Friday, June 29, 2012

The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Warner Bros, 2012)

The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
Warner Bros

Rating: 5 nail clips out of 10

Holy clusterfuck, Batman.  The Flaming Lips have been on a productive tear lately, and I'd like to award them at least some points for trying new things, even if I have disliked most of them.  They worked with a lot of different artists last year when they released all those EPs, and some of those collaborations are here (Prefuse 73, Yoko Ono, Lightning Bolt & more).  It's a mixed bag at best.  Then there are the new tracks, which I'll split into two camps - those with artists I care about and those who elicited a "what the fuck?" when I saw them listed.  The collabos with Bon Iver, Jim James and Nick Cave are all ok - nothing groundbreaking, but listenable.  But they also decided to pair with Ke$ha, Edward Sharpe and Coldplay...oof.  The only real surprise/highlight is the ten minute long Erykah Badu venture, which turned out much better than I ever would have expected.  I was not expecting much, mind you. 

Maybe they can now turn to the novel idea of making another proper Flaming Lips record. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The White Stripes - Dead Leaves 7'' (Third Man, 2012)

The White Stripes
Dead Leaves 7''
Third Man

Rating: 6 report cards out of 10

This White Stripes release is part of their subscription-only Vault releases, so you're going to have to get on eBay if you want a physical copy,"dig around" online if you just want to hear the songs - the front side being "Dead Leaves" and the flip "Let's Build A Home".  These are alternate takes of these classic songs, though you'd have to be a Stripes superfan to really spot the difference.  I guess it's fitting that this is aimed at the obsessives and collector nerds, because regular aficionados like myself will get by fine with the regular albums these tracks are on (which would be "White Blood Cells" and "De Stijl").  Awesome songs though, obviously, just not a crucial item to own.

Various Artists - Record Store Day 2012 4-Way Covers Split 7'' (Trouble in Mind, 2012)

Various Artists
Record Store Day 2012 4-Way Covers Split 7''
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 7 crusty baguettes out of 10

The title kinda says it all, bu here are the details - Side A has Mikal Cronin covering The Banana Splits “I Enjoy Being A Boy” and Apache Dropout covering Harry Nilsson‘s “Cuddly Toy”; Side B has The Paperhead covering Tyrannosaurus Rex’s “Stacey Grove” and The Liminanas covering The Troggs “Come Now.”  Side A is particularly strong as it's always great to hear a new version of "Cuddly Toy."  I had never heard either of the Side B bands before, but these are both fine additions to the collection if not quite as strong as the first side - the Limianas have a great guitar sound though and I'll be interested in searching for more by them.  This might be hard to find as it was a pretty limited release, but worth a listen. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mean Jeans - On Mars (Dirtnap, 2012)

Mean Jeans
On Mars

Rating: 7.5 womanizing brawlers out of 10

Mean Jeans are back with another slab of (heavily) Ramones-influenced skate punk pop, and the world is a better place for it.  Derivative?  Sure, but who gives a fuck when the songs are this catchy.  I certainly don't. This sophomore outing might sound even more like the Ramones than their debut "Are You Serious?", but again, not a single fuck was given as I listened.  And let's be honest, look at the cover up there - you should know exactly what you are getting into here.  You've got great songs like "Hangin' Tuff, "Come Toobin', "Don't Stop Partying," and "Forever in Mean Jeans" a play off of the Neil Diamond classic.  Sometimes, music is just fun, and you don't need to take it any further than that. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beach House - Bloom (Sub Pop, 2012)

Beach House
Sub Pop

Rating: 5.5 moon towers out of 10

Is it wrong that anytime I hear Beach House I think "the soundtrack to buying khakis"?  And I don't even mean that to sound as petty and snarky as it does, but every time I hear them it makes me feel like I'm in the Gap or J. Crew.  I also think of the Cocteau Twins, and as near as I can tell Beach House is just the modern cover band version of those guys.  Make no mistake, this is a perfectly fine band, nice music and all that...put it on at a party in the background and you'd probably have a winner.  I can't fathom actively disliking this, I just don't think it could possibly stir up those sort of emotions.  But I continue to be dumbfounded by the bands popularity.  Felt that on the last album and feel it on this newest release.  But more power to them if in these times where it so tough to get ahead in music, that they appear to be winning the game.  Hopefully it helps the Cocteaus sell a few more records too.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

White Hills - Frying on This Rock (Thrill Jockey, 2012)

White Hills
Frying on This Rock
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 7.5 football teams out of 10

The last White Hills record "H-p1" was a pretty good introduction to this band for me, but I feel like this new record is a step into an even stronger direction towards world domination.  "Robot Stomp" is the real highlight, a kraut-metal longform jam that sounds like the result of Oneida and Wooden Shjips fucking on a roof, only that roof is covered in gravel and their knees got scratched to shit because a good fucking still feels better than a few boo-boos on your knee.  They put forth a strong stoner rock showing on "You Dream You See" even if the lyrical content is a little repetitive.  I can't help but think of Black Mountain when I listen to these guys, though Black Mountain has a bit more pop sheen to them.  Damn enjoyable record.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves (Caldo Verde, 2012)

Sun Kil Moon
Among the Leaves
Caldo Verde

Rating: 5.5 really freakin' hot beef jerky out of 10

I wish I could get as excited for new Sun Kil Moon material as I do to listen to the old Red House Painters albums or even the first SKM record "Ghosts of the Great Highway."  A lot of that is on me - preconceived notions and all that jazz.  And some of it is on Mark Kozalek (aka the dude who is Sun Kil Moon in case you weren't aware) - let's be honest, most of his songs sound the same.  It's a good sound, but still.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this record, other than it being too long (really, 73 minutes?), but there isn't really anything that stands out in these 17 tracks either.  The more recent material seems to lack that spooky, ethereal quality that his older music had.  So, yeah...I'm going to go listen to "Ocean Beach" now. 

Lambchop - Democracy EP (Self-Released, 2012)

Democracy EP

Rating: 7 difficult births out of 10

Tour-only CD release.  Now I recently went and saw Lambchop play, but as I never bother looking at the CDs anymore, I totally missed out on a physical copy of this.  What you have here are demo versions of many of the tracks found on their most recent masterpiece "Mr. M."  The recordings are still great, just more stripped down and maybe some slight changes in the instrumentation.  Not a crucial release, but if you loved that last record as much as I did, you'll definitely dig hearing these versions of the songs. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Flaming Lips & Mastodon - A Spoonful Weighs a Ton 7'' (Warner Bros, 2012)

The Flaming Lips & Mastodon
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton 7''
Warner Bros

Rating: 4 shropshires out of 10

Another Record Store Day 2012 release.  The Flaming Lips version of their classic song is exactly the same version from their classic record "A Soft Bulletin," so nothing special or new there.  The flip side is once-amazing-and-now-just-kinda-meh Mastodon covering that same song.  Surprisingly, their version is pretty close to the original...the guitars are a little heavier and the voice is different, but otherwise...not entirely sure what the point of this was.  Would have liked to have heard a completely metal reinvention of the song maybe - it might have sucked but it would have at least turned heads.  The pink vinyl looks nice at least. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Hummingbird 10'' (Spiritual Pajamas, 2012)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Hummingbird 10''
Spiritual Pajamas

Rating: 7 vials of red dye out of 10

As sure as the sun will rise each day, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy will put out a new record.  This particular release was one of them limited edition thingies for record store day 2012, and features Will Oldham and some of his friends (members of Beachwood Sparks, Entrance Band and cairo Gang) performing a few covers.  Specifically, the title track by Leon Redbone, Merle Haggard's "Because of Your Eyes," and a traditional song called "Tribulations."  BPB is so good at putting his stamp on songs though that unless you already knew these songs, you'd just assume they were original compositions of his.  Maybe not a must have release, especially since it might be tough to track down, but as good as most anything else he has released recently.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Animal Collective - Transverse Temporal Gyrus (Domino, 2012)

Animal Collective
Transverse Temporal Gyrus

Rating: 3 green peppers out of 10

This is the atmospheric / "free jazz" version of Animal Collective that pops up every now and again.  To quote Mr. Horse from "The Ren & Stimpy Show" - No sir, I don't like it.  Big fan of their "pop" work, but this is about as interesting to me as a root canal. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Men - Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones, 2012)

The Men
Open Your Heart
Sacred Bones

Rating: 7 place kickers out of 10

The Men have a driving, almost pummeling noise punk sound that seems to be a rare commodity these days.  It was always big in San Diego-related bands, from Drive Like Jehu to Rocket from the Crypt to Hot only Obits remain as part of the fraternity, and they don't even live in "Whale's Vagina" anymore.  Luckily for us fans of that sound these NYC kids have been a on a tear the last couple of years, with this newest album "Open Your Heart" more of that same awesomeness.  Maybe it's the New York in them but they seem to combine a bit of Sonic Youth influence into their music as well, especially on the album closer "Ex-Dreams."  There are a couple of weird/different songs in "Country Song" and "Candy", songs I wouldn't actually single out to listen to on their own, but that work as a part of the entire package.  

And if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it.  If you think they album is aggressive and puts you on the edge of your seat and makes you want to drive a car fast, live is even more aggro.  You will get sweaty. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Steve Moore / Majeure - Brainstorm (Temporary Residence, 2012)

Steve Moore / Majeure
Temporary Residence

Rating: 7 bikini bumps out of 10

So Steve Moore and Majeure make up the group Zombi, but on this release they decided to do some solo work...and then release it together.  It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's what the Temporary Residence website says.  Seems like if you wanted to go solo you'd also want separate releases, but I ain't the one in charge.  

I also didn't know jack shit about any of this music going in, but I randomly came across the album opener "Enhanced Humanoid" by Moore and was immediately smitten.  It sounds like a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack to a sci-fi horror movie (zombies in outer space maybe?), and is definitely one of my favorite songs of the year.  The first four songs on the album are all Moore, and the Moroder description is pretty fitting for the whole thing.  There might be a better description, but like I said, this isn't typically my genre.  The final song is a twenty minute opus from Majeure, building slowly from seven minutes of atmospheric soundscapes into a mellower version of that same Moroder sound as described earlier.  

The whole damn record is surprisingly fantastic.  I should probably check out Zombi now.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Heyward Howkins - Hale & Hearty (Self-Released, 2012)

Heyward Howkins
Hale & Hearty

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

I'm sorta struggling to come up with a simplistic comparison for this Heyward Howkins record.  I like to keep my reviews simple (to match my brain power), but the best I could come up with here is "orchestral pop folk".  Despite not being from here he most closely reminds me of a couple of well known NC bands, Bowerbirds and Lost in the Trees.  The songs have sort of a mellow, baroque vibe; the vocals are almost overly enunciated, with a slight bit of vibrato; and the time signatures are all over the place...these aren't your typical 4/4 beats.  Some of the songs almost feel like a bunch of tiny songs smooshed together into something larger.

I'm completely on the fence with this record.  At a base level it sounds very good and I'm very intrigued by Howkins' voice, but I'm not sure how excited I am about the actual songs.  Not a lot of hooks and sing-a-long moments with this music, which is what I'm always drawn to the most.  Honestly, I may not be smart enough for this record. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spider Fever - Spider Fever (Windian, 2012)

Spider Fever
Spider Fever

Rating: 7.5 mayo packs out of 10

Mario Rubalcaba might always be the former pro for New School Skateboards to me, but to most folks he's known as the amazing drummer for a ton of different San Diego bands, from Earthless to Rocket from the Crypt to the new hot shit punkers OFF!.  With Spider Fever, Mario steps out from behind the drums and leads a band for the first time.  The results are quite strong, and very much in line with what you would expect from a band with this reminds me a lot of Hot Snakes, but much gruffer, with a heavy Stooges/MC5/pre-punk vibe going on.  Rubalcaba is a very capable front man with a voice to suit this type of music, and this record is going to get many, many plays over the summer. 

Nobunny - La La La La Love You 7'' (Suicide Squeeze, 2012)

La La La La Love You 7''
Suicide Squeeze

Rating: 7 broccoli omelets out of 10

Nobunny releases another single, the world listens.  Well, a very small part of the world, including me.  This is much closer to his last full-length than the scuzzy "MaximumRockNRoll" EP aka it sounds like it was recorded on proper equipment and not a twenty year old answering machine they bought at the thrift store.  The A-side, the title track, is stellar and gets an A+ rating from me.  The B-side is...weird.  Not bad, very mellow pop and not the sort of thing you'd expect from Nobunny.  I'm sure this release was very limited and long sold out so just dig around online and you'll find it easily. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

King Tuff - King Tuff (Sub Pop, 2012)

King Tuff
King Tuff
Sub Pop

Rating: 7.5 stupid cars out of 10

I listened to the older King Tuff material a few years back and wasn't particularly moved...fairly standard garage pop, nothing that really brought on a boner.  Then the dude signs to Sub Pop and puts out a record that somehow marries power pop and scuzz rock into a rather terrific blend.  "Bad Thing" is definitely going to go down as one of the catchiest, most addictive songs of the year, easily (and you can download it for free at the band link above).  There are mellow acoustic songs, tracks that sound like T.Rex outtakes, and all sorts of other branches off of the pop tree, but they're all tied together with the King's slightly gruff voice and that nearly every song has a heaping helping of hooks.  This record might have a bubblegum effect, where the flavor wears off and you're bored, but right now it's awful tasty.