Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Various Artists - Radio Ready: Wisconsin (Cheap Rewards, 2014)

Various Artists
Radio Ready: Wisconsin - Lost Power Pop Hits 1979-1982 
Cheap Rewards

Rating: 8 felt glasses out of 10

You had me at power pop.  The title kind of says it all - this is a collection of power pop songs from the prime years of the genre, all performed by Wisconsin bands.  Some of the songs have been featured on other similar compilations and the the Shivvers are pretty well known, but it's still a collection worth digging up.  Nearly every song is catchy beyond belief, as it should be.  Some highlights include songs by the Shivvers "No Substitute" (also available on their recently reissued full-length), the Wigs "180 Degrees," and the Orbits "The Waiting Game."  The material ranges from Dictators-like novelty pop to Elvis Costello-ish crooner jams, but there isn't a bad track in the bunch.  The vinyl is already out of print at Cheap Rewards, but there are copies ot be found at some of the distros and on discogs for fair prices.   

Built to Spill - Ripple 7'' (Warner Bros, 2011)

Built to Spill
Ripple 7''
Warner Bros

Rating: 7 rat dogs out of 10

Having heard Built to Spill play this cover of the Grateful Dead's "Ripple" live on a couple of occasions, I was hoping this record of the track was a proper studio version.  Alas, just another live take, though the audio is high quality to be fair.  Same song on both sides - if you're cool with releasing a live track why not just throw any live Built to Spill song on the other side?  Seems like a waste.  Add another song or make this a studio version and this gets a much higher score. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Run the Jewels - RTJ2 (Mass Appeal, 2014)

Run the Jewels
Mass Appeal

Rating: 8 paint owners out of 10

Someone whose opinion I generally respect called this new record by Run the Jewels the best rap record of the last ten years.  While I definitely don't feel that strongly about "RTJ2," I'll definitely give it the nod of best rap album of the year.  I listen to so little rap these day though, that might be even less informed than my general musical opinion...regardless, I love the album.  Both El-P and Killer Mike are firing on all cylinders, especially on tracks "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" and "Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)," the latter which also features Zach from Rage Against the Machine, someone I hadn't thought of in decades.  If there is a complaint it's that the record feels short - you really want more from this terrific duo.   

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reigning Sound - Shattered (Merge, 2014)

Reigning Sound

Rating: 7 orange wrappers out of 10

Reigning Sound might be releasing their records on the hot shit indie label Merge now, but that has apparently had zero bearing on the group's output.  And why would it?  The band got signed to the label for their rootsy garage pop, and by god that is exactly what you get on "Shattered."  Greg Cartwright know his strengths, and it's catchy rock songs played through hollow body electric guitars and with just the slightest touch of twang to take it over the top.  Sure, you could complain that all of their records kinda sound the same, but I want their records to sound the same - they're comforting like an old friend, and this is a very comfortable record.  "Once More" and "My My" are a great one-two punch right in the middle of the album that perfectly sums up why these guys are so great.  Long live Reigning Sound, may you never change. 

Eleanor Friedberger / Spoon - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Eleanor Friedberger / Spoon
Split 7''

Rating: 6.5 mini bars out of 10

The first side of this Merge subscription split is Eleanor Friedberger doing a cover of the Yoko Ono song "Open Your Soul To Me."  Eleanor is/was a member of Fiery Furnaces - I'll admit I've never been much of a fan of that band or Yoko, so this track didn't do much for me.  She has a nice voice and it's a decent enough song, it's just not my bag.  On the flip Spoon does a cover of a Fiery Furnaces' song - "Waiting To Know You" - I've never heard the original, but Spoon very much Spoons this one up, I honestly wouldn't have even thought it was a cover if I didn't know better. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger / Matt Suggs - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Hiss Golden Messenger / Matt Suggs
Split 7''

Rating: 8 pretty tigers out of 10

The Merge subscription series keeps on rollin' - this time with Hiss Golden Messenger and Matt Suggs.  The HGM offering, "Rock Holy," is an upbeat track with MC Taylor's vocals dominating the scene as per usual.  The better of the two songs is Sugg's "This Is My Light," reminding me of why I listened so obsessively to his album from 2000 "Golden Days Before They End."  The former Butterglory frontman has a way of writing new indie pop songs that sound like late sixties / early seventies AM gold classics.  This track is actually very upbeat for him, and way too short...it's been over ten years since he released a new record, hopefully this is a sign of things to come?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Braid - No Coast (Top Shelf, 2014)

No Coast
Top Shelf

Rating: 6.5 strips of sealant out of 10

After roughly sixteen years, Braid decided to put out a new record.  It sounds pretty much like an old Braid record, as if they had never aged or dug "No Coast" up from a time capsule - it is maybe a little more polished than their older albums, but the guts are the same.  I absolutely loved (and still love) me some old Braid records, the problem is I'm not the same person I was nearly twenty years ago, and these new songs hold no nostalgia for me the way that "Frame & Canvas" or "The Age of Octeen" do.  This isn't the fault of Braid or my listening tastes or anything really, we've just grown apart.  They still do the punkier side of emo better than anyone probably, and if they play some shows locally I still might go see them just for the chance to sign along to "A Dozen Roses" and feel like I'm 22 again.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Superchunk - The Majestic 7'' (Merge, 1999)

The Majestic 7''

Rating: 7 monster trucks out of 10

Both songs on this Superchunk record are also the two opening tracks on the "Cup of Sand" comp, but shit I like having the tiny record of them as well.  Both the title track and the flip "Reg" are strong efforts that might get forgotten since they weren't on a proper album, but I haven't forgotten you!

Superchunk - John Peel Session May 31, 1992 7'' (No Label, 1992?)

John Peel Session - May 31, 1992 7''
No Label

Rating: 7 stranger's laughs out of 10

As the title states, this is record is a Peel session Superchunk recorded in 1992.  There is no indication on the record on when this was actually released or who put it out, but that is just nerd information that really doesn't matter anyways.  Like all Peel sessions the quality is good, and like most Peel sessions there are four songs - "Let It Go," "Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus," "Fishing" and "Untied."  You know the band, you know the songs, and Peel never disappoints, so this was a no-brainer pick-up for me. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

David Bazan and Passenger String Quartet - Volume 1 (Undertow, 2014)

David Bazan and Passenger String Quartet
Volume 1

Rating: 7 worn out rugs out of 10

If you ever said to yourself "I wish David Bazan would re-record some of his songs with a string quartet," well have I got a treat for you!  As a fan of Bazan and Pedro the Lion, it was a shoe-in I would like this, the question was just how much.  I might have picked some different tracks to include here, but since he did include a couple of my favorite songs ("When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run," "Priests and Paramedics") there will be no need to riot or protest.  To be completely honest I'm not sure I needed to hear his songs with strings added - his voice carries all the emotion of his music in my opinion - but it's pretty, and dammit sometimes that is enough of a reason to do something. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spoon - They Want My Soul (Loma Vista, 2014)

They Want My Soul
Loma Vista

Rating: 6 depressed orangutans out of 10

I was surely gonna write something deep and insightful about this new Spoon record like I do with all of my reviews, but I just can't.  I don't think I care anymore.  Not sure if it's the band or me or (most likely) a little of both, but I just haven't given a shit about any of their records since probably 2005's "Gimme Fiction."  It still sounds like Spoon though, and it always will as long as Britt Daniel is piloting the ship, but something is missing...it might just be overproduced and not raw enough, or maybe it's more.  It's probably no coincidence that their best record is still "Girls Can Tell," and it sounds like it might have been recorded in the janitor's closet of a run-down laundromat. 

Most bands can't manage one great album, Spoon has had two or three.  This isn't one of them...but it's fine.  Totally fine, and forgettable.  Does make me want to listen to "Girls Can Tell" or "Kill the Moonlight" though. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Rosebuds - Sand + Silence (Western Vinyl, 2014)

The Rosebuds
Sand + Silence
Western Vinyl

Rating: 7.5 scratching dogs out of 10

It's not like I ever wrote an unbiased review of any recording by the Rosebuds, but now with one of my best friends touring with them it's definitely right out the window.  Nonetheless, I maintain this is a great collection of pop songs, possibly their best since 2005's "Birds Make Good Neighbors."  Opener "In My Teeth" is an instant top five favorite by the band, and the following title track isn't that far behind.  Unfortunately it goes downhill from there, but only on a slight downgrade; the fourth song "Blue Eyes" seems to be the one I get stuck in my head the most even if it does sound more like a tune from a decade ago they are just now putting on a record.   This album is their first since their break with Merge, who have released all of their other full-lengths.  Regardless of label, the Rosebuds still manage to churn out catchy songs that I would definitely love even if I didn't know these kids for nearly two decades. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Redd Kross / Vertical Scratchers - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Redd Kross / Vertical Scratchers
Split 7''

Rating: 7 freaky dates out of 10

More Merge subscription madness.  This recent resurgence of Redd Kross has been delightful, from their 2012 record "Researching the Blues" to their half of this split, "Leave It Where You Found It."  So catchy and rad.  To continue my trend from the last couple of splits, I don't know shit about Vertical Scratchers...I thought I was more tuned in on most/all Merge releases, but apparently not!  I like their song here, "Jackie's Favorite," a jangly pop creation with some interesting falsetto vocals on top.  Need to track down their full-length now. 

Also, the record is pink so I'm not sure where the color is in the picture above.  Somebody done fucked up. 

The Polyphonic Spree & Grandaddy - Split 7'' (Birdman, 2003)

The Polyphonic Spree & Grandaddy
Split 7''

Rating: 7.5 Bolivian tornadoes out of 10

A split from the two of the hot shit acts of the early oughts.  The Polyphonic Spree delivers "The March," which sounds, um, pretty much like other Polyphonic Spree songs of the era.  That is to say, orchestral and big.  The better of the two is the Grandaddy track "The Rugged and Splintered Entertainment Center," which sounds like it was conceived, performed and recorded underwater.  Goofy ass band, but I love them.  Neither of these songs are anywhere else - well, the Spree song was also on another single I think, but that's it. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guided By Voices - Males Of Wormwood Mars 7'' (Guided By Voices Inc., 2014)

Guided By Voices
Males Of Wormwood Mars 7''
Guided By Voices Inc.


Rating: 7 partial airedales out of 10

As always it's next to impossible to keep up with the release schedule of Guided by Voices, but this seven inch caught my ear.  Both the title track and the b-side "A Year That Could Have Been Worse" sound like vintage GBV with plenty of hooks and a lo-fi crunch to the sound.  In fact the b-side sounds so, well, wonky, that it sounds like one of their very early songs.  I'm digging it.  The actual vinyl is sold out so you'll have to let the internet fix things for you here like I did.