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 or...er, 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 a...dance 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. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Braid - Rainsnowmatch 7'' (Polyvinyl, 1996)

Rainsnowmatch 7''

Rating: 6.5 lost sumbitches out of 10

A repress of the first single Braid ever released.  All three songs - "Sounds Like Violence," "Motion Light," "Perfect Pitch" - can also be found on their compilation "Movie Music Vol. One."  It's decent enough, but I was a much bigger fan of Braid's later material than their early stuff (not something I can say about very many bands). 

Portastatic - Naked Pilseners 7'' (Matador, 1994)

Naked Pilseners 7''

Rating: 7 furry criers out of 10

The second seven inch from Portastatic.  Why was this on Matador and not Merge?  Who knows.  Well, Mac probably knows, based on his Instagram that dude never forgets anything.  The title track here is also on the debut Portastatic full-length "I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle."  Both b-sides only seem to appear here - "Feel Better" and the highlight of the wax, "Josephine," a Magnetic Fields cover.  Mac really likes covering Magnetic Fields, and why shouldn't he, Stephen Merritt writes fantastic songs.    

Belle and Sebastian - Funny Little Frog 7'' (Rough Trade, 2006)

Belle and Sebastian
Funny Little Frog 7''
Rough Trade

Rating: 8 red convertibles out of 10

"Funny Little Frog" is one of the best songs/singles Belle and Sebastian have recorded in their late period*. It is not uncommon for this to be stuck in my head at any given time, or even all of the time.  The track can also be found on the album "The Life Pursuit."  The b-side, "The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" sounds so much like a Madness song that I had to verify that it actually wasn't one (it's not).  In addition to here, it can also be found on their singles comp "The Third Eye Centre" as well as some charity benefit that it was originally written for.   

*The early period was everything up to and including "Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant"; the late period is everything from "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" to present day.  These delineations exist only in my head because I've listened to this band so damn much.

Constantines - Hard Feelings 7'' (Arts & Crafts, 2008)

Hard Feelings 7''
Arts & Crafts

Rating: 7 costly give-aways out of 10

The title track of this Constantines seven inch is also the opening track on their third & final album "Kensington Heights."  Criminally underrated band in my opionion, and really damn good live to boot.  Had a strong Fugazi vibe in person that isn't quite as obvious on the recordings.  The b-side is a song called "Easy Money," a quality song that would have also fit in well on their final record, but only seems to be available here. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pavement / Medusa Cyclone - Split 7'' (Third Gear, 1994)

Pavement / Medusa Cyclone
Split 7''
Third Gear

Rating: 7 James Browns reading braille out of 10

I didn't even know this Pavement seven inch existed until I randomly found it in a used bin a few weeks ago.  Their song here, titled "Dancing with the Elders" is an early version of "We Dance" from "Wowee Zowee."  They're about 80% the same, some minor tweaks to the pace and lyric delivery being the differences.   If you're a Pavement completist, probably worth getting - won't cost you much anyways.  

As for the b-side, "Chemical" by Medusa Cyclone, I had never heard of them before buying this.  Kind of had that dark, noisy AmRep vibe, but not nearly as distorted or angry as most of their acts back in the early-to-mid-nineties.  If I happened upon more by them in a bargain bin I'd probably pick it up just to see what's going on. 

Total Shutdown - Broadcast Performances 7'' (Life Is Abuse, 2002)

Total Shutdown
Broadcast Performances 7''
Life Is Abuse

Rating: 6 sloppy chemicals out of 10

Total Shutdown were one of those Bay Area bands that my friend liked and the cool kids liked, but I could never get that excited about.  They were hardcore crossed with skronky noise rock, and better live than recorded.  Still, I bought this seven inch anyways just for the sake of nostalgia I guess.  There are six songs here, and as this plays on 45 I guess you can figure out on your own this band isn't one for long songs.  In fact, if I remember correctly 15 minutes was a long set by them.  I guess the takeaway is if you don't like a song, you'll get to hear a different one in about a minute.  

Side note - I'm impressed that a band that hasn't been active in a decade still has a working website.