Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sigur Rós - Valtari (XL, 2012)

Sigur Rós

Rating: 7.5 baby goats out of 10

Now on their sixth full-length release, if you haven't formed an opinion on Sigur Rós by now I'm guessing you're not going to.  While musically they're sorta in their own world of orchestral space pop, they remind me a lot of the great instrumental post rock bands like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai in that from album to album you don't get a lot of variation, but they've developed such a compelling and engaging sound that you don't mind that they just sorta keep writing the same song. 

So really what you have to ask yourself here - is this a good Sigur Rós record compared with their other work?  And it is.  Not amazing, but certainly good.  They're not likely to ever top the glory of "Ágætis Byrjun," but this is just as strong an album as their last couple for sure.  Maybe not as upbeat as "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust," but just as enjoyable.  Put it this way - fans of the band have nothing to worry about before purchasing this record.  And like with everything they release, it will be one of my favorite records of the year. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

John Wesley Coleman - The Last Donkey Show (Goner, 2012)

John Wesley Coleman
The Last Donkey Show

Rating: 7 bulldog farts out of 10

While I've always enjoyed Golden Boys, the main band of John Wesley Coleman, this is his first solo record I've really gotten interested in.  I couldn't tell you why exactly - the songs just stick with me a little better I guess.  I'm not sure if this is the first record he's done that sounds a lot like Reigning Sound or it's just the first one I made that connection on, but surely my love of that band is translating to my strong feelings on "The Last Donkey Show."  It's probably the heavy use of organ causing this connection in my brain, combined with a slight tinge of tex mex ala Doug Sahm/Sir Douglas Quintet.  That Coleman also hails from Texas is most likely not a coincidence.  Whatever the connection or comparison, the bottom line is this is an enjoyable, fun rock record. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

La Sera - Sees the Light (Hardly Art, 2012)

La Sera
Sees the Light
Hardly Art

Rating: 7.5 soft cookies out of 10

Where I've gotten much pickier in many other facets of my life the older I've gotten, in the realm of sweet-voiced pop music I seem to be more and more accepting as the years go on.  Basically, put out a record with a cute girl, a pleasant voice and catchy songs, and I'm hooked.  I guess I'm just easy like that (and possibly misogynistic, though not intentionally or hurtfully so).  

In this case the girl is Katy Goodman, best known for her work with Vivian Girls but here working under the name La Sera.  I've never been a huge Vivian Girls fan, but I gave this a listen on a whim and was instantly smitten with her voice and knack for hooks.  "Break My Heart" was the instant favorite, and it's hard to imagine this not being one of my favorite songs of the year.  There's not a bad song here, and at 10 songs and 30 minutes long, it's the perfectly proportioned pop album.  I'm already excited for my next listen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Electronic Anthology Project - The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr. (The Electronic Anthology Project, 2012)

The Electronic Anthology Project
The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr.
The Electronic Anthology Project

Rating: 6.5 leaf blowers out of 10

Brett Nelson might be best known as the bassist for Built to Spill, but under the guise of Electronic Anthology Project he wears a different hat: re-imagining the songs of indie rock stalwarts into an entirely new genre. I'm not sure that genre has a name though, as it's a weird mix of mid-nineties "IDM" (does anyone use this phrase anymore?), video game soundtracks and, well, Devo I guess.  On his first pass he put forth an EP of Built to Spill reworks; this go around, it is a full album of Dinosaur Jr songs, complete with J. Mascis re-recording his vocals for these "remixes."  I'm not sure this a is a crucial release, but for a huge fan like myself it's interesting to hear songs that I have memorized worked over and re-approached from a different direction.  Not sure if everyone would feel this way - some folks hold the original material of their favorites sacred - but I say it's worth checking out if this piques your interest at all.    

Friday, July 20, 2012

Richard Buckner - Willow 7'' (Merge, 2012)

Richard Buckner
Willow 7''

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

I read somewhere this is the first seven inch Richard Buckner has ever released, which seems impossible but then again I can't think of any others by him.  I guess he's just always been a full album sort of guy.  Released for Record Store Day 2012 (though apparently not as one of those limited record nerd releases as you can still order it from Merge), these two previously unreleased songs are from the recording sessions for his last full-length "Our Blood." Both songs certainly sound a lot like his previous album, and would have fit in fine there.  Neither are groundbreaking achievements, but still a fine listen from one of my favorite voices in music today. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know (Fat Cat, 2012)

The Twilight Sad
No One Can Ever Know
Fat Cat

Rating: 6 cheddar combos out of 10

I find I have a strange relationship with The Twilight Sad...I like their music and have listened to pretty much all of their releases, but for some reason I just can't bring myself to get excited by them.  They might actually be too dour and depressing for my tastes, if that's possible.  Their music is certainly well crafted and on paper should be something I get worked up over.  This particular album is a little less sweeping and emotional than their previous material, taking a more even keeled approach and never getting too caught up in that soft/loud/soft dynamic that Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky made so popular and Twilight Sad leaned on heavily in the past. Now they feel like a modern version of a Factory band or something in that neighborhood - driving, almost electronic beats and lots of keyboards and synths.  They do this new sound fine, but I find myself no less interested this time around than last time despite the changes. 

I still love singer James Graham's vocals though, the accent as heavy as syrup.  I just wish I could get wound up over the whole package a little more. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Paint Fumes - Egyptian Rats 7'' (Slovenly, 2012)

Paint Fumes
Egyptian Rats 7''

Rating: 7 tide pools out of 10

One of the new hot shit garage punk bands out of North Carolina, Paint Fumes play the Triangle so often that you wouldn't know they actually come from Charlotte.  Ain't none of these three songs going to set the world on fire, but they do a good as job as almost anybody at performing this particular brand of snarling, catchy rock-n-roll.  You could probably make an Oblivians comparison but that is true for almost any band of this ilk playing music today.  You could maybe even stretch to a Spits reference but that's really more in attitude than actual sound.  Either way, good songs from a good live band that get more stage time than your favorite local stripper. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Great Lake Swimmers - New Wild Everywhere (Nettwerk, 2012)

Great Lake Swimmers
New Wild Everywhere

Rating: 6 electronics stores out of 10

I'm struggling to think of a better description of this Great Lake Swimmers album than "pretty."   I really don't mean this as the insult some will take it as, but there is nothing wrong with being this generations Dan Fogelberg, which is the first thing I think of when I listen to this band.  Nice harmonized vocals, maybe a little too much mandolin, a laid back pace...it's very nice, pleasant music - impossible to imagine anyone actively disliking this.  It's the musical equivalent of Canada, and it should probably come as no surprise that is where the band is from.  All that said, it may not be the most memorable album either, easily forgotten just a few minutes after listening...kind of like Canada maybe.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

OFF - OFF! (Vice, 2012)


Rating: 8 opulent canines out of 10

A quick refresher for those not familiar with OFF - Keith Morris from Black Flag & the Circle Jerks; Mario Rubalcaba from basically every San Diego band of the last 20 years including Hot Snakes, Rocket from the Crypt, and a bunch more; and a couple of other dudes from Redd Cross and Burning Brides that are cool but considerably less exciting than the first two dudes (sorry, it's true).  They decided to get together and play some classic late seventies style hardcore punk...not too different from the Circle Jerks (but less silly) or Black Flag really, but modern and better recorded.  With 16 songs on an album that isn't even 16 minutes long, they're definitely taking after the Jerks song writing approach.  As someone who grew up on this music, it's impossible for me to even think of giving this a bad review...it's just too damn fun and enjoyable, a quarter hour of pummeling punk glory that will transform you back to your teenage years even if your body doesn't agree. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

King Tuff - Wild Desire 7'' (Suicide Squeeze, 2012)

King Tuff
Wild Desire 7''
Suicide Squeeze

Rating: 7 running foxes out of 10

King Tuff is setting the world on fire in 2012...everything he touches is catchy garage pop gold.  Both sound like they would have fit in well on his excellent self-titled record that just came out on Sub Pop.  And there is no weak b-side here - both the front "Wild Desire" and the back "Hole in My Head" have multiple listens written all over them.  

And as a side note let me say it's good to see Suicide Squeeze up and running again...they were killing things in my college years of the mid-to-late nineties, and it looks like it didn't take them long to get back on top of the best shit this go around. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Best Coast - The Only Place (Mexican Summer, 2012)

Best Coast
The Only Place
Mexican Summer

Rating: 7.5 chocolate chip cookies out of 10

Best Coast have been kind enough to grace us with another slab of beautifully sweet pop music, and it makes me quite happy.  They kick the record off with a love letter to California called "The Only Place" which makes me incredibly homesick for my former home every time I hear it, and it only gets better from there.  Bethany Cosentino's voice may not technically be the best out there, but in terms of pulling on my heart strings it's top five.  When she sings her saccharine songs it's like they are burrowing right into my chest like those damn carpenter bees that are trying to destroy my deck.  Best Coast certainly aren't doing anything groundbreaking, or maybe trying to write the perfect pop song is the most groundbreaking move of all. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dana Buoy - Summer Bodies (Lefse, 2012)

Dana Buoy
Summer Bodies

Rating: 7 sexual encounters out of 10

Dana Buoy might be best known for his work in Akron/Family, but "Summer Bodies" is the best work he has done to date to these ears.  Granted, the ears I'm referring to are a much bigger fan of pop music than the experimental direction that much of Akron/Family usually takes (though they seem to always have one song on every record that is off-the-charts good, and catchy).  This is a great summertime record, something you listen to with your windows down driving some country roads to a local swimming hole.  The second track "Call To Be" is especially strong, and has already found it's way onto a few mixes.  He may or may not be breaking any new ground making another vaguely danceable synth-heavy electro pop records, but it's hard to argue with the results, that being a very enjoyable & listenable record.