Thursday, October 27, 2011

DJ Shadow - I'm Excited EP (Island, 2011)

DJ Shadow
I'm Excited EP

Rating: 6.5 star slingers out of 10

Another EP "previewing" the new DJ Shadow record (which I've still not gotten around to listening to).  Two album tracks, two exclusive tracks. According to Shadow's website this one isn't even available anymore due to sample clearance issues, but if you want a copy of it I'm pretty sure you can figure out how to make that happen.

So anyway, as to the actual music - opening track "I'm Excited" features (obviously British) rapper Afrikan Boy and it sounds like it would have fit on his last full-length "The Outsider".  The second track is soundscape non-entity in my book.  The final two tracks are apparently on the new full-length - "Come On Riding (Through the Cosmos)" is a Shadow-style mellow rocker, and was instantly likeable.  Closer "Let's Get It (Bass, Bass, Bass)" sounds like it should have been a b-side on the "Number Song" single - it's very much that style of construction.  Not amazing, but OK.  

EP is worth seeking out, even if you have to do a little digging.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump (Deluxe Edition) (Universal, 2011)

The Sophtware Slump (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: 10+ wives of farmers out of 10

Given that the original release of this classic Grandaddy album is complete perfection in my book, re-releasing it with an extra disc of rare tracks has gotta be...beyond perfection.  Is that even possible?  The first disc is the same as the original, only remastered; the second disc collects demos of songs on the album along with some b-sides that any fan would be excited to get.  While I knew some of these songs from other collections, hearing this compilation of rarities almost feels like getting a new Grandaddy album.  And there are few joys in life as great as a new Grandaddy album.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic (Matador, 2011)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Mirror Traffic

Rating: 7 galloping stick figures out of 10

After five Pavement records and this the fifth solo record, I think the majority of folks are more than familiar with Stephen Malkmus and his detached cool indie pop songs.  Now, it's not about what the records sound like, cause they all sound kinda the, now it's about how good and/or catchy is this particular chunk of songs.   And this is a quality collection of songs.  Malkmus seems to have stepped away from his Blue Oyster Cult-style fascination with seventies hard rock, and perhaps as a result of the Pavement tour he seems to be coming back to some mid-nineties catchy-as-hell indie pop.  Not as many guitar solos but a lot more hooks.  I've sorta wandered away from most of his solo records, but this one has reeled me back in.

Bad Sports - Kings Of The Weekend (Dirtnap, 2011)

Bad Sports
Kings Of The Weekend

Rating: 7 pretentious bombers out of 10

Bad Sports, out of Texas, are not breaking new ground, and I'm pretty sure they couldn't give a shit.  This is pop punk the way it's been heard for decades, and the way it should always be heard.  "Sweet Sweet Mandi" sounds like it was taken off of a classic Ramones album.  "Teenage Girls" is a dead ringer for an Exploding Hearts track.  You could probably make a Marked Men comparison in here too, and there is a little garage fuzz here and there, but this is a pop record with loud guitars - and the world is better off for it. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Twilight Singers - Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop, 2011)

The Twilight Singers
Dynamite Steps
Sub Pop

Rating: 7.5 cocktail glass holders out of 10

I'm coming in pretty late on this review, but good music is good music and deserves a mention regardless of tardiness.  So, a new Twilight Singers record - it sounds exactly like what you expect a Twilight Singers record to sound.  Greg Dulli has been making his own brand of troubadour rock-n-roll for so long that you can only compare him to himself.  And this album compares quite favorably, as good as probably anything post-Afghan Whigs - and some of the tracks, like "Waves" for example, are as good as anything he has ever been a part of.  And this is coming from someone who has religiously listened to this man since I bought the Whig's "Congregation" on cassette in 1992.  I might have partially bought that tape because there was a naked woman on the cover, but that is neither here nor there.  

I could go on and on about all the guests on the album - Mark Lanegan obviously, but also Ani Difranco and Petra Haden and a ton of other folks - but outside of Lanegan (whose voice pairs perfectly with Dulli), I'm not sure any of it matters.  You're listening to this album because you're either already a part of or curious about the cult of Greg Dulli.  I've been a member for years.  It's a great place to be. 

The Cellar Seas - The Cellar Seas EP (Self-Released, 2011)

The Cellar Seas
The Cellar Seas EP

Rating: 7 slim jackpots out of 10

The Cellar Seas are a fairly new Triangle outfit playing what the kids call "roots rock".  Which is to say, pretty much straight-forward rock music, with a heavy influence of country and/or folk.  All four songs on the EP are quite catchy, with closer "Carousel" getting the highest marks.  Singer and guitarist Roy Bourne has a nice voice, especially when he really let's go with it and hits those long notes.  It's by no means a perfect EP, but for a debut it ain't too shabby.  Plus it's free, which automatically bumps the score up in my cheapskate world.  Grab it over on their bandcamp page, and check them out live as well if you get a chance.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wrong Words - The Wrong Words (Trouble in Mind, 2011)

The Wrong Words
The Wrong Words
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 7.5 fanciful mustaches out of 10

Power pop!  Praise be to the bands that are keeping that late seventies sound alive.  The first band I think of in this genre of modern pop performers is Gentleman Jesse & His Men, but Bay Area rockers The Wrong Words are quickly climbing their way into my heart and brain and ears and I guess the rest of my body.  Yes, even my genitals.  These guys literally rock, er pop my cock off.  Every single track is catchy as all hell and worm their way into your ear canal like one of them creepy bugs.  These songs could have been hits thirty years ago, when popular radio preferred hooks and bands like Cheap Trick were selling out huge arenas.  I might have been pretty young when that was going on, but it doesn't stop me from celebrating the current crop of pop purveyors...even if you have to dig a little harder to find it these days.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And the Giraffe - Something for Someone EP (Self-Released, 2011)

And the Giraffe
Something for Someone EP

Rating: 7 magic rats out of 10

When you write reviews, even shitty reviews like I do, you sometimes get random solicitations from bands.  And most of the time the music is...boring.  Typical.  Hum drum.  Sometimes it's shitty, which you'll at least take notice of, as it stands out from the rest of the field.  And then once in a blue moon, it's pretty damn good.  

And the Giraffe are a couple of young kids from Florida, or maybe Tennessee and Florida, or who the fuck cares really.  What you should care about is despite their young age they are crafting some really mature, beautiful blissed-out mellow pop songs.  A lot of music gets called "bedroom pop", but as this was actually recorded in a bedroom, I can't think of a better descriptor.  They really really REALLY make me think of Mojave 3, and I love the shit out of Mojave 3.  Everything about this sounds like it  should be coming out of a person twenty years older than these kids - the vocals, the delicate musical arrangements, the production, everything.  I suppose you could gripe there is a bit of sameness to the songs, but if all the songs are good does it really matter?  "Welshrats" particularly stood out for me as the best track, but there really isn't a weak duck in the bunch.      

If you're intrigued, you can download the EP on their bandcamp page.  It's available for whatever you want to pay - in other words, if you aren't their parents, you're probably taking it for free like some damn dirty freeloader.  Just like I did. 

Richmond Fontaine - The High Country (El Cortez, 2011)

Richmond Fontaine
The High Country
El Cortez

Rating: 6 run down Nevada cities out of 10

Richmond Fontaine has been doing their alt-country thing for well over a decade now, crafting a wide variety of twangy, honky tonk tinged music for the masses to enjoy.  And I've enjoyed everything they've released, from the more upbeat Lucero-like punk-tinged country, to their mellower, delicate folk-based songs - which would probably be the best descriptor for this newest album "The High Country".  

The thing is, it's not just another sparse album of dirges on depressed peoples, but it has a structure, telling a story...that I kinda spaced out on since these sorts of things are generally lost on me.  I don't do concept and stories - I just want the music to sounds goo to my ears.  And while the whole album feels like a musical play, with weird spoken word tracks, there are some good songs in there too.  But it's a little frustrating, and after the first listen I just want to skip these non-musical moments, yearning for just a regular album.  

So this isn't their best record.  Try "Post to Wire" or "Thirteen Cities" for that.  But if you're a fan you're still going to want to hear this. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stephin Merritt - Obscurities (Merge, 2011)

Stephin Merritt

Rating: 7 train phobias out of 10

This isn't just a Stephin Merritt record - it's an all-things-Stephin-Merritt record.  With the exception of Future Bible Heroes, all of his bands made it onto this collection of obscure and previously unreleased tracks - The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies, and of course solo material (plus what appears to be a cover of the great Magnetic Fields song "Plant White Roses" by someone called Buffalo Rome, and I'm way too lazy to look into them further but this is one of my all-time favorite songs of theirs if you are keeping score at home). 

I'm never quite sure how you review these sorts of compilations, as they are clearly aimed at folks who are already fans (like myself) and not necessarily to be the first thing you hear by a performer.  And if you're already a fan I'm sure you'll love this, already being familiar with some of the songs (the alternate take of the Magnetic Fields' "I Don't Believe You" is fantastic) and eager to hear the rare and unreleased ones.  If you're not a fan, well obviously don't buy this, and why are you even reading the review doofus?  And if you've never heard the man's work, just pick up "The Charm of the Highway Strip" or "Get Lost" or "69 Love Songs" and thank me later. So I'm reviewing this for the fans - it's a really nice comp.  Some of the songs might be a little strange, but not a bad one in the bunch. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Generationals - Medium Rarities EP (Park the Van, 2011)

Medium Rarities EP
Park the Van

Rating: 6 bowls of jambalaya out of 10

Generationals are giving away an EP for free, and god knows I love free.  Two regular songs and two remixes of their best known songs - "Trust" and "When They Fight, They Fight".  The "Trust" remix, by Bent Black, is subtle and works great on this song that I absolutely love.  The other remix - a little bit cheesy, a little bit a bad way.  The other two tracks are fine, nothing to write home about.  I may not be 100% on this group's bandwagon, but they definitely seem to understand sixties-inspired pop hooks and how to use them.  But shit, free is free.  You can't complain much about free. 

Download the album here.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Wax Museums - Eye Times (Trouble in Mind, 2011)

The Wax Museums
Eye Times
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 6.5 midlife sunburns out of 10

The Wax Museums  = catchy punk who puts out records on hot labels, 13 songs in a little over 20 minutes.  Simple, to the point, and like a million other bands out there...yet still awesome.  What is it that has coming back time and time again to these types of punk bands that keep reinventing the same wheel?  It's the hooks.  I can hear 50 variations on a catchy song and love every one of them...must be the wiring in my brain.  These Texans have the simplicity of the Ramones, the lyrical goofiness of Mean Jeans, and maybe just a hint of Devo's herky-jerky tempos here and there. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mark Sultan - Calloused Hands 7" (Every Night Is A Saturday Night, 2011)

Mark Sultan
Calloused Hands 7"
Every Night Is A Saturday Night

Rating: 7.5 shiny woodies out of 10

Another day, another release Mark Sultan is part of.  This time, it's just under his name instead of one of his many bands; and like all the rest, the songs crunchy garage pop gems.  Both of these songs sound like they were mined from some collection of obscure rock 45s from the early sixties - especially the side B track, "Git It", which features these great backing vocals very reminiscent of how the backing vocals are used in the Beach Boys "Surfin' Safari".  This might be a tough one to get a physical copy of, but it shouldn't take too much searching to find the songs online. 

Ganglians - Still Living (Lefse, 2011)

Still Living

Rating: 7 jungle cousins out of 10

Apparently on their most recent album Ganglians decided it would be a good idea to become the Beach Boys.  They don't really have the vocal chops to pull it off completely, but the effort and ideas are good and the songs are plenty catchy for the most part.  And I'm talking later, Van Dykes Park-influenced Beach Boys, without the whimsy and with some folk leanings mixed in.  One of the greatest pop bands in musical history? You could choose worse musical directions as a band, that's for sure.  I suppose for a modern comparison, the kids might like that they are reminiscent to Fleet Foxes, though the Foxes are considerably mellower and not nearly as full of hooks as this album is.  I'm not sure how long this album will hold my attention, but it sounds great right now. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Americans in France - Crawling (Odessa, 2011)

Americans In France

Rating: 7 red white and blue baguettes out of 10

Local rock group Americans In France keeps on bringing the weird and off-kilter, both live and recorded.  Any band that sounds like the combination of Sonic Youth, The Fall and Danielson Famile are doing things the way they ought to be done.  Hell, I swear there was even one moment that made me think of the Shaggs.  If someone were to use the phrase "art rock", this sophomore album by AIC should be the poster child.  The songs feel agitated and wound up like a female cat in heat that's been locked in the house - just eager to burst out but never quite getting there.  Definitely an album to seek out if you are a fan of the genre.

Monday, October 3, 2011

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute, 2011)

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Rating: 8 bright flashes out of 10

Probably my worst reviewing misstep of all time was my review of the M83 album "Before the Dawn Heals Us".  My initial impression was that of mediocre electronic music, only to come back to the record a few weeks later and have it become one of my very favorite releases of the last ten years.  I'd like to say this taught me something about making rash judgements about music, but all it really taught me is to love M83.  

This new record - it's no "Before the Dawn Heals Us".  I'm not even sure it's on par with "Saturdays = Youth".  But it's still one of the best records of the year, that's how strongly I feel about the work of Anthony Gonzalez.  This double album seems to continue down the same path of "Saturdays = Youth" - electronic-tinged, overblown shoegaze pop for the most part.  It's a lot of music to ingest in one sitting, 22 songs and a little under an hour and a half long, but can there ever be too much of a good thing?  Well, yes there can be...but not here. There can never be too much M83.