Friday, March 30, 2012

Damien Jurado - Maraqopa (Secretly Canadian, 2012)

Damien Jurado
Secretly Canadian

Rating: 7 broken backs out of 10

I've listened to Damien Jurado for a number of years now, absolutely loving some of his records and liking all of them.  This one seems a little...different.  It has a strong western vibe to it, as if the boys from Calexico helped produce it.  I feel like I should be wandering amongst giant cacti while listening.  I often get bothered when favorite artists tweak or change their sounds, but I was taken with this record right away, and not just because it's different.  It's still largely the same Jurado you expect - mellow, somber folk songs with occasional rock moments, only this time out there is a little bit of fancy decoration on the package.  Certainly, long time fans like myself will find plenty to love here.  

As a side note, this man is responsible for one of my all-time favorite songs by any artist, ever: "Ohio" from the album "Rehearsals For Departure."  If you don't know it, seek it out.  Your life will be better for it.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia 7'' (Slumberland, 2012)

Allo Darlin'
Capricornia 7''

Rating: 7.5 whale teeth out of 10

I did not "literally" burn a hole in my copy of the self-titled debut album by Allo Darlin' that came out in 2010, but I very much wanted to work that stupid descriptor in my opening line.  That is to say, I listened to it a whole whole lot, in case you didn't get what I was pushing towards.  This 7'' represents the first single from their forthcoming new album "Europe," and man what a great foot to step forward with - the song is incredibly catchy and so cute it's almost insufferable.  Think of Allo Darlin' as a little more upbeat, less dour version of Camera Obscura and you'll be on the right track.  Great single, and I'm immensely excited for the new record. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Terry Malts - Killing Time (Slumberland, 2012)

Terry Malts
Killing Time

Rating: 7.5. free kicks out of 10

San Francisco's Terry Malts, while fitting in with the current crop of hot shit garage/punk/pop/psyche bands, seem to have wandered down a different path at some point.   Those pop punk hooks are still buried in there, but there is a heavy late eighties/early nineties indie vibe ala the Jesus & Mary Chain and the Pixies and maybe even some XTC, making it quite fitting they are on Slumberland given the label's history.  I'm also hearing the cold, detached punk vibe that the A-Frames perfected, a sound I've always loved that very few bands get right.  There is also a simple perfection to the songs that will remind most anyone of the Ramones, but then again what band working in this genre doesn't remind you of the Ramones.  If you had zero knowledge of the Terry Malts and someone told you it was an unearthed gem from 1984, it would be completely believable.  I was instantly taken with "Not Far From It" and "Waiting Room" (the latter having no relation to the classic Fugazi song).  This is going to receive a lot of plays in my house.  Between the new Hunx record and this one, the Bay Area has a strong start on putting out the best music of 2012.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunx - Hairdresser Blues (Hardly Art, 2012)

Hairdresser Blues
Hardly Art

Rating: 8 madonna arms out of 10

The first album was credited to Hunx & His Punx, but this sophomore release "Hairdresser Blues" is just under the name Hunx.  I'm not sure if this is supposed to be received as a solo effort, but it sounds very much in line with the debut output - catchy glam-garage pop with hooks galore.  Really, it's almost unfair how catchy this album is.  "Private Room" and "Hairdresser Blues" were instant standouts, eliciting replays right away.  There might be lyrical differences between this record and the first one with the full band, but I'll leave that differentiation up to the actual music critics that pay attention to shit like that.  All I really do is give it a listen, and if the record catches my ear, I'm sold.  And pretty much every goddamn song on this album not only catches my ear, but it gives it a wet willy.  This record makes me want to eat cupcakes, it's so sugary and sweet.  And now I've made myself hungry. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dirty Three - Toward the Low Sun (Drag City, 2012)

Dirty Three
Toward the Low Sun
Drag City

Rating: 6.5 small airplanes out of 10

There was a time in the mid-to-late nineties that I would have listed the Dirty Three as one of my favorite groups.  But somewhere after their fourth album, "Ocean Songs," my interests drifted away.  Let's be honest, the band has a great sound, but all of the records sound kinda the same to me and I'm guessing most other folks.  Violin, drums and guitar playing sad, instrumental free-jazz influenced dirges...there's only so many directions you can take that.  This new album "Toward the Low Sun" is, as expected, more of the same...pretty enjoyable, or as enjoyable as this sort of depressing music can be.  Any Dirty Three fans should be happy with this record. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day Creeper - Blah 7'' (Tic Tac Totally, 2011)

Day Creeper
Blah 7''
Tic Tac Totally

Rating: 7.5 orange mints out of 10

Day Creeper are from Ohio, play sloppy, jangly punk pop, and are very enjoyable live.  For some reason I keep thinking about them opening for the Dead Milkmen, cause it would somehow be a good fit.  I haven't listened to the Dead Milkmen in forever but I could probably still sing "Bitchin' Camaro" from heart.  If anyone still gave a shit about the Strokes you could kinda make a comparison, not a strong comparison mind you, but something about these creeps reminds me of those creeps.  Day Creeper are a lot more fun though, and I excitedly anticipate their full-length that will be released at some point in the future.  You know, just like every other album that hasn't come out yet. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Busdriver - Beaus$Eros (Fake Four, 2012)

Fake Four

Rating: 7 window transfers out of 10

It's probably both my old age and the changing of the scene, but I just haven't kept up much with hip hop over the last decade.  Busdriver is one of the few exceptions,and I'm guessing this is  largely driven by the fact that it sounds almost nothing like the typical hip hop being released these days.  There is a heavy electro-pop vibe, maybe a little indie rock flavor, and his rapping style is pretty different...and much faster than normal, though I'm not talking Fu-Schnickens fast, that would just be silly.  It kinda doesn't sound like anything else to be honest, and everythingall at once at times.  There are a lot of odd or different tracks on this record, but in a just world "Kiss Me Back to Life" would be a hit song  We all know radio airplay ain't anything close to just though, and Busdriver will continue plying his wares to the underground. 

Fans of Why? or Subtle should really check this dude out, though I'm guessing most folks who are into those groups are already well aware of Busdriver.  So how about this - folks who used to love hip hop but have become disenchanted by it's boring sameness should make a point to seek out this or one of Busdriver's earlier records, it will be worth your time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lambchop - Mr. M (Merge, 2012)

Mr. M

Rating: 8.5 wet britches out of 10

I'd like to think that if it were the 1950s or 1960s, and maybe of Kurt Wagner's lyrics weren't so often oddball, the gorgeous country-tinged chamber pop of Lambchop would be immensely popular.  The band seems like the natural successor of a marriage between Lee Hazlewood, Burt Bacharach, and Leonard Cohen, and never has that felt more true than on "Mr. M."  

This album was dedicated to the band's longtime friend and collaborator Vic Chestnutt, and because of Vic's untimely death you could probably read a lot of sadness into this album.  Then again, you could probably read a lot of sadness into any Lambchop album.  And maybe it is sad - certainly, there seems to be a lot more strings this time and a much more laid-back, subtle approach to the music.  I'll be damned though if I can decipher Wagner's lyrics any better here than in their previous work; he could be talking about Chestnutt or he could be talking about turtles, and my general idiocy when it comes to lyrical subtext is amplified ten times with this group.  

What I do know is this record is absolutely beautiful.  There are no hooks here - it's not going to grab you right away if you are busy doing other things.  This is a classic Sunday morning record, designed to be ingested lying around on the couch, nothing particularly pressing on your mind.  But there is a great reward for taking your time with Lambchop's "Mr. M", as it is likely one of the best records from a band that has continually produced some of the greatest music of the last two decades. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips 2011: The Flaming Lips with Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band EP (Warner Bros, 2011)

The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips 2011: The Flaming Lips with Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band EP
Warner Bros

Rating: 3 John Lennon ghosts out of 10

I've found a lot to recommend from the Flaming Lips 2011 run of weird EPs and collaborations, but this ain't one of them.  I've never been a fan of Yoko Ono, and she shits all over the music just enough here to turn off all but the most die hard fans.  I like the adventure the Lips have shown with all of these releases, but you can't expect them all to be gold.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Barsuk, 2012)

Nada Surf
The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

Rating: 8 tulip computers out of 10

This new Nada Surf album is the first real contender of album of the year, a fact I would have wagered a large sum of money on before ever listening to it.  Sometimes being predictable is a good thing, and as this album sounds like the natural progression of their last few stellar full-lengths (minus the covers record "If I Had A Hi-Fi" which wasn't bad, just odd and out of place), it was pretty much the most sure bet of any record that has come out in quite some time. 

Here is what I know:

Fact: This is the best pop band working today.  
Fact: Pitchfork hates them, which is a sign that they are on the right track.  
Fact: "Waiting for Something" sounds like the Superchunk song "Digging for Something", or maybe that's just me.  I love both songs immensely.  
Fact: They are not coming here on their next tour, which almost makes me cry.  Just a little bit.  
Fact: I'm completely out of ideas on how to best tell people that just because this band had one novelty hit in the mid-nineties, is no reason to write them off.  If you like catchy indie pop that will have you singing along in record time, I seriously can't think of a better choice. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Brett Netson - Simple Work For The Dead (New Black, 2011)

Brett Netson
Simple Work For The Dead
New Black

Rating: 7.5 commie winds out of 10

Brett Netson is probably best known for being one of the founding members of Built to Spill (with whom he still tours occasionally), and he followed that by helming his own group Caustic Resin (whose album "The Medicine Is All Gone" is one of the most underrated albums of all time).   Now he's just recording under his own name, but musically it's all just a continuation on the sounds he has been honing for close to two decades now. 

My biggest reaction is this sounds like the soundtrack to a modern western...a lone man riding across the plains, an "Easy Rider" minus the drug running.  Well, maybe a little drug running.  It's dark in the best possible way, much like with Brett's Caustic Resin past, but not quite as heavy...more of a psych-folk thing like seems to be so popular these days.  If you're into the likes of Kurt Vile and all that, this is the natural progression of that sound from a man who has seen and played music for a long time.  You could also make some Neil Young comparisons or towards his bandmate Doug Martsch's solo record from a few years back, and there is even a Bob Dylan cover to close the record ("Masters of War").  

In short, Brett has made a great, trippy solo album that manages to sound current and fits in with the classics at the same time.  It's a good listen, and well worth your effort to track down.