Monday, April 24, 2017

Superchunk - Tower 7'' (Messiah Complex, 1991)

Tower EP
Messiah Complex

Rating: 10 defeated robots out of 10

Possibly the most interesting thing about this Superchunk single is that it was only ever released on an Australian label, never on Merge or Matador.  Well, that and every song on it is awesome and classics and awesomely classic.  All of the songs were available elsewhere I believe, but surely this short player would have down well here in the States.  All tracks would definitely later be able to be found on their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)," and since that was the first Superchunk album I ever bought it all starts making sense why I think these songs are so crucial.  If I have to pick a favorite, it's the last track "What Do I," a short blast catchy, distorted punk that has been frequently stuck in my head for over 25 years now. 

Fugazi - Furniture 7'' (Dischord, 2001)

Furniture 7''

Rating: 8.5 loose barrels of grey matter out of 10

This was the next to last thing Fugazi released (coming out just after their last full-length "The Argument"), but is the last record of theirs I needed to complete my collection.  It's somewhat surprising that for a band that was not only a huge part of the DIY punk world but owned their own successful label, they only ever released two seven inches - this one and the classic "Song #1" that got added to the CD version of "Repeater."  Unlike most of their peers, I guess they preferred saving their songs for the full-lengths.  The title track of this seven inch is nice and all, but the two b-side tracks are the real winners - an instrumental number called "Number 5", and a Guy Picotto-led burner called "Hello Morning" that might be one of their best songs of all time, and that's saying something. 

Why? - Waterlines 7'' (Anticon, 2013)

Waterlines 7''

Rating: 6.5 squeaky water bubbles out of 10

Why? walk a very fine line between the interesting and annoying levels of quirky.  For the most part, they stay on the correct side of the line - their music is always enjoyable, and the rapping is just good enough to pass.  Their apex is still 2005's "Elephant Eyelash," but pretty much everything they put out is worth a listen and this is no different.  The title track can also be found on "Mumps, Etc."  and the b-side "The Water You Walk" is the demos collection "Mumps, Etc, Etc.", but it was still worth the buck or two I shelled out for it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chavez - Cockfighters EP (Matador, 2017)

Cockfighters EP

Rating: 8 electronic moons out of 10

It's been twenty years since Chavez released anything new, and then out of the blue (at least to me) they release a three song EP called "Cockfighters" that sounds exactly like Chavez of old.  The release has the same label, same font, same design aesthetic, same heavy, melodic jams.  Is that a good thing, that there has been no growth of their sound?  It certainly works for me, but then again my taste is pretty well entrenched in the nineties and I listened to Chavez's two full lengths "Gone Glimmering" and "Ride The Fader" a LOT all through college.  This was gold to my ears, especially coming from a band I had never considered might reform.  As always, the band sounds big, almost polished, but still with an edge...think the "heavy alternative" type of music Foo Fighters plays, only Chavez is awesome and not roundly mediocre.  

The real question: is there more to come?  Sometime soon, or in twenty more years?  I would be shocked if they even told us...some new music will just show up again in a year or ten, and it will probably be rad, and then I'll be left wondering if there is more music to come yet again... 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grandaddy - Last Place (30th Century, 2017)

Last Place
30th Century

Rating: 8.5 beard breakthroughs out of 10

I suppose it's just the nature of modern connectivity and social media, but it wasn't the least bit surprising that Grandaddy got back together and recorded this new album, "Last Place."  I've followed lead man Jason Lytle on Instagram for years, and you could see it brewing all along...reconnecting with old bandmates, reforming for festivals, spending time in the studios, and now this obvious final product.  It was actually nice to follow along at arm's length, modern day eavesdropping essentially, on an artist you really admire.   

But let's talk about what's important - how does this new album by a reformed Grandaddy actually sound?  Well - exactly as you probably are hoping - exactly like the Grandaddy of old.  If it leaked that they actually recorded "Last Place" right after they finished "Just Like the Fambly Cat" in 2006, no one would question it.  I wouldn't rank this as high as their masterpiece "The Sophtware Slump," but it easily stands toe-to-toe with the rest.  The album kicks off with a great one-two punch, "Way We Won't" and "Brush with the Wild," and never fails to delight from there on out.  There's even a call back to "Sophtware" with the track "Jed the 4th," not only referencing a frequent theme from that record, but even including a snippet of one of the "Jed" songs you can find on "Sophtware." 

My only complaint - they're not playing anywhere near me anytime soon, and I might have to fly my dumb ass out to California just to see them next month.   

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Superchunk - The Breadman 7'' (1991, Matador)

The Breadman 7''

Rating: 10 embroidered shirts out of 10

Another Superchunk gem - the title track is still an exciting one to hear, and the band still plays it occasionally.  You can also find it on the "Tossing Seeds" compilation if you're so inclined.  The real story though is side b, "Cast Iron" - if not my very favorite Chunk song, it's at least top three.  It was also my very first favorite song of theirs, which I'm sure colors my overall ranking at least a little bit.  If "Slack Motherfucker" was that first taste that got me interested in the band, "Cast Iron" was the full shot of heroin that got me totally addicted for life.  This is the seventh physical copy of this song I've owned - this seven inch, LP/CD/cassette of "No Pocky for Kitty" (the full-length it appeared on after this single), and lastly the LP/CD/cassette of the already mentioned "Tossing Seeds" compilation.  I've not got a problem, you've a got a problem for not being as stupid about this band as I am!

Honor Role - Craig Olive 7'' (Homestead, 1988)

Honor Role
Craig Olive 7''

Rating: 6.5 viking settlers out of 10

It should be noted that neither song on this Honor Role record is named "Craig Olive" - yeah, it's one of those seven inches.  I'm not even sure what I mean by that...I've just never liked it when a seven inch has a "name."  Pet peeves don't always have to make sense.  I've always thought of Honor Role as a "spazzy proto-math rock" meets "eighties college rock" band, but only the b-side "Lives Of The Saints No. 135 (Naked Wife)" mostly fits that billing; side a, "Twist!," is kinda boring and uneventful and not a cover of the famous song by the same name.  Both songs can also be found on the compilation that Merge put out in the nineties that was inventively titled "Album."

Cause Co-Motion - I Lie Awake 7'' (Slumberland, 2008)

Cause Co-Motion
I Lie Awake 7''

Rating: 6 future laboratories out of 10

Cause Co-Motion were an underrated jangle pop band from a few years ago that never released a proper album, but had a shit ton of singles (and eventually, a compilation of these singles that would act as a full length).  They had a bunch of really catchy songs but never seemed to make a splash.  This isn't their strongest single, but it's decent - the title track is the strongest of the three short offerings, but all are worth a listen.  I always assumed these guys were from the Midwest, probably getting them confused with the Midwest Beat who have a similar sound, but they were actually from Brooklyn.  Useless information!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Neil Halstead - You Are the Glue 7'' (Brushfire, 2012)

Neil Halstead
You Are the Glue 7''

Rating: 6.5 qwerty keyboards out of 10

This seven inch is strangely upbeat for Neil Halstead.  Released around the same time as his great solo record "Palindrome Hunches," I assume these two songs ("You Are the Glue" / "Tennis for Dennis") were recorded around the same time and just didn't fit the overall vibe of that album.  Mind you this is me completely guessing out of my ass, I could be totally wrong.  They're not bad songs, I'll probably dig them more with some additional listens, but it just isn't what I was expecting from the typically somber and morose Halstead. 

Teenage Fanclub - Long Shot 7'' (Creation, 1998)

Teenage Fanclub
Long Shot 7''

Rating: 5 corner kicks out of 10

This seven inch is for the most die hard of Teenage Fanclub fans only, and even then it would only be for completest reasons.  I ran across it in the bargain bin so no real gain or loss for me to be honest.  The title track is an instrumental the band recorded for the 1998 World Cup, I presume to be used in commercials and promos and whatnot.  It's a rather uneventful but upbeat number, and includes a brief portion of the Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again" right in the middle of it for unknown reasons.  The b-side is a twelve minute version of this same song called "Loops and Stings," which is designed solely for TV production use.  The fact that they released this at all is pretty funny to me, and probably a sign of just how "football" crazy they are across the pond.

Superchunk - Mower 7'' (Merge, 1992)

Mower 7''

Rating: 9 sharpened blades out of 10

Came across a bunch of Superchunk singles that I was missing from my collection - this is the first of that group.  Obviously, this is a Chunk classic - "Mower" is from what is widely considered one of their best records "On the Mouth," a song that is still often featured in their live sets.  Interestingly, the b-side "On the Mouth" isn't actually on the record "On the Mouth," but for my money it's one of their very best songs - probably the very best non-album track IMO.  It's entirely possible I love this band even more now in my old age than when I first heard them in high school after buying their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds" on a whim. 

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.