Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dex Romweber Duo - Is That You In The Blue? (Bloodshot, 2011)

Dex Romweber Duo
Is That You In The Blue?

Rating: 6.5 tangible ponchos out of 10

Local legend Dex Romweber has released a lot of music in a lot of different incarnations, and this time around it's as a part of the Dex Romweber Duo with his sister Sara and a few helpers in the studio.  It sounds like...a Dex Romweber album.  Seriously, the dude has been doing his rockabilly-surf-garage-twang thing for over two decades, and if it ain't broke don't fuck with it.  The album is a mix of original jams and covers, and sounds great from start to finish.  Of course, any Dex album is a footnote compared to his live performances, and luckily since I live in the same area as him I get to enjoy both.  I'd suggest you move here as well, and get awesome.  Or just check out the record...whatever. 

Nobunny - First Blood (Goner, 2010)

First Blood

Rating: 7.5 investigative leads out of 10

Nobunny has come a long way from when I literally saw him play in a friend's basement a few years ago, but the music is still just a joyfully stupid.  Songs like "(Do the) Fuck Yourself," "Blow Dumb," and "I Was On (the Bozo Show)" tell you all you need to know.  Musically, his previous releases were more a pastiche of the garage pop underworld, this time around really obvious influences like T. Rex, Velvet Underground and Mott & the Hoople shine through on a number of tracks.  It's a damn catchy record, inviting singing along after only a couple of listens.  Muy bueno.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hospitality - Hospitality (Merge, 2012)


Rating: 6.5 empty attics out of 10

Hospitality, from New York, twee pop, comparisons to Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, yadda yadda yadda.  Sometimes these things write themselves.  Though I will say there is a slight jazzy/Sea & Cake vibe to Hospitality that sets them apart from their comparisons just slightly, but not by much.  I'm not sure there is enough exciting music going on here to get too wound up over this release, but at the same times it seems impossible that you wouldn't at least find this an enjoyable listen.  Sometimes a pleasant pop record is all you need, and this is plenty pleasant. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Mariee Sioux - Bonnie And Mariee 7'' (Spiritual Pajamas, 2012)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Mariee Sioux
Bonnie And Mariee 7''
Spiritual Pajamas

Rating: 5.5 close out sales out of 10

Hey, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy released a new record!  Shocking I know.  A double 7'' this time out, and a collaboration with a young folk singer named Mariee Sioux, who I've never heard of before.  They got an all-star group of musicians to round out the session band, including Farmer Dave of my beloved Beachwood Sparks plus members of A Perfect Circle, Bright Eyes, The Entrance Band).  All that sounds like pretty typical BPB work, only he's got a female singer helping him on vocals.  Current fans will surely enjoy, but there is nothing essential about this.  

(Insert snarkiness here on how stupid the name of the label is, which surely must have been created by one of those "random band name" generators that are all over the internet.)  

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Shins - Port of Morrow (Columbia, 2012)

The Shins
Port of Morrow

Rating: 6 water beds out of 10

This new record by The Shins mostly just makes me miss the old Shins.  That first record, "Oh, Inverted World," felt so intimate - like it was written just for you.  It was the "handmade blanket knitted by grandma" of music.  I actually just listened to that first record a few weeks ago, and it still feels as warm and comfortable as ever.  

Additionally - and I know this isn't exactly a new phenomenon in music - but does anyone even really consider this to be the same band?  The Shins now equal James Mercer and hired hands as near as I can tell.  Sure, Mercer's voice is one the most important parts of the Shins' signature sound, but it's not everything - and you can tell with this record.

All that said, this is still a listenable pop album.  It feels a little over-produced and shiny like it's stretching it's arms attempting to embrace mainstream radio, but I think the bones are good.  You could certainly do worse.  Mostly, though, it just makes me want to go listen to the Shins early material.

Mind Spiders - Meltdown (Dirtnap, 2012)

Mind Spiders

Rating: 6 double angles out of 10

Mind Spiders = Texas-based catchy, driving punk with a pop sheen.  There is also a catchy kraut/psyche vibe to a handful of the songs, "Fall In Line" being the track of this ilk that stands out the most.  The band is headed by Mark Ryan, one of those dudes who is in a thousand bands (Marked Men, High Tension Wires, and surely some others) at once that all sound kind of the same but different enough for fans to need to listen to them all.  This definitely sounds like a Dirtnap record; and a decent one at that, though not groundbreaking by any means.  I think I probably prefer Ryan's High Tension Wires more, but it's a close race. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fucked Up - Year of the Tiger (Matador, 2012)

Fucked Up
Year of the Tiger

Rating: 8 boat anchors out of 10

Fucked Up have been releasing these zodiac-inspired singles for a few years now, though as a recent convert this was the first one I really spent much time with.  And I put "single" in quotes because while this might only be two songs, the running time is just a couple of minutes short of forty minutes.  For my money, it feels like these guys are getting closer and closer to putting out a Les Savy Fav album with each passing release, and I'm completely ok with that.  In fact, that is probably why I'm so drawn to their more recent material, being a huge fan of the Fav and all.  They manage to combine melody with heavy, dense rock, a mix that is almost always cheesy and awful - but that very small percentage of the time when it comes out right it's damn near pure gold. 

Bear in mind, everything I said just then was for the title song, side A if you will.  The flip track, "ONNO," sounds like an Oval song performed by a live band.  Not terrible or anything, it just sort of a background jam, and inevitably you will space out thinking about something awesome like boobs or skateboards and then snap back a little while later and the song is still going cause it's over twenty minutes long and feels like it may never end.
But that first song - man, it fucking kills all who approach it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blasted Canyons - 2nd Place EP (Castle Face, 2012)

Blasted Canyons
2nd Place EP
Castle Face

Rating: 6 down comforters out of 10

I guess you'd call Blasted Canyons synth-punk or something like that.  You'd probably also call them Joy Division fans, surely a damn near useless description at this point for any band, but still...fitting.  There are probably other bands out there that do it better, but this is still pretty enjoyable - especially the first half of the EP, and super especially the song "Liquid Fiend", which is the closest they come to a straight-forward classic punk sound.  "Holy Geometry" is incredibly catchy as well.  The second half is just decent, nothing to get your panties in a bunch (or unbunch them in the event they were already bunched).  Worth the price of admission though for the two songs I mentioned, two great songs out of six is pretty damn okay these days. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Islands - A Sleep & A Forgetting (Anti, 2012)

A Sleep & A Forgetting

Rating: 7 lonely crabs out of 10

I quite enjoyed the previous group Islands founders Nicholas Thorburn and Jaime Thompson played in called Unicorns, but after they broke up I sorta forget about all things involved with that band.  Here it is four albums later and I'm just now getting around to listening to their "new band" Islands.  Too much good music in the world, too little time I guess.

I almost need to give two scores for this record - there's the second track "This Is Not A Song," and there is the rest of the album.  The album as a whole is very enjoyable - if you thought Unicorns were pretty much ripping off the pop sound and revelry of the Elephant 6 collective, Islands sounds like a band who grew up on those same sounds but have grown into a more mature pop sound.  You might even describe it as "slick," similar to the hooks and sheen of a Nada Surf record or a band of that ilk.  

But "This Is Not A Song" - well, it's a fabulous song.  It might sound like a polished rip-off of Sparklehorse, but I don't even care.  It worms into your head in the best possible way, and without a doubt will be one of my favorite songs of the year.  Every time I hear it I'm singing it for the next couple of days.  It's this song that is going to keep me coming back to this record, and luckily the rest of the album pairs nicely. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador, 2012)

Perfume Genius
Put Your Back N 2 It

Rating: 8 broken needles out of 10

Having never heard of him before, I saw Perfume Genius aka Mike Hadreas open for Beirut a few months back.  It was sensitive and a little whiny and not at all what I usually like in music.  And then I saw he put out a new record on Matador with a stupid name, and I continued to be unimpressed.  Then I listened to the record, and despite all of my previous feelings, I found myself quite taken with the album after only the first spin.  I don't generally partake in this sort of music, but there is a haunting, powerful quality to this record.  My limited vocabulary in this arena is forcing a comparison to Antony and the Johnsons, though to be honest I think Perfume Genius writes stronger songs.  You could also draw a comparison to Elliott Smith's earlier material, though replace the acoustic guitar with a piano or keyboard...same level of honesty and introspection really, the music so delicate it seems like a light breeze could blow it away. 

Now I kinda want to see him live again, now that I know the music, and give him another shot.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wild Wild Geese - Sorry, Earth (Odessa, 2010)

Wild Wild Geese
Sorry, Earth

Rating: 7.5 rock mosaics out of 10

I kinda napped on this Wild Wild Geese record but it's kicking my ass right now.  It sounds like it was dug straight out of an archive of unsigned local triangle bands that Merge recently found in their basement.  If you told me I saw this band play on a bill at the 506 between Small 23 and Tractor Hips I'd probably believe you if I didn't know it was just a bunch of young kids making music today.   There is a HEAVY Polvo vibe to their music, early Polvo at that, and it makes me so happy that those musical heroes of mine are finally exuding some local influence, even if it is a couple of decades later.  You could also draw up comparisons to another local band, Capsize 7, though I have no idea if these kids were ever hip to them or if the similarities are just a happy coincidence.  These seemed to fly under the radar even here in their home area, or maybe that is just me, but "Sorry, Earth" is well worth seeking out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lilac Shadows - Shallow Madness EP (Diggup Tapes, 2012)

Lilac Shadows
Shallow Madness EP
Diggup Tapes

Rating: 7 silent Japanese films out of 10

The Triangle seems to be churning out quality pop bands lately as if it was Athens in the mid-nineties, and Lilac Shadows are one of the newest top contenders.  I specifically mention Athens because I've gotten it stuck in my head that they remind me a lot of Apples in Stereo - not so much that the songs sound exactly the same, but the construction and vibe the tracks get off won't let me shake the comparison.  The music is a little dark, a little swirly, a little shoegaze, and even a little spacy, but all of that is just the window dressing for what are at their heart pure, catchy pop songs.  At times the vocal delivery reminds me of the Rosebuds, even if the voices themselves are pretty different.  The title track "A Shallow Madness" wormed it's way into my head after only a couple of listens, and there isn't a bad song in the bunch.  I could have probably done without the short between song instrumental bits, but it's a minor gripe. 

This is a hell of a debut, strong from start to finish and hopefully just the tip of the iceberg for what is to come.