Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Braid - Rainsnowmatch 7'' (Polyvinyl, 1996)

Rainsnowmatch 7''

Rating: 6.5 lost sumbitches out of 10

A repress of the first single Braid ever released.  All three songs - "Sounds Like Violence," "Motion Light," "Perfect Pitch" - can also be found on their compilation "Movie Music Vol. One."  It's decent enough, but I was a much bigger fan of Braid's later material than their early stuff (not something I can say about very many bands). 

Portastatic - Naked Pilseners 7'' (Matador, 1994)

Naked Pilseners 7''

Rating: 7 furry criers out of 10

The second seven inch from Portastatic.  Why was this on Matador and not Merge?  Who knows.  Well, Mac probably knows, based on his Instagram that dude never forgets anything.  The title track here is also on the debut Portastatic full-length "I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle."  Both b-sides only seem to appear here - "Feel Better" and the highlight of the wax, "Josephine," a Magnetic Fields cover.  Mac really likes covering Magnetic Fields, and why shouldn't he, Stephen Merritt writes fantastic songs.    

Belle and Sebastian - Funny Little Frog 7'' (Rough Trade, 2006)

Belle and Sebastian
Funny Little Frog 7''
Rough Trade

Rating: 8 red convertibles out of 10

"Funny Little Frog" is one of the best songs/singles Belle and Sebastian have recorded in their late period*. It is not uncommon for this to be stuck in my head at any given time, or even all of the time.  The track can also be found on the album "The Life Pursuit."  The b-side, "The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" sounds so much like a Madness song that I had to verify that it actually wasn't one (it's not).  In addition to here, it can also be found on their singles comp "The Third Eye Centre" as well as some charity benefit that it was originally written for.   

*The early period was everything up to and including "Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant"; the late period is everything from "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" to present day.  These delineations exist only in my head because I've listened to this band so damn much.

Constantines - Hard Feelings 7'' (Arts & Crafts, 2008)

Hard Feelings 7''
Arts & Crafts

Rating: 7 costly give-aways out of 10

The title track of this Constantines seven inch is also the opening track on their third & final album "Kensington Heights."  Criminally underrated band in my opionion, and really damn good live to boot.  Had a strong Fugazi vibe in person that isn't quite as obvious on the recordings.  The b-side is a song called "Easy Money," a quality song that would have also fit in well on their final record, but only seems to be available here. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pavement / Medusa Cyclone - Split 7'' (Third Gear, 1994)

Pavement / Medusa Cyclone
Split 7''
Third Gear

Rating: 7 James Browns reading braille out of 10

I didn't even know this Pavement seven inch existed until I randomly found it in a used bin a few weeks ago.  Their song here, titled "Dancing with the Elders" is an early version of "We Dance" from "Wowee Zowee."  They're about 80% the same, some minor tweaks to the pace and lyric delivery being the differences.   If you're a Pavement completist, probably worth getting - won't cost you much anyways.  

As for the b-side, "Chemical" by Medusa Cyclone, I had never heard of them before buying this.  Kind of had that dark, noisy AmRep vibe, but not nearly as distorted or angry as most of their acts back in the early-to-mid-nineties.  If I happened upon more by them in a bargain bin I'd probably pick it up just to see what's going on. 

Total Shutdown - Broadcast Performances 7'' (Life Is Abuse, 2002)

Total Shutdown
Broadcast Performances 7''
Life Is Abuse

Rating: 6 sloppy chemicals out of 10

Total Shutdown were one of those Bay Area bands that my friend liked and the cool kids liked, but I could never get that excited about.  They were hardcore crossed with skronky noise rock, and better live than recorded.  Still, I bought this seven inch anyways just for the sake of nostalgia I guess.  There are six songs here, and as this plays on 45 I guess you can figure out on your own this band isn't one for long songs.  In fact, if I remember correctly 15 minutes was a long set by them.  I guess the takeaway is if you don't like a song, you'll get to hear a different one in about a minute.  

Side note - I'm impressed that a band that hasn't been active in a decade still has a working website. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Wye Oak - Tween (Merge, 2016)

Wye Oak

Rating: 8.5 squid landmines out of 10

All of the sudden, with little to no fanfare, Wye Oak put out a new record called "Tween."  If you were listening closely when I found this out you might have heard me squeak with excitement, because I've been all about some Wye Oak for the last couple of years.  A small part of it might be that I'm in love with singer/multi-instrumentalist Jenn Wasner, but it's mostly because they have such good damn songs (which certainly is one of the factors that makes me love Jenn so much SHHH NO ONE TELL HER I WOULD BE SO EMBARRASSED YOU GUYS).  

Anyways...good record overall, possibly great.  I don't love it as much as "Civilian" or "Shriek" yet, but I would not be surprised if it matched those two classics with more listens.  After burying her guitars under a pile of keyboards and basses on "Shriek," Jenn seemingly rediscovered a love for them here - though still not at the level of shredding you hear in "Civilian."  The best songs for my money are "Better (For Esther)," with it's badass synthy guitar solo, and "If You Should See," which sounds like a modern Cocteau Twins song, but better.

Definitely one of the best albums of the year, the only question is how high it will finish.  Right now I would guess top 5, minimum. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth (Atlantic, 2016)

Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Rating: 7 empty bottles out of 10

On "A Sailor's Guide to Earth," there is a song called "Sea Stories" that really turned my ear - "Maybe get high, play a little GoldenEye on that old 64."  It might seem like a somewhat minor line, and definitely reminds me of college, but to me it's another pebble on the mountain of evidence that Sturgill Simpson is running in a different direction from typical modern country.  The fact that the very next song is a cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" is even further proof.  He countrifies the cover up so well though that if you weren't familiar with the original (I'm assuming these people exist somewhere, mostly very young or only recently revived from a coma) you'd think it just another of his songs - songs that sound mainstream, or at least what should be mainstream if modern country wasn't just regular pop music with an occasional slide guitar.  The best track, "All Around You," features a horn section (the Dap Kings!, and they're actually on a number of songs here) and is as much a soul song as it is country.  This is a good record, worthy of your attention, especially if you have any interest in non-pop country at all. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Konvoi - Konvoi (Snot, 2016)


Rating: 7.5 soft rubber lids out of 10

Konvoi is from Boone, North Carolina.  For any non-locals reading this, Boone is a hippy town in the mountains, and absolutely nothing good ever comes out of there (I say this as someone who grew up right down the road).  Apparently Konvoi didn't get this message, and instead decided to release this blast of post punk snarl that sounds like the Fall, early Whatever Brains, and maybe Ex-Cult all blended together.  I even hear a little bit of Strokes-style garage-pop catchiness to a couple of their songs, but there's a good chance no one else will agree with me on that one.  This is a great record (or actually, tape only much to my chagrin) on any level, but locally it might be the best thing this year and is definitely my favorite "new" local band/release of the last few years.   Nice job for once, Boone, keep up the good work. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Big Business - Command Your Weather (Joyful Noise, 2016)

Big Business
Command Your Weather
Joyful Noise

Rating: 6.5 shining lenses out of 10

Having seen them live so many times and being a huge fan of their performances, it's hard to know what to say about a Big Business record.  First and foremost, they're almost nothing alike - the recordings are melodic, well-produced, shit there are even vocal harmonies!  You get none of that live - live, it's just pummeling, sludgy noise metal, and I love it even if I can rarely tell one song from another.  You can listen to their records all you want, when you see them play the songs in front of you and that wall of amps is blasting your face and laughing at your ear plugs you're likely not going to know what the fuck they're playing, and you're also likely not to care - or at least I don't.  Because of this, I don't think about their recordings very much to be honest - recordings that are totally fine, though not particularly spectacular.  I may or may not listen to this album very much, but you can be damn sure I'll be at the show the next time they come through town. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Incredible Kidda Band - (Watch Out) Thief 7'' (Last Laugh, 2011)

The Incredible Kidda Band
(Watch Out) Thief 7''
Last Laugh

Rating: 8 dead subscribers out of 10

There are two things the Incredible Kidda Band do well - pub rock and power pop.  It just so happens that the title track falls into the pub rock fold, and a decent example of it...not a genre I always love, but this track works.  Side B is a power pop gem "You Belong To Me" -  all of their best songs are power pop for my money, this one is no different. 

Fugazi - 3 Songs 7'' (Dischord, 1990)

3 Songs 7''

Rating: 10 lady fighters out of 10

I've owned/known these three Fugazi songs forever as they are also available on the CD version of "Repeater," which I bought in the mall in Boone on a Model UN trip around 1991.  I'm stoked to now finally own the seven inch version, for no good reason larger than "just because." "Song Number One" is an all-timer, "Joe Number One" is probably their second best instrumental (after "Sweet and Low" from "In On The Killtaker"), and "Break-In" is classic Guy Picciotto.  If you needed a perfect three song primer on what Fugazi is all about, you'd be hard pressed to do better than this trio. 

Barren Girls - Hell Hymns 7'' (Merge, 2013)

Barren Girls
Hell Hymns 7''

Rating: 5.5 psychedelic periodontists out of 10

Barren Girls are an interesting case...despite being from the same town as them, they somehow showed up with this EP on Merge out of nowhere before I had ever heard their name mentioned.  Then they seemed to play a couple of shows, and then promptly disappeared off the face of the earth. The music is fine if a little forgettable, female-fronted garage punk that sounds like a thousand other bands...I'm sure they were fun live though.  They didn't stick around long enough for me to find out. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Outer Spaces - A Shedding Snake (Don Giovanni, 2016)

Outer Spaces
A Shedding Snake
Don Giovanni

Rating: 7.5 moving bags out of 10

I've been thinking and thinking of what I want to say about this Outer Spaces record, and not a lot is coming to's just a really damn pleasant pop record - no frills, no fuss, no muss, just solid, catchy songs.  Singer Cara Beth Satacino has a great, warm voice that sounds instantly familiar, and is very comforting.  With her voice and the way the songs are structured, this almost feels like an alt-country record minus all the twang.  That probably doesn't make any damn sense but it's something that keeps popping into my head while I listen.  This just doesn't move me to many words, but I'll be damned if I don't really like it.  Also: excellent live. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wolf Parade - EP 4 (Self-Released, 2016)

Wolf Parade
EP 4

Rating: 8.5 drippy bottles out of 10

Hey, Wolf Parade is a thing again!  Color me glad, because I'll finally get to see them later this summer at Hopscotch after missing out the first time around.  During their hiatus or break-up or whatever the hell it was, I listened to a lot of the excellent solo efforts of the two frontmen: Dan Boeckner's Handsome Furs (as well as Divine Fits) and Spencer Krug's Moonface (as well as Sunset Rubdown).  So now when they get back together and come out with a new Wolf Parade EP, it no longer sounds like Wolf Parade to my ears but rather their solo endeavors, depending on the singer of the particular song playing obviously.  But...I don't really fucking care.  All four tracks on this EP are fantastic no what act they make you think of.  It's actually quite impressive that nearly everything either of those dudes touch sounds like gold to me...usually a split means weaker output, but somehow both Dan and Spencer have tapped a bottomless well of catchy goddamn songs.  Friggin' Canadians right?