Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Belle and Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador, 2015)

Belle and Sebastian
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Rating: 8.5 lenticular trading cards out of 10

I thought I had already written a review of this new Belle and Sebastian record a few weeks ago, and yet I don't see it here on the website?  Did I dream this?  Maybe it was one of those fever dreams you always hear about in the movies?  After all, this template autosaves the shit you write into it, so I have no explanation. 

Anyways, it's the band's first new record in five years and their ninth full-length by my count, and they still haven't lost that magic touch.  Bear in mind that the person reviewing this has flown both to Montreal and Miami just to see them perform, and I'm driving to DC for the same in a few months...I often claim I'm fairly biased in reviews, but my superfandom of B&S might put them at the top of the list. 

To put it simply, "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance" sounds like the band wrote and recorded a typical album, and then decided to throw some dance jams in to appeal to the kids.  Kids love dance jams right?  First there is the disco-infused "The Party Line," then the New Order-esque "Enter Sylvia Plath," and finally the calypso-infused "Play for Today" that sounds like it would be at home on a film soundtrack from the eighties (not that there's anything wrong with that).  The film would most likely star Andrew McCarthy.  I like those upbeat tracks just fine, but the two best and most classic-style B&S songs are the first two on the release, "Nobody's Empire" and "Allie."  "Ever Had a Little Faith?" towards the end of the record is also a strong classic-sounding song.  Not a dud on the whole thing though, which continues the bands streak of never ever releasing a bad song.  Listen, I already told you I'm kind of a fan...

Ex Hex / Twerps - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Ex Hex / Twerps
Split 7''

Rating: 9.5 Russian judges out of 10

I've loved nearly everything about this Merge subscription series, but this might be my favorite release of them all.  It kicks off with the amazing Ex Hex covering the Kids' "All Kindsa Girls," one of the greatest power pop songs of all time - and they do a fine job of it.  I've been in love with Ex Hex since seeing them live a few months ago, and this only stokes the flames.  The flip side is one of Merge's newest bands, the Australian pop group Twerps.  They have a new song called "Science" that much like the rest of their catalog sounds more like something unearthed from 1987 than new material, but I love it. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pampers - Right Tonight 7'' (In The Red, 2014)

Right Tonight 7''
In The Red

Rating: 8 empty pee jars out of 10

I'm not sure if I love or hate that this band named themselves Pampers, it's so goddamn stupid it might actually work.  One thing I do know is the title track from this seven inch, "Right Tonight," is one of the most instantly catchy songs I've heard in quite a while.  I want to listen to it on repeat again and again and again.  The other three songs are great too, but goddamn that first track, it's like the good kind of kick to the nuts.  Not sure exactly how I would describe their sound - like a distorted, scuzzy Hot Snakes crossed with A-Frames maybe.  It works, it really works. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Records - Starry Eyes 7'' (Virgin, 1978)

The Records
Starry Eyes 7''

Rating: 10 award winning plays out of 10

This, record is one of the gold level members of the power pop pantheon of perfection.  Ask anyone in the know, and they'll all name-check "Starry Eyes" in any list of best power pop songs ever, and the b-side "Paint Her Face" is rad too.  Their first two records ("Shades in Bed" and "Crashes") and any singles associated with them are well worth the purchase if you come across them. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FKA Twigs - LP1 (Young Turks, 2014)

FKA Twigs
Young Turks

Rating: 6 fancy rings out of 10

I think if I probably didn't know better, I'd assume this FKA Twigs record came out in the mid-nineties and was contemporaries with the likes of Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size, and I just somehow missed it.  I suppose it's not just the indie rock of my high school and college years that is getting rehashed these days, apparently the kids need to hear trip hop again too.  Nothing wrong with that mind you, just an observation from this relatively old man, musically speaking.  On the plus side, I actually like (but don't love) this record, and when it's an artist such as this that has been blogged to death across the entire internet, I find that is rarely the case.  On the minus side, nothing else on this album is as close to as good as the hit song "Two Weeks" - the rest of it is perfectly fine and listenable, but definitely lacks that "it" factor of that track.  That song is really damn good, I find I want to listen to it quite a bit.  I guess it can be at least one thing I still have in common with teenagers, other than my awful diet. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jeff the Brotherhood - Dig the Classics (Warner Bros, 2014)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Dig the Classics
Warner Bros

Rating: 7 phasers set to stun out of 10

Jeff the Brotherhood offer up an EP of covers for the fans, and this fan approves.  I'm not sure how often I'll spin this, but I do like hearing their take on some classic tracks, and all of their choices here are solid.  Some songs are fairly straight forward and well known (the Pixies' "Gouge Away" and My Bloody Valentine's "Come in Alone"), others are obscure b-sides (Teenage Fanclub's "Mad Dog 20/20" from an old DGC comp, and Beck's "Totally Confused" that appears to be the b-side of the "Loser" single).  There is even one track called "Cujo," originally by Colleen Green, that I didn't know at all, so it felt more like getting a new JtB song than a cover.  The best track is their take on the Wipers' "Mystery," a song they should definitely be playing regularly in their live sets if they aren't already (they haven't played near me in a couple of years so I'm totally out of the loop on their live output).  For fans this is a must hear - for everyone else, why not?

J Mascis - Fade Into You 7'' (Sub Pop, 2014)

J Mascis
Fade Into You 7''
Sub Pop

Rating: 7.5 clean paws out of 10

Randomly came across this J Mascis single (aka I downloaded this a while back and then totally forgot about it) - apparently this was released for Record Store Day 2014.  The titel track, and main draw here, is Mascis covering the Mazzy Star classic "Fade Into You" - it sounds exactly as you would expect, his voice making most anything sound like a long lost Dinosaur Jr track, as well as making me nostalgic for the original and my freshman year of college when the song came out.  The b-side is what appears to be an original unreleased track called "Outside Eye," and it's great...should have been put on a proper album IMO. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bowerbirds - In The Yard 7'' (Dead Oceans, 2012)

In The Yard 7''
Dead Oceans

Rating: 7.5 purchased bonkers out of 10

Apparently this was released for Record Store Day in 2012, but I picked it out of the bargain bin of Amoeba in LA over christmas.  Bowerbirds are not only great but I used to play basketball with the guys in the group, thereby making them infinitely more awesome.  The title track of this seven inch is also on their album "The Clearing," while the b-side "Always an Ear to Bend" appears to be unique to this release.  Good songs, catchy, slightly spacey folk with great harmonies.  All of their full-lengths are worth a listen. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The White Octave - Style No. 6312 (Deep Elm / Broken Circles, 2000 / 2014)

The White Octave
Style No. 6312
Deep Elm / Broken Circles
2000 / 2014

Rating: 9 empty cake boxes out of 10

Why write about this first release by the White Octave, a nearly fifteen year old regional emo album that I doubt many people outside of North Carolina have heard or give a shit about?  Because not only do I love this record and get to write about whatever the hell I want to, but it finally got released on vinyl by Broken Circles!  

For those who don't know, this group was what musician Stephen Pedersen did between quitting Cursive and starting Criteria.  If I remember correctly, Pedersen moved from Omaha to the Triangle area to attend law school (Duke maybe?), or at least that was what I was always told.  The band always got lumped in with the emo crowd, at least partially because the album was released on Deep Elm, but I always thought of them as being a little heavier and/or more post-punk than that scene.  They're sort of a combination of something like Pedersen's old band Cursive with heavier Dischord-ish fare like Fugazi.  And they killed live, something I recently got to re-live during the 2014 edition of the Hopscotch Music Festival.  

I have no idea if anyone outside of old timers like myself will give a shit about this re-release, but they should and hopefully will.

Morrissey - World Peace Is None of Your Business (EMI / Harvest, 2014)

World Peace Is None of Your Business
EMI / Harvest

Rating: Morrissey. 

Yep, it sounds like a Morrissey record.  A little pompous as always, a lot brilliant as always, and I'll listen to the shit out of this as always.  Seriously, is there any need to write an actual, well thought out review of a Morrissey album at this point?  Us fans simply don't give a shit what the critical take of the man is. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rites of Spring - All Through A Life 7'' (Dischord, 1987)

Rites of Spring
All Through A Life 7''

Rating: 9 single Emma Thompsons out of 10  

Yeah I already have all of these Rites of Spring songs from their compilation "End on End," but when I saw this record at the store I had to buy it anyways.  There's not a damn thing wrong with owning everything by these post-hardcore (and pre-Fugazi) masters in every format possible.  Plus, it just seems "right" to listen to this band on vinyl ya know?  Really smart people have already written books on this band so I don't feel the need, but they were definitely very influential to me in high school and college. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Van Pelt - Imaginary Third (La Castanya, 2014)

The Van Pelt
Imaginary Third
La Castanya

Rating: 8 packages of snack meat out of 10

The Van Pelt were an excellent post punk band from the mid-nineties that I listened to a metric shit ton back in the mid-nineties.  The band broke up and the key members Chris Leo and Toko Yasuda went on the form the Lapse, a very similar outfit that I liked even more.  Anyways, this record is exactly what the title says - their imaginary third album, had they released it after their second record "The Sultan of Sentiment."  This is really more an EP than a full-length at 24 minutes long, but a new Van Pelt record is a new Van Pelt record and I'm not here to complain.  And sure, some of these songs actually ended up on Lapse albums and at least a couple of tracks are from a Van Pelt seven inch so it's really not even close to a "new" record, but I'm still grateful to have all these tracks in one place.   Especially since this happened out of out of nowhere, a very nice treat just to stumble across. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whatever Brains - SSR-63 / SSR-64 EPs (Sorry State, 2014)

Whatever Brains
SSR-63 / SSR-64 EPs Sorry State

Rating: 8 broken pet hospitals out 10

I'm doing this review as a list because yes. 
1.  Whatever Brains is one of my favorite things in the entire world and they can do no wrong in my eyes.  Know that going into reading any of this dribble. 
2.  I have been struggling for years to come up with a fitting comparison for them, to no avail.  These days the closest you can come is parts of some of their songs sound like Liars somewhat, and I'm not sure anyone even agrees with me on that.  I keep hearing it though. 
3.  I took the photo the band used for one of these EP covers (if you can't tell which one, it's the cover that is a photo and not a drawing).  I didn't know the band at all before this, so them finding my photo out of the blue and asking to use it as a cover ranks pretty high on my list of life successes. 
4.  If item one didn't point to how biased this review might be, item three should have definitely given it away right? 
5.  As much as I love all of their records, live is the way to enjoy this band.  They don't tour out of the area a ton but if they ever do, don't miss it.  It's a cacophonous wall of enjoyable noise, and frontman Rich Ivey has a gift for performance.   
6.  Why release two EPs (with each EP one side a 12'' record) instead of just calling it a full length?  Who knows.  And yet somehow with this band it makes sense. 
7.  The "titles" of these EPs are actually the Sorry State catalog numbers, so as to differentiate them from the band's other releases.  Technically both EPs are self-titled, just like the three LPs the band has already put out.  For those that can't count, that is five self-titled albums by Whatever Brains.  They really don't like thinking up titles for their records apparently. 
8.  The entire first EP SSR-63 is one 22 -minute long track called "///////," and it's all about the true story of a hermit Russian family living in Siberia that had not contacted another human in over 40 years.  There was a long article about it in Smithsonian (read it here) - the article is as fascinating as the song is awesome.  That is to say, very. 
9.  The second EP, SSR-64, is a more straight-forward four song affair.  The band seems to slowly be moving into a more keyboard/noise/electronic beat direction, hence the previous mention of Liars.  It works for them. 
10.  I don't have a tenth point, but I do have an affection for lists of ten.  Go buy this record. 

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.