Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lightships - Fear and Doubt (Geographic, 2012)

Lightships
Fear and Doubt
Geographic
2012

Rating: 7 broken spokes out of 10

I'm not sure I knew Lightships was the solo project of Teenage Fanclub's Gerald Love when I found this EP online.  If I did know it, my brain has since purged itself of this information.  But even coming in not knowing jack, any longtime supporter of the Fannies (one of my all-time favorite bands) knew exactly what was going on as soon as the unmistakeable vocals of Love kicked in on the first track "Fear and Doubt."  Also featuring members of the Pastels and Belle & Sebastian, this music is pretty goddamn twee and there ain't a thing wrong with that.  All four songs on this short player are quite enjoyable, and now I need to seek out the band's full-length that also came out in 2012.  Hopefully Love is also saving some of these great songs for a future Teenage Fanclub record as well. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pinback - Information Retrieved (Temporary Residence, 2012)

Pinback
Information Retrieved
Temporary Residence
2012

Rating: 6 Miami nightclubs out of 10

I have absolutely nothing of note to say about this Pinback album.  It pretty much sounds like every other Pinback album, a statement that can be seen as a good or a bad thing depending on your opinion of Pinback. You could do worse.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Gallants - The Bloom and the Blight (ATO, 2012)

Two Gallants
The Bloom and the Blight
ATO
2012

Rating: 6.5 bug collections out of 10

It feels like it's been a long time since I've paid much attention to the Two Gallants.  I don't mean that to sound as bad as it does, it's just when I used to live in SF I saw them play live quite a few times and listened to their records frequently, and then for whatever reason when I moved back to the East Coast they sorta dropped off my radar.  

In listening to "The Bloom and the Blight," the first album of theirs I've really paid attention to since "The Throes," this almost sounds like a different band.  Not that that should be surprising nearly a decade later, but I was surprised at how upbeat and rockin' this new record is.  Their older material felt so intimate and delicate, but these tracks are thick and robust like a television advertisement for spaghetti sauce.  The first three songs are all rollicking affairs, and you don't get back to the old alt-folk version of the band until the fourth track "Broken Eyes," and then the tempos shift intermittently for the rest of the record.  

I'm really not sure what to think of this new direction...it's an enjoyable record to be sure, but in some ways a little off-putting to someone like me who doesn't handle change well when bands go in different directions.  I'm totally guessing but I bet this album really translates well live, probably even better than in the recordings.  Guess I'll just have to see them live again and verify this. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Sea and Cake - Runner (Thrill Jockey, 2012)

The Sea and Cake
Runner
Thrill Jockey
2012

Rating: 7.5 jump shots out of 10

The Sea and Cake!  They might keep sorta releasing the same record over and over and over, but fuck if they don't have that indie-jazz-pop sound of theirs dialed down to a science.  A really awesome sounding science. The album kicks off with the upbeat "On and On" and it only gets better from there.  According to the label website the band took a different approach to recording this record - Sam Prekop wrote the songs on a synth, then sent the tracks out to the rest of the band to be fleshed out... and while this may sound neat, to my ears it just sounds like another in a long line of very enjoyable Sea and Cake records.  For long-time fans picking this up should be a no-brainer.  Looking for a place to start with this iconic Chicago group?  "The Biz" would be my first choice, but not a damn thing wrong with starting right here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Boomgates - Double Natural (Bedroom Suck, 2012)

Boomgates
Double Natural
Bedroom Suck
2012

Rating: 6.5 book ends out of 10

If you're like me, you're listening to or interested about this Boomgates record because it features a member of the super great Eddy Current Suppression Ring.  Specifically, the two bands share the same singer, so you can guess exactly where the comparisons are going to go when trying to review Boomgates in the half-assed fashion that is typical from me.  This group doesn't have the Gang of Four-terseness or Television-influenced guitar work of Eddy Current.  This is a little poppier and janglier, sounding more akin to the Kiwi pop of the early eighties than anything else.  Think of Boomgates as a Clean cover band, only with original songs.  Then again if they (or anyone) chose the throw in a "Tally Ho" cover, no one would ever complain.   

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jason Lytle - Dept. of Disappearance (Anti, 2012)

Jason Lytle
Dept. of Disappearance
Anti
2012

Rating: 8 firestarters out of 10

The differences between those final Grandaddy albums and the pair of solo albums Jason Lytle has released are really in name only.  I mean no slight to the rest of the members of Grandaddy, but Lytle seemed to be such a decisive force over their sound and direction that only the superest of super Grandaddy fans could probably tell a difference here.  Lots of synths and keyboards make up the bulk of the music here as in all Lytle-related recordings, with a simple drum backbone, a week but of guitar strumming and Lytle's easily-identifiable vocals.  I read somewhere that this album (and really, any of his albums) sounds like a late night by yourself - introspective and maybe a little lonely.  Being an only child, I like and am very comfortable with being by yourself, and maybe that's why his music speaks so well to me.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mono - For My Parents (Temporary Residence, 2012)

Mono
For My Parents
Temporary Residence
2012

Rating: 7.5 shock troops out of 10

As with most instrumental post-rock bands of this nature, I'm kind of at a loss as to what to say about this new Mono record "For My Parents," especially to those already familiar with their work.  When you play the sort of bombastic music these Japanese rockers have been churning out on multiple albums for the past decade or longer, it's kinda hard to differentiate from one set of the music to the next.  It's all immaculately played, beautiful stuff.  My heart will always rate the first record of theirs I listened to a lot - "One Step More and You Die" - as their finest work, but there is no reason someone couldn't feel the same way about this newest release.  I would guess the only real difference is the orchestral strings backing most of the songs, and the level of quiet-loud-quiet bombast that was their early hallmark seems to have been taken down a notch.  I think that means the music is prettier and less aggressive, or something along those lines.  If Explosions in the Sky are the soundtrack to slow-motion Texas football, Mono feels like the score to a Kurosawa samurai picture (and if that seems racist, I mean it be more geography-ist).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jehosaphat Blow - Natural High For Low People (Cold Slice, 2012)

Jehosaphat Blow
Natural High For Low People
Cold Slice
2012

Rating: 6.5 containers of cumin out of 10

I got an email from Jehosaphat Blow to check out his music, a one-man band thing out of Chicago.  There was some mention of it sounding like Mark Sultan which is all it took to get me to listen.  Turns out that was a most fair assessment of this album - dirty, lo-fi one-man garage stomp with some slight soul vibes to add color.  The songs are all pretty catchy - my juvenile side especially liked "She Doesn't Give A Fuck".  At 12 songs in barely over 25 minutes, this is a quick listen and seemingly a good introduction to Jehoaphat Blow...and hell, I think if you go his Facebook page (linked above) he even points folks to free downloads of this album. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse (In The Red, 2012)

Ty Segall Band
Slaughterhouse
In The Red
2012

Rating: 7.5 jello shots out of 10

I've completely given up on trying to keep up with all of the Ty Segall releases...his transformation into the garage pop version of Robert Pollard is seemingly complete.  But there is something a little different with "Slaughterhouse" - this record is credited to "Ty Segall Band," denoting a slight difference from his typical output over the last couple of years.  He apparently made this album with his touring band, and where the bulk of his recent material is a little more straight-forward pop, this is a guitar-heavy garage rock showdown.  It has a great raw/Memphis/Goner feel, like a record the kids of the Oblivians might make, with a heavy dose of dirty Detroit rock leanings (MC5, Stooges et al).  The album features ten great bursts of maniacal garage, and ten minute closer of noise that doesn't do much for me but maybe some feedback nuts will take pleasure in.  I've been so washed out on Segall releases it would have been easy to ignore this, and maybe his "real" fans will write this off as an anomoly not befitting his current direction, but this is the Segall I wanna hear more about. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Animal Collective - Centipede Hz (Domino, 2012)

Animal Collective
Centipede Hz
Domino
2012

Rating: 5.5 crying guitars out of 10

So, a new Animal Collective record...it feels like there has been zero buzz about this, which corresponds exactly with my feelings going in.  I'm listening to it as I type this review, and it's a plenty fine record, probably as good as anything they have released...but I find I just don't really care.  Maybe the music portion of my brain feels like it doesn't need any new Animal Collective songs in there? God knows I listened to "Strawberry Jam" enough for the output of ten bands, and maybe that was all I really needed out of these guys.  Cause when I listen to "Centipede Hz", I can't think of a single bad thing to say about it.  The songs are catchy, they create that typical wall of eclectic sound they are known for, and it certainly seems like the sort of record most of their fans should be happy with.  Just not this one, for reasons I'm unsure of. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Moon Duo - Circles (Sacred Bones, 2012)

Moon Duo
Circles
Sacred Bones
2012

Rating: 6 bloody flashlights out of 10

Moon Duo is best known as the side project of Wooden Shjips' Ripley Johnson, though at this point this duo may have gained more coverage/attention than his "main" gig.  Like their previous records the guitar looms front and present, heavy in that Spacemen 3/My Bloody Valentine sort of way; unlike those records, the songs are almost "power pop" in their construction - mostly gone is the krautrock vibe that dominated before, replaced by a more straight-forward shoegaze sound.  It's by no means bad music, but even after multiple listens I found it never really stuck to my bones.  I'm sure they're still just as great live as always, but I found myself thinking more fondly of their older records while "Circles" was playing. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Band of Horses - Mirage Rock (Columbia, 2012)

Band of Horses
Mirage Rock
Columbia
2012

Rating: 2.5 heaps of sticks out of 10

I'm sitting in a hotel at a Mexico beach so I'm going to keep this short (or at least shorter than my already short ramblings) - this new record b Band of Horses is overproduced and quite boring.  Does it makes me a bad reviewer to say I came to this decision after listening to only four songs?  Probably.  Do I really give a shit?  Nope.  Life is too short to listen to this any more. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fresh and Onlys - Long Slow Dance (Mexican Summer, 2012)

The Fresh and Onlys
Long Slow Dance
Mexican Summer
2012

Rating: 6 ice baths out of 10

I'm not sure if it was a wrong turn taken at Albuquerque or what, but at some point The Fresh and Onlys went full eighties.  And I don't mean a modern band trying to sound like the eighties, I mean they sound like a band actually from that time whose lost 1986 recordings only recently resurfaced.  It almost sounds like a collage of popular "Alternative" bands from that era - and I'm not just talking big-name acts like the Cure, I also hear bits and pieces of Hoodoo Gurus, Midnight Oil, and Aztec Camera.  On top of that, the recording is way more polished than anything else they've released, a fact that can be viewed as either good or bad probably depending on how you felt about their early albums.  

The record isn't bad but I'm not sold on this new version of the band.  Maybe it just reminds me of all the bargain cassettes I used to buy at Roses as a kid, anything with a cool cover or an interesting name, and so often it was mediocre at best.  I can't imagine I'll be getting an urge to listen to this one too often.  Might be time to dig out some old Aztec Camera records though. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ana Never - Small Years (Fluttery, 2012)

Ana Never
Small Years
Fluttery
2012

Rating: 6 basement game rooms out of 10

So apparently Ana Never is from Serbia, and as far as I know I've never listened to a band from Serbia in my nearly four decades on this planet.  I'm not sure why anyone needs to know this, but there it is.  This showed up in my inbox and although the name made me think it might be some Ani Difranco-type jittery lady folk, I decided to listen to it anyways.  Turns out it's instrumental post-rock or whatever the hell you wanna call it.  With four songs and a playing time of 75 minutes, it both sounds and feels a shitload like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with just a touch of Dirty Three.  These guys keep it a lot more melodic and atmospheric and aren't as prone to delve into experimental noise making as GY!BE, but the comparison still holds.  That said, it's still fine music...it may not make a huge impression or start some groundbreaking trend, but it's plenty enjoyable.  



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of Montreal - Daughter of Cloud (Polyvinyl, 2012)

Of Montreal
Daughter of Cloud
Polyvinyl
2012

Rating: 4 pairs of cargo shorts out of 10

More indie rock disco from Of Montreal.  This is a compilation of random tracks recorded from 2007 until present day, which seems to coincide pretty well with their morphing into a white funk band.  As I've not been particularly interested in this turn the group made I'm not sure why I even bothered to listen to this, I guess old habits die hard.  But if you like what they have become, you'll probably like this.  Not for me though.  Not worth writing much else either.    

Friday, October 26, 2012

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge, 2012)

Divine Fits
A Thing Called Divine Fits
Merge
2012

Rating: 7.5 bloody sheds out of 10

Divine Fits, "super group," blah blah blah.  I guess anytime you get people from established bands doing a new thing together, the label gets dropped.  I don't even know that it's a bad thing or a good thing, it's just...a thing.  But when you have two people with very distinctive & well known voices handling all of the vocals - in this case Britt Daniel from Spoon and Dan Boeckner from Handsome Furs & Wolf Parade - it honestly doesn't even feel like a "group," more like a compilation of unheard Spoon and Handsome Furs songs.  I'm not even complaining about that, as I love both bands, but anyone coming into this project looking for something new or different is going to be disappointed.  I expect this will get a lot of plays out of me though, my love of the Handsome Furs allowing me to pretend this is a new album by them and they didn't really break up. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth (Merge, 2012)

The Mountain Goats
Transcendental Youth
Merge
2012

Rating: 7 pieces of hard candy out of 10

I never feel smart enough to review The Mountain Goats, as I'm quite sure John Darnielle is doing and saying things much more complex than what I get from his music.  I'm not a big lyrics guy, mostly focusing on melody, and Darnielle is probably one of the best lyricists around.  Or so I'm told, cause really, unless the words to a song are Top-40 brain dead stupid I'm probably not even registering them. 

But I have listened to a lot of Mountain Goats records, so I can at least compare it to those.  This one continues the hi-fi, mature version of the Goats that has been going on for the last few records - full band, recorded in a studio and not on a boom box, all that sort of thing.  No matter how much you might like the old version of the group, it's gone - you gotta love them this way or I guess not love them at all anymore.  "Transcendental Youth" had two instantly strong, very upbeat tracks that I was struck by immediately - "Cry for Judas" and "The Diaz Brothers".  Two of the better Goats songs in a few years IMO, I skipped back to both multiple times.  The rest of the album is fine - pretty, mellow, a little adult contemporary even, but mostly exactly what you expect from Mountain Goats. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Knock Knock - We Will Raise Your Child (Test Pattern, 2012)

Knock Knock
We Will Raise Your Child
Test Pattern
2012

Rating: 6.5 fluttering leaves out of 10

When you review records you get emailed a lot of random crap.  Some catches your attention, some doesn't; some is good, some is awful, most is mediocre and not even worth noting.  In the email I got for Knock Knock I saw they were from Sacramento and it mentioned the great goofy punk band The Bananas, and now I was paying attention.  

Well, this doesn't sound anything like the Bananas. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit disappointed.  They're not even a part of that garage-punk-pop-goof rock tradition that Sacramento has done so well for years, despite the silly image portrayed on the cover of this release.  Once I got past my disappointment, it's not a bad little indie pop record - catchy songs, lots of harmonized male and female vocals, and what feels like a lot of instruments being played on top of each other some of the time.  If I was told this was a side project of some of those Broken Social Scene kids, I'd probably believe it.  It's all very pleasant and enjoyable and if it got to the right set of ears it could surely enjoy a little college radio success.  I guess even old Sacramento punks mellow out and play dad rock eventually.  Ain't nothing wrong with that...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Ceiling Stares & The Super Vacations - Split 7'' (Sweaters & Pearls / Velocity of Sound, 2011)

The Ceiling Stares & The Super Vacations
Split 7''
Sweaters & Pearls / Velocity of Sound
2011

Rating: 7 theoretical candidates out of 10

I knew nothing of The Ceiling Stares before listening to this seven inch - apparently, they're from Pittsburgh and their song "A Tunnel Through the Air" had been previously released, just not on vinyl.  Jangly, a little bit of drone/shoegaze - pretty straight-forward indie fare really, but not drab or boring.  Kinda sounds like a thousand songs I've listened to over the last few years going for the lo-fi garage-psych thing, but one of the better of those thousand.

I was aware of the band on the flipside of the slab though - The Super Vacations.  They're from Virginia and play down here in Raleigh a fair amount, and I've heard good things from friends even if I haven't managed to see them myself.  They fit in two songs (the record is set to 33 1/3), more upbeat numbers than what the Ceiling Stares brought - punk-infused indie rock, reminding me (but not really sounding like) the Triangle's beloved Whatever Brains.  Of these two bands this is my preferred one, and I really need to get off my ass and see them next time they come to town. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend (Constellation, 2012)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend
Constellation
2012

Rating: 7.5 double plays out of 10

I often think of Godspeed You! Black Emperor as the godfathers of instrumental post-rock... not because they were the first to play this style of music or are the most popular, but they just seem the most...important.  I realize this is mostly me talking out of my ass, but their music seems like it is more than just a gang of Canadian musicians playing long songs with no vocals, it feels much more special than that.  Maybe I'm reading more into their music than I should, but based on the most recent live viewing of the band a lot of other guys between 30 and 40 who don't like to shave feel the same way. 

Anyways, first record in a decade, four songs in a little under an hour, blah blah blah, all the shit all the other reviewers are saying.  Bottom line - it's awesome.  Opening track "Mladic" at nearly 20 minutes long is worth the price of the album by itself.  The song gets so heavy around the middle that they venture into metal territory.  Really beautiful stuff.  The other epic track "We Drift Like Worried Fire" is also a fine addition to their canon, though not as heavy as the first.  The other two are just noisy filler for my money, but I'm sure the avant-whatever folks will dig it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beachwood Sparks - The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop, 2012)

Beachwood Sparks
The Tarnished Gold
Sub Pop
2012

Rating: 6.5 empty streets out of 10

Once upon a time Beachwood Sparks released one of the most perfect country rock records of all time, "Once We Were Trees," then pretty much broke up soon thereafter (yeah there was an EP too but let's not ruin the narrative).  And just like they seemed to disappear for no reason, they reappeared in 2012 with a new record seemingly out of the blue.  "The Tarnished Gold" sounds very much like a follow up full-length for OWWT, with all of the Byrds and Gram Parsons and Flying Burrito Brothers comparisons still fully applicable.  If I didn't know better I'd actually assume this was recorded right after OWWT and they just got around to releasing it, but all the press tells me otherwise and who am I to argue.  

One thing I will say, and I'm not even sure how exactly to explain it, but I don't feel the magic I felt off of OWWT when I listen to this new record.  It's pretty, and I'm sure I'll listen a few times, but I still listen to OWWT all of the time. Not sure "The Tarnished Gold" will have the same staying power for me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fat History Month - A Gorilla EP (Sweaters and Pearls, 2012)

Fat History Month
A Gorilla EP
Sweaters and Pearls
2011

Rating: 6.5 packets of horseradish out of 10

This Fat History Month release is both an EP and a seven inch, four songs packed on a slab of translucent yellow vinyl.  And it's set to play at 33 1/3, which always screws with you the first time you listen cause you set it to 45 like most seven inches and you get a helium-voiced mouse singing back at you.  

As for the music, I'm going to throw it into the "folky art rock" bucket, as that is the closest fit.  I hear some Joan of Arc and some early Modest Mouse...it feels like something I would have been enamored with somewhere between 1995 and 1997, when a lot of bands seemed to be heading down this musical path.  I still dig it though; especially the first song on the flip side of the record, "Heart Takes a Beating" - it's the most upbeat of the bunch, actually reminding me a bit of one of the Triangle's local treasures Lonnie Walker...ramshackle and adventurous but built on a pop base.  The band apparently also has a full-length record out, and this is interesting enough to make me want to hear more. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lower Dens - Nootropics (Ribbon, 2012)

Lower Dens
Nootropics
Ribbon
2012

Rating: 8 tin cans out of 10

Baltimore - so hot right now!  Add Lower Dens to the list of hot-shit band's coming out of the the home of "The Wire."  Actually, maybe you already added them after their debut "Twin-Hand Movement," a fine record but not nearly as impressive as this one.  You can feel the band's growth here, and while the elements that make up this new batch of songs might be the same the construction feels different - more confident maybe, more comfortable in their own skin, or some such claptrap.  To boil it down to it's simplest terms, this band is what you'd get if Blonde Redhead listened to a ton of Kraftwerk and Can and then wrote a new record under that influence.  Since they are also from Baltimore you'll also hear comparisons to Beach House, but for my money Lower Dens are far superior musicians and songwriters.  The opening three tracks "Alphabet Song," "Brains," and "Stem" (with the last two basically functioning as one track) are as strong an intro as an album can possibly have.  From there you're just sucked in. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guided by Voices
Class Clown Spots a UFO
Guided by Voices Inc.
2012

Rating: Robert Pollard Robert Pollards out of Robert Pollard

I'm not even sure how you review a Guided by Voices record these days, or if there is even any point.  It's mostly the original line-up, there are a million songs on the record, and it sounds exactly like you expect a GBV record to sound - some pop gems, some generic tracks, and the occasional dud.  "Class Clown Spots a UFO" has nothing on the band's classic years, but it's not an embarrassment either.  The title track is great, "They and Them" reminds us why having Tobin Sprout in the band is important, "Starfire" holds orchestral pop beauty, and other songs will transport you back to 1995.  

While I might not get as excited for a new GBV album as I once did, it seems impossible to ever dislike what they do. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Boyd Rivers - You Can't Make Me Doubt (Mississippi, 2012)

Boyd Rivers
You Can't Make Me Doubt
Mississippi
2012

Rating: 8 legal pads out of 10


I'm just going to copy from the press that everyone else seems to be copying from:

"First full length album by one of the greatest Gospel musicians of all time! Boyd Rivers was an amazing but unfortunately, little known Gospel artist. Comparisons could be made to Charlie Jackson, but in the end not too many people sound anything like Boyd Rivers. Side one features Boyd playing stunning electric guitar & belting out 6 incredibly heavy songs. Side two finds Boyd playing acoustic guitar - a bit mellower but still impassioned. All the material on this album has never been released, with the exception of 'Fire In my Bones'."


To sum up - mostly undiscovered gospel musician (that sounds like a classic blues man) finally sees a record of just his material released by Mississippi records.  Whether Rivers is playing acoustic or electric, his music & voice feel very pre-war blues (the best blues there is in case you were wondering).   It's a really great album, maybe not so easy to find, but any fan of pre-war blues would be well served to seek this out. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nate Hall - A Great River (Neurot, 2012)

Nate Hall
A Great River
Neurot
2012

Rating: 7.5 gold ingots out of 10

There seems to be a small movement of metal band leaders putting out solo records, and now we have Nate Hall of US Christmas joining the fray.  "A Great River" is just a man and his guitar, singing dark folk songs drenched in reverb, the soundtrack to life on a rundown farm just after harvest season.  The fields lie fallow, the trees barren, the temperatures are brisk and the sun sets early...I'm pretty sure that doesn't make any sense but it's the picture I see in my head.  You could also probably compare this record to Neil Young, which might make more sense given it is actual music.  I often compared his band USX to Young, but that was the more rockin' Crazy Horse era - this obviously sounds much more like Young's folkier output.  Not the vocals so much, but the guitar and overall ambiance of the album.  "A Great River" runs ten tracks with two covers - one of the Townes Van Zandt song "Kathleen," and an a cappella version of the traditional song "When the Stars Begin to Fall," both fine choices that fit well with the originals.  

It will be curious how things progress from here - how USX fans take to this direction of music, how Hall splits his time between the band and solo material going forward, and whether or not I'll ever try to describe music via farming again.  Poor metaphors aside, this is a fine album, one I'd recommend.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chromatics - Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better, 2012)

Chromatics
Kill for Love
Italians Do It Better
2012

Rating: 8 overdone pot roasts out of 10

This new record by Chromatics really makes me want to get in my car and ride around with the windows down at night.  Is this because they had a prominent song in the film "Drive" and now whenever I hear them all I can think of is old cars, little dialogue and dreamy RyGo?  Yeah, probably.  But still.

I'm pretty sure I saw these guys play back in the early-to-mid 2000s, back when they were trying to be an art punk band.  That version of the band wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  Then somewhere along the way, many years and numerous member changes later, Chromatics turned into the American counterpart to M83.  And it works - it really fuckin' works.  Every review mentions how much this sounds like the soundtrack to a John Carpenter movie from the late seventies or early eighties, and for good reason - because it sounds exactly like the soundtrack to one of those movies.  I love those movies.  

I should also mention that this record is over 90 minutes long.  It's a really damn long record.  to listen to this whole thing you'll be taking a long drive.  They also open the record with a cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey My My" except they renamed it "Into the Black" which isn't fooling anyone.  But it's a great cover.  Kind of odd to place it as the opening track, but it works well enough. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jeff the Brotherhood - Hypnotic Nights (Warner Bros, 2012)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Hypnotic Nights
Warner Bros
2012

Rating: 7 chapped lips out of 10

Nashville's Jeff the Brotherhood are one of my favorite live bands going these days, and their records ain't half bad either.  Somehow they manage to couple psychedelic stoner rock with Beach Boys-influenced pop songs and make it work.  This newest record "Hypnotic Nights" is their first for a major label, and as you might expect it has a little more polish on it.  I guess Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys had a hand in the recording process, though I'm not sure anyone should care unless they're entering a trivia contest.  

Ultimately, despite the label jump and fancy producer, it still *mostly* sounds like a Jeff the Brotherhood record.  Not every song is a rocker, there's a little weird instrumentation here and there (saxophone, keyboards, and I think I hear some glockenspiel even), and it sounds really clean.  But there are a ton of great, catchy songs - "Sixpack" is a clear favorite, one of the songs of the summer (even if it is fall now that I'm getting around to listening to this).  A few of the old fans might grumble about the band's shiny new wrapping, but it's still the same great music inside to me. 





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Various Artists - Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac (Hear Music, 2012)

Various Artists
Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
Hear Music
2012

Rating: 6.5 sleeping dogs out of 10

I'm a notorious Fleetwood Mac detractor (mostly because of creepy ass Stevie Nicks and her weird white witch ways), and usually not overly excited when it comes to tributes and compilations, but the band line-up on this one gave me enough pause that I decided to listen through it.  The results are pretty decent actually, certainly much better than the low expectations I had set.  Being a compilation it's the typically uneven affair they almost always are, but the hits outnumber the misses here.  My vote for the best track is either Best Coast's rendition of "Rhiannon" or Lykke Li's "Silver Springs," both quite enjoyable.  Other great covers are Antony doing "Landslide," a song I didn't think it was possible for me to like; Lee Renaldo and J Mascis getting guitar-riffic on "Albatross"; the New Pornographers' pop take on "Think About Me"; MGMT's weird vocoder version of "Future Games"; and the always underrated Craig Wedren teamed with St. Vincent for "Sisters of the Moon."  All of the bands do a fine job of making the songs their own - for a couple of these I wouldn't even know they were covers if it didn't explicitly say so.  

If a naysayer like me can enjoy this, I gotta imagine any Fleetwood Mac fans who crossover as fans of some of these bands will be in for a real treat. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spencey Dude & the Doodles - Night Problems (California Clap, 2012)

Spencey Dude & the Doodles
Night Problems
California Clap
2012

Rating: 7 pizza boxes out of 10

Let's get this out of the way up front - despite the name, Spencey Dude & the Doodles is not a kids band.  Do not go into this expecting a newer, hipper Raffi. Not saying they wouldn't play for some kids, it's just the songs might be about drinking and partying and making out instead of the alphabet.  Stop sheltering your damn children I say.  Anyways, the debut LP by this Bay Area trio (featuring members of Gris Gris and Dreamdate) is catchy.  And I mean real fuckin' catchy.  I guess you'd just call it simple, dumb garage pop, and that's not intended as an insult at all.  It's probably the lyrical content but my first impression was this reminded me a little of Mean Jeans minus the heavy Ramones influence, or maybe Coconut Coolouts minus band members wearing banana suits.  The album starts off with an Enigma sample and then covers 17 songs in a little over 27 minutes - there is no fucking around here, except that it is all the musical equivalent to fucking around.  More specifically, this sounds like an afternoon drunk in someone's backyard, maybe playing some horseshoes and firing up the barbeque, possibly passing out on the couch by eight o'clock.  I dig it.   

You can download the album on the cheap here.  I think Goner has it too.  Get it.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liars - WIXIW (Mute, 2012)

Liars
WIXIW
Mute
2012

Rating: 7 terminal cancers out of 10

Somehow Liars have transformed into a completely different band and I don't hate them for it.  This is usually not the case.  They've seemingly aboned their harsh, confrontational sound and replaced it with laid-back "darkwave" techno something-or-another.  I have no idea what the hell "darkwave" is, it just seems like a word that would describe what Liars are doing...like a music score for a film about a creepy serial killer. I guess what I'm getting at is despite a shift in instrumentation, the vibe and lyrics of their songs are still taking the same, ominous course.  To be perfectly honest, this sort of music is usually doesn't shine my turtle shell, but I'm guessing my history with this band has kept me just interested enough to get hooked. 

As a side note, I can attest that despite a move towards more keyboard and electronics and away from the typical band arrangements, a recent viewing of their live show proves they will still completely rock your ass off. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Moonface (With Siinai) - Heartbreaking Bravery (Jagjaguwar, 2012)

Moonface (With Siinai)
Heartbreaking Bravery
Jagjaguwar
2012

Rating: 8 fig newtons out of 10

For those unaware, Moonface = Spence Krug from Wolf Parade & Sunset Rubdown.  I absolutely loved the debut full-length "Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped," so I was quite looking forward to how that would be followed up.  That debut was pretty much just keyboards, drum machine, and Krug's voice, so color me quite surprised when from the first note this record is chock full of real percussion, guitar, and other organic instrumentation.  It turns out Krug went to Finland and recorded the album with the band Siinai, some folks he knew from his Wolf Parade days.  This combination really gave the record a fuller, more robust sound than you'd typically expect out of Moonface, based on previous output.  Honestly, it feels like an entirely new band if not for Krug's voice.  The previous record was five epic tracks of organ noodling and "out there" lyrics; well, the lyrics are still pretty zonked but this album doubles the track length and outside of one song ("Headed for the Door"), drastically cuts down on the song run times.  It's almost...a pop record.  A pop record wrapped inside of a kraut/synth/drone envelope.  The third track "Shitty City" was an instant favorite, but nothing here disappoints.   

If you're a fan of Krug's work, it would be hard to imagine not liking this.  No matter how different the music gets, it's all held together by that instantly recognizable voice of his.  This will be on my best records of the year least, I can say this with no hesitation. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Superchunk - This Summer 7'' (Merge, 2012)

Superchunk
This Summer 7''
Merge
2012

Rating: 7.5 horse jackets out of 10

Superchunk might be busy running a successful label, but lucky for us fans they still give us a few nibbles and tidbits to sate our thirst for new music by them.  The a-side is the title track "This Summer" - it sounds like it would have fit right in on their last record "Majesty Shredding," a record where they looked back to their punker days but still kept plenty of pop sheen.  As an added bonus, the song leans heavily on handclaps when it kicks off, and everyone knows songs with handclaps are awesome.  

The b-side is a cover of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer," probably chosen just because the name fit so well with the title track.  You'd actually probably think it was another new Superchunk song until they get to the chorus, as this is not a note for note remake.  This may not really stick like their classic covers - "100,000 Fireflies" by Magnetic Fields or "Brand New Love" by Sebadoh for example - but it's an interesting lark.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

La Gran Perdida de Energia - La Gran Perdida de Energia (Fluttery, 2012)

La Gran Perdida de Energia
La Gran Perdida de Energia
Fluttery
2012

Rating: 6.5 large mountains out of 10

La Gran Perdida de Energia - according to Google Translate it means "the great loss of energy."  My high school Spanish skills ain't what they used to be that I had to look that up, but you don't use some of those words when ordering tacos and that's about the only time I use Spanish anymore.  La Gran (as I'm going to call them) come from Patagonia in Argentina, but except for the song titles they could be from anywhere.  You see they play what everyone calls "instrumental post rock", a sound you'll find from bands the world over.  It really is a universal language it seems.  They probably remind me the most of Tristeza, but you can hear elements of all of the stalwarts here...Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, etc.  Some of their songs almost enter a modern jazz territory of the sort you might hear on Galaxia records - Ray Barbee, Tommy Guerrero, the Mattson Two, and that ilk. There is a small amount of vocals here and there, but after listening you definitely feel like you've heard an instrumental album. 

La Gran aren't setting the world on fire with this self-titled record, there is no new musical territory broken.  But there is still value in a band that plays pleasant music and does it well.  You can grab the record at the link above, one of those name-your-own-price scenarios.  It's worth a few bucks I think, if you dig these sorts of jams.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Morrissey - Suedehead 10'' (Liberty, 2012)

Morrissey
Suedehead 10''
Liberty
2012

Rating: 6.667 out of 10 (the exact formula of two perfect songs and one shitty one)

This Morrissey single was released as a part of the 2012 Record Store Day festivities.  The A-side is a weird remix of the title track, and honestly I can't imagine who this appeals to.  Morrissey purists certainly aren't backing this bastardization of a classic, and I don't see it being useful in winning over new fans.  On the plus side, one only needs to flip the record over for two unreleased live versions of the classics "We'll Let You Know" and "Now My Heart Is Full" from the BBC.  They sound great, and combined with this being a picture disc make this worth seeking out for his super fans.  Shitty remix be damned. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wood Ear - Steeple Vultures (Churchkey, 2012)

Wood Ear
Steeple Vultures
Churchkey
2012

Rating: 7 art collectors out of 10

They say music rots your brain and isn't educational, but in looking up a website for the band Wood Ear I also learned that in addition to playing fine music, it's an edible fungus most often found in Asian cuisine...but then again, what isn't used in Asian cuisine?

I was under the impression that Wood Ear was a new group, but apparently they've been around since 2003 but have only released one other self-titled record in 2007.  This five piece sounds very much a part of the local scene, equal parts mellow, spacy indie rock and heartland alt-country.  I hear a lot of Lucero in their music (though not in the vocals); some late-era Replacements (a very underrated phase of that band that doesn't get enough credit) in the song-writing; and the vocals...honestly, I can't put my finger on what that reminds me of.  A couple of songs make me think of the band Seldom that was around in the early 2000s that I might have been the only one listening to, but other than that I'm stuck.  One thing that doesn't have me confused is the greatness of "Leave My Walls," the undisputed champion of the record and one of my favorite songs of the year.  And lucky for everyone, you can grab that song for free here.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Walkmen - Heaven (Fat Possum, 2012)

The Walkmen
Heaven
Fat Possum
2012

Rating: 6 pepper plants out of 10

I've liked The Walkmen for a long time, and I dug Jonathan Fire*Eater before that, but I'm not all that enthusiastic for their new record "Heaven." The defining heavy organ use is still there and Hamilton Leithauser's vocals still dominate their sound, but something about them isn't clicking for me anymore.  Too clean?  Too adult?  Maybe it's Phil Ek's production that is sitting weird with me, but then again he's been gold with everything Built to Spill has released.   Maybe I just hit my internal quota for Walkmen songs, and I'm not willing to give up their "Bows + Arrows" or "A Hundred Miles Off" memories and replace it with these new songs.  New track "Nightingales" comes the closest to capturing that old magic for me, but there are just too many tracks here that come and go and leave no impression.  This isn't a bad record though, and certainly many people will enjoy it.  It might find it's way to a few car commercials.  It probably won't find it's way back to my ears too terribly often, instead choosing one of their older works if I'm in the mood. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pop. 1280 - The Horror (Sacred Bones, 2012)

Pop. 1280
The Horror
Sacred Bones
2012

Rating: 7.5 soft towels out of 10

I saw Pop. 1280 live a couple of months ago and described the show like this: "they sounded like Shellac, Ministry and US Maple got greased up, stuffed in a sack and shaken.  Dark, industrial, aggressive, and pretty enjoyable."  I'm now finally getting to spend some time digesting their debut record, and I'm not sure my initial gut reaction was all that far off the base.  You could probably throw a Suicide comparison in there too.  Liars as well, and I guess that would be the most contemporary measuring stick.  There is definitely a heavy industrial-punk vibe to their music, very dark and mechanical.  The piece of a tin roofing sheet they beat the crap of live can definitely be heard on the record, particularly on what is probably their strongest track "Bodies in the Dunes."  This is not party music or fun music, unless maybe you're running an S&M club or staging a reenactment of scenes from the film "Se7en."  But I really really like it. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Centro-Matic - 24 Songs (Self-Released, 2012)

Centro-Matic
24 Songs
Self-Released
2012

Rating: 10 electric knives out of 10

This isn't a real review of a Centro-Matic album as much as it is a (tardy) notice that they put up a free record consisting of 24 songs (hence the name) on bandcamp.  It's basically a self created sampler of all of their albums spanning their entire career, and a great place to start listening to this enjoyable group of Texans.  The music would get a pretty damn high rating - the fact that it's free makes it a can't-miss if you don't already have all of the band's records. 

Grab the album here

Friday, August 17, 2012

Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Rhymesayers, 2012)

Aesop Rock
Skelethon
Rhymesayers
2012

Rating: 7.5 light blue bottles out of 10

Aesop Rock has always been one of those performers that I like, that I tell myself I should listen to more of, and that I then forget about.  I go through this every time I hear a new song or album by him.  In that moment when I'm listening, I'm totally engrossed and enthusiastic about what I'm hearing...and then it turns off and it's like I get amnesia. 

I've got no reason to assume anything will change this time around either, but as I listen to "Skelethon" while I write this, it's a strong record.  Damn strong even, as strong as he's ever released and that's saying something.  Aesop Rock has his strong underground following and it seems unlikely he'll ever bust out of that, but the man definitely deserves a wider audience.  I have no doubt that his long-time followers will dig this record plenty, but it's a dark record even by his standards...and I'm not just talking lyrical content (or at least what lyrical content you can decipher from his rather cryptic words), the songs sound like a rainy day.  Put this on in your headphones when you're walking around on a gloomy afternoon, and I'd imagine it's a marriage made in heaven. 



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Future Islands & Ed Schrader's Music Beat - LAMC Vol. 2 7'' (Famous Class, 2012)

Future Islands & Ed Schrader's Music Beat
LAMC Vol. 2 7''
Famous Class
2012

Rating: 7.5 world news agencies out of 10

The two best things about the Baltimore music scene have put their powers together like Wonder Twins Zan & Jayna and given the world a fantastic seven inch.  The way these LAMC releases work is they get a band to record a new song for them, and then that band picks someone they think are an up-and-comer and have them record the b-side.  It's no great surprise that Future Islands would pick Ed Schrader's Music Beat since the Islands take them along as openers on nearly every one of their tours.   

Anyways, the music is what is important here, and all tracks get a thumbs up from me.  Future Islands give us "Cotton Flower," a very strong entry into their canon that I plan to listen to a bunch more times.  This band just keeps getting stronger and stronger.  ESMB gives us two short songs on the flip, both slow-to-mid-tempo numbers that cover such topics as britches and transvestites.  These songs aren't going to change their love-them-or-hate-them image, but since I'm firmly in the love camp it's more greatness to me.  Definitely a seven inch worth seeking out, and most likely limited so don't sleep on it.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guantanamo Baywatch - Chest Crawl (Dirtnap, 2012)

Guantanamo Baywatch
Chest Crawl
Dirtnap
2012

Rating: 7 German beer gardens out of 10

Between the name Guantanamo Baywatch and the label Dirtnap, I'm not sure what I was expecting this band to sound like, but I'm pretty sure dirty surf rock wasn't at the top of the list.  And I don't mean "dirty" as in the lyrics sound ripped off from 2 Live Crew, just not Ventures-style clean surf rock.  No, this is more like Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet combining with the Cramps to form some kind of unholy monster.  The music isn't anything new or special, but it is catchy and very listenable.  Sure, it's tough to make non-catchy surf rock, but I like the cut of this band's jibs.  And I'm certain they're a blast live, which might be more important than anything. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chain & the Gang - In Cool Blood (K, 2012)

Chain & the Gang
In Cool Blood
K
2012

Rating: 7 early risers out of 10

There's nothing really different or noteworthy about this third release from Chain & the Gang, and that is as it should be.  Ian Svenonious has honed his "garage soul" sound down to a science, and it is not to be trifled with.  Did I make up the phrase "garage soul"?  Doubtful, surely someone has used the phrase in a Dirtbombs review at some point.  If there is anything different to say about this at all, it's the addition of Katie Alice Greer as the female yang to Svenonious' yin, and she's not just singing back-up - she leads a few songs.  I prefer the Ian led songs, but tracks like "Nuff Said" where they play off of each other work great. 

Listen, if you're a fan of what Svenonious does, you're gonna like this.  If you're not, you won't.  And if you have no idea who the dude is, go out and get "13-Point Program to Destroy America" or "Plays Pretty for Baby" by Nation of Ulysses and realize why the man has so many idols like myself in the world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bargain Bin Dig Volume 2: Amoeba SF

Another year, another trip to SF to go watch my A's play, hang with friends, eat burritos, and bargain shop at Amoeba.  This time in two categories: CDs and vinyl!

CD list:
Barr - Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case (5RC, 2005) (weirdo nerd rap) 
Bedhead & Macha - Bedhead Loved Macha / Macha Loved Bedhead (Jetset, 2000) (everyone should love Bedhead) 
Birds of Avalon - The Oui EP (Volcom, 2008) (local psych shredders)
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade, 2008) (not as good as their first record but still enjoyable) 
Richard Buckner - Meadow (Merge, 2006) (all-time best dude)
The Dipers - How To Plan Successful Parties (Omnibus, 2003) (side project of Intelligence)
Dub Narcotic Sound System - Sideways Soul: Dub Narcotic Sound System Meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (K, 1999) (somehow missed this ever existing)
Shout Out Louds - Oh, Sweetheart EP (Bud Fox, 2004) (underrated Swedish pop)
South San Gabriel - The Carlton Chronicles (Misra, 2005) (Centro-Matic side project)
Strange Boys - Live Music (Rough Trade, 2011) (review here)
Various Artists - Zum Audio Vol 2 (Zum, 1998) (used to have a dubbed cassette of this; good to have a replacement)
Wilderness - (K)no(w)here (Jagjaguwar, 2008) (pretty sure I heard a song from them I liked a lot once)

Vinyl list:
The Midwest Beat - Gone Not Lost (Dusty Medical, 2011) (actually from the midwest!)
Misfits - Misfits (Plan 9, 1986) (a classic amongst classics)
Mono - One Step More and You Die (Temporary Residence, 2003) (amazing Japanese post-rock that may make your heart skip a beat)
Portastatic - The Nature of Sap (Merge,1997) (Mac from Superchunk's side project)
Society of Rockets - Our Paths Related (Underpop, 2007) (SF popsters I used to play basketball with)
Swan Lake - Enemy Mine (Jagjaguwar, 2009) (not the soundtrack to the movie)
Thomas Function - Celebration! (Alive, 2008) (catchy garage pop, too underrated)
Wax Museums - Wax Museums (Douchemaster, 2008) (catchy Texas punk)
Young People - War Prayers (Dim Mak, 2003) (a good record, their first one is pure gold)

Fergus & Geronimo - Funky Was the state of Affairs (Hardly Art, 2012)

Fergus & Geronimo
Funky Was the state of Affairs
Hardly Art
2012

Rating: 6.5 ducks smoking cigars out of 10

I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure if this Fergus & Geronimo record is serious or some sort of weird joke amongst friends.  Either way, I like it quite a bit.  If you've ever said to yourself "I wish there was a band that sounded like Gang of Four, Devo and the Make-Up jello wrestling," then look no further. It's not all gold - there are a bunch of weird short nonsense songs that are crap on the first listen, and only get more annoying.  It's so bad I want to immediately burn a version of the record without these bits and forget they ever exist.  Haven't we learned anything from bad skits on hip hop records people?  There is also the issue of the song "Roman Nvmerals / Wiretapping Muzak I," which is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.  But the rest of the record is so enjoyable that despite these annoyances I give this thumbs up.