Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The King Khan Experience - The King Khan Experience EP (Scion, 2011)

The King Khan Experience
The King Khan Experience EP

Rating: 6.5 sleepy time tea bags out of 10

Scion has been releasing a ton of great, free garage and punk music this past year, including this EP by King Khan under the guise of The King Khan Experience.  It very much falls in line with what you expect from the man, garage rock stompers with a little bit of a weird edge.  Like putting a flute solo in one of the songs ("Come Levitate With Me") or covering a Jay Reatard song in German ("Hammer Ich Vermisse Dich" aka "Hammer I Miss You").  "I Got Love" is the best of the bunch, along with the Reatard cover.  It feels sorta disjointed, like some sort of odds-n-sods compilation, but it's free and there is some good music to be heard here so no real complaints. 

Grab the free download here

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Fall - Ersatz G.B. (Cherry Red, 2011)

The Fall
Ersatz G.B.
Cherry Red

Rating: Fall Falls out of The Fall

3,496 albums into their existence, how the hell do you even write a review of a Fall record?  It's a Fall record.  It sounds like the Fall.  It can't possibly sound like anything else at this point.  Mark E. Smith will be approaching his 100th birthday (probably not that far from it now, honestly), working on his millionth release, and it will still sound like pretty much everything else the Fall has released. 

So here's the review - it sounds like a Fall record.  A good Fall record, though they're all pretty good to great.  Very straight-forward and rockin', just like you want a Fall record to be.  Not sure they're winning over any new fans at this point, but us old folks will enjoy it.  I'f you've never listened to them before, go buy "Grotesque (After the Gramme)" or "Hex Enduction Hour" or...shit, pretty much everything from the late seventies to the early/mid-eighties is worth a listen.  But this is good.  It sounds like the Fall, after all. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mastodon - The Hunter (Reprise, 2011)

The Hunter

Rating: 5 octopus fingers out of 10

The production is a little too thin and tinny, a lot of the hard edge to the music is gone, half the record sounds like it was written by Tool (not a compliment), the overly melodic vocals are a bad fit...but fuck it, it's still a Mastodon record, it can't be all that bad right?  And in the grand scheme of things, it isn't...most bands would probably love to put this out.  But this is the band that brought us "Leviathan", and this simply isn't good enough.  Maybe that's unfair, but when you produce one of the best metal records of the last twenty years, you're going to be held to a higher standard after that.  I know when I'm wanting to hear Mastodon I'm definitely not reaching for this newest record anytime soon. 

Brown Sugar - Sings Of Birds And Racism (Feeble Minds / Feral Kid, 2011)

Brown Sugar
Sings Of Birds And Racism
Feeble Minds / Feral Kid

Rating: 7 Circle K skanks out of 10

In my old age I don't get nearly as excited about hardcore as a did when I was a wild-ass teenager, but I really like what Brown Sugar is bringing to the table.  Despite being from New York, they're not going down that hockey jock route of hardcore but instead bringing a sloppier, more lackadaisical approach ala my favorite hardcore band of all time, the Circle Jerks.  No, they're not as good as the Circle Jerks, but in this modern age they do a decent enough job getting close.  Not a release that's going to save the world, but a nice reminder that there are still people out there making good hardcore music. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jay Reatard - You Get No Love 7'' (Shattered, 2011)

Jay Reatard
You Get No Love 7''

Rating: 6.5 memphis minnies out of 10

This Jay Reatard seven inch represents the last known recordings he made before his untimely death, put to tape just a couple of days before that sad date.   Musically, they might not be the strongest thing he has ever released, but it's a nice (and sad) reminder of this once great performer cut down in his prime.  Both tracks have a solo/bedroom feel to them, just him and his guitar, exorcising some demons.  This is an extremely limited record, so you're going to be paying a lot for it on ebay or if you're like me, you'll "find" it online. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bare Wires - Cheap Perfume 10'' (Southpaw, 2011)

Bare Wires
Cheap Perfume 10''

Rating: 7 strange bottles of cologne out of 10

I wrote about Bare Wires this summer - the "Don't Ever Change" 7" - and this almost-a-full-length album shares that title track in common (but failed to include the amazing b-side "Ready To Go", one of the best songs of the entire year).  Sound-wise, it's still all very familiar, mostly because it calls beck to some of the best music of all time: Thin Lizzy, Big Star, Cheap Trick, T. Rex, etc.  Any music that is this simple and so packed with hooks is going to sound like a lot of other well-established bands no matter what - and nobody really cares because if a song is catchy, a song is catchy, even if it's the same song you've heard a thousand times by a thousand different bands.  You keep going back and listening again and again, singing along, not a care in the world.  Catchy music has that effect on me at least, and I'm certain I'm not alone.  Bare Wires are making some of the catchiest music of anyone writing songs these days. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor (Merge, 2011)

Crooked Fingers
Breaks in the Armor

Rating: 7.5 horse hearses out of 10

Eric Bachmann, the main force behind Crooked Fingers, reunited his old band the Archers of Loaf (aka my favorite band of all time) and played a few shows...I got to see them three times, and it was some of the best shows I had ever seen them play.  What does this have to do with the new Crooked Fingers record?  I'm not entirely sure, but I think the recent reappearance of AoL had me hoping that the Crooked Fingers sound might shift, at least slightly, back towards Bachmann's early sound.  Which is a silly thing to hope for honestly, as I love everything Crooked Fingers have released nearly as much as the Archers, and this newest record continues his outstanding tradition of well-written, unique folk songs.  His voice does seem less "Neil Diamond" these days and much closer to his Archers voice, and the use of a sampler in the track "Went to the City" reminds me of one of my all time favorite AoL songs "Form and File", but that's about all the parallels you could draw to his former act.  

Man this review is a rambling mess.  I often have that problem with music and bands I really love and have listened to for, well, over a decade now.  Just know this - if you've liked Bachmann's previous work as Crooked Fingers, you definitely won't be disappointed here - it's one of his stronger albums under that moniker.  If you've never heard him before, grab the first one, the self-titled one, but this would be a fine choice as well.  

In whatever form he's willing to give himself to us, I'm a happy listener. 

Future Islands - On The Water (Thrill Jockey, 2011)

Future Islands
On The Water
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 7.5 New Balance sneakers out of 10

It didn't seem to take too long for Future Islands to go from a relatively obscure local band to filling up pretty big clubs every night.  Turns out you can still build a buzz and a larger fan base with constant touring and releasing one good record after another.  

Last year's "In Evening Air" was indisputably my favorite album on the year, so it only seems natural that any follow-up by the band would have to be a letdown.  And, technically, this album fits that description, but that isn't to say it isn't still a damn good record.  There may be no single song as powerful as "Tin Man" here, but "Before The Bridge" and "Give Us The Wind" and "Balance" are all scorchers, and there ain't a bad track in the set.  Perhaps it comes from some of the band members growing up on the coast, but I get a heavy "sea side" vibe from this record.  And I'm not talking summertime fun-in-the-sun beach antics...more like off-season, when it's cold and dreary and you have the pier and everything else to yourself.  Not sure that makes sense, but that's the vibe I'm getting.  And it's a great vibe to get sometimes.  

As a side note, this record makes a great companion when driving through the sparsely populated stretch of I-95 between Rocky Mount and Richmond on a brisk fall day. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation (Fat Possum, 2011)

Youth Lagoon
The Year of Hibernation
Fat Possum

Rating: 5.5 summer loves out of 10

I've had folks trying to sell me on Youth Lagoon and his debut album "The Year of Hibernation" for a few months now, so I finally broke down and gave it a listen.  Verdict - it ain't doing much for me.  Far from being bad or awful, it's just...boring.  Lo-fi bedroom pop, it sounds like what you might get if Grandaddy's Jason Lytle had a kid who was really into Sparklehorse and recording songs where he sets up a tape deck at one end of a long hall, and performs them at the other end.  After a couple of listens the only song that stood out to me was "Montana", and that is most like due to it being the loudest/most upbeat song on the release.  I'm certain this is going to get a lot of year-end love, and that's fine, though misplaced in my estimation. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Small Black - Moon Killer (Jagjaguwar, 2011)

Small Black
Moon Killer

Rating: 7 moon rainbows out of 10

I'm pretty sure Small Black is the result of some kids wanting to start a Primal Scream cover band (early nineties material only), but then they got really into all the 4AD bands from the late eighties, specifically the Cocteau Twins, and decided to release a free record of these sounds where and got Heems from Das Racist to guest on it in a couple of spots.  It's surprisingly good, even if it does wear it's influences boldly.  I can't get over how much the new "hot" music sounds like that era though, with the tinny recordings and swirling guitars and vaguely dance-pop-but-still-rock songs that everyone and their brother was releasing between 1988 and 1991.  All I pretty much wanted to listen to then was Slayer and DRI and Bolt Thrower, but I can dig it.

Grab the free album here - you could definitely do worse, and the price is right.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Flaming Lips - The Strobo Trip: Light and Audio Phase Illusions Toy (Warner Bros, 2011)

The Flaming Lips
The Strobo Trip: Light and Audio Phase Illusions Toy
Warner Bros

Rating: 8 epicly long fingernails out of 10

I've been known to churn out some pretty poorly written reviews on music I haven't listened to very much, but in the case of this new Flaming Lips release, it's going to be written about something I haven't even listened to fully.  Sure, it's only three songs, but the middle song is six hours long.  Yes, six hours long.  And we're not talking six hours of droning noise, but an actual song with drums and musical instruments and vocals and such.  From my skipping around it goes through a number of different changes and movements, so it might be closer to a mixtape than one solid song...but it's six hours long no matter how you describe it.  I have nowhere near the patience to sit through this at home, but it seems like a good experiment to play with yourself if you were working at some boring office job - see how long you can make it.  Given how much I've enjoyed the snippets I've heard, it actually wouldn't be that difficult of a task I don't think.  

Oh yeah, there are two other songs also - both are pretty damn good.  As a whole this is the strongest (and most pop-oriented) release they've put out this year honestly.  Apparently it also comes with some weird light toy to trip out on, but given the limited edition nature of this release I'm settling for just hearing the songs.  Which are definitely worth seeking out.  I was expecting to just give them a thumbs up for originality here, but they've made a great chunk of music. 

Ty Segall - Ty Rex EP (Goner, 2011)

Ty Segall
Ty Rex EP

Rating: 5 wooden salamanders out of 10

Ty Segall releases records almost as often as Robert Pollard, but to my knowledge Pollard has never released an EP entirely made up of T. Rex covers. I appreciate the effort, but I don't see this as something I'll be listening to all that often.  It sounds exactly as you'd expect - mostly straight-forward lo-fi, dingy recordings of the originals.  No interesting arrangements or anything special really, just a garage rock version of some pop classics.  To be perfectly honest, it just makes me want to listen to the originals.  Not to say that this release is terrible, and I'm sure his super fans are well into it, but...meh.  Mostly meh. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Real Estate - Days (Domino, 2011)

Real Estate

Rating: 6.5 green blocks out of 10

All I can think of when I listen to this Real Estate album is the Stone Roses self-titled first record.  That's a good thing I suppose, because that is one of the all-time great albums, but it might be a little too on the nose.   After all, that album did come out 22 years ago (sweet jesus that makes me feel old), and nothing wrong with giving the young kids their own mellow, hazy pop record that feels like a lazy country drive.  But singer Martin Courtney sounds like he's actually impersonating Ian Brown, down to even sounding slightly British...maybe he's from section of New Jersey where they all sound like that, otherwise it makes me wonder if it's intentional or just coincidence.  

Snarking aside, it's a pretty enjoyable record.  Very listenable and instantly catchy, though again, when you sound exactly like the Stone Roses this shouldn't be that surprising.  And regardless of their originality, I'm guessing I'll still listen to this album a number of times, because good songs are good songs no matter how you get there. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Craig Wedren - Wand (Nerveland, 2011)

Craig Wedren

Rating: 7 rectory pools out of 10

I'm a huge Shudder to Think fan, and a few years back I went to a Craig Wedren solo show and got the chance to meet him, and totally fanned out like a backwoods goofball, but he was super friendly and chatty and I guess I'm telling you all of this in one long run-on sentence because you probably shouldn't expect a very unbiased review here.  

So, on his sophomore record, Wedren continues down the path he set forth in "Lapland", an album of pop songs that are just a little too weird for the mainstream but sounds like top 40 compared to his work with Shudder to Think.  And there are moments that I'm not crazy about, the production might be a little overkill, but...that voice.  It's always that voice.  The man could, to borrow a cliche, sing the phone book and I'd listen intently and with rapt attention.  He sounds as fantastic as always, and the high points like "Make Me Hurt You" and "Ladyghost" far outweigh any negative criticism.