Friday, October 2, 2015

Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art, 2015)

The Agent Intellect
Hardly Art

Rating: 8.5 reds and greens out of 10

Protomartyr didn't really win me over until I saw them live, and then everything changed.  Like a bolt of lightning straight to my head, all of their recordings went from "that's pretty good" to "holy shit this is my favorite thing in the entire world."  With "The Agent Intellect," somehow they got even better and I didn't think that was possible. 

Starting with the opener "The Devil in His Youth," the songs always feel like they're trying to jump out of the speakers - so much pent up force-feeding a fidgety kid a half-dozen Red Bulls and then locking him in a closet.  And yet, they hold that restraint, never really breaking through, always teetering on the edge of exploding musically but keeping their shit together, so to speak.  The band always gets called post-punk, but they are so much more than that.  At their best, Protomartyr are a more melodic version of the Fall, minus the overbearing Napoleonic front man (but retaining his genius).  I also get a heavy Jonathan Fire*Eater vibe, which was the more rockin' precursor to the Walkmen.  All the other comparisons have their place as well, from Pere Ubu to Les Savy Fav to Joy Division to US Maple, but the Fall is the big one, the important one.  They're not a cover band though, don't get that impression - but pretty much everyone is a confluence of those that came before them, and those groups are the building blocks of Protomartyr in my mind.   
It took me about half a listen to realize this was going to be one of the best records of the year.  Top three almost certainly...maybe even landing my personal top spot.  Don't miss out on this one. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Rock*A*Teens - Turn on the Waterworks 7'' (Merge, 1997)

The Rock*A*Teens
Turn on the Waterworks 7''

Rating: 7 pacific jets out of 10

I always like/liked the Rock*A*Teens live much more than recorded (they played last year for Merge25, so I'm unclear how exactly to refer to them).   Both songs - "Leave What's Left Of Me" and "Bloodhound" - are pretty good, but the band are so raucous and excitable live you just know that would be the better way to hear these.  Oh, and both of these songs are on their 1998 release "Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall."  I'm always excited to find an old Merge record though. 

ABBC - Gilbert 7'' (Easy Tiger, 2001)

Gilbert 7''
Easy Tiger

Rating: 6.5 broken defenses out of 10

ABBC is Burns and Convertino of Calexico combined with a pair called the Amor Belhom Duo that I don't know anything about.  The title track sounds pretty much exactly like a Calexico song, and is the real draw here.  The b-side "Butterfly Mouth"is an instrumental, jazzy affair that I'm neither here nor there on.  Not bad for a random find. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mandolin Orange - Such Jubilee (Yep Roc, 2015)

Mandolin Orange
Such Jubilee
Yep Roc

Rating: 7.5 torpedo skies out of 10

Even though Mandolin Orange are a local band for me, I feel like I never hear anything about them.  I suppose that's more a sign of the tastes of my friends more than anything, but this is a duo, much like Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, that should be able to cross multiple boundaries and appeal to nearly everyone - country fans. bluegrass fans, folk fans, country rock fans, etc.  The music is fantastically performed, and the vocals are excellent.  They also don't seem to play out very often, at least around here, which also probably plays into the feeling that they aren't part of the local scene.  Anyways, "Such Jubilee" is a great follow-up to 2013's fantastic "This Side of Jordan," a record I really got into about a year ago and played nearly constantly for a few weeks.  I wouldn't put this one on that level yet, but these past few listens are very promising. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dick Diver - Melbourne, Florida (Trouble in Mind, 2015)

Dick Diver
Melbourne, Florida
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 8 liver souvenirs out of 10

I think I read somewhere that Dick Diver doesn't consider The Clean and their Kiwi pop brethren to be influences, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of that New Zealand scene is going to have a really hard time believing that after listening to "Melbourne, Florida.".  Regardless of influences, this is a damn fine pop record, one of the best of the year to be sure.  There is a maturity here that far exceeds the actual age of the band members, with moments reminding me of other great pop acts running the gamut from Yo La Tengo to the Stone Roses to Sea & Cake.  This could have easily come out in 1985, but doesn't sound dated at all.  I suppose that makes it timeless, and I won't argue.

As a side note, I wonder if "Dick Diver" is some sort of Australian slang phrase, god knows they keep things colorful down there.  Or maybe it's about a diver who is a dick.  Or a dick that can dive.  Who knows. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Spoon - Anticipation 7'' (Mag Wheel, 2005)

Anticipation 7''
Mag Wheel

Rating: 8 bowing letters out of 10

Surprised to find this Spoon record in the bargain bin.  Even more surprised that despite it's limited run, it's not particularly valuable.  And lastly, most surprised that "Anticipation" was never on any of their full-lengths, it's a great song that should be heard more widely.  This is actually the second pressing - these songs (title track plus b-side "Headz") actually first came out in 1998 circa their amazing "A Series of Sneaks" album.  On red vinyl.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Screaming Females - Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni, 2015)

Screaming Females
Rose Mountain
Don Giovanni

Rating: 5.5 carbonated birds out of 10

I wish I liked the recordings of Screaming Females as much as I've enjoyed seeing them play live.  I'm not sure the songs are their strong point though, it's all about singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster...the way she plays, you half expect smoke to be rising from the strings at the end of every song.  Everyone should see them live at least once.  The recordings...they're fine I guess...I certainly don't jones to listen to them often.  When they hit a local stage though, chances are I'm there. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Make-Up - R U A Believer 7'' (K, 1995)

The Make-Up
R U A Believer 7''

Rating: 6.5 fired hats out of 10

I love all things Make-Up, and while this isn't their strongest release it's still worth having.  The title track is a jammer, and also available on their singles comp "I Want Some."  To be fair, Ian Svenonius could read the ingredients off of a Shake-n-Bake box, set it to a funky beat, and I'd shill for it.  The B-side title is listed as "Version," but in actuality it's a Dub Narcotic remix of the title track.  Maybe not necessary, but certainly a sign of the era this record is from. 

The Ends - New Rome 7'' (Dirtnap, 2003)

The Ends
New Rome 7''

Rating: 6 sandpaper fingerprints out of 10

The Ends put out a catchy, decent punk record called "Concrete Disappointment" years ago on Dirtnap, but I haven't thought about them in probably decade.  Came across this seven inch used at Amoeba and bought it on a whim, because why the hell not.  Turns out both tracks on this slab (the title track and the b-side "Saw It Comin") are both on that previously mentioned album, so this release is more or less superfluous.  Still, decent tracks and it didn't cost much so whatevs. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Golden Boys - Got Time 7'' (Sold Sex Lovie Doll, 2005)

Golden Boys
Got Time 7''
Sold Sex Lovie Doll

Rating: 6.5 hard-working matrices out of 10

I couple of good-but-unremarkable garage stompers from the Golden Boys, the garage punk kings of Texas.  This is out of Italy I guess, and the sleeve appears to be photocopied, but the wax is good so no big whoop.  I like these cats but recorded was never their strong suit - seeing them live is the way to go, because they put on a scorcher of a show.  The songs are decent though, and if you came across this like I did in a bargain bin it's worth a nab.  

Let's not discuss that label name though.  Oof. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mikal Cronin - MCIII (Merge, 2015)

Mikal Cronin

Rating: 7.5 hemorrhagic pails out of 10

Can something be slightly disappointing and totally great at the same time?  Because that's how I feel about this most recent Mikal Cronin record, "MCIII."  By most measures it's an ambitious, big pop album...the only problem is he released one of the best pop albums of the past decade in 2013 with "MCII."  While I instantly loved this new one, it's just not quite as good as it's predecessor, and it's difficult not to compare.  "MCIII" is still better than almost everything else of it's ilk though.  There isn't a 1-2 punch as strong as "MCII" openers "Weight" and "Shout It Out," but this new record does have a shitload more instrumentation and what appears to be a six-part pop opera or something of that nature.  Make no mistake I'm going to listen to this a lot...but probably not as much as the other one.

Thomas Function - The Insignificants 7'' (Tic Tac Totally, 2006)

Thomas Function
The Insignificants 7''
Tic Tac Totally

Rating: 7 Chicago clutches out of 10

At first I thought this was a split between Thomas Function and "The Insignificants," but it turns out that is just the name of the song on side A.  There are three songs total ("Blue & Green" and "Conspiracy of Praise" make up side B), and they all walk a fine line between garage rock and art punk.  I've always liked this band, and have never thought they got due credit, but the flip side of that is I managed to pick up this record for 50 cents so it's not all bad.  "Blue & Green" is my top choice, sounding like the Lapse trying to cut a demo for Goner Records. 

Flock of Dimes - (This Is Why) I Can't Wear White 7'' (Frenchkiss, 2012)

Flock of Dimes
(This Is Why) I Can't Wear White 7''

Rating: 8 devilish talons out of 10

I love all things Jenn Wasner, from her work with her main band Wye Oak to this solo offshoot called Flock of Dimes.  I was particularly stoked to be digging through the Amoeba bargain bins on a recent trip to SF and snagged a copy of her/their first seven inch (I'm never sure how to refer to bands that only have one member...).  Given what a commanding performer she is regardless of band name, it would be hard not to make Wye Oak comparisons here, although this music is a little more upbeat/electronic/almost dancey compared to her parent act.  The vocals still sound like Wasner though so those comparisons are going to be there no matter what.  Both tracks, the title song and the b-side "15" are excellent and worth seeking out.  So far she's only released three seven inches so hopefully a full-length record will make an appearance at some point in the near future. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Run the Jewels - Bust No Moves EP (Mass Appeal, 2015)

Run the Jewels
Bust No Moves EP
Mass Appeal

Rating: 8 house scourers out of 10

Yes, this Run the Jewels EP was released months ago for Record Store Day, but I never get to anything on time.  Big surprise - this collection of songs fuckin' kills; this duo can seemingly do no wrong right now.  "Pew Pew Pew," featuring DJ Qbert, is as strong as anything they've ever released, equal parts new shit and a throwback to hiphop of the late eighties/early's time for scratching to come back!  Title track "Bust No Moves" sounds like lyrical syrup, just drippy, especially the chorus from Cuz.  "Blockbuster Night Part 2" is likely the predecessor to part one from "Run the Jewels 2" only lyrically, because it doesn't actually sound anything like it.  Possibly the most interesting track is "Love Again (Akinyele Back)," which is exactly like the same song from the last full-length, until the final verse when Gangsta Boo flips it up and talks about oral stimulation from the female point of view.  Yeah, it's been done before, but it's done real damn well here.  

This vinyl is already getting expensive, so grab one if you see it.  Otherwise, cop the tracks online. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Caustic Resin - Yeah Right 7'' (Up, 1995)

Caustic Resin
Yeah Right 7''

Rating: 6.5 upstairs couches out of 10

I didn't even know this Caustic Resin seven inch existed until I stumbled across it at my local record store.  The two songs are "Yeah Right" and "Yeah Right Pt. 2," and while neither are stand-out songs by the band, they're still worth hearing.  It's fuzzy, spacey and sludgy in that way Brett Netson does so well.  As a side note, anyone and everyone should track down their amazing record "The Medicine Is All Gone," it's a vastly underrated nineties masterpiece.