Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt - The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt (Warner Bros, 2011)

The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt
The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt

Warner Bros


6.5 unexplained scars out of 10

The Flaming Lips seem intent to carpet the earth with weird EPs this year, and this is yet another one for the stacks. The Flaming Lips play a couple of tracks with the help of Lightning Bolt, and then Lightning Bolt sorta play renditions of those same songs with the help of the Flaming Lips. And the entire thing is a giant noise-fest of head-fuckery. This music sounds like it might easily have been found on one of their very first albums, back when their sound had a lot more in common with the Butthole Surfers than just living in the next state over. This is not "The Soft Bulletin". I'm not sure it's even on the same astral plane or in the same universe. You'll not be singing along to these songs. But fuck it, I'm digging it anyways...

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang - Island Brothers 10" (Drag City, 2011)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang
Island Brothers 10"

Drag City

7.5 tender honey devils out of 10

I was kind of ready to make a snide comment about this Bonnie 'Prince' Billy release sounding like most everything else the dude puts out, but in actuality it's a little different, more upbeat and quite enjoyable, not maudlin and morose as is often the case. I don't know dick about the Cairo Gang but I really like what they are bringing out in Will Oldham's sound, especially on the title track "Island Brothers". Oldham's voice soars while the rest of the band harmonizes with him in old-school mountain music fashion. The b-side is a fine track, but not why you should buy this. And if you're on the fence, the proceeds from the 10" go towards Haiti relief, so you can feel good and get some good music to boot.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Rosebuds - Loud Planes Fly Low (Merge, 2011)

The Rosebuds
Loud Planes Fly Low


Rating: 7.5 twin engine Cessnas out of 10

In the world of "indie rock", where the hot new band is always everyone's favorite band ever, The Rosebuds have become a known commodity, old hat, maybe even "has-beens" in some eyes. It doesn't matter if they are producing some of the best music of their career, it's just not going to get the shine of some 19 year old kid and his bedroom recording project that Pitchfork gives an 8.9. "Loud Planes Fly Low" is their fifth full-length record, making them veritable old-timers in this world, due for a break-up and reunion tour to shortly follow.

Musically speaking, this album feels like a continuation from 2008's "Life Like" it's neither the shiny pop of "Birds Make Good Neighbors" nor the dance rock of "Night of the Furies", but rather somewhere in-between. The songs often have a stripped-down feel to them, where a lack of instruments at times speaks louder than any guitar could. Letting the songs breathe or something like that, whatever musicians call it. "Woods" is the best song on the record, and easily one of my favorite songs of the year.

Lyrically, this album is probably pretty dense because it's the first record since Ivan and Kelly split up (they ARE the band, for those not aware), and no doubt much of the content deals with this situation. But honestly, I rarely if ever notice lyrics unless they are stupefyingly awful, and that certainly isn't the case here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips 2011: Gummy Song Fetus (Warner Bros, 2011)

The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips 2011: Gummy Song Fetus

Warner Bros


7.5 cherry-flavored babies out of 10

Yet another weird Flaming Lips EP, this time on a USB d
rive buried inside of a large gummy fetus. Wayne Coyne's crazy ideas outweigh his good ones by at least 10-to-1 these days, but god bless him for it...it's a never a dull moment with this band.

Gimmick aside, it's three more new Flaming Lips songs, or really two new songs and a short interlude. And surprisingly they're both very song-like in the traditional song structure sort of way. Opener "Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear Part 2" is pretty damn enjoyable, part electronic music, part noodly guitars, and Wayne's spacy voice holding all together. Ender "Squishy Glass" is quite a bit mellower, the first half of it sounding like background music in a campy horror film, and eventually developing into a fairly typical song (typical by Flaming Lip's standards, obviously).

It's not like you're going to get your hands on one of the super limited edition gummy fetuses, so just track the songs down online. I've got to think at some point the Lips will compile all the EPs from this year and release them as one long player, but you would have thought they would have released a regular single disc version of "Zaireeka" by now too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beirut - The Rip Tide (Pompeii, 2011)

The Rip Tide



Rating: 8.5 squawky black birds eating my bird feeder clean out of 10

Beirut is one of those bands I've always enjoyed, but never gotten overly excited about. I'm not ashamed to admit that they sounded just enough like Neutral Milk Hotel to get me interested, but not enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. This may be changing with "The Rip Tide", as Zach Condon seems to be finally putting it all together - taking all those disparate world music elements he is so in love with, and combining it with real pop sensibility for one of the best records of the year as far as I'm concerned. He's writing fairly typical pop songs, but instead of guitar driving the sound it's an accordion or some horns or an organ or, often, all three. But they're still pop songs. Really catchy pop songs. In fact, the second track "Santa Fe" might be the second best track of the year (after Mount Moriah's "Lament").

I'm still in the early stages of my love with this album, so time will tell how this ages on me. But I absolutely cannot get enough of this right now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fruit Bats - Tripper (Sub Pop, 2011)

Fruit Bats
Sub Pop


7 cold, damp caverns out of 10

When I listen to Fruit Bats I imagine some variation of driving through the deserts of the western United States in a convertible VW Bug somewhere around the year 1972. These albums are almost like time travel to me, they sound dated and timeless at the same time. There just aren't many people who make this brand of breezy, slightly glam folk rock these days - David Vandervelde, Bart Davenport, maybe the Shins immediately come to mind - but it seems like everyone and their brother was on this tip a few decades back.Eric Johnson, the man behind the band, seems like the sort of guy who would have fit right in as a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers or the Byrds, and this shines through in his tunes. This album, "Tripper" is great, but not terribly different from anything else he has put out. I'm still quite partial to his second record "Mouthfuls" and listen to it from time to time, and there is no reason this new disc can't work it's way into the rotation as well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Richard Buckner - Our Blood (Merge, 2011)

Richard Buckner
Our Blood



Rating: 8 sorority girls on a mechanical bull out of 10

I was recently laughing at a friend who suggested this might be the best record Richard Buckner has ever recorded, as it seems humanly impossible it could be better than "Since". And then I listened to "Our Blood", and while it ain't better than "Since" it's really damn close.

At this point I reckon you know what you're getting with a Buckner record, that amazing voice over a bed of folk/alt-country tunes, though not nearly as straight-forward as that sounds. This record actually combines the best of both worlds, having strong production and songs reminiscent of "Since" or "Meadow", paired with a little bit of the sonic exploration and noise-leanings that you often see with his live show (and was also present for his incredibly underrated album "The Hill"). I don't ever see anything toppling my very favorite Buckner release, but "Old Blood" is an instant competitor for second on the list.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bargain Bin Dig Volume 1: Amoeba SF

One of my very favorite activities is digging through a record store bargain bin. The thrill of the hunt I guess. And as CDs get more and more expendable, I find more and more treats. One a recent trip to SF, I spent some time in the Amoeba bargain bin and came up with these releases:

Afghan Whigs - Congregation (Sub Pop, 1992) (classic)
Americans In France - Crawling (Odessa, 2011) (NC indie weirdness)
Battleship - Battleship (On/On Switch, 2006)
Caltrop - World Class (Holidays for Quince, 2008) (NC metal)
Centro-Matic - Candidate Waltz (Undertow Music Collective, 2011) (see review here)
Cheap Time - Cheap Time (In The Red, 2008)
Cococoma - Things Are Not All Right (Goner, 2009)
Coconut Coolouts - Party Time Machine (Xeroid, 2007) (awesome party punk)
Drunk Horse - In Tongues (Tee Pee, 2005) (SF metal)
Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Rush To Relax (Goner, 2010) (one of the best records of last year)
Magnolia Electric Co - What Comes After The Blues (Secretly Canadian, 2005)
Meric Long - Dodo Bird (Self Released, 2006) (pre-The Dodos)
Mind Controls - Mind Controls (Dirtnap, 2006) (one of Mark Sultan's bands)
Strange Boys - And Girls Club (In The Red, 2009)
The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
(Secretly Canadian, 2011)
Wild Wild Geese - Sorry, Earth (Odessa, 2010) (more NC indie weirdness)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pinback - Information Retrieved Pt. A (Temporary Residence, 2011)

Information Retrieved Pt. A

Temporary Residence


Rating: 6 broken hard drives out of 10

I like the music Pinback makes, but I'd be hard pressed to tell most of it apart. It's a strange thing, how sometimes it's fine for a band to just keep doing the same thing over and over, and it's annoying with others. For whatever reason, Pinback is borderline irritating in this regard. I think I just expect more from them, for reasons that are lost on me. They're a band that works great on a mix but struggle to hold your attention for a whole album. With all that said, these songs are still decent enough though, especially the first track “Sherman”. Sounds a lot like Pinback.  Also, this was a Record Store Day release for 2011, for those keeping score at home.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Polvo - Heavy Detour 7'' (Merge, 2011)

Heavy Detour 7''



Rating: 7.5 iron cones out of 10

This 7” is a preview of the forthcoming Polvo album, which is awesome for two reasons – the songs on the slab are great, and more importantly a new record is coming out soon. Who would have thought even a few years ago that not only would Polvo get back together, but they would be putting out great new material. Not many bands have been able to pull this off – Dinosaur Jr, Mission of Burma, and these guys are the only bands that really come to mind over the last decade or so.

The two songs are clearly very Polvo...the second you hear those oddly tuned guitars it's a no-brainer. But there is a tinge of something else here - “Heavy Detour” is built on, dare I say it, something akin to a disco beat. The b-side “Anchoress” has a melodic, nearly pop feel to it, including breathy backing vocals. Not the sort of thing you would expect out of these guys, but it works. Granted, Polvo is one of my favorite bands of all time and it would be extremely hard for me not to get excited by anything they put out, but I really do think their new post-reunion material stands up well with anything they've put out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frightened Rabbit - A Frightened Rabbit EP (FatCat, 2011)

Frightened Rabbit
A Frightened Rabbit EP


7.5 scared hares out of 10

We can dance around it all we want, but Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison sounds a whole shitload like a Scottish version of Adam Duritz from Counting Crows. And you know, that's ok, because it's a great, emotive voice in either case - only with Rabbit the songs being sung are actually fantastic and enjoyable. This tour-only EP of three songs is short and sweet, but as good as anything else they've put out. In fact, the second song on this, "Fuck This Place", a duet with Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, is probably the best song they've ever written. And I'm only slightly flavoring that sentiment based on my love of Camera Obscura. The songs are already on the internet obviously, and I'm sure the tangible version will go for sale to the general public eventually. Well worth seeking out.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck (Merge, 2011)

The Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck



6.5 jokers in the pack of cards out of 10

I like the Mountain Goats and have liked them for a long damn time, but I can't think of one single interesting or noteworthy thing to say about this new record by them. Like most of John Darnielle's output since going from a solo act to a band, it's a very nice album. I realized a few years back I'm just not likely to get as excited for this material as I did when I heard "All Hail West Texas" for the first time, and that's ok. If you've liked their last few "full band" records, I can't imagine you wouldn't like this.

Bon Iver - Calgary 12" (Jagjaguwar, 2011)

Bon Iver
Calgary 12"


8 slabs of rave vinyl out of 10

The first single from the newest Bon Iver album. "Calgary" is the best song on the record, so it makes sense this would be the first single. But if you're in the market for buying this single you probably already have the record, so no real reason to focus on this song.

No, you're buying this for the b-side - the combo Bonnie Raitt cover "I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time". The song is made up entirely of a piano and Justin Vernon absolutely destroying the vocals. It really reminds me of neo-soul crooner Maxwell circa the mid-nineties when he did that amazing cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work". Some might find that an odd comparison but it's high praise from me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sea and Cake - The Moonlight Butterfly (Thrill Jockey, 2011)

The Sea and Cake
The Moonlight Butterfly

Thrill Jockey


7.5 red velvet cake slices out of 10

The Sea and Cake are that old friend from high school that you don't talk to all that often, but on the odd occasion you do get back together it's like you've never lost a beat. I've been listening to this band for over 15 years, and they still give me that same warm feeling they did back when I had more hair and less gut. Moreover, they sound pretty much exactly the same. And that is just how it should be. Some bands have to change or they start to sound dated - but S&C sound timeless all the time, like a good jazz record.

"Moonlight Butterfly" is a little long for an EP and a little short for a full length record, but those are exactly the sort of semantics that this band would never concern themselves with (and exactly the sort of thing my stupid ass would get worked up over). Outside of the title song which sorta veers into Kraftwerk territory, every other one of these songs could have been on their debut record. Beautiful, perfect, space-age jazzy leisure pop that still sounds so so so good to these ears.