Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last (dBpm, 2017)

Jeff Tweedy
Together At Last
dBpm
2017

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''
Domino
2001

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."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Codeine / The Cocktails - Split 7'' (Simple Machines, 1993)

Codeine / The Cocktails
Split 7''
Simple Machines
1993

Rating: 7 log games out of 10

This appears to be the March 1993 entry of a monthly seven inch series that Simple Machines was doing at the time.  For the kids out there, Simple Machines was one of the best indie labels of the Mid-Atlantic area in the early nineties, back when communication dictated labels be pretty highly regional - these cats, Teenbeat and Merge all did a great job of documenting the scene between North Carolina and DC (with a few outlying bands mixed in there).  

Of course, after all that regional talk, this slab is a split between NYC (Codeine) and Chicago (The Cocktails).  My overall point still stands though, your honor!  The Codeine song "Ides" would later be featured on their best album, "The White Birch" - as you might guess from the word "best," I'm a fan of this jam.  The b-side from the Cocktails is a bit of sillyness called "Working Holiday," which is also the name of the seven inch series.  It does have a loung/kitsch vibe, but not the same sort of lounge/kitsch vibe the Cocktails were famous for.  Not terrible, but slightly off. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ISS - Endless Pussyfooting (State Laughter, 2017)

ISS
Endless Pussyfooting
State Laughter
2017

Rating: 8 offgassing plastic trays out of 10

The duo known as ISS, aka Rich (of Bodykit, formerly Whatever Brains) and Eddie (of Brain F≠), are as confounding and interesting a band as you'll come across today.  I'm doing this one in bullet points because I'm not entirely sure how to put all of these thoughts together...
 - The music is made mostly of samples of punk songs, with some additional synth here and there.
 - The results span everything from industrial to punk to noise to god knows what else; Imagine Liars meets Les Savy Fav meets the Fall meets...fuck, there's a lot going on here and I can't even begin to pinpoint it all.  If you ever listened to Whatever Brains, imagine a dancier, crazier version of that band.
 - What sounds like a potential hot mess is actually quite catchy.  Calling this music catchy might actually anger Rich.  
 - "The Gov't Is After Me" is one of my favorite songs of the year.  
 - This cassette-only release has 14 songs in 21 minutes...there's no fluff to be found.  There is supposed to be a vinyl release in the future though, and fingers crossed no lawsuits from all the samples.  This would be great because I sold my car that had a tape deck.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels - Doomsday Troops EP (Loud Punk, 2013)

Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels
Doomsday Troops EP

Loud Punk
2013

Rating: 5 Mexican air conditioners out of 10

This is a reissue of this EP by Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels, the first pass being self-released in 1984 and worth a damn fortune apparently (if you consider a fortune somewhere between $100 and $200 dollars).  I'll be totally honest, I grabbed this out of the used bin and thought it was actually a seven inch by the great Eater, what with the way the band wrote their name and all.  Still, it's an ok slab, five songs of hardcore punk in typical early eighties fashion - the band might be Swedish, but the songs aren't.  This has never been one of my favorite styles of punk, but I bet they were a lot of fun live.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions (Concord, 2017)

The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Concord
2017

Rating: 7.5 melted ice cubes out of 10

I love pretty much everything about the pop stylings of the New Pornographers, but there are two things I love most about them - the inclusion of Dan Bejar and Neko Case.  In fact, while I normally quite like AC Newman (and I'm well aware that he's the real brains behind this endeavor), sometimes I get mad that he is singing songs that those two could be performing instead.  Which isn't particularly fair, because most of his tracks are aces too... they're just not Dan and/or Neko.  Few are. 

Anyways, "Whiteout Conditions" is the seventh record by this ragtag supergroup, making the New Pornographers more stable and longer-lasting than most of groups from which the band members are actually "appearing."  In a lot of ways this is more of the same from TNP - upbeat, catchy, and very poppy songs (that some people and/or reviewers like to call power pop even though it isn't power pop at all in my opinion, but I admit I'm a bit of an old school purist with that genre term), but with a couple of key differences: no Dan Bejar (boo!!!), who was busy on the new Destroyer album apparently (yay!!!); and it's way more upbeat/electronic than the band typically is.  One of life's great pleasures is hearing a country crooner like Neko belting out a dance pop jam like album opener "Play Money."   

Long story short, if you're already a fan you know you're going to pick up "Whiteout Conditions" anyways; and if you've never listened, I reckon it's as good a place to start as any.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider Bags - Hey Delinquents 7'' (Daggerman, 2008)

Spider Bags
Hey Delinquents 7''
Daggerman
2008

Rating: 6.5 closed motels out of 10

Spider Bags first seven inch!  It's fine - not as good as the band they would become a few years after this, but still totally listenable and worth checking out if you randomly happen across it like I did.  Both the title track (also available on the full-length "Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World") and the b-side "Professionals" are mid-tempo affairs, kinda intentionally loose and sloppy (a descriptor that would fit their entire catalog), but not real strong in the hooks department.  Start with 2012's "Shake My Head" if you want to hear this great band once they hit full stride.  I'm not saying they got better because they moved to North Carolina, but...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Superchunk - I Got Cut 7'' (Merge, 2017)

Superchunk
I Got Cut 7''
Merge
2017

Rating: 8.5 dead eye lights out of 10

I suppose it's only fitting the the 600th (!) release on Merge records would be from label founders, stalwarts, and owners Superchunk.  Moreover, this seven inch was also a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, with all proceeds from the limited run of 500 going to help the beleaguered organization.  Good on Merge and Superchunk for doing the right thing, and good on me for buying this slab right away because it sold out pretty damn quick.  

Anyways, the record itself - the title track on side A is a fairly punk affair, sounding like an old Chunk song with a chorus that reminds me of the Damned's "Smash It Up."  If that's not a ringing endorsement I don't know what is because everyone loves that damn Damned song.  The flip side is "Up Against The Wall," a cover of a Tom Robinson Band track that I quite liked.  To be honest my only knowledge of Tom Robinson was their one hit "2-4-6-8 Motorway," but now I'm going to make a point to listen to the original.   

Monday, July 3, 2017

Spiral Stairs - Doris & The Daggers (Nine Mile, 2017)

Spiral Stairs
Doris & The Daggers
Nine Mile
2017

Rating: 7.5 wizard balls out of 10

Spiral Stairs aka Scott Kannberg aka the other dude from Pavement who sings occasionally doesn't appear to be in any hurry when it comes to music or life in general.  His last release was "The Real Feel" in 2009, and since then he's moved around the world and seemingly just enjoyed life without worrying about any music industry bullshit.  I'm not sure if that time off was a necessary recharge that was needed to produce this damn fine record "Doris & The Daggers," or if I should be mad I had to wait nearly a decade to get another recording from him, but I guess better late than never.  The Pavement pedigree is clearly there in most of these songs, especially if you've listened to that band as much as I have, but it's mixed with a mature Kiwi-pop vibe, be that intentional or I'm just imagining shit because I've been listening to a lot of New Zealand pop lately.  You know, the Verlaines and the Bats and the Clean and all those other amazing bands that all your favorite musicians love but don't get nearly enough recognition from the general public.  "The Unconditional" is probably my top jam here, followed closely by "AWM" and "Dance(Cry Wolf)"...it's all pretty much gold though.  Scott had a ton of well known musicians show up on this, folks from the National, Shudder to Think, Broken Social Scene, Kelley Stoltz, and plenty more.

Spiral Stairs was great live too, when I saw him recently.  If he happens to play in your town I would get my butt to the venue because god knows when the next time will be that he decides to record and tour again...might be next year, might be in 2030.  

Also: it's never been clear to me if Spiral Stairs in this case is intended as a nickname for Scott, since he went by it in the early years of Pavement, or if it's the name of the band.  I'm treating it as his name, but given my track record I'm probably wrong. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Natural Causes / Sponge Bath - Split 7'' (Acid Etch, 2017)

Natural Causes / Sponge Bath
Split 7''
Acid Etch
2017

Rating: 7 reddish-brown bubbles out of 10

Local synth-punkers Natural Causes drop this seven inch at almost the same time as their excellent self-titled second record.  Why release this non-album song in this format instead of just including it on their full-length where I would likely hear it much more often?  Beats me, musicians gonna musician and their actions often don't make any sense to a non-musical ding dong like me.  Regardless, good track - this might be them at their Magazine-iest.  The b-side is a cover/remix by the group Sponge Bath of one of Natural Causes' songs from that previously mentioned second album.  This version sounds like Ministry or something WaxTrax would have released in the early nineties.  I've been waiting for more people* other than Liars to start really mining this particular genre and era; this style definitely suits Natural Causes' songs. 

*There are probably already a whole shitload of people doing this and I'm just not aware, but I never claimed to be up to date on all the latest shit, man.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Future Islands - The Far Field (4AD, 2017)

Future Islands
The Far Field
4AD
2017

Rating: 8 tragic publicists out of 10

My first thought was "This new Future Islands record is really good, I should write about it on my stupid website."

My second thought was "It's good, but it basically sounds exactly like everything they've released since 'In Evening Air'."

My third thought was "Who gives a shit?  Why would you be upset that they made more songs that sound like songs you already love?"

My fourth thought was "You're right, me.  Who gives a shit indeed.  This is awesome, and I'm probably going to listen to it a ton."

And then my final thought was "The last thing anyone needs is a doofus like me writing about this new Future Islands record."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Doug Tuttle - Peace Potato (Trouble In Mind, 2017)

Doug Tuttle
Peace Potato
Trouble In Mind
2017

Rating: 7 really thick milkshakes out of 10

Doug Tuttle was in both Mmoss and Wildildlife, two bands with misspelled names that I tried listening to over the years but they never quite got their hooks into me.  He's still stuck on intentionally misspelling names (clearly, his actual last name is Turtle), but finally I'm digging his output.  Maybe he's matured, maybe my tastes have changed, but who gives a fuck really.  Doug is doing that dreamy, soft-pop thing that many musicians attempt only to be...boring most of the time.  Tuttle isn't boring though, the songs are quite catchy and just weird/odd enough at times to keep you on your toes.  These ears hear "Wish You Were Here" era Pink Floyd, the Radar Bros, and some of Grandaddy's mellower output - your mileage may vary though.  Now I'm really kicking myself for being to lazy to go see him a few weeks back, I bet it was great...and could have been even greater if you were allowed to watch the performance laid back in a lawn chair.  This is great summertime lawn chair music.  I wish you could watch all shows laid back in a lawn chair, to be fair. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Booji Boys - Booji Boys (Drunken Sailor, 2017)

Booji Boys
Booji Boys
Drunken Sailor
2017

Rating: 8 disturbing directors out of 10

I found this Booji Boys release randomly online and downloaded it solely because of the name.  Then I quickly learned that just because you're named after Devo, it doesn't mean you're going to sound anything like them - not that I'm complaining, because I love the shit out of this.  "Booji Boys" is really, really fuzzed out, slightly goofy, & very catchy punk rock, and all the songs are super short - only three tracks surpass the two minute mark, and a number of them are closer to a minute.  Leave them wanting more, right?  If you can imagine Guided By Voices in their very early years (think "Propeller" or earlier), but a lot more agro, maybe you're in the right ballpark.  I would wager every Devo hat I own that this band is a fucking blast live too; and since they're Canadian, by law they're definitely super nice to boot, and obviously love hockey and Molson and probably poutine but who doesn't love poutine?  Stupid people, that's who doesn't love poutine. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody (Warner Bros, 2017)

The Flaming Lips
Oczy Mlody
Warner Bros
2017

Rating: 8 healthy glaciers out of 10

I've always considered myself a Flaming Lips fan, but if I'm being honest the last album of theirs I spent much time listening to was 2006's "At War With The Mystics," and the last one I truly loved was 2002's "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots."  It's not that their material since then has been bad, it's more like my Flaming Lips tank was full and I didn't need any more of their particular brand of silly weirdness.  Still, I listen to many of their classic records quite often, so I never felt disconnected from the group. 

A few weeks ago I caught the Lips playing a song from this new unpronounceable record they just released on one of the late night shows, and I found my interest piqued again.  It turns out that all of that old Lips material resting in my brain gut had settled a little bit and there was once again room in the tank for me to soak up some new recordings by this merry band of Oklahomans.  While not on the level of their fantastic span from 1993 to 2002, this is a damn good record.  This record is often a little more mellow and electronic than the band was in past, but still quite catchy.  I immediately took to "How??" and "The Castle," but there are no missteps at all.  Maybe after I listen to this one for a while I'll go back and revisit that missing period to see what else sounds good to me now. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Superchunk - Tower 7'' (Messiah Complex, 1991)

Superchunk
Tower EP
Messiah Complex
1991

Rating: 10 defeated robots out of 10

Possibly the most interesting thing about this Superchunk single is that it was only ever released on an Australian label, never on Merge or Matador.  Well, that and every song on it is awesome and classics and awesomely classic.  All of the songs were available elsewhere I believe, but surely this short player would have down well here in the States.  All tracks would definitely later be able to be found on their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)," and since that was the first Superchunk album I ever bought it all starts making sense why I think these songs are so crucial.  If I have to pick a favorite, it's the last track "What Do I," a short blast catchy, distorted punk that has been frequently stuck in my head for over 25 years now.