Monday, February 27, 2012

DJ Shadow - The Less You Know, The Better (Verve, 2011)

DJ Shadow
The Less You Know, The Better

Rating: 7 mashing days out of 10

DJ Shadow has been a big part of my musical life for a over a decade and a half, and while he might not hold sway over my tastes like he once did, I'm still always excited to check out his newest offerings.  But I've put off writing my shitty little review on "The Less You Know, The Better" because I'm not entirely sure what to say about it.  At this point Shadow has basically created his own style of music - impeccably crafted, beat-driven indie rock that sounds like everything and nothing else all at the same time.  It's not as "hip hop" as his previous long player "The Outsider," but probably better compared to his first two albums.  At more than 75 minutes long it could have been tightened up a bit, but there are plenty enough good songs to please this Shadow fan.  Look, he's not going to recreate "Endtroducing" - albums like that only happen once in a generation.  But there is much joy to be had here if you can let that go.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp (Jagjaguwar, 2012)

Sharon Van Etten

Rating: 7.5 talking walls out of 10

Because of her ties to local stars Megafaun and who knows what other artists, it has always almost felt like Sharon Van Etten is part of the local scene. And maybe that makes me root for her more...actually, I know it does.  So it makes it that much more awesome that her newest release "Tramp" is so damned enjoyable.  I've often had trouble describing her sound, and really the closest I've ever come is that of a more stable Cat Power, and one that likes to rock out.  I also get a Rufus Wainright vibe from some of her material, particularly the first single "Serpents."  It's not so much that it sounds exactly like Rufus, but it "feels" like him.  Almost like the songs were constructed in the same way.  Rufus is, of course, a little more over the top, but I think they're built on the same bones.  Good bones.  Model-like high cheekbone bones.  

But as enjoyable as this record is, I think Sharon has more to give.  I was talking with someone else, and it feels as if she is holding back sometimes.  What or why, I'm not sure - her voice, her power, something along those lines maybe.  The sky is the limit for Sharon, and she is gaining altitude. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guided By Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory (Guided By Voices Inc., 2012)

Guided By Voices
Let's Go Eat the Factory
Guided By Voices Inc. 

Rating: 7 open wheel race cars out of 10

21 songs, a little over 40 minutes long...yep, this is a Guided By Voices album alright.  More importantly he got the old band back together, the "classic" line-up responsible for GBV's best work, and tried to recapture the magic.  Having seen this reunited line-up in tour they certainly still had the stage show down, and this newest recording seems headed in the right direction even if the songs aren't quite as strong as the material from "Alien Lanes" or "Bee Thousand."  It certainly feels like those old albums, lo-fi and sloppy, like the tracks were recorded after a long night of drinking and carousing at a local dive bar.  But it's that GBV type of sloppy, the endearing kind, like a child with disheveled hair or a cute drunk girl.  

At this point I can't imagine convincing someone to change their mind on this band based on their 843rd release.  An old fan?  You'll like this, it feels like a visit from a lost friend.  A new fan?  Just go buy "Alien Lanes", you can get to this later.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Royal Baths - Better Luck Next Life (Kanine, 2012)

Royal Baths
Better Luck Next Life

Rating: 6 platinum showers out of 10

Royal Baths are one of the many entries San Francisco has recently added to the garage rock scene.  It's sort of a "slacker" garage sound though, with strong shades of Pavement and the Violent Femmes coloring their music and a little surf guitar garnish.  You can almost feel the yawning through recording on tracks like "Burned" and "Be Afraid of Me."  And honestly, my reaction to this record was similarly yawn-inducing.  It's by no means a bad record, and it might grow on me with a few more listens, but the first impression it leaves is that of no impression at all. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wooden Shjips - Remixes EP (Thrill Jockey, 2012)

Wooden Shjips
Remixes EP
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 7.5 john boats out of 10

Is it wrong that I might like this EP of Wooden Shjips remixes more than I like their regular material?  Does that make me a bad fan?  Not that I really care, I'd just like to know where I stand.  

There are three tracks here, so let's talk about each one.  

1.  "Crossing Remix" by Any Weatherall: sounds like the "Knight Rider" theme song crossed with Kraftwerk.  That is to say, it sounds super fuckin' awesome.  I'm pretty sure I could listen to this song on a loop for a few days straight.   
2.  "Wiking Stew (aka Red Krayola-ing)" by Sonic Boom (yes that Sonic Boom, of Spacemen 3):it's got a very full sound, layers upon layers upon sounds a bit like a mess but coalesces back into a song by the end.  Not as good as the first remix, but decent.  
3.  "Ursus Maritimus (Last Bear’s Lament)" by Kandodo (aka Simon Price of The Heads): the epic jam of the bunch, over twelve minutes long.  The beat sounds like a chain gang prisoner walking in leg shackles, with swirling synths and guitars layered over top of it.  It's good.  It makes me want to walk around like a zombie.  

I like this EP a lot.  The second and third tracks are good and certainly work seeking out, but the first track is going to be one of my favorite songs of the year.

Various Artists - Those Shocking Shaking Days: Indonesian Hard Psychedelic Progressive Rock and Funk (70-78) (Now Again, 2011)

Various Artists
Those Shocking Shaking Days - Indonesian Hard Psychedelic Progressive Rock and Funk (70-78)
Now Again

Rating: 7 stoned pearl divers out of 10

Let's be honest - I'm not well versed on the seventies Indonesian psychedelic scene, so this was a real pleasant surprise.  Turns out the music they were making wasn't all that different from the psych rock the US and Europe was putting out, though maybe slightly delayed as they were doing much of their creation after they had already soaked up the work of the western world.  Like any compilation, some songs are great and others are mediocre, but mostly you just feel like you've discovered a treasure trove of great classic rock regardless of it's country of origin.  There is no reason any of these songs wouldn't fit in well on classic radio, outside of the fact that almost no one has heard these tracks.  Rock dads and rock kids alike should be able to find joy in this collection.      

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

British Sea Power - Georgie Ray EP (Rough Trade, 2011)

British Sea Power
Georgie Ray EP
Rough Trade

Rating: 6.5 seal torpedoes out of 10

Finding any information on this British Sea Power single was like pulling teeth, and I have no idea why.   It's a pretty straight-forward single - two songs from their most recent album, "Georgie Ray" and "Mongk II", a live version of the song "Bear" from their "Zeus" EP, and an unreleased track called "Mongk on the Move" that I would assume has some connection to the previously mentioned "Mongk II" and/or their other track called "Mongk", but I'm not really seeing the connection at this point.  The two best songs are the two tracks from their last album "Valhalla", so I'd just procure that unless you are a completist.  It's all very good though, sound very much like the British Sea Power you know and love.  Assuming you love them.  If you don't, it seems pretty dumb to be reading this. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks (Polyvinyl, 2012)

Of Montreal
Paralytic Stalks

Rating: 7 ignorant hippopotamuses out of 10

My love of Of Montreal has greatly waned over the last decade, as they have transformed from a catchy, quirky pop band into some sort of over-the-top, musical theater-inspired disco pop band.  It's not that this new version of the group is making bad music, it's just not the band I fell in love with and it's not moved in a direction that I would hope they would have moved in (much of this could also apply to Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and a host of other acts).  "Growing" your sound is understandable, it's just things have grown in a way I can't fully get behind.  

Which leaves me to say something about this newest record by the band, "Paralytic Stalks"...well, one positive mark I'll give it is it's a little less, well, dancey than their last couple of records.  I've never been big on dancey music.  There's more guitars, louder drums, a bigger sound altogether.  I think that adds up to the descriptor "rocking."  My gut feeling after the first listen is it sounds like the "Flaming Lips"-ized their sound.  It's still Of Montreal, but has a chunk of space-rock-opera infused throughout.  I like it...not as much as I liked their really catchy early pop phase, but much more than the disco years.  Maybe this is where I get back into the band?  Time will tell.  It's a good start though. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Whatever Brains - Whatever Brains (Sorry State, 2011)

Whatever Brains
Whatever Brains
Sorry State

Rating: 8 hangdog poses out of 10

I've been meaning to/trying to review this Whatever Brains self-titled debut album for a while now.  Despite them being one of my very very favorite local bands, I'm constantly at a loss as to what ot say about them.  You could narrow down songs or parts of songs and compare it to a thousand different bands - Les Savy Fav, McClusky, The Fall, some of the electro-punk side projects of Jay Reatard like Final Solutions and Nervous Patterns, Devo being chased by feral dogs...fuck, they sound like a lot of shit if you try to break it down.  But as a whole, when you listen to the album from start to finish - I'm not sure they sound like a single other band on the planet.  A bold statement, sure, but I listen to a lot of fucking music and have seen a lot of bands live, and I've truly never experienced anything like the Brains.  Let's just call it noise-electro-scuzz-punk.  More importantly, let's call it awesome.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tig Notaro - Good One (Secretly Canadian, 2011)

Tig Notaro
Good One
Secretly Canadian

Rating: 8 molested Mexicans out of 10

I'm not entirely sure how to review a comedy record in any sort of insightful way.  Of course, they may not differ from any of my other reviews.  I've seen Tig Notaro live a few times and on TV a few other times, and she never fails to make me laugh.  In fact, I saw her when she was on tour for this particular album just a few months back, so I heard her perform most of this material live.  She has a very dry, deadpan delivery, probably my favorite trait for a comedian to have.  The CD is hilarious, probably my second favorite of last year after Patton Oswalt's "Finest Hour."  I've listened to it a few times and there are a number of jokes that I laugh at every single time.  

Listen to Tig.  Do it now.  There, that's my insightful comedy album review. 

DJ Shadow - Scale It Back EP (Verve, 2011)

DJ Shadow
Scale It Back EP

Rating: 5 thumb drives out of 10

Unless you fancy yourself some sort of DJ, there is no point in buying this DJ Shadow EP.  There are three songs from his most recent album "The Less You Know, The Better".  The first two tracks "Scale It Back" and "Stay The Course" are paired with the acapella and instrumental versions of each track.  And then the final song "Run For Your Life" is an "Extended Tour Version", but it's basically the same as the album version.  So just buy the album.