Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wavves - Life Sux EP (Ghost Ramp, 2011)

Life Sux EP
Ghost Ramp

Rating: 7 sand mice out of 10

I've never been particularly big on Wavves, but this new EP may have me changing my tune.  It could be that it's short and to the point, or maybe Wavves main man Nathan Williams is growing as a songwriter, and I suspect it's partly both of these things...either way, I found myself immediately really liking the first three tracks "Bug", "I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl" and "Nodding Off" (which is a collaboration with Best Coast) - all three are incredibly catchy and worth the price alone.  "Bug", while not a cover of Dinosaur Jr, could probably be classified as a rip-off of them if it wasn't such a damn fine tune.  The rest of the short player is fine, but nothing really stands out.  Still, a step in the right direction for this band as far as I'm concerned, enough so that I'll definitely perk up when the next full-length gets released. 

Total Control - Henge Beat (Iron Lung, 2011)

Total Control
Henge Beat
Iron Lung

Rating: 7.5 hammer bibs out of 10

Even without knowing they are from Australia (which I did know before listening) and share a member (which I did not know before listening), your first reaction is going to be to compare Total Control to Eddy Current Suppression Ring.  Which is fine because ECSR totally fucking rule.  Honestly, based on the band's name I was expecting a hardcore album, but that doesn't really matter.  Yes, this smells strongly of ECSR and probably A-Frames, it's sort of post-punk with gothy new wave tinges, a description that sounds eactly like the best work of Suicide and yeah you could throw that comparison in there too.  These songs are a lot catchier than most anything Suicide released though.  Anyways, the point of this short meandering review is to say that Australia is killing it lately and you should probably jump on the bandwagon now before it gets too full.  This is a great record.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Admiral Radley - I Heart California (The Ship, 2010)

Admiral Radley
I Heart California
The Ship

Rating: 6 ho ho plants out of 10

Running a little tardy on this review...Admiral Radley sounds exactly what you would get if the members of Grandaddy and Earlimart got together and dicked around enough in the studio to produce a record.  Wait, that's exactly what happened here.  It really couldn't sound more like a mash-up of those two bands if you tried.  And it also probably makes perfect sense that I don't enjoy this nearly as much as Grandaddy (an all-time favorite band of mine), but more than Earlimart (who I've never been too excited about).  Even if this isn't Jason Lytle's best output, I'm still magnetically drawn to anything he produces like a moth to a flame...well, maybe not exactly like that, cause it won't kill me if I touch the music.  A couple of standout tracks - "GNDN" is a nice mellow number that would have fit in right on Grandaddy's perfect pop album "The Sophtware Slump", and "The Thread", a nice waltz-like track with Arianna Murray singing, and is probably better than anything else Earlimart has ever been a part of. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jacuzzi Boys - Glazin' (Hardly Art, 2011)

Jacuzzi Boys
Hardly Art

Rating: 7 kool kats out of 10

Jacuzzi Boys are from Miami, Florida...cause when you think scuzzy garage pop, you think southern Florida.   "lo-fi jangle pop" might be an even better descriptor, but they are part of the whole modern garage rock scene so why not just go with it.  This isn't groundbreaking material, no one is trying to reinvent the wheel - it's just a trio of young dudes who wrote a really enjoyable, catchy record of pop jams that would be perfect for listening to with the windows down in the middle of the summer.  Being November, it might not have the same effect, but if you feel the need to roll your windows down go for it.  It's got sloppy Beach Boys hooks without the harmonizing, Ramones punk simplicity and sensibility, and the songs seem to all have the same stoned pace, like the band smoked out before every recording session.  

This isn't the best thing I've heard all year, and it might get lost in the shuffle as the years were on, but it's very enjoyable to listen to in the here and now.  Given how many bands there seem to be like this these days (and 94% of them coming from San Francisco), this is definitely one of the better ones. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Wolfroy Goes To Town (Drag City, 2011)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town
Drag City

Rating: 6.5 quail cows out of 10

So Will Oldham aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy released a new album...is it just me or is he starting to approach Robert Pollard territory with the number of releases he's putting out these days?  And like Pollard, not every song is a gem but his batting average is high enough that you'll give anything they put out a listen. 

Lately it's felt like Oldham has been going for a bigger, almost alt-country full-band sound, but this album is a step back to simpler, Palace-style songwriting and performing.  Very sparse instrumentation, exceedingly mellow, songs based mostly around just the man's voice and a guitar, with maybe a little organ or mellotron filling the background and the occasional female voice for accompaniment.  "Black Captain" is a quality track and there are no stinkers on the record, but I'd be lying if I said this release was overly exciting.  It's just good, and sometimes that's good enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TOW3RS - Summertime EP (DiggUp Tapes, 2011)

Summertime EP
DiggUp Tapes

Rating: 7.5 positron numericals out of 10

TOW3RS (or Towers if you don't speak young folk computer nerdese) are one of the new hot shit bands coming out of the Triangle these days.  Or maybe they're just hot shit to me, because they jumped way up my list of favorite local bands upon seeing them play live only once.  They have an amazing amount of energy, strongly channeling early Of Montreal before they went disco, a little bit of the quirkiness of Danielson Famile, and locally speaking, they probably owe a nod towards the great local act Lonnie Walker.  That last comparison being particularly apt, as the first song and name of this EP, "Summertime" is actually a Lonnie Walker song - but the TOW3RS version is certainly different enough from the original to make it a compelling listen.vvThe remaining three songs on the EP are no slouches either, with closer "Versailles" having a bit of Shins vibe going on with it.  

This appears to be their first recorded output to be released to the masses, and on those terms I'd have to give a strong thumbs up - they sound much more mature than their physical age and the age of the group.  But this release comes nowhere near the energy and excitement of the band in live form - and they may never capture that magic on tape, but here's to hoping. 

If you're interested, you can grab this EP on the cassette label DiggUp Tapes for pretty cheap over here.  I'd definitely recommend it. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mikal Cronin - Mikal Cronin (Trouble in Mind, 2011)

Mikal Cronin
Mikal Cronin
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 7.5 future pomegranates out of 10

Mikal Cronin might be usually get lumped in with the Bay Area garage rock crowd because of his work with Ty Segall, but this self-titled debut album by him is a pop record.  Yeah, it might get a little fuzzy from time to time, but this is pop through and through.  Lot's of oohs and aahs and tra-la-las and a million moments where you want to sing along with the man.  The one-two punch of "Is It Alright" and "Apathy" is one of the best intros to a performer that I've heard since Superdrag's "Slot Machine" and "Phaser" on "Regretfully Yours".

That's not to say the record doesn't rock out as well, with "Green and Blue" and "Gone" two fine examples where the guitars and tempo get turned up.  But the main impression is that of a young man who has a strong sense of melody, hooks, and sucking people like me into listening to their album many times in a row.  

As a side note,that flute you hear in the opening track "Is It Alright" - none other than Bay area wildman John Dwyer.  Is this a signal that his band Thee Oh Sees will soon be taking a Jethro Tull turn towards flute prog-rock?  Let's just assume the answer is yes.

Belle & Sebastian - Come on Sister EP (Matador, 2011)

Belle & Sebastian
Come on Sister EP

Rating: 5 church bracelets out of 10

This Belle & Sebastian EP is definitely only for the super fans who have to have a copy of everything.  It contains three "reworkings" of two different songs from their last album "Write About Love" - all of which are but none of which are necessary.  The final song "Blue Eyes of a Millionaire" appears to be an unreleased track, and is quite great - though a track from the recording sessions of their last LP, it feels like a classic outing by the band.  So maybe make a point to download that song, but the rest of it?  You ain't missing much.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Strange Boys - Live Music (Rough Trade, 2011)

The Strange Boys
Live Music
Rough Trade

Rating: 6 granite boas out of 10

First, it must be stated that despite the name of this new release by the Strange Boys, it is not a live album.  It's entirely possible I was the only person dumb enough to jump to that conclusion, but just in case, now you've been informed.  No, it's a regular new record by this Texas band, though quite a bit different from their previous releases...where they could before mostly be classified as catchy garage punk, all the fuzz has been stripped away and we're left with something more akin to seventies AOR rock.  Comparisons to Tom Petty, Faces and that ilk are pretty spot on for this band now, surprisingly.  There are even a couple of Spoon moments, which probably isn't all that surprising since Jim Eno of Spoon produced half of the record.  

I'm going to be completely honest, I don't know how to feel about this release, and probably won't come to my final conclusion for quite some time.  I like the garage sass of the old Strange Boys, and I'm generally not against the type of music they are playing now.  But I'm not sure how well it sits with me when a band changes their sound so drastically.  I wouldn't be surprised if this new turn brought them more fans though, and if the group is still having fun, who am I to gripe?

Monday, November 7, 2011

M83 - Midnight City EP (Mute, 2011)

Midnight City EP

Rating: 4 stale caramels out of 10

As much as I hate to speak ill of one of my favorite bands going today, this releases by M83 is pretty...meh.  The song itself, "Midnight City", the first single off of their newest record, is fantastic, and that's what kicks this EP off.  The remaining four tracks are all remixes, none of which I particularly like.  The first one, by Big Black Delta, took a cheesy eighties horn riff and murdered the song with it throughout.  The next two are by Trentemoller and Man Without Country, and are completely forgettable.  The final remix is by Team Ghost, and while the best of the four, still isn't much...and makes me feel like I'm in a cough syrup-induced haze.  Just buy the full length record, which is amazing, and save this EP for the OCD completists. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Russian Circles - Empros (Sargent House, 2011)

Russian Circles
Sargent House

Rating: 7.5 bologna sandwiches out of 10

On their fourth record, Chicago's Russian Circles put out a damn nice slab of instrumental metallic post-rock.   Just like they did on their third record.  And their second.  And, as you might have already guessed, their first. The changes from one album to the next with a band like this are somewhat subtle, probably only noticeable if you've followed their career.  I've followed them a little bit, no super fan or anything, but I could tell this newest record was special right from the start.  I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to describe why though...it sounds "bigger" maybe.  The music isn't busier, but it feels like more of it is there, and it's all around you, enveloping your ears and head.  One thing is for sure, it is a great damn record to listen to and seems like a real likely candidate to make a number of top ten lists.

Acid House Kings - Heaven Knows I Miss Him Now 7" (Labrador, 2011)

Acid House Kings
Heaven Knows I Miss Him Now 7"

Rating: 7 Bob Villas out of 10

A nice little two-shot jolt gleeful pop from Sweden's Acid House Kings.  The title track of the single actually features the lead vocals of Dan Treacy from Television Personalities, and that's exactly what it sounds like - the two bands blended together. The b-side sounds like a regular Acid House Kings song, all sweet and bubbly and cute.  My descriptions of twee pop never sound like something I would listen to, but man I love this shit.