Friday, March 23, 2018

The Number Ones - Another Side Of The Number Ones 7’’ (Sorry State, 2018)

The Number Ones
Another Side Of The Number Ones 7’’
Sorry State

Rating: 9 Costa Rican hoodies out of 10

I’m always excited to hear some quality power pop, especially if it’s a new band and not a dug-up relic from 1979 (no offense to those relics, it's some of my favorite music of all time).   It’s especially exciting is to find out this was released by a label in the same town as you!  Sorry State* mostly tends towards hardcore and heavy/weird punk, some of it good. a lot of weird, but generally not the catchiest music that would remotely be confused for pop; so I was pretty shocked to see they had released this four-song seven inch from Dublin’s the Number Ones.  If, like me, you find yourself perpetually mad that Gentleman Jesse hasn’t released a new record since 2012, let this quick burst of nearly identical hooks soothe your savage soul.  In fact, when I first heard the opening track “Lie To Me,” knowing nothing of the band, I jumped online to see if this was actually a new project from Jesse himself.  You could make some Exploding Hearts comparisons too, particularly on “You’re So Happy I Could Cry.”  Those are two comparisons I don’t make lightly, two acts that figure very heavily into my music fandom of the last couple of decades.  My only complaint here is the record is only four songs long…please god let a full-length be in the works. 

*They also have a brick and mortar record store in downtown Raleigh that is fantastic – tons of variety, great prices, and has taken way too much of my money.

Superchunk - Break The Glass 7’’,(Merge, 2017)

Break The Glass 7’’

Rating: 7 confused oranges out of 10

I know Mac loves them, and hell even I like them fine, but it’s really weird to hear Superchunk cover a Corrosion Of Conformity song.  The song in question is “Mad World,” from CoC’s 1985 record “Animosity.”  Surprisingly, this rendition by Superchunk is fairly faithful to the original.  Granted, the 1985 version of CoC skewed slightly more punk/hardcore than the metal band they are known as today, but it’s still very different from Superchunk’s catchy punk-tinged pop.  Even if I don’t find myself yearning to hear this cover that often, I appreciate them branching out with a different type of cover than what you would expect from them for the b-side of this record. 

The title track here is from their most recent (really great) record “What A Time To Be Alive” that I need to get around to writing up, as if my take on anything Superchunk releases isn’t going to be full-on fanboy gushing. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Salad Boys - This Is Glue (Trouble In Mind, 2018)

Salad Boys
This Is Glue
Trouble In Mind

Rating: 8.5 St. Bernard puppies out of 10

There was something comforting and familiar about Salad Boys upon the very first listen, but I had no idea why.  After a modicum of research (aka I googled their name), it was immediately obvious – they’re from New Zealand.  I don’t mean to lump all acts from that country together, because certainly there is some variance (Lorde, Flight Of The Conchords, I'm sure there's a weird white rapper from there that people like), but in the indie world there is a definitive Flying Nun/Kiwi rock sound that so many of these acts put off, even if they don't mean to.  It’s got the jangle and hooks that most think of with that scene (see the Clean, the Bats, the 3ds, the etc.), but there’s an additional element here that I can’t quite put my finger on…at times they’re a type of upbeat that makes you think of a pop-punk band that traded in their SGs for Telecasters – the tracks “Psych Slasher” and “Choking Stick” are particularly strong examples of this. 

“This Is Glue” is an early contender for album of the year right now, but obviously there is a lot of time to go.  I'm not sure Salad Boys are adding anything new or unique to this particular sound or the world at large, but they've written the shit out of some catchy songs I want to keep listening to again and again.  Trouble In Mind have rewarded me yet again for listening to one of their artists without knowing a damn thing about them going in. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Destroyer - Ken (Merge, 2017)


: 8 stick built condominiums out of 10

At this point a new Destroyer album is much like their live shows - if you're already familiar with what they do and how they sound, anything new is pretty much more of the same thing.  But they’re so damn good at that same thing, you keep coming back for more, or at least I always do.  I actively dislike the song “Cover from the Sun”, which might be the only thing I can say that's different about "Ken" versus their other records...I also couldn't tell you why I feel that way.  

Honestly, I'm at a loss as to what to say's their thirteenth record (!?!?!), it sounds more or less the same as the last five or so ("Your Blues" was the last one that was decidedly different), and it was one of my favorites of 2017 because I'm old and set in my ways and why fuck with a good thing?  

Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent (Domino, 2017)

Relatives In Descent

Rating: 8.5 valuable autographed footballs out of 10

Another hot-shit slab of professor punk from Protomartyr, everyone’s favorite Detroit band this side of classic Motown.  This is their most mature/best produced/insert euphemism for “they added strings to some of the songs” record to date, and thankfully that didn’t ruin it like it so often does with a lot of bands getting access to that big label money for the first time.  Side note: is Domino even a big label?  I’ve always thought so, but opinions may differ.  Surely though they have more money to throw at recordings than Hardly Art does.  But Hardly Art is backed by Sup Pop so maybe I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.  

Anyways - the broad view here as it has always been with Protomartyr is the Fall meets Fugazi meets Nick Cave, but they have definitely crafted this sound of theirs into its own animal.  Moreover, the musicianship has gotten SO GOOD, which you really notice if you give this a peep through headphones.  The lyrics still sound like passages from a grad school reading list aka way too smart for me, but at this point it would be weird if I wasn’t confused about what Joe Casey was going on about.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Metz - Strange Peace (Sub Pop, 2017)

Strange Peace
Sub Pop

Rating: 7 white Reeboks out of 10

Was Metz always this heavy?  I don’t remember them pummeling my ears this hard in the past, but I’d have to go back and listen to the old records to be totally positive.  They certainly were this heavy when I saw them live last fall, for the record.  It’s definitely not metal, but at times they’re as heavy as a lot of that genre.  “Strange Peace” almost veers into industrial territory at times, like Ministry played organically, (mostly) without the electronics and synths and such.  There’s for sure a punk edge too, but the driving brutality of the guitars on most of the songs…I don’t want to say overwhelms, but it’s definitely the lead story.

In case it wasn't clear, let it be known I like this quite a bit.  Have fun trying to listen to this while driving and not speed.  Opener “Mess of Wires” sets the tone immediately; the drummer sounds super angry on “Lost in the Blank City,” and it likely required the reskinning of at least a few of the drums; and “Dig a Hole” is the soundtrack of a cartoon cat running around on fire (PSA: don’t set real cats on fire).  “Strange Peace” is 36 minutes long but honestly feels shorter, and there is zero fuck around in it.  I like that. 

Mind Spiders - Furies (Dirtnap, 2018)

Mind Spiders

Rating: 7.5 pedantic theme parks out of 10

There’s not nearly enough catchy synth-punk bands in the world for my taste...bands that heard Gary Numan and said “let’s make all of our music sound like that, but more aggressive.”  But at least we have Mind Spiders, who yet again have put out an outstanding collection of just such tunes.  “Furies” kicks off with a driving barnburner titled “Outside,” and never lets up for the duration of it’s half-hour run time.  “No Ground” is the strongest track here, sounding like KMFDM if they were more angry and less dancey.  Any fan of this more recent version of Mind Spiders will be way in on this, as it very much sounds like what they were doing on their last release “Prosthesis.”  These guys deserve a larger audience because these songs are damn good, and fun. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jeremy Enigk - Ghosts (Lewis Hollow, 2017)

Jeremy Enigk
Lewis Hollow

: 8 meaningless fruit out of 10

I can’t seem to form these thoughts into a coherent paragraph(s), so I’m going bullet points with this one.

  • My initial thought in writing about this new Jeremy Enigk record was to note that he had released a new record, thinking this was a unique thing.  I honestly thought 2006’s “World Awaits” was the last thing he put out, but it looks like he’s released two albums between that one and this newest one, “Ghosts.”  I guess the bright side is I have two additional “new” Enigk records to listen to in the near future.
  • ...It’s almost like I half-ass everything and wait and do all of my research literally while I’m writing the review (which is totally true).
  • This is where I remind people that his solo debut “Return Of The Frog Queen” is one of the great lost classics of the nineties, true chamber pop perfection and Sub Pop really needs to get off their ass and reissue the vinyl on the goddamn thing.  Getting to see him perform live just after it came out, complete with a mini-orchestra, is one of the live music highlights of my life.
  • I thought “Ghosts” was a decent record on first pass, but multiple listens really pays off.  It’s got some of that chamber pop of “Frog Queen,” some of the subdued rock of Sunny Day Real Estate’s “The Rising Tide,” and a fair amount of straight-forward folk elements as well.
  • Side note, if you’re interested: “The Rising Tide” was apparently recently reissued on vinyl, so if that’s something you care about, get on it.  I’ll be going shopping this weekend.
  • If I had managed to really sink my teeth into this record a little more before the end of 2017, I’m certain it would have finished as one of my favorite records of the year. 

Escape-Ism - Introduction To Escape-Ism (Merge, 2017)

Introduction To Escape-Ism

: 7 Downtown Julie Browns out of 10

Having seen Ian Svenonious perform many, many times, and specifically having seen Escape-Ism at Hopscotch last September, it’s extremely tough to separate my feelings on this record from how much I love watching that man play live.  Ah, who the fuck am I kidding - this is my stupid blog it’s not like I’ve ever “separated my feelings” on any other goddamn thing I've written here.  Ian more or less dominates any and every group he participates in, but in this case the band consists of only him.  Nation of Ulysses had their punk vibe, the Make-Up had more of a soul sound, Chain & the Gang/Weird War have a primitive call & response thing going on…but truthfully they’re all delivery systems for Ian’s peculiar and delightful vocals and affectations.  For this solo effort, he employees sparse guitar, synth, and a drum machine – it oddly sounds like dirty garage rock and Kraftwerk had a baby, and I’m into it.  The music is quite simple, which is fine – necessary even…when I saw him perform these songs live, it was abundantly clear he has no idea how to play a guitar, so god knows how long it took him to record even the simple lines in these songs.  You’re here to listen to Ian anyways, and in typical Ian fashion all of the songs are about bringing down the man, ending capitalism, etc. – honestly, at this point if it was anything different you’d hope the man got checked for a brain tumor.

Your love of “Introduction To Escape-Ism” will be entirely dependent on your love of Ian, but then again that’s the case with anything this nut records.  And I love him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Alvvays - Antisocialites (Polyvinyl, 2017)


: 7.5 old gray jugs out of 10

I had no idea that Alvvays were so popular - they sold out their upcoming show at one of my local clubs, Motorco, super fast (too fast for my broke then-unemployed ass).  I'm left wondering - why has this band taken off and not the dozens of others that sound roughly the same?  That sound being timeless pop with just enough 80s synth throwback to keep the kids interested and don't realize it's kind of a rehash of the past.   Alvvays are the type of band where the singer's voice is so adorable that you just know she's super cute without needing photographic evidence (I call this the "Cardigans Condition").  I wonder if this might be the closest guys like me come to feeling the way a lot of teen girls feel about boy bands...

Here's the thing - sure there's nothing particularly new here, but Alvvays are really damn good at this style of music, so why not make them leader of the pack.  This second album of theirs, "Antisocialites," is so goddamn catchy and sweet it makes my teeth hurt.  If you like pop music at all, it's hard to imagine this wouldn't make you happy.  

Still...don't you feel like this top pop spot should be held by Camera Obscura in perpetuity?  I don't care if they're broken up. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - Murder Of The Universe (ATO, 2017)

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
Murder Of The Universe

Rating: 8 ice dragons out of 10

They're not quite in Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard territory, but King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard release a lot of records.  And what often happens in these cases is I get overwhelmed with keeping up/digesting their music, and eventually tune out.  According to Discogs this is their eighth full length in the last three years, three from just this year - and apparently they are planning on releasing two more before 2018 gets here!

Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, I somehow end up with a digital copy of "Murder of the Universe," popped it on for a listen I thought wouldn't make much of an impression, but was smitten from the start.  Technically there are twenty-one songs, but really it's just three intertwined epic jams titled "The Tale of the Altered Beast," "The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog," and "Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe."  As you might guess from those titles, the lyrical content is a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons-type silliness, or an even nerdier version of the shit all Led Zeppelin songs are about.  Lyrical content aside, the music is killer - the most perfect combination of kraut rock, prog, and "New Wave of British Heavy Metal"-esque heaviness.  The "Altered Beast" section is especially great, so driving and aggro and I'm pretty sure if I listened to it in my car I would start speeding right away.  Lots of spoken word narration through the whole thing - it's like someone did a mash-up with a "Lord of the Rings" audiobook and a rock band.  And shockingly, delightfully, it works. 

The whole record is pretty damn ridiculous, but I'm way into it.  Still on the fence?  There's a song called "Vomit Coffin."  Case closed.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble - Find Me Finding You (Drag City, 2017)

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble
Find Me Finding You

Drag City

Rating: 7 lucky stars out of 10

I listened to so much Stereolab this summer, easily the most I've listened to since college when they might have been my most-played band, so it was kismet that Stereolab founder Laetitia Sadier released a new record "Find Me Finding You" under the group name Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble.  Outside of the tropicalia-inspired opening track "Undying Love for Humanity," there's no denying this is basically just an older, wiser, more mature version of Stereolab, musically speaking.  I don't mean to sell her former bandmates short, but the ears hear what they hear.  There's not quite as much synth on this album - it's more of a garnish here as opposed to the main course - but Laetitia's voice makes comparing this record to anything other than her classic outfit a real reach, and pointless.  Sure, if I want to hear Sadier I'm much more likely to grab "Mars Audiac Quintet" out of my collection first, but "Finding Me Finding You" fits in nicely with her oeuvre.

Thurston Moore - Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline International, 2017)

Thurston Moore
Rock N Roll Consciousness

Caroline International

Rating: 7.5 hell youths out of 10

Thurston Moore, best known as the front man of Sonic Youth, has been known to get weird on some of his solo material.  To be honest, too weird for me a lot of the time...but that's not the case with "Rock N Roll Consciousness."  Maybe it was his split with Kim Gordon and the seeming end of one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time, but now instead of using his solo platform as an outlet for his more esoteric musical thoughts, it has apparently become the repository of what would have been Sonic Youth songs if the band still existed.  Pretty much every track here could have been featured on any album Sonic Youth released since the "Dirty" era, but especially their early oughts material like "Murray Street."  Hell, Steve Shelley even plays some (or all?) of the drums on this, so with two of the four members of the band involved it's as much a Sonic Youth record as it isn't.  The best song for my money is "Cease Fire," which technically isn't on the album unless you snag a Japanese version (and I think it might also be available when downloading), so seek this version out.   If you told me "Cease Fire" was a lost 20 year old classic by the band I wouldn't have questioned it for even a second.  

Your only decision when deciding if this album is for you is figuring out how much you want to hear a new Sonic Youth record, regardless of the name on the front cover.  A damn good new Sonic Youth record at that. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last (dBpm, 2017)

Jeff Tweedy
Together At Last

Rating: 7.5 dairy high schools out of 10

Does the world really need an album of Jeff Tweedy performing (mostly) Wilco songs by himself with only an acoustic guitar?  Probably not.  Is it still great to listen to? Almost certainly.  Is the person asking these questions someone who has multiple solo Tweedy bootlegs in his CD collection, so his love of this was as certain as anything that has ever existed?  I may or may not have three bootlegs of him...or more.  Also, get off my back, man.

I'm not entirely sure what else needs to be reported here - the record sounds good and feels loose - I'm guessing Tweedy knocked this recording out in an afternoon, or at least it has that laid back vibe.  This is probably just a cash grab, but I don't care - the track list is good, with three tracks from their perfect record "Summerteeth," plus a couple of unexpected Loose Fur and Golden Smog jams.  This is obviously intended primarily for existing fans, and if you count yourself in that group, a worthy pick-up.  Bonus points: no Nels Cline solos. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Stephen Malkmus - Jo Jo's Jacket 7'' (Domino, 2001)

Stephen Malkmus
Jo Jo's Jacket 7''

Rating: 7 missing neon signs out of 10

I was bummed when Pavement broke up, as most of their fans were, but pretty quickly Stephen Malkmus put out a self-titled record that sounded just like the last couple of Pavement records...and we knew the world would be ok.  The title track here is off of that album, and it's a damn good song.  Malkmus was always clearly very involved in shaping Pavement's sound, but when you hear his solo work it's very clear just how much influence he held.  My feelings are not nearly as strong on the flip track as they are for the title track - "Open And Shut Cases" - the lyrics of which mostly are just those four words in the title repeated over and over.  It is the epitome of a seven inch b-side: there, but barely. 

Side note: the label on my b-side is all jacked up...not sure if this was normal for this release, or I'm just "special."