Thursday, August 30, 2012

Superchunk - This Summer 7'' (Merge, 2012)

This Summer 7''

Rating: 7.5 horse jackets out of 10

Superchunk might be busy running a successful label, but lucky for us fans they still give us a few nibbles and tidbits to sate our thirst for new music by them.  The a-side is the title track "This Summer" - it sounds like it would have fit right in on their last record "Majesty Shredding," a record where they looked back to their punker days but still kept plenty of pop sheen.  As an added bonus, the song leans heavily on handclaps when it kicks off, and everyone knows songs with handclaps are awesome.  

The b-side is a cover of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer," probably chosen just because the name fit so well with the title track.  You'd actually probably think it was another new Superchunk song until they get to the chorus, as this is not a note for note remake.  This may not really stick like their classic covers - "100,000 Fireflies" by Magnetic Fields or "Brand New Love" by Sebadoh for example - but it's an interesting lark.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

La Gran Perdida de Energia - La Gran Perdida de Energia (Fluttery, 2012)

La Gran Perdida de Energia
La Gran Perdida de Energia

Rating: 6.5 large mountains out of 10

La Gran Perdida de Energia - according to Google Translate it means "the great loss of energy."  My high school Spanish skills ain't what they used to be that I had to look that up, but you don't use some of those words when ordering tacos and that's about the only time I use Spanish anymore.  La Gran (as I'm going to call them) come from Patagonia in Argentina, but except for the song titles they could be from anywhere.  You see they play what everyone calls "instrumental post rock", a sound you'll find from bands the world over.  It really is a universal language it seems.  They probably remind me the most of Tristeza, but you can hear elements of all of the stalwarts here...Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, etc.  Some of their songs almost enter a modern jazz territory of the sort you might hear on Galaxia records - Ray Barbee, Tommy Guerrero, the Mattson Two, and that ilk. There is a small amount of vocals here and there, but after listening you definitely feel like you've heard an instrumental album. 

La Gran aren't setting the world on fire with this self-titled record, there is no new musical territory broken.  But there is still value in a band that plays pleasant music and does it well.  You can grab the record at the link above, one of those name-your-own-price scenarios.  It's worth a few bucks I think, if you dig these sorts of jams.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Morrissey - Suedehead 10'' (Liberty, 2012)

Suedehead 10''

Rating: 6.667 out of 10 (the exact formula of two perfect songs and one shitty one)

This Morrissey single was released as a part of the 2012 Record Store Day festivities.  The A-side is a weird remix of the title track, and honestly I can't imagine who this appeals to.  Morrissey purists certainly aren't backing this bastardization of a classic, and I don't see it being useful in winning over new fans.  On the plus side, one only needs to flip the record over for two unreleased live versions of the classics "We'll Let You Know" and "Now My Heart Is Full" from the BBC.  They sound great, and combined with this being a picture disc make this worth seeking out for his super fans.  Shitty remix be damned. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wood Ear - Steeple Vultures (Churchkey, 2012)

Wood Ear
Steeple Vultures

Rating: 7 art collectors out of 10

They say music rots your brain and isn't educational, but in looking up a website for the band Wood Ear I also learned that in addition to playing fine music, it's an edible fungus most often found in Asian cuisine...but then again, what isn't used in Asian cuisine?

I was under the impression that Wood Ear was a new group, but apparently they've been around since 2003 but have only released one other self-titled record in 2007.  This five piece sounds very much a part of the local scene, equal parts mellow, spacy indie rock and heartland alt-country.  I hear a lot of Lucero in their music (though not in the vocals); some late-era Replacements (a very underrated phase of that band that doesn't get enough credit) in the song-writing; and the vocals...honestly, I can't put my finger on what that reminds me of.  A couple of songs make me think of the band Seldom that was around in the early 2000s that I might have been the only one listening to, but other than that I'm stuck.  One thing that doesn't have me confused is the greatness of "Leave My Walls," the undisputed champion of the record and one of my favorite songs of the year.  And lucky for everyone, you can grab that song for free here.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Walkmen - Heaven (Fat Possum, 2012)

The Walkmen
Fat Possum

Rating: 6 pepper plants out of 10

I've liked The Walkmen for a long time, and I dug Jonathan Fire*Eater before that, but I'm not all that enthusiastic for their new record "Heaven." The defining heavy organ use is still there and Hamilton Leithauser's vocals still dominate their sound, but something about them isn't clicking for me anymore.  Too clean?  Too adult?  Maybe it's Phil Ek's production that is sitting weird with me, but then again he's been gold with everything Built to Spill has released.   Maybe I just hit my internal quota for Walkmen songs, and I'm not willing to give up their "Bows + Arrows" or "A Hundred Miles Off" memories and replace it with these new songs.  New track "Nightingales" comes the closest to capturing that old magic for me, but there are just too many tracks here that come and go and leave no impression.  This isn't a bad record though, and certainly many people will enjoy it.  It might find it's way to a few car commercials.  It probably won't find it's way back to my ears too terribly often, instead choosing one of their older works if I'm in the mood. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pop. 1280 - The Horror (Sacred Bones, 2012)

Pop. 1280
The Horror
Sacred Bones

Rating: 7.5 soft towels out of 10

I saw Pop. 1280 live a couple of months ago and described the show like this: "they sounded like Shellac, Ministry and US Maple got greased up, stuffed in a sack and shaken.  Dark, industrial, aggressive, and pretty enjoyable."  I'm now finally getting to spend some time digesting their debut record, and I'm not sure my initial gut reaction was all that far off the base.  You could probably throw a Suicide comparison in there too.  Liars as well, and I guess that would be the most contemporary measuring stick.  There is definitely a heavy industrial-punk vibe to their music, very dark and mechanical.  The piece of a tin roofing sheet they beat the crap of live can definitely be heard on the record, particularly on what is probably their strongest track "Bodies in the Dunes."  This is not party music or fun music, unless maybe you're running an S&M club or staging a reenactment of scenes from the film "Se7en."  But I really really like it. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Centro-Matic - 24 Songs (Self-Released, 2012)

24 Songs

Rating: 10 electric knives out of 10

This isn't a real review of a Centro-Matic album as much as it is a (tardy) notice that they put up a free record consisting of 24 songs (hence the name) on bandcamp.  It's basically a self created sampler of all of their albums spanning their entire career, and a great place to start listening to this enjoyable group of Texans.  The music would get a pretty damn high rating - the fact that it's free makes it a can't-miss if you don't already have all of the band's records. 

Grab the album here

Friday, August 17, 2012

Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Rhymesayers, 2012)

Aesop Rock

Rating: 7.5 light blue bottles out of 10

Aesop Rock has always been one of those performers that I like, that I tell myself I should listen to more of, and that I then forget about.  I go through this every time I hear a new song or album by him.  In that moment when I'm listening, I'm totally engrossed and enthusiastic about what I'm hearing...and then it turns off and it's like I get amnesia. 

I've got no reason to assume anything will change this time around either, but as I listen to "Skelethon" while I write this, it's a strong record.  Damn strong even, as strong as he's ever released and that's saying something.  Aesop Rock has his strong underground following and it seems unlikely he'll ever bust out of that, but the man definitely deserves a wider audience.  I have no doubt that his long-time followers will dig this record plenty, but it's a dark record even by his standards...and I'm not just talking lyrical content (or at least what lyrical content you can decipher from his rather cryptic words), the songs sound like a rainy day.  Put this on in your headphones when you're walking around on a gloomy afternoon, and I'd imagine it's a marriage made in heaven. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Future Islands & Ed Schrader's Music Beat - LAMC Vol. 2 7'' (Famous Class, 2012)

Future Islands & Ed Schrader's Music Beat
LAMC Vol. 2 7''
Famous Class

Rating: 7.5 world news agencies out of 10

The two best things about the Baltimore music scene have put their powers together like Wonder Twins Zan & Jayna and given the world a fantastic seven inch.  The way these LAMC releases work is they get a band to record a new song for them, and then that band picks someone they think are an up-and-comer and have them record the b-side.  It's no great surprise that Future Islands would pick Ed Schrader's Music Beat since the Islands take them along as openers on nearly every one of their tours.   

Anyways, the music is what is important here, and all tracks get a thumbs up from me.  Future Islands give us "Cotton Flower," a very strong entry into their canon that I plan to listen to a bunch more times.  This band just keeps getting stronger and stronger.  ESMB gives us two short songs on the flip, both slow-to-mid-tempo numbers that cover such topics as britches and transvestites.  These songs aren't going to change their love-them-or-hate-them image, but since I'm firmly in the love camp it's more greatness to me.  Definitely a seven inch worth seeking out, and most likely limited so don't sleep on it.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guantanamo Baywatch - Chest Crawl (Dirtnap, 2012)

Guantanamo Baywatch
Chest Crawl

Rating: 7 German beer gardens out of 10

Between the name Guantanamo Baywatch and the label Dirtnap, I'm not sure what I was expecting this band to sound like, but I'm pretty sure dirty surf rock wasn't at the top of the list.  And I don't mean "dirty" as in the lyrics sound ripped off from 2 Live Crew, just not Ventures-style clean surf rock.  No, this is more like Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet combining with the Cramps to form some kind of unholy monster.  The music isn't anything new or special, but it is catchy and very listenable.  Sure, it's tough to make non-catchy surf rock, but I like the cut of this band's jibs.  And I'm certain they're a blast live, which might be more important than anything. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chain & the Gang - In Cool Blood (K, 2012)

Chain & the Gang
In Cool Blood

Rating: 7 early risers out of 10

There's nothing really different or noteworthy about this third release from Chain & the Gang, and that is as it should be.  Ian Svenonious has honed his "garage soul" sound down to a science, and it is not to be trifled with.  Did I make up the phrase "garage soul"?  Doubtful, surely someone has used the phrase in a Dirtbombs review at some point.  If there is anything different to say about this at all, it's the addition of Katie Alice Greer as the female yang to Svenonious' yin, and she's not just singing back-up - she leads a few songs.  I prefer the Ian led songs, but tracks like "Nuff Said" where they play off of each other work great. 

Listen, if you're a fan of what Svenonious does, you're gonna like this.  If you're not, you won't.  And if you have no idea who the dude is, go out and get "13-Point Program to Destroy America" or "Plays Pretty for Baby" by Nation of Ulysses and realize why the man has so many idols like myself in the world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bargain Bin Dig Volume 2: Amoeba SF

Another year, another trip to SF to go watch my A's play, hang with friends, eat burritos, and bargain shop at Amoeba.  This time in two categories: CDs and vinyl!

CD list:
Barr - Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case (5RC, 2005) (weirdo nerd rap) 
Bedhead & Macha - Bedhead Loved Macha / Macha Loved Bedhead (Jetset, 2000) (everyone should love Bedhead) 
Birds of Avalon - The Oui EP (Volcom, 2008) (local psych shredders)
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade, 2008) (not as good as their first record but still enjoyable) 
Richard Buckner - Meadow (Merge, 2006) (all-time best dude)
The Dipers - How To Plan Successful Parties (Omnibus, 2003) (side project of Intelligence)
Dub Narcotic Sound System - Sideways Soul: Dub Narcotic Sound System Meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (K, 1999) (somehow missed this ever existing)
Shout Out Louds - Oh, Sweetheart EP (Bud Fox, 2004) (underrated Swedish pop)
South San Gabriel - The Carlton Chronicles (Misra, 2005) (Centro-Matic side project)
Strange Boys - Live Music (Rough Trade, 2011) (review here)
Various Artists - Zum Audio Vol 2 (Zum, 1998) (used to have a dubbed cassette of this; good to have a replacement)
Wilderness - (K)no(w)here (Jagjaguwar, 2008) (pretty sure I heard a song from them I liked a lot once)

Vinyl list:
The Midwest Beat - Gone Not Lost (Dusty Medical, 2011) (actually from the midwest!)
Misfits - Misfits (Plan 9, 1986) (a classic amongst classics)
Mono - One Step More and You Die (Temporary Residence, 2003) (amazing Japanese post-rock that may make your heart skip a beat)
Portastatic - The Nature of Sap (Merge,1997) (Mac from Superchunk's side project)
Society of Rockets - Our Paths Related (Underpop, 2007) (SF popsters I used to play basketball with)
Swan Lake - Enemy Mine (Jagjaguwar, 2009) (not the soundtrack to the movie)
Thomas Function - Celebration! (Alive, 2008) (catchy garage pop, too underrated)
Wax Museums - Wax Museums (Douchemaster, 2008) (catchy Texas punk)
Young People - War Prayers (Dim Mak, 2003) (a good record, their first one is pure gold)

Fergus & Geronimo - Funky Was the state of Affairs (Hardly Art, 2012)

Fergus & Geronimo
Funky Was the state of Affairs
Hardly Art

Rating: 6.5 ducks smoking cigars out of 10

I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure if this Fergus & Geronimo record is serious or some sort of weird joke amongst friends.  Either way, I like it quite a bit.  If you've ever said to yourself "I wish there was a band that sounded like Gang of Four, Devo and the Make-Up jello wrestling," then look no further. It's not all gold - there are a bunch of weird short nonsense songs that are crap on the first listen, and only get more annoying.  It's so bad I want to immediately burn a version of the record without these bits and forget they ever exist.  Haven't we learned anything from bad skits on hip hop records people?  There is also the issue of the song "Roman Nvmerals / Wiretapping Muzak I," which is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.  But the rest of the record is so enjoyable that despite these annoyances I give this thumbs up. 

Father John Misty - Fear Fun (Sub Pop, 2012)

Father John Misty
Fear Fun
Sub Pop

Rating: 7 nude doctors out of 10

J. Tillman aka the former drummer from Fleet Foxes is now known as Father John Misty, for reasons that are not entirely clear.  But who here doesn't like adopting a new fake name that will possibly fool people into thinking you are a preacher?  

Perhaps it was coincidence or because the name change prodded the songwriting portion of his brain down a different path, but this album seems to have a fuller, lusher, even twangier sound than his previous records. You could almost come up with different comparison on a song-by-song basis, but some combination of canyon rock like Beachwood Sparks and the Byrds along with indie folk akin to the first Iron & Wine record or the occasional Pedro the Lion song would give you the general ballpark.  The whole record is great, but the second track "Nancy From Now On" is a contender for song of the year, or at least top 10.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Futureheads - Rant (Nul, 2012)

The Futureheads

Rating: 5.5 bloody socks out of 10

When I heard the Futureheads had recorded an acapella record, I thought surely I was being fucked with...but apparently not.  On top of that, it's not nearly as weird and off-putting as you'd think it would be - this is surprisingly listenable.  It's still a gimmick and will have the shelf life of already ripe bananas, but a decent gimmick at least.  They do new versions of some of their best songs, including "Man Ray" and "Meantime," but the stand-out items are the covers.  Sure, including performers like Sparks and Richard Thompson don't draw a ton of surprise.  But they also have Black Eyed Peas and Kelis tracks here, and whats more the Peas' song might be the best on the record.  That might be the first time anyone over 14 has called a Black Eyed Peas' song "the best."

This did inspire me to go back and listen to their first self-titled record again, and what a fantastic record that remains to be nearly a decade later.