Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Outer Spaces - A Shedding Snake (Don Giovanni, 2016)

Outer Spaces
A Shedding Snake
Don Giovanni

Rating: 7.5 moving bags out of 10

I've been thinking and thinking of what I want to say about this Outer Spaces record, and not a lot is coming to me...it's just a really damn pleasant pop record - no frills, no fuss, no muss, just solid, catchy songs.  Singer Cara Beth Satacino has a great, warm voice that sounds instantly familiar, and is very comforting.  With her voice and the way the songs are structured, this almost feels like an alt-country record minus all the twang.  That probably doesn't make any damn sense but it's something that keeps popping into my head while I listen.  This just doesn't move me to many words, but I'll be damned if I don't really like it.  Also: excellent live. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wolf Parade - EP 4 (Self-Released, 2016)

Wolf Parade
EP 4

Rating: 8.5 drippy bottles out of 10

Hey, Wolf Parade is a thing again!  Color me glad, because I'll finally get to see them later this summer at Hopscotch after missing out the first time around.  During their hiatus or break-up or whatever the hell it was, I listened to a lot of the excellent solo efforts of the two frontmen: Dan Boeckner's Handsome Furs (as well as Divine Fits) and Spencer Krug's Moonface (as well as Sunset Rubdown).  So now when they get back together and come out with a new Wolf Parade EP, it no longer sounds like Wolf Parade to my ears but rather their solo endeavors, depending on the singer of the particular song playing obviously.  But...I don't really fucking care.  All four tracks on this EP are fantastic no what act they make you think of.  It's actually quite impressive that nearly everything either of those dudes touch sounds like gold to me...usually a split means weaker output, but somehow both Dan and Spencer have tapped a bottomless well of catchy goddamn songs.  Friggin' Canadians right?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pipe / Rubbermaid - Split 7'' (Amish, 1996)

Pipe / Rubbermaid
Split 7''

Rating: 7 expressed men out of 10

The was final Pipe seven inch I need to complete my collection of all of the Pipe seven inches.  All five of them!  I could have ordered it cheap off of Discogs but there's something more exciting about finding that final piece in the wild.  Their track "Raceway Park" can also be found on their "International Cement" full length, a good song but probably wouldn't have been my first choice for a single.  At no point have I ever known anything about Rubbermaid, and this one song hasn't changed that.  Pretty typical mid-nineties indie punk I guess. 

Spoon - Someone Something 7'' (Merge, 2002)

Someone Something 7''

Rating: 7 boom screams out of 10

The title song can otherwise be found on the great 2002 Spoon record "Kill the Moonlight." Damn do I love that record, nearly every track is gold.  There are actually two b-sides here, "Is This the Last Time?" and "In the Right Place the Right Time."  Neither is in the top tier of the band's work, which is probably why they got stashed on the other side of a single and are not on an album proper.  But it's still a couple of Spoon tracks from their golden era, so I'll take it.   

Teenage Fanclub - Free Again 7'' (K, 1992)

Teenage Fanclub
Free Again 7''

Rating: 8 dumb hopes out of 10

Two non-album covers from one of the greatest pop bands to ever exist, Teenage Fanclub.  Side A, "Free Again," is an Alex Chilton number that sounds just like a track that Fanclub might have written early in the oeuvre.  It's a match made in heaven.  The flip track "Bad Seeds" is originally a Beat Happening piece that doesn't work quite as well, but then again I've never gotten my feathers ruffled over the Beat Happening so I'm sure that's a big part of it.  Regardless, anything Teenage Fanclub releases is worth having, and I was excited to stumble upon this. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Moonface / Siinai - My Best Human Face (Jagjaguwar, 2016)

Moonface / Siinai
My Best Human Face

Rating: 8 butter funks out of 10

I guess Moonface (aka Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade & Sunset Rubdown) enjoyed his first pairing with Finnish krautgazers Siinai so much that both groups decided to do the whole damn thing over again.  Before this pairing Moonface was plenty enjoyable, but could sometimes get a touch repetative with the organ dirges.  The addition of a full band to the proceedings have really given the songs focus, no more so than on the second track "Risto's Riff" - goddamn does that track burn white hot.  "Prairie Boy" also has a strong kraut vibe that I'm way into.  My only complaint really, and it's more an observation than a complaint, is that when you add a full band to what Moonface was already doing, you kinda just end up back at Wolf Parade...I'm guessing casual fans wouldn't be able to spot the difference.  I'm almost positive I don't really care though, as I'll definitely be spinning this record quite a bit for the next while, no matter who it sounds like. 

Also, we've got a real contender here for worst album cover of the year, right?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fruit Bats - Absolute Loser (Easy Sound Recording, 2016)

Fruit Bats
Absolute Loser
Easy Sound Recording

Rating: 7.5 fresh fish bets out of 10

It seems like bands don't really go away anymore, at least not like they did in my youth.  Not that I have a problem with that, mind you, just an observation.  Fruit Bats (aka Eric Johnson and whoever he gets to play with him for any particular record or tour) have been making really terrific, occasionally twangy, seventies-style soft rock since the early 2000s.  They would sort of disappear and reappear from time to time (or so it seemed), depending on if there was a new record to promote or not.  There was even an actual "break-up" of the band announced on the usual music websites a couple of years ago...and though it's not clear to me how (what is essentially) a one man band breaks up, apparently he patched things up with himself because here we have a new record, "Absolute Loser."  

All of that nonsense aside, this is a great "return" by the Bats.  Things kick off with the best track on the release, "From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town," and never really let up.  Well, I guess they must let up at least a little bit if the first song is the best, otherwise they would all the best or better, and that makes even less sense than most things I write.  "Baby Bluebird" is also excellent, and there's honestly not a dud in the bunch.  That's typically true of everything Fruit Bats have released - I can't think of a bad song they've ever recorded.  

A few years from now when Fruit Bats release yet another excellent record, it's entirely possible I'll write this same stupid review again.  Next time it might include even more run-on sentences and grammatical errors!

Friday, June 17, 2016

David Bazan - Blanco (Barsuk, 2016)

David Bazan

Rating: 7 brown napkins out of 10

I've not paid a ton of attention to David Bazan (aka Pedro the Lion) lately, but I've loved the guy for years.  Since college even, and I'm old!  Those first three Pedro records are permanently burned into my psyche, and I'm always happy to lend any new material the dude releases a friendly ear.  "Blanco" might be dressed up a little different with it's synth contortions and electronic drums, but at it's heart it still sounds like a classic Pedro the Lion album.  Bazan's deep, raspy voice, morose lyrics, and the the pacing of his songs dominate his sound no matter what name he records under or how much some tracks might superficially sound like Grandaddy ("Kept Secrets"), Peter Gabriel ("Trouble with Boys"), or Gary Numan ("With You").  I like it though, this additional layer of artificial melody peppering his songs...a little extra texture never hurt anybody.     

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (XL, 2016)

A Moon Shaped Pool

Rating: Unnecessary

There is absolutely no point in reviewing a new Radiohead record.  Unless you're a little kid just now getting into music or you've been in a coma for twenty years, you know what you're getting here.  I will say: I like it, but it's not my favorite record by the band.  Aesthetically, feels pretty much like their last record "The King of Limbs."  Might make my favorite records of the year list, I'd say it's a toss-up at this point.  It always takes me a while to fully digest my feelings on any given Radiohead release. 

I doubt Radiohead fans are gonna be disappointed, and I doubt anyone changes their mind about the band based on "A Moon Shaped Pool."  You pretty much already know what this is and whether you give a shit about it. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Little Scream - Cult Following (Merge, 2016)

Little Scream
Cult Following

Rating: 6 additional pleated fans out of 10

Based solely on most write-ups of this or any other Little Scream record, it's highly doubtful I would have paid much attention had it not been released by Merge.  That label is batting about .750 or .800 for my tastes, so anything they sign off on is worth a once over.  

The bad - I'm not crazy about the whole record.  There is an insane amount of genre hopping from one song to the next, with Prince-like falsetto funk-pop being the most frequent comparison.  There's also spacy folk pop, weirdo art rock, and god knows what else.  It can almost be dizzying.  I'm not often in the mood to hear all types of music all the time. 

The good - there are a few songs though that are beyond fantastic.  "The Kissing" features guest vocals from Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, and has guitar solos reminiscent of the Wyld Stallyns from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."  Yes, I recently watched that movie again so it was fresh in my mind.  "Someone Will Notice" gives me a strong Aimee Mann vibe, and both it and "Wreckage" really make me think of Wye Oak - and I mean that in the best possible way.  Wye Oak is everything.   

I wish I was excited about this whole record as I am about those few songs, but it's worth a listen just for those alone.  And maybe I'll grow into the rest...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Egyptian Lover - 1983-1988 (Stones Throw, 2016)

The Egyptian Lover
Stones Throw

: 8.5 tadpole shrimp out of 10

I had no idea Egyptian Lover even existed until Moogfest in 2014.  A friend and I had driven up to Asheville just for the day to see Kraftwerk (one of the best shows I've ever seen in my entire life, for the record), and while wasting time that afternoon walking around downtown, came across the free, outdoor portion of the festival.  It was five in the afternoon, and here was this older, slightly chubby gentleman (and his assistant?) blasting some of the raddest 808 beats and synth layers on top of rapping that was straight out of the playbook of Afrika Bambaata.  It literally felt like I'd traveled back in time, and I loved every minute of it.  It was the perfect hip hop accompaniment to Kraftwerk, an urban version of their sound in a lot of ways. 

After that gig I searched out his material, but outside of Discogs it's not super easy to find.  Thankfully, the good folks at Stones Throw got a hold of the masters from the Lover himself, and released a four record compilation of all of his jams called "1983-1988" (despite the name, these songs are actually all from the period of 1983 to 1987).  It sounds so goddamn great, I want nothing more than to drive around and bump this in my car as if I was a kid again.  So many jams here - "Egypt, Egypt," "Computer Power," "Dial-A-Freak," "My House (On the Nile)," ...seriously, I love everything on here.  Just writing about it makes me excited to listen again and again and again.

King Khan - Never Hold On 7'' (Khannibalism / Ernest Jenning Record Co, 2016)

King Khan
Never Hold On 7''
Khannibalism / Ernest Jenning Record Co

: 8 hot, buttered corn-on-the-cobs out of 10

Despite being a fan for a long ass time of all things King Khan related, over the last couple of years my fervor for keeping up with his every release has somewhat waned.  Then he comes out with this stone cold jam called "Never Hold On," all lush and smooth, and I'm totally back in.  This track sounds like a throwback to the Brill Building days, complete with string section arrangements.  I couldn't love this any more than I do.  The b-side "A Tree Not a Leaf Am I" is fine, not special or boring really, just there.  Sorta slow and sultry, but not particularly exciting.  That a-side is fire though, and worth the price of admission alone. 

Apparently the songs from this release (along with another seven inch from Khan called "America Goddamn" that I'm not feeling quite as much as this one) are taken from the soundtrack to a documentary called "The Invaders" that may have some involvement with the world's strangest filmmaker, Alejandro Jodorowsky.  I can't find out a lot about it though.  I may not have tried very hard, to be honest. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mean Jeans - Tight New Dimension (Fat Wreck Chords, 2016)

Mean Jeans
Tight New Dimension
Fat Wreck Chords

: 7.5 pink plumber pills out of 10

I'm not sure if Mean Jeans wins the award for best album cover or worst album cover of the year, but it's gotta be in the running for one of those (my vote is best, but I have notoriously bad taste).  Regardless, if you take anything from listening to Mean Jeans, it's not to take shit too seriously.  Their music is basically a modern version of three-chord Ramones punk with some Jeff the Brotherhood-style riffs thrown in; the songs are catchy as hell (though maybe a tad overproduced for my personal taste), and the lyrical content probably couldn't be any stupider.  Song titles like "Michael Jackson Was Tight," "Are There Beers in Heaven?," "4 Coors Meal," and "Croozin'" sorta let you know exactly what you're in for...punk party rock for dudes who like to wear short cut off jean shorts, thrift store hats, and drink a lot of a terrible beer.  On paper that sounds terrible to most people, but seriously...the songs are crazy catchy.  

Eric Bachmann - Eric Bachmann (Merge, 2016)

Eric Bachmann
Eric Bachmann

: 8.5 pink highlighters out of 10

I'm sure the "why" has been explained somewhere, but Crooked Fingers is no more, and now Eric Bachmann is just recording under his own name.  He's released recordings under his name before, and everyone knows Crooked Fingers was really just Bachmann solo anyways, but if he felt the need to jump through this hoop to keep going as an artist, who am I to argue.  I'm just glad he's still making music and I've got a new record to listen to...and a really, really damn good new record at that.  The second track "Mercy" is one of the best songs he's ever written, and certainly the closest he's ever come to producing music that would be confused with a sixties girl group.  there's actually quite a bit of backing female vocals ("Dreaming" and "Seperation Fright" are a couple of other outstanding examples, and there are more), which adds a nice extra layer you don't usually get with his sound.  I could see some (stupid) people being turned off of this slight turn, but Bachmann's deep voice still dominates - there is no changing that.  I feel pretty good saying this will be one of my favorite records of the year...then again, I can often say that about any music Eric Bachmann releases. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Damien Jurado - Visions of Us on the Land (Secretly Canadian, 2016)

Damien Jurado
Visions of Us on the Land
Secretly Canadian

: 7 demolition men out of 10

I've listened to Damien Jurado for a long time now, but this is the very first time I've ever thought he sounded like the Zombies.  The voice still sounds like Damien to be sure, but the music has taken a decidedly lush, psychedelic turn.  I will confess I haven't paid as much attention to him these days as I did with his earliest records ("Ohio" remains one of my very favorite songs of all time) where it was mostly just the man and his guitar, so maybe he made this transition a little sooner, but it's still somewhat shocking to hear.  Perhaps the trippy-ass cover art should have been a giveaway.  But a good song is a good song no matter how it gets dressed up, and "QACHINA" is a fantastic effort, as is "A.M. AM."  Not to fret, there are still a few songs on here like "Orphans in the Key of E" that harken back to his old sound.  I'm into this new direction though, and I suppose I'll have to start paying a little closer attention again.