Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guided by Voices
Class Clown Spots a UFO
Guided by Voices Inc.

Rating: Robert Pollard Robert Pollards out of Robert Pollard

I'm not even sure how you review a Guided by Voices record these days, or if there is even any point.  It's mostly the original line-up, there are a million songs on the record, and it sounds exactly like you expect a GBV record to sound - some pop gems, some generic tracks, and the occasional dud.  "Class Clown Spots a UFO" has nothing on the band's classic years, but it's not an embarrassment either.  The title track is great, "They and Them" reminds us why having Tobin Sprout in the band is important, "Starfire" holds orchestral pop beauty, and other songs will transport you back to 1995.  

While I might not get as excited for a new GBV album as I once did, it seems impossible to ever dislike what they do. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Boyd Rivers - You Can't Make Me Doubt (Mississippi, 2012)

Boyd Rivers
You Can't Make Me Doubt

Rating: 8 legal pads out of 10

I'm just going to copy from the press that everyone else seems to be copying from:

"First full length album by one of the greatest Gospel musicians of all time! Boyd Rivers was an amazing but unfortunately, little known Gospel artist. Comparisons could be made to Charlie Jackson, but in the end not too many people sound anything like Boyd Rivers. Side one features Boyd playing stunning electric guitar & belting out 6 incredibly heavy songs. Side two finds Boyd playing acoustic guitar - a bit mellower but still impassioned. All the material on this album has never been released, with the exception of 'Fire In my Bones'."

To sum up - mostly undiscovered gospel musician (that sounds like a classic blues man) finally sees a record of just his material released by Mississippi records.  Whether Rivers is playing acoustic or electric, his music & voice feel very pre-war blues (the best blues there is in case you were wondering).   It's a really great album, maybe not so easy to find, but any fan of pre-war blues would be well served to seek this out. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nate Hall - A Great River (Neurot, 2012)

Nate Hall
A Great River

Rating: 7.5 gold ingots out of 10

There seems to be a small movement of metal band leaders putting out solo records, and now we have Nate Hall of US Christmas joining the fray.  "A Great River" is just a man and his guitar, singing dark folk songs drenched in reverb, the soundtrack to life on a rundown farm just after harvest season.  The fields lie fallow, the trees barren, the temperatures are brisk and the sun sets early...I'm pretty sure that doesn't make any sense but it's the picture I see in my head.  You could also probably compare this record to Neil Young, which might make more sense given it is actual music.  I often compared his band USX to Young, but that was the more rockin' Crazy Horse era - this obviously sounds much more like Young's folkier output.  Not the vocals so much, but the guitar and overall ambiance of the album.  "A Great River" runs ten tracks with two covers - one of the Townes Van Zandt song "Kathleen," and an a cappella version of the traditional song "When the Stars Begin to Fall," both fine choices that fit well with the originals.  

It will be curious how things progress from here - how USX fans take to this direction of music, how Hall splits his time between the band and solo material going forward, and whether or not I'll ever try to describe music via farming again.  Poor metaphors aside, this is a fine album, one I'd recommend.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chromatics - Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better, 2012)

Kill for Love
Italians Do It Better

Rating: 8 overdone pot roasts out of 10

This new record by Chromatics really makes me want to get in my car and ride around with the windows down at night.  Is this because they had a prominent song in the film "Drive" and now whenever I hear them all I can think of is old cars, little dialogue and dreamy RyGo?  Yeah, probably.  But still.

I'm pretty sure I saw these guys play back in the early-to-mid 2000s, back when they were trying to be an art punk band.  That version of the band wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  Then somewhere along the way, many years and numerous member changes later, Chromatics turned into the American counterpart to M83.  And it works - it really fuckin' works.  Every review mentions how much this sounds like the soundtrack to a John Carpenter movie from the late seventies or early eighties, and for good reason - because it sounds exactly like the soundtrack to one of those movies.  I love those movies.  

I should also mention that this record is over 90 minutes long.  It's a really damn long record.  to listen to this whole thing you'll be taking a long drive.  They also open the record with a cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey My My" except they renamed it "Into the Black" which isn't fooling anyone.  But it's a great cover.  Kind of odd to place it as the opening track, but it works well enough. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jeff the Brotherhood - Hypnotic Nights (Warner Bros, 2012)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Hypnotic Nights
Warner Bros

Rating: 7 chapped lips out of 10

Nashville's Jeff the Brotherhood are one of my favorite live bands going these days, and their records ain't half bad either.  Somehow they manage to couple psychedelic stoner rock with Beach Boys-influenced pop songs and make it work.  This newest record "Hypnotic Nights" is their first for a major label, and as you might expect it has a little more polish on it.  I guess Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys had a hand in the recording process, though I'm not sure anyone should care unless they're entering a trivia contest.  

Ultimately, despite the label jump and fancy producer, it still *mostly* sounds like a Jeff the Brotherhood record.  Not every song is a rocker, there's a little weird instrumentation here and there (saxophone, keyboards, and I think I hear some glockenspiel even), and it sounds really clean.  But there are a ton of great, catchy songs - "Sixpack" is a clear favorite, one of the songs of the summer (even if it is fall now that I'm getting around to listening to this).  A few of the old fans might grumble about the band's shiny new wrapping, but it's still the same great music inside to me. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Various Artists - Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac (Hear Music, 2012)

Various Artists
Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
Hear Music

Rating: 6.5 sleeping dogs out of 10

I'm a notorious Fleetwood Mac detractor (mostly because of creepy ass Stevie Nicks and her weird white witch ways), and usually not overly excited when it comes to tributes and compilations, but the band line-up on this one gave me enough pause that I decided to listen through it.  The results are pretty decent actually, certainly much better than the low expectations I had set.  Being a compilation it's the typically uneven affair they almost always are, but the hits outnumber the misses here.  My vote for the best track is either Best Coast's rendition of "Rhiannon" or Lykke Li's "Silver Springs," both quite enjoyable.  Other great covers are Antony doing "Landslide," a song I didn't think it was possible for me to like; Lee Renaldo and J Mascis getting guitar-riffic on "Albatross"; the New Pornographers' pop take on "Think About Me"; MGMT's weird vocoder version of "Future Games"; and the always underrated Craig Wedren teamed with St. Vincent for "Sisters of the Moon."  All of the bands do a fine job of making the songs their own - for a couple of these I wouldn't even know they were covers if it didn't explicitly say so.  

If a naysayer like me can enjoy this, I gotta imagine any Fleetwood Mac fans who crossover as fans of some of these bands will be in for a real treat. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spencey Dude & the Doodles - Night Problems (California Clap, 2012)

Spencey Dude & the Doodles
Night Problems
California Clap

Rating: 7 pizza boxes out of 10

Let's get this out of the way up front - despite the name, Spencey Dude & the Doodles is not a kids band.  Do not go into this expecting a newer, hipper Raffi. Not saying they wouldn't play for some kids, it's just the songs might be about drinking and partying and making out instead of the alphabet.  Stop sheltering your damn children I say.  Anyways, the debut LP by this Bay Area trio (featuring members of Gris Gris and Dreamdate) is catchy.  And I mean real fuckin' catchy.  I guess you'd just call it simple, dumb garage pop, and that's not intended as an insult at all.  It's probably the lyrical content but my first impression was this reminded me a little of Mean Jeans minus the heavy Ramones influence, or maybe Coconut Coolouts minus band members wearing banana suits.  The album starts off with an Enigma sample and then covers 17 songs in a little over 27 minutes - there is no fucking around here, except that it is all the musical equivalent to fucking around.  More specifically, this sounds like an afternoon drunk in someone's backyard, maybe playing some horseshoes and firing up the barbeque, possibly passing out on the couch by eight o'clock.  I dig it.   

You can download the album on the cheap here.  I think Goner has it too.  Get it.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liars - WIXIW (Mute, 2012)


Rating: 7 terminal cancers out of 10

Somehow Liars have transformed into a completely different band and I don't hate them for it.  This is usually not the case.  They've seemingly aboned their harsh, confrontational sound and replaced it with laid-back "darkwave" techno something-or-another.  I have no idea what the hell "darkwave" is, it just seems like a word that would describe what Liars are a music score for a film about a creepy serial killer. I guess what I'm getting at is despite a shift in instrumentation, the vibe and lyrics of their songs are still taking the same, ominous course.  To be perfectly honest, this sort of music is usually doesn't shine my turtle shell, but I'm guessing my history with this band has kept me just interested enough to get hooked. 

As a side note, I can attest that despite a move towards more keyboard and electronics and away from the typical band arrangements, a recent viewing of their live show proves they will still completely rock your ass off. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Moonface (With Siinai) - Heartbreaking Bravery (Jagjaguwar, 2012)

Moonface (With Siinai)
Heartbreaking Bravery

Rating: 8 fig newtons out of 10

For those unaware, Moonface = Spence Krug from Wolf Parade & Sunset Rubdown.  I absolutely loved the debut full-length "Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped," so I was quite looking forward to how that would be followed up.  That debut was pretty much just keyboards, drum machine, and Krug's voice, so color me quite surprised when from the first note this record is chock full of real percussion, guitar, and other organic instrumentation.  It turns out Krug went to Finland and recorded the album with the band Siinai, some folks he knew from his Wolf Parade days.  This combination really gave the record a fuller, more robust sound than you'd typically expect out of Moonface, based on previous output.  Honestly, it feels like an entirely new band if not for Krug's voice.  The previous record was five epic tracks of organ noodling and "out there" lyrics; well, the lyrics are still pretty zonked but this album doubles the track length and outside of one song ("Headed for the Door"), drastically cuts down on the song run times.  It's almost...a pop record.  A pop record wrapped inside of a kraut/synth/drone envelope.  The third track "Shitty City" was an instant favorite, but nothing here disappoints.   

If you're a fan of Krug's work, it would be hard to imagine not liking this.  No matter how different the music gets, it's all held together by that instantly recognizable voice of his.  This will be on my best records of the year least, I can say this with no hesitation.