my exhaustive research (aka wikipedia), they actually wrote it for Marvin Gaye but Kenny Rogers ended up using it instead.  Ain't that some shit!  Oh yeah, this Constantines/Feist version is totally great.  I'm not usually a Feist fan but she works really well here.  And the b-side is the Constantines' song "Trans Canada" from their album "Kensington Heights" - love that song.

Belle and Sebastian - The Blues Are Still Blue 7'' (Rough Trade, 2006)

Belle and Sebastian
The Blues Are Still Blue 7''
Rough Trade

Rating: 7 hillbilly pot farms out of 10

Not my favorite Belle and Sebastian single, but worth having nonetheless.  Fittingly, this is on blue vinyl.  The title song can also be found on "The Life Pursuit" - I wasn't super into this song at first, or really this album, but it has grown on me quite a bit over the years.  The other side, "Whiskey in the Jar," feels more like an idea for a song than a fully fleshed out one.  Not terrible, just not really anything.  It was never included in any of their b-sides comps, and I've never heard it live, so I'm guessing the band isn't nuts about it either.