Monday, December 15, 2014

Ex Hex - Rips (Merge, 2014)

Ex Hex

Rating: 7 piles of pork out of 10

It actually wasn't until I saw them live that I felt like writing anything about this Ex Hex record.  Probably best known as one of Mary Timony's bands (not to intentionally give short shrift to bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris, they're just not as well known), I listened to the album at first and just thought it was a decent, run-of-the-mill punkish power pop record that I might pop on the player here and there.  Then the band played a local club with the also great Speedy Ortiz, and something about seeing these songs live totally brought them to life for me, no cheesiness intended.  The band put on a really great performance, and something about that made the tracks...I dunno, catchier or more intriguing or something.  It made me want to listen to this album a lot more, that's for sure.  "Rips" feels like an album that could have been released in 1975, and that is a high compliment in my book.  

Moreover, go see the band live when you get a chance if you like to have fun.  If you do not like fun, there's probably a Mark Kozalek show somewhere. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Solids - Blame Confusion (Dine Alone, 2014)

Blame Confusion
Dine Alone

Rating: 7.5 annoying cats out of 10

A whole lot of what I said in the Paws review just below this one would apply to Solids - youngish kids from another country (in this case, Canada) heavily mining the nineties indie rock hooks I was raised on and continue to adore.  In other words, it almost feels as if this album was made just for me.  These cats lean fairly heavily towards the Superchunk side of the aisle, with a strong dose of ...Trail of Dead thrown in there (props to the review on Allmusic for that comparison, it was driving me crazy until I read it on there and it finally clicked in my brain).  "Off White" is especially good, as well as the title track, but there isn't a dud on here.  

Catchy indie punk, flannel shirts and beards - the nice thing about the world we live in is if you're stuck in a permanent rut like I am, eventually the trends will come around to what you've always been & loved. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paws - Youth Culture Forever (Fat Cat, 2014)

Youth Culture Forever
Fat Cat

Rating: 8 foggy trees out of 10

I love hearing something I like this much completely out of the blue.  I had no idea who Paws was, or why this album "Youth Culture Forever" was even on my computer, but I decided to give it a listen.  I wasn't even all that taken at first, but when I hit the third track "Someone New" my ears perked up; by the fifth track "Give Up," I was completely sold.  It is so goddamn catchy, an album begging to be sung along to either live or while driving in your car, two of my favorite pastimes.  There is an immediate"nineties indie rock" feel here, and as someone permanently stuck in that decade I welcomed it.  The biggest comparison would be the Thermals, but you hear elements of Superchunk and Archers of Loaf and even a little Weezer (the Weezer of the first two albums, aka the "good" Weezer, obviously). 

I'm going to listen to this so much I get sick of it, and that's ok.  In fact I'm excited for it.  New bands that give me this tingly happy vibe don't come along too often. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights - End Times Undone (Merge, 2014)

David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights
End Times Undone

Rating: 7 restful swallows out of 10

New Zealander David Kilgour is best known for his work in the Clean, and I love the Clean.  Somehow that fact has never translated into my listening to Kilgour's solo work much if it all.  Hell, I've even seen him play solo live a couple of times and loved the shows, and still didn't act on it.  Who knows why we do or don't do some things, but this is where I stand with Kilgour's recorded material. 

Which is a damn shame for my dumb ears, because I'm quite enjoying "End Times Undone" as I listen to it right now and jot down these barely intelligible musings.  The Clean comparison is obvious, but I get very strong Yo La Tengo vibes here (that's probably because Yo La Tengo were likely heavily influenced by the Clean and Kilgour and the whole Kiwi pop sound).  You could also go down a Television/Tom Verlaine path with the guitar work, but regardless it adds up to a lot of mellow, melodic rock songs that I fully plan on listening to more. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fugazi - First Demo (Dischord, 2014)

First Demo

Rating: 9 carbonated flyers out of 10

This isn't a review of this "new" record by Fugazi as much as it is a PSA in case you weren't aware it was recently released.  The album is exactly what the name says - their first studio demo, where they began flashing out what would be their signature sound.  It sounds exactly how you would expect it to - like a looser, not fully formed version of Fugazi.  When you have all of these songs like "Merchandise" and "Waiting Room" and "Song #1" memorized like I do, it's fun to hear these slightly different versions.  To be sure, if you've never listened to the band just go buy "Repeater" or either of their first two EPs and branch out from there, but for an old fan like myself, someone that considers these guys one of my top three favorite bands of all time, this is a special treat. 

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'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.