Monday, March 23, 2015

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues (Drag City / Palace, 2014)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues
Drag City / Palace
2014

Rating: 7.5 overseen cambers out of 10

Usually one of the main draws for any Will Oldham aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy record is his extremely sparse / spartan approach to folk and country and old time music.  So I was quite shocked to put this album on and find out how big it sounded!  Most of the songs here previously appeared on a release from a few years ago called "Wolfroy Goes to Town," and they sounded exactly as you would expect - quiet, introspective, haunting.  This time around, the production is amped up like they were trying to emulate a hit Nashville record from the seventies...lots of instruments on every song, full choruses as backing vocals, and Oldham sounding more upbeat than ever when he delivers the vocals (or at least as upbeat as is possible out of him).  It was all a bit of a shock at first, but as I sat with the record it really grew on me.  I'm not saying I'd want Oldham to record all of his music like this, but it's a fantastic project and I wouldn't thumb my nose to hear other past recordings of his get this type of reworking just to see what we end up with.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tweedy - Sukierae (Anti / dBpm, 2014)

Tweedy
Sukierae
Anti / dBpm
2014

Rating: 7.5 dreamy anglers out of 10

We can pretend this debut Tweedy album "Sukierae" isn't just another Wilco album if we really want to...but when Jeff Tweedy, the driving force, voice and main songwriter of Wilco puts out a solo (or in this case almost solo, with his son playing drums) release, and it sounds just like his main band, it's a little silly to pretend otherwise.  How does this differ from Wilco?  Well, the songs are mostly shorter, and there are a lot of them on this record.  There are no annoying masturbatory Nels Cline guitar solos.  And...that's about it.  In fact if you told me this had been recorded around the same time as Wilco's best record, "Summerteeth," and was lost until now, I would totally believe you.  The dude is a damn fine songwriter, but he writes a very specific type of song, so let's not kid ourselves. 

The Spinanes - All Sold Out 7'' (Sub Pop, 1999)

The Spinanes
All Sold Out 7''
Sub Pop
1999

Rating: 6 adjusted templates out of 10

"Manos," the debut album by the Spinanes holds a prominent place on my top records of all time list.  Whether their later output was actually a step down, or my placing that first record on such a high pedestal made for unfair judging of later material, who knows...either way, this seven inch is just okay.  It appears to be the last material the band released before breaking up, oddly enough both songs Rolling Stones covers - the title track and "(S)he Smiled Sweetly."  Sort of a strange note to go out on, but bands rarely plan their demise. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags
Split 7''
Merge
2014

Rating: 7.5 grumpy grandmas out of 10

I totally forgot I had one more seven inch to review of the Merge subscription series, which is especially dumb considering how much I love both bands featured on this slab.  The track by Crooked Fingers, "Western Line," sounded instantly familiar - it could be he performed it at one of the many, many live Eric Bachmann shows I've seen in one form or another; or maybe I'm just so used to hearing the man's voice and output for more than twenty years that all of his songs sound familiar to me even if I've never actually heard it before.  Good song though.  Spider Bags go the cover route, tackling "Into a Tree" by the Limes, but unsurprisingly it sounds exactly like a Spider Bags song, as they do.  In fact I think I've possibly heard this one live as well.  Interestingly enough, the only time I've seen the Limes live was with Spider Bags...I smell a conspiracy. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Terry Malts - Insides EP (Slumberland, 2014)

Terry Malts
Insides EP
Slumberland
2014

Rating: 7.5 raspberry submarines out of 10

Four songs in under ten minutes, Terry Malts know how to get right to the point.  The band is a equal parts punk, pop and Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitars, and this combination really really work for me both on record and live.  I could probably do without the slightly goofy second song "Grumpiest Old Men," but the other three tracks are gold - especially the third song "Don't."  This is going to send me into another obsessive listening jag of their fantastic 2012 album "Killing Time," I just know it. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Belle and Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador, 2015)

Belle and Sebastian
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Matador
2015

Rating: 8.5 lenticular trading cards out of 10

I thought I had already written a review of this new Belle and Sebastian record a few weeks ago, and yet I don't see it here on the website?  Did I dream this?  Maybe it was one of those fever dreams you always hear about in the movies?  After all, this template autosaves the shit you write into it, so I have no explanation. 

Anyways, it's the band's first new record in five years and their ninth full-length by my count, and they still haven't lost that magic touch.  Bear in mind that the person reviewing this has flown both to Montreal and Miami just to see them perform, and I'm driving to DC for the same in a few months...I often claim I'm fairly biased in reviews, but my superfandom of B&S might put them at the top of the list. 

To put it simply, "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance" sounds like the band wrote and recorded a typical album, and then decided to throw some dance jams in to appeal to the kids.  Kids love dance jams right?  First there is the disco-infused "The Party Line," then the New Order-esque "Enter Sylvia Plath," and finally the calypso-infused "Play for Today" that sounds like it would be at home on a film soundtrack from the eighties (not that there's anything wrong with that).  The film would most likely star Andrew McCarthy.  I like those upbeat tracks just fine, but the two best and most classic-style B&S songs are the first two on the release, "Nobody's Empire" and "Allie."  "Ever Had a Little Faith?" towards the end of the record is also a strong classic-sounding song.  Not a dud on the whole thing though, which continues the bands streak of never ever releasing a bad song.  Listen, I already told you I'm kind of a fan...

Ex Hex / Twerps - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Ex Hex / Twerps
Split 7''
Merge
2014

Rating: 9.5 Russian judges out of 10

I've loved nearly everything about this Merge subscription series, but this might be my favorite release of them all.  It kicks off with the amazing Ex Hex covering the Kids' "All Kindsa Girls," one of the greatest power pop songs of all time - and they do a fine job of it.  I've been in love with Ex Hex since seeing them live a few months ago, and this only stokes the flames.  The flip side is one of Merge's newest bands, the Australian pop group Twerps.  They have a new song called "Science" that much like the rest of their catalog sounds more like something unearthed from 1987 than new material, but I love it. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pampers - Right Tonight 7'' (In The Red, 2014)

Pampers
Right Tonight 7''
In The Red
2014

Rating: 8 empty pee jars out of 10

I'm not sure if I love or hate that this band named themselves Pampers, it's so goddamn stupid it might actually work.  One thing I do know is the title track from this seven inch, "Right Tonight," is one of the most instantly catchy songs I've heard in quite a while.  I want to listen to it on repeat again and again and again.  The other three songs are great too, but goddamn that first track, it's like the good kind of kick to the nuts.  Not sure exactly how I would describe their sound - like a distorted, scuzzy Hot Snakes crossed with A-Frames maybe.  It works, it really works. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Records - Starry Eyes 7'' (Virgin, 1978)

The Records
Starry Eyes 7''
Virgin
1978

Rating: 10 award winning plays out of 10

This Records...um, record is one of the gold level members of the power pop pantheon of perfection.  Ask anyone in the know, and they'll all name-check "Starry Eyes" in any list of best power pop songs ever, and the b-side "Paint Her Face" is rad too.  Their first two records ("Shades in Bed" and "Crashes") and any singles associated with them are well worth the purchase if you come across them. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FKA Twigs - LP1 (Young Turks, 2014)

FKA Twigs
LP1
Young Turks
2014

Rating: 6 fancy rings out of 10

I think if I probably didn't know better, I'd assume this FKA Twigs record came out in the mid-nineties and was contemporaries with the likes of Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size, and I just somehow missed it.  I suppose it's not just the indie rock of my high school and college years that is getting rehashed these days, apparently the kids need to hear trip hop again too.  Nothing wrong with that mind you, just an observation from this relatively old man, musically speaking.  On the plus side, I actually like (but don't love) this record, and when it's an artist such as this that has been blogged to death across the entire internet, I find that is rarely the case.  On the minus side, nothing else on this album is as close to as good as the hit song "Two Weeks" - the rest of it is perfectly fine and listenable, but definitely lacks that "it" factor of that track.  That song is really damn good, I find I want to listen to it quite a bit.  I guess it can be at least one thing I still have in common with teenagers, other than my awful diet. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jeff the Brotherhood - Dig the Classics (Warner Bros, 2014)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Dig the Classics
Warner Bros
2014

Rating: 7 phasers set to stun out of 10

Jeff the Brotherhood offer up an EP of covers for the fans, and this fan approves.  I'm not sure how often I'll spin this, but I do like hearing their take on some classic tracks, and all of their choices here are solid.  Some songs are fairly straight forward and well known (the Pixies' "Gouge Away" and My Bloody Valentine's "Come in Alone"), others are obscure b-sides (Teenage Fanclub's "Mad Dog 20/20" from an old DGC comp, and Beck's "Totally Confused" that appears to be the b-side of the "Loser" single).  There is even one track called "Cujo," originally by Colleen Green, that I didn't know at all, so it felt more like getting a new JtB song than a cover.  The best track is their take on the Wipers' "Mystery," a song they should definitely be playing regularly in their live sets if they aren't already (they haven't played near me in a couple of years so I'm totally out of the loop on their live output).  For fans this is a must hear - for everyone else, why not?

J Mascis - Fade Into You 7'' (Sub Pop, 2014)

J Mascis
Fade Into You 7''
Sub Pop
2014

Rating: 7.5 clean paws out of 10

Randomly came across this J Mascis single (aka I downloaded this a while back and then totally forgot about it) - apparently this was released for Record Store Day 2014.  The titel track, and main draw here, is Mascis covering the Mazzy Star classic "Fade Into You" - it sounds exactly as you would expect, his voice making most anything sound like a long lost Dinosaur Jr track, as well as making me nostalgic for the original and my freshman year of college when the song came out.  The b-side is what appears to be an original unreleased track called "Outside Eye," and it's great...should have been put on a proper album IMO. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bowerbirds - In The Yard 7'' (Dead Oceans, 2012)

Bowerbirds
In The Yard 7''
Dead Oceans
2012

Rating: 7.5 purchased bonkers out of 10

Apparently this was released for Record Store Day in 2012, but I picked it out of the bargain bin of Amoeba in LA over christmas.  Bowerbirds are not only great but I used to play basketball with the guys in the group, thereby making them infinitely more awesome.  The title track of this seven inch is also on their album "The Clearing," while the b-side "Always an Ear to Bend" appears to be unique to this release.  Good songs, catchy, slightly spacey folk with great harmonies.  All of their full-lengths are worth a listen. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The White Octave - Style No. 6312 (Deep Elm / Broken Circles, 2000 / 2014)

The White Octave
Style No. 6312
Deep Elm / Broken Circles
2000 / 2014

Rating: 9 empty cake boxes out of 10

Why write about this first release by the White Octave, a nearly fifteen year old regional emo album that I doubt many people outside of North Carolina have heard or give a shit about?  Because not only do I love this record and get to write about whatever the hell I want to, but it finally got released on vinyl by Broken Circles!  

For those who don't know, this group was what musician Stephen Pedersen did between quitting Cursive and starting Criteria.  If I remember correctly, Pedersen moved from Omaha to the Triangle area to attend law school (Duke maybe?), or at least that was what I was always told.  The band always got lumped in with the emo crowd, at least partially because the album was released on Deep Elm, but I always thought of them as being a little heavier and/or more post-punk than that scene.  They're sort of a combination of something like Pedersen's old band Cursive with heavier Dischord-ish fare like Fugazi.  And they killed live, something I recently got to re-live during the 2014 edition of the Hopscotch Music Festival.  

I have no idea if anyone outside of old timers like myself will give a shit about this re-release, but they should and hopefully will.

Morrissey - World Peace Is None of Your Business (EMI / Harvest, 2014)

Morrissey
World Peace Is None of Your Business
EMI / Harvest
2014

Rating: Morrissey. 

Yep, it sounds like a Morrissey record.  A little pompous as always, a lot brilliant as always, and I'll listen to the shit out of this as always.  Seriously, is there any need to write an actual, well thought out review of a Morrissey album at this point?  Us fans simply don't give a shit what the critical take of the man is.