Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oval / Liturgy - Split (Thrill Jockey, 2011)

Oval / Liturgy

Thrill Jockey


5 cheerleader competitions out of 10

This was one of those "Record Store Day" releases that I didn't actually buy but instead "found online" because that shit was (a) not available at my local store or all copies had already been bought when I got there and (b) is sold out now so I'm not feeling guilty for "finding" it.

So, this is five songs total, and the first four belong to Oval. I can't say that I've ever cared for Oval's experimental electronic bleep blop bloop music. I honestly don't know enough about this sort of music to know if it's good or bad in the grand scheme of things, but I know it brings me no joy to listen to.

Liturgy ends the release with a nearly twenty minute long untitled song that walks this fine line between metal, math rock and experimental wankery. At their best they sound like the love child of Don Caballero and Mogwai. I know they are a polarizing band because supposedly they play black metal without really being black metal, but in my personal opinion they are kinda off on their own trip musically, and I don't really give a shit if they don't look the part of black metallers anyways. Those people need to stop taking themselves so serious. And on the off chance any of those overly serious folks read this, please don't murder me or my family.

DJ Shadow - I Gotta Rokk (Island, 2011)

DJ Shadow
I Gotta Rokk


7 friendly ghosts out of 10

FUCK YES NEW DJ SHADOW MUSIC. And more to the point, new DJ Shadow music that sounds like "old" DJ Shadow music aka it don't sound lik
e "The Outsider". Not that I hated that record, it was decent, but not the sort of music by Shadow that gets me excited. But this EP is, oh boy is it ever.

So he has a new record coming out in September, and the first three songs are all going to be on that record - call this a preview if you will, something to tide the die-hard fans over for a few months. In addition, there is a remix of each of these songs, giving you six songs total (I'm a math major, so please trust my addition), and over 35 minutes of new Shadow. He ain't getting hyphy here, there are no guest hip-hop vocals, this is straight diggin'-in-the-crates electro-rock, and it delights me so.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian - The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian (Warner Bros, 2011)

The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian
The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian
Warner Bros


6 packages of wax lips out of 10

I don't know dick all about Neon Indian, but when the Flaming Lips put out something new I listen to it no matter what. I don't care if they're collaborating with Kenny Rogers, I'm down. Actually, an Lips/Kenny Rogers collabo would be awesome...maybe a spaced out cover of "Coward of the County" would kill.

So I did a little reading, and apparently Neon Indian are some sort of electronic pop duo out of NYC and Texas. Is it still a duo if one of them just does visuals? I personally would lean towards "no" on that one, but I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority there. Not that I don't like visuals, it's just pretty secondary to the music when we're talking about a musical group. Granted, as I've said I've never seen the band so maybe the visual person also plays music. Or maybe the audio from the visuals has a place in their music or some such shit. I clearly don't know what I'm talking about here.

Anyways, what you've got here is an EP of four songs that sounds like remixes of Flaming Lips songs you've never heard. This is exactly what I expected the record to sound like, and I was neither disappointed or pleasantly surprised. None of the songs are particularly catchy or what I'd call "top shelf" Flaming Lips' product, but it's all decent enough and certainly very listenable. I'm not a druggin' sort, but it seems like the sort of record that it would be good to listen to while stoned. But maybe not on speed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TV Ghost - Mass Dream (In The Red, 2011)

TV Ghost
Mass Dream

In The Red

6 episodes of "Viva Laughlin" out of 10

If I read a description of a band as being a mix of Pere Ubu, Rites of Spring and the Doors, I don't know whether I'd run and hide or shriek with excitement like a small child. But that's pretty much the best description I've come up with for TV Ghost, a quartet of musicians out of Lafayette, Indiana who may or may not need psychological help. Perhaps a more modern comparison would be a more damaged version of the A Frames, a person favorite of mine. Nearly all of the songs have a very nervous, anxious feeling to're not putting this on and taking a little nap on the couch. It's the sort of music that sounds great if you're in the right mood, but catch you off guard and you might be cursing it's very existence.

I'm not sure I love this record, but I'm very intrigued by it. And I'm not sure this is an album that opens itself up after just a few might take a while.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge, 2011)

12 Desperate Straight Lines



7.5 late night television psychics out of 10

There's no substitute for a great pop song, and god knows this Telekinesis record is awash with them. It's only fitting that Merge has released both of their records, because if a band could give birth this is what the offspring of Superchunk would & should sound like. Especially Superchunk at their most power pop - the late nineties with "Indoor Living" and "Come Pick Me Up". "12 Desperate Straight Lines" just hits you over the head with one catchy song after another, barely letting you come up for air - just hook after hook for nearly 33 minutes. The album hits it's high point with "Car Crash", as catchy a song as I've heard in years and one that will certainly be stuck in my head for the foreseeable future.

This album is going to go two directions for me, and it's way too early to know which direction that is. It's so sugary-saccharine sweet and addictive that it's entirely possible I burn myself out on it quickly, like eating too much cake*. Or it could be something I visit often for years to come, like a good chocolate milkshake from your favorite ice cream parlor. Because there is nothing better in this world than a good chocolate milkshake**.

*This is clearly a theoretical proposition, as I've yet to reach the point of "too much cake". I'll keep trying though.

**And when I say "chocolate milkshake", I mean a proper one made with chocolate ice cream; none of that black-and-white bullshit with the vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

Monday, May 16, 2011

U.S. Christmas - The Valley Path (Neurot, 2011)

U.S. Christmas
The Valley Path



9 piles of deer scat out of 10

To put it simply, USX have outdone themselves. Fully. Right now this is the easy frontrunner for album of the year in my mind, and some folks are really going to have to step their game up if they hope to top it.

For starters, the album is just one song, around 38 minutes long. That's no "Dopesmoker" by Sleep, but it's a damn long song. The song ebbs and flows like the tide, with multiple discernible sections held together by an overall ascetic of...doom maybe? Or depression? I dunno, I've never been much for meaning, but this record would make a perfect soundtrack for the most bleak post-apocalyptic movies...certainly the recently released "The Road" would be a good fit. So if you're starving, wandering a barren land, and being chased by cannibals, I'm pretty sure something similar to this could, would or should be playing.

Another point, maybe the main point that makes this record stand out - it's not metal. Not in the typical sense certainly. USX are generally considered a metal band, but this record is so much more than that. As a non-metal person, most of my comparisons for this would draw from a non-metal world - the first portion reminds me a lot of Black Mountain; just after the twenty minute mark, there is a heavy Dirty Three vibe; and I'd have to think most any Mogwai fan would enjoy their more upbeat sections. There are also moments that make me think of Black Heart Procession, Hawkwind (you can't have a USX release without mentioning Hawkwind), and maybe more than anything, mid-to-late seventies Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

At this point this review is a jumbled fuckin' mess and I'm not sure what else to say. This is an absolutely stunner of an album. It's barely left my car CD player for the last two weeks. As much as I've loved USX's previous work, this is now their gold standard.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Obits - Moody, Standard and Poor (Sub Pop, 2011)

Moody, Standard and Poor

Sub Pop


7 stock markets out of 10

Music is a strange thing. Some bands remain the same and they get old quickly, while other groups keep basically putting out the same record and it is celebrated with each and every release. Obits are of that second group. I've complained about many bands pigeon-holing themselves, never growing their sound, but that criticism has never landed on a band where Rick Froberg is leading the way. He has a style of music he is very, very good at, and I never tire hearing him perform it.

That said, I think the songs might be stronger this time around than with the first full-length batch of Obit's songs on 2009's "I Blame You". The songs feel more focused and the album a bit more cohesive. The punk-garage-with-a-tinge-of-surf aesthetic is still there in spades, the exact sound you expect to hear when this record hits the turntable. If you were expecting more (or less) you're looking in the wrong direction. This album is exactly as it should be, always was, and will be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trans Am - Sex Change (Thrill Jockey, 2007)

Trans Am Sex Change Thrill Jockey 2007 Rating: 6 pontiacs on blocks out of 10

It's not you Trans Am, it's me. We've grown ap
art. The joy I felt over your first three records, that joy isn't there anymore. You're still the same you, but I think I've changed. It's not that the music isn't any good - both "Conspiracy of the Gods" and "Tesco v. Sainsbury's" are as good as anything you've recorded, but it's just not the sort of music that gets me all that excited like it did in my early twenties. It's still perfectly good music, and I'm sure you'll meet someone else, but I'm afraid we've just grown too far apart.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

JEFF the Brotherhood - We Are the Champions (Infinity Cat, 2011)

JEFF the Brotherhood
We Are the Champions

Infinity Cat


7.5 out of 10

JEFF the Brotherhood is all over the map..and it really works for them. Their sound is all over the map - Pavement-style nineties slacker rock, early Weezer, clean garage rock like the first couple of Black Keys records, a little Trans Am/Fuckin' Champs when they decide to get spacey, the occasional Sebadoh moment, and god knows what else. But under all this decoration, "We Are the Champions" is just a really good, extremely catchy pop record. I would have absolutely loved this release in high school when all I listened to was Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk. I would have gone nuts for it in college, because it sounds like every one of my favorite bands. In my twenties, when I was on a heavy punk kick - this would have been perfect. And now, as an old(ish) man...still really, really damn good.

Nearly every song is a hit but I am especially partial to "Ripper" and "Diamond Way". This is music for your inner child, no matter how old you are. I really can't wait to see these guys live.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

High Tension Wires - Welcome New Machine (Dirtnap, 2011)

High Tension Wires
Welcome New Machine



6.5 third rails out of 10

Dirtnap records and catchy-as-shit pop punk go together like my dog and something stinky and dead for him to wallow in. High Tension Wires couldn't be any more a poster band for this label if they tried. Within the group you've got folks associated with the Riverboat Gamblers, the Marked Men, and god knows what other groups. It sounds exactly how you'd expect a Dirtnap release to sound - upbeat, full of hooks, lots of "woahs", a slight garage tinge, the sort of music that is pretty easy to sing along to. With twelve songs clocking in at around twenty six minutes, it's clear they aren't fucking around - they waste even less time than I'm wasting writing this review. Seriously, it's fuckin' Dirtnap, you know what you're getting into here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Temporary Residence, 2011)

Explosions in the Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Temporary Residence


7 get well cards out of 10

Explosions in the Sky have a good thing going on, and they've clearly decided not to fuck with it. My desire to dock them points for drawing water from the same well time and time again is stunted by the fact that it's some really cold, tasty water.

This is what you expect it to be - beautiful, effects heavy guitars over a driving rhythm section, the tracks meandering in and out of focus, up and down in tempo and volume, and sounding quite beautiful. Like a film score really, maybe a work by Terrence Mallick, certainly something you'd want to see on opening weekend. It sounds more or less like every other EitS album, and yet I never grow tired of their formula. Probably because it's so well crafted and pleasant to the ears - these Texas lads may non-vocally wear their heart on their sleeves, but we're all better for it.

You like Explosions in the Sky? You won't be disappointed here. But I suspect you already knew that.