Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Belle and Sebastian - Live 2015 (Concert Live, 2015)

Belle and Sebastian
Live 2015
Concert Live
2015

Rating: <insert photo of baby duck here>

Belle and Sebastian released a live album via their website recently (CD only, cross your fingers for an eventual vinyl release), and being that I love all things B&S I had to acquire it via the internets.  It was recorded at SECC Hydro in Glasgow, and they did it with the help of the Scottish Festival Orchestra.  The set list is damn near impeccable and does a great job of hitting highlights from across their career...shit, look it up if you don't believe me.  The epic medley of "Boy with the Arab Strap" and "Legal Man" followed by "Sleep the Clock Around" are worth the price of admission alone.  The whole thing clocks in at about an hour and fifty minutes long, and I have no idea why they decided to span that over three discs, but they did.  I would say that any fan of the band needs to hunt this down, but knowing their fanbase they already have. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jeff the Brotherhood - Wasted on the Dream (Infinity Cat, 2015)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Wasted on the Dream
Infinity Cat
2015

Rating: 7.5 sneezing dogs out of 10

I thought it odd that Jeff the Brotherhood had signed with major label Warner Bros. in the first place before their previous record "Hypnotic Nights," and it was no huge shock that the label dropped them right before the band released "Wasted on the Dream."  Based on their reaction after getting dropped, JtB seemed more than ecstatic being able to release their music on their own imprint again, so it seems like it all works out in the end.  The band has pop hooks, and you can sorta see why a major might think they can mold these kids into some version of stoner rock Weezer, but anyone who has seen them live or listened to their older material isn't surprised this didn't work out.  JtB seem like the types to do exactly what they want to do, no matter how much money they have behind them.  

That said, there was definitely loot involved in this record, as it was finished before they got the boot - the production is through the roof.  I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it over-produced, but it's just an ass hair away from it.  I'd love to hear the original rough masters of these tracks.  They got Ian Anderson to play flute on the second song "Black Cherry Pie" - yes, that Ian Anderson, from Jethro Tull - it's such a weird decision, it kinda works.  You hear songs like "Cosmic Visions," "Coat Check Girl," and "Prairie Song" and you start thinking these guys actually have a shot at radio airplay if the right pockets got lined with cash (aka why they got signed to a major in the first place), but I'm pretty sure that is out the door now.  And I'm not sure the band minds...you don't even need that much money to buy cut-off jean shorts at the thrift store and drink crappy beer. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Lees of Memory - Sisyphus Says (SideOneDummy, 2014)

The Lees of Memory
Sisyphus Says
SideOneDummy
2014

Rating: 7.5 dental flossers out of 10

If you ever wondered what it would be like if Superdrag sounded more like My Bloody Valentine, you're old like me.  Also, you're in luck - two of the members of the Drag (including singer John Davis) have a new act called the Lees of Memory.  I've actually had this sitting on my computer for a while, reluctant for some reason to listen to it; a foolish move on my part (I'm good for a few of these every day).  Bands that rise from the ashes of your favorites can often be disappointing, but that definitely isn't the case here.  And that shouldn't really be a surprise - with Davis' voice, anything they put out is just going to sound like Superdrag, the only difference here is the addition of extra swirly/distorted guitar parts on some of the songs.  My favorite track after the first few listens is "Not a Second More," which to be totally frank sounds exactly like a Superdrag song that would have been on their classic record "Regretfully Yours."  Not complaining about that at all. 

Fugazi - Furniture 7'' (Dischord, 2001)

Fugazi
Furniture 7''
Dischord
2001

Rating: 9 broken sandals out of 10

I always assumed this Fugazi seven inch was the result of too many songs for their album "The Argument," but if this is true god knows how they decide which songs go where - certainly all three songs on this short player are worthy of a full-length album.  I'd love to be able to listen to these songs more easily than busting out this seven inch every time, and I'm too cheap to buy the songs again as digital downloads from the Dischord site.  Anyways, like everything the band has recorded, this is well worth having. 

Electro Group - Lifter 7'' (Omnibus, 1999)

Electro Group
Lifter 7''
Omnibus
1999

Rating: 6.5 mighty beds out of 10

Like most people, when I think of shoegaze I think of Sacramento, from where Electro Group hail.  Jokes aside, they do a pleasant enough job running through a couple of tracks in this well worn style.  This single might be 16 years old, but given the recent resurgence in this genre you could easily think this is a modern release.  Apparently these kids are still out there playing gigs and writing new music based on their Facebook page, and good on them...I saw them once or twice in the early oughts and they were a good time.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Spray Paint - Punter on a Barge (Homeless, 2015)

Spray Paint
Punter on a Barge
Homeless
2015

Rating: 7 fat reds out of 10

I saw Spray Paint live a couple of years ago and left thinking they sounded a whole shitload like the Intelligence - kind of an angular, repetitive, post-punk thing going on, with the vocals barked or chanted more than actually being sung.  On their new record "Punters on a Barge," they sound more like...well, goddammit, I still think they sound a whole shitload like the Intelligence.  Not that that's a bad thing, because the Intelligence are radical.   And it doesn't feel like they're trying to rip-off the Intelligence either, more like they're just two bands who are driving in the same direction independent of each other.  Hell, you could probably throw Tyvek into this same party most of the time, and I love all of those bands. 

The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave (Fat Cat, 2014)

The Twilight Sad
Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
Fat Cat
2014

Rating: 7 invisible nets out of 10

Is it weird that a big part of the reason I like the Twilight Sad so much is because the singer's Scottish accent is as strong as it is even when he's singing?  The same was true with Arab Strap.  No idea why I find that so fascinating and/or appealing, but I do.  I would be hard pressed to spot many differences between all of the records these cats have put out, but I do know pretty much every time I hear their take on morose, dynamic indie pop I always enjoy it, or as much as you can enjoy music that feels so depressing.  Somehow they actually sound like the weather of Northern Britain, if that makes sense.  It probably doesn't.  This record does sound a little more "eighties" for a lack of a more succinct term, and not nearly as heavy on the quiet/loud/quiet crutch as their earlier material.  Are they just maturing as song writers?  I dunno, but it still sounds good, and it's not all that different really.  I doubt any long-time fans heard this and got mad.       

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (Constellation, 2015)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
Constellation
2015

Rating: Yep.

I'm not entirely sure what to say about a Godspeed You! Black Emperor recording after this many years...they have a sound all their own, and this new record very much sounds like their sound.  Spacey, doomy, loud, symphonic, dark, abrasive, beautiful...you know what you're getting here, and I highly doubt anyone interested in these Canadians needs to be sold on it.  If you need something that differentiates this from their other records, it feels like there might be more violins this time around, or they're at least louder in the mix.  The final song "Piss Crowns are Trebled" is amazing, very dynamic.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, and I'm not sure why you would be looking at this dumb review on this obscure blog to start with.  Just go check out their album "Yanqui UXO" and go from there. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lower Dens - Escape From Evil (Ribbon, 2015)

Lower Dens
Escape From Evil
Ribbon
2015

Rating: 8 friendly forces out of 10

I've listened to a lot of Lower Dens recorded output and even seen them live a time or two, but the band has really hit new heights with their latest offering "Escape from Evil."  This record is fantastically polished, a judgement that can be perceived as both good and bad but in this case it really works...the retro eighties New Order meets C86 vibe is strong here, and oh so catchy and listenable.  Baltimore might be the best city in the world for cultivating this sound these days, from Jenn Wasner's work with Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes to big dogs Future Islands; perhaps only Sweden's Mary Onettes do a better job at making cold eighties pop songs sound retro and modern at the same time.  "To Die in LA" was my quick favorite from the album...and I'm sure it's not just a coincidence that the name is so similar to the movie/soundtrack "To Live and Die in LA," an original from the era this album seems to be aimed towards.  This is going to get a lot of spins this summer, and will surely find it's way onto my "best of" list at the end of the year. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Best Coast - California Nights (Harvest / Virgin, 2015)

Best Coast
California Nights
Harvest / Virgin
2015

Rating: 7 green straws out of 10

Best Coast signs with a major label and their sound gets considerably more polished.  Surprising?  Of course not.  It's also not a bad thing in my opinion - the pop songs Bethany Cosentino has been writing all along could have easily gone this route if the money had been there - the only reason this band was ever considered "indie" in the first place was because they didn't have the money behind them to be otherwise.  Songs like "In My Eyes" or "Run Through My Head" are no different than something Kelly Clarkson would release, they're just coming from a band with more street cred.  The thing is though, those two songs are catchy as shit, as are many others on this album, and in the realm of pop music that's all that really matters.  The only thing keeping this band from being all over top 40 radio at this point is purely luck (and/or getting the fat envelopes of money into the hands of the correct station managers).  God knows if it was 1985 a band and an album this polished and likable would be everywhere; guess we'll just have to wait and see what 2015 holds...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Allo Darlin' - We Come from the Same Place (Slumberland, 2014)

Allo Darlin'
We Come from the Same Place
Slumberland
2014

Rating: 7.5 easter candies out of 10

I love Allo Darlin' - I loved their first two records & as well as when I saw them perform live a couple of years ago - which makes it all the more puzzling that I slept so long on their newest release "We Come from the Same Place."  And it's not like this third record by them is some great departure - if you told me this batch of indie twee pop was recorded at the exact same time as the rest of their material, it would be believable.  They're a one-trick pony I suppose, but they're really, really damn good at that one trick.  It might just me but it's impossible to not fall in love with singer Elizabeth Morris while listening to her perform - something about her tone drills right into my heart.  Note to self: if Allo Darlin' release a fourth album, maybe listen to it right away okay?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Outer Spaces - Garbage Beach EP (Salinas, 2014)

Outer Spaces
Garbage Beach EP
Salinas
2014

Rating: 8 blue bags out of 10

I came across Outer Spaces, both the band and this record, when I caught them on tour with a band I love, Lace Curtains. They closed the night and had just intended to see a couple of songs to hear what they sounded like - I ended up staying for the whole set and rushing to the merch table to buy the record.  With six songs at a little over 20 minutes long, I've found myself listening to this over and over and over since my first listen, mesmerized by Cara Beth Satalino's voice.  Musically the closest comparison I would make might be our very own Mount Moriah, with a little less twang.  There's also the occasional sheen of pop here, like on the Best Coast-ish "Rust."  Not a bad song in the bunch, and I really couldn't recommend this more highly.  Really looking forward to future recordings and future shows by this group. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues (Drag City / Palace, 2014)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues
Drag City / Palace
2014

Rating: 7.5 overseen cambers out of 10

Usually one of the main draws for any Will Oldham aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy record is his extremely sparse / spartan approach to folk and country and old time music.  So I was quite shocked to put this album on and find out how big it sounded!  Most of the songs here previously appeared on a release from a few years ago called "Wolfroy Goes to Town," and they sounded exactly as you would expect - quiet, introspective, haunting.  This time around, the production is amped up like they were trying to emulate a hit Nashville record from the seventies...lots of instruments on every song, full choruses as backing vocals, and Oldham sounding more upbeat than ever when he delivers the vocals (or at least as upbeat as is possible out of him).  It was all a bit of a shock at first, but as I sat with the record it really grew on me.  I'm not saying I'd want Oldham to record all of his music like this, but it's a fantastic project and I wouldn't thumb my nose to hear other past recordings of his get this type of reworking just to see what we end up with.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tweedy - Sukierae (Anti / dBpm, 2014)

Tweedy
Sukierae
Anti / dBpm
2014

Rating: 7.5 dreamy anglers out of 10

We can pretend this debut Tweedy album "Sukierae" isn't just another Wilco album if we really want to...but when Jeff Tweedy, the driving force, voice and main songwriter of Wilco puts out a solo (or in this case almost solo, with his son playing drums) release, and it sounds just like his main band, it's a little silly to pretend otherwise.  How does this differ from Wilco?  Well, the songs are mostly shorter, and there are a lot of them on this record.  There are no annoying masturbatory Nels Cline guitar solos.  And...that's about it.  In fact if you told me this had been recorded around the same time as Wilco's best record, "Summerteeth," and was lost until now, I would totally believe you.  The dude is a damn fine songwriter, but he writes a very specific type of song, so let's not kid ourselves. 

The Spinanes - All Sold Out 7'' (Sub Pop, 1999)

The Spinanes
All Sold Out 7''
Sub Pop
1999

Rating: 6 adjusted templates out of 10

"Manos," the debut album by the Spinanes holds a prominent place on my top records of all time list.  Whether their later output was actually a step down, or my placing that first record on such a high pedestal made for unfair judging of later material, who knows...either way, this seven inch is just okay.  It appears to be the last material the band released before breaking up, oddly enough both songs Rolling Stones covers - the title track and "(S)he Smiled Sweetly."  Sort of a strange note to go out on, but bands rarely plan their demise.