Thursday, May 14, 2015

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

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

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, 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

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

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

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

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

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)

Anti / dBpm

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

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. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags
Split 7''

Rating: 7.5 grumpy grandmas out of 10

I totally forgot I had one more seven inch to review of the Merge subscription series, which is especially dumb considering how much I love both bands featured on this slab.  The track by Crooked Fingers, "Western Line," sounded instantly familiar - it could be he performed it at one of the many, many live Eric Bachmann shows I've seen in one form or another; or maybe I'm just so used to hearing the man's voice and output for more than twenty years that all of his songs sound familiar to me even if I've never actually heard it before.  Good song though.  Spider Bags go the cover route, tackling "Into a Tree" by the Limes, but unsurprisingly it sounds exactly like a Spider Bags song, as they do.  In fact I think I've possibly heard this one live as well.  Interestingly enough, the only time I've seen the Limes live was with Spider Bags...I smell a conspiracy. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Terry Malts - Insides EP (Slumberland, 2014)

Terry Malts
Insides EP

Rating: 7.5 raspberry submarines out of 10

Four songs in under ten minutes, Terry Malts know how to get right to the point.  The band is a equal parts punk, pop and Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitars, and this combination really really work for me both on record and live.  I could probably do without the slightly goofy second song "Grumpiest Old Men," but the other three tracks are gold - especially the third song "Don't."  This is going to send me into another obsessive listening jag of their fantastic 2012 album "Killing Time," I just know it. 

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.