Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John Grant - Strongroom EP (Bella Union, 2013)

John Grant
Strongroom EP
Bella Union

Rating: 8 open envelopes out of 10

John Grant, formerly of the Czars (but that seems so long ago that it might be a pointless thing to say at this point), has released the best album of his solo career.  Well, EP not album, but the statement still holds true.  He took four songs from his most recent full-length "Pale Green Ghosts," stripped them down to nothing but piano and his voice, and released them as a limited edition record.  I'm guessing a physical copy will be a little tough to come by, but the MP3s are out there.  His voice has always been one of my very favorites in all of music, but sometimes his lyrics and over-the-top production hold me back from making the transition from regular to rabid fan.  But this EP is done so simply, so perfectly - every track is like a beautiful punch in the face. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guided By Voices - Flunky Minnows 7'' (Guided By Voices Inc., 2013)

Guided By Voices
Flunky Minnows 7''
Guided By Voices Inc. 

Rating: 6.5 federal withholdings out of 10

The first single from the most recent record by Guided By Voices called "English Little League."  I listened to that full-length offering a week or two ago and was left feeling pretty ambivalent, but hearing the title track of this single "Flunky Minnows" in this setting as opposed to the album sounds much better for some reason.  Very catchy song.  The flip side, "Jellypop Smiles," is a pretty typical GBV lo-fi psychedelic jangler, nothing special really.  Title track is boss though.  Probably should give the full-length a second shot. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yo La Tengo - Fade (Matador, 2013)

Yo La Tengo

Rating: 7.5 sippy cups out of 10

I'm not sure what can or needs to be said about a new Yo La Tengo record other than it fits nicely in their oeuvre and is a pleasure to listen to.  You probably either like the band, don't like them, or have never heard of them.  Like the band?  Get this record, it's chock full of the Yo La Tengo awesomeness we all love.  Don't like this band?  You're a strange person and I wish not to associate with you.  Never heard of them?  "I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One" is my favorite, and that would be my suggested starting point.  But you're not going to go wrong starting with this newest record either.  They've had their sound down to a science for more than two decades now.

The National - Trouble Will Find Me (4AD, 2013)

The National
Trouble Will Find Me

Rating: 7 buckets of sawdust out of 10

I had no intentions of writing about the new National album "Trouble Will Find Me," and I'm not sure what I'm about to write even counts as "writing about it."  It would be easy to dismiss it as just another National record because at first glance that's pretty much what it is.  But after a few listens I realized, yeah, it might sound pretty much like everything else the band has released over the last few years, but they do it really goddamn well and I always like the end results.  This is a very listenable record.  And I'm sure I might forget about it from time to time like I often do with this band, but I guarantee every time I remember to play this I will enjoy it very much.  If you're already a fan of the band you will love this.  You probably already do since it's been out a little while.  Never cared for the National?  This ain't changing your mind.  But are there actually people who dislike this or any other band and then give them a listen after a half-dozen records wondering if they've changed their mind about that band?  I doubt it. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Golden Gunn - Golden Gunn (Three Lobed, 2013)

Golden Gunn
Golden Gunn
Three Lobed

Rating: 6 lady rifles out of 10

Golden Gunn is the (mostly) instrumental side-project of MC Taylor (aka Hiss Golden Messenger) and guitarist Steve Gunn.  I'm a big Hiss fan and don't know squat about Gunn, but it seemed like a record worth a listen.  While a pleasant enough album, it didn't punch me in the gut like Hiss Golden Messenger did the first time I heard him and still continues to do.

Lately it seems like there has been a big push in instrumental folk rock getting released and garnering high praise from the press (and most definitely from my friends and acquaintances).  It's all very nice music, but not overly interesting to me.  The thing is I can't say a single bad thing about most of these bands and what they are putting out - talented musicians, nice compositions...I'd certainly much rather have this music playing in my dentist's office than the soft rock of the eighties that usually make my cavities worse.  But...that's not the same as really liking the music is it?  I don't yearn to put on a record like this.  I'm not popping this in on a roadtrip and (not) singing along.  Is this just my limitation or a limitation of the music?  Yeah it's probably just me, but at the end of the day I'm grabbing that Hiss record over this Golden Gunn record nearly every time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guided By Voices - English Little League (Guided By Voices Inc., 2013)

Guided By Voices
English Little League
Guided By Voices Inc. 

Rating:  Elf Kickers out of Fast Japanese Spin Cycles

Another new record for Guided By Voices, their fourth I think with the reformed line-up.  It sounds exactly as your mind pictures it.  I cannot keep up.  Someone really really really needs to cull through all these latest releases and put out a "best of" because I don't have the time nor patience to devote.  Surely there are plenty of gems here - "Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)" is great at first listen, with Tobin Sprout singing and sounding like a Teenage Fanclub track.  Other good songs as well, but so much to wade through...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bass Drum of Death - Bass Drum of Death (Innovative Leisure, 2013)

Bass Drum of Death
Bass Drum of Death
Innovative Leisure

Rating: 7 dead friends out of 10

Bass Drum of Death are a pair of young kids making lofi garage punk.  this was true on their first record "GB City" and it's still true on this sophomore follow-up.  the easy comparison would be to make some reference to the Black Keys, but I'm not sure it's that simple.  Probably the biggest difference is the blues influence that is heavy with the Black Keys is replaced with pop-punk here.  Real catchy songs on this BDoD record, opener "I Wanna Be Forgotten" almost sounds like a Jay Reatard outtake, and "Bad Reputation" would fit on a King Tuff record.  But I would still say if you're a Black Keys fan without much familiarity to this brand of "Mississippi delta punk" as I'm naming their style, it would be worth checking out.  Very enjoyable live band as well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Men - New Moon (Sacred Bones, 2013)

The Men
New Moon
Sacred Bones

Rating: 7 Sears portrait studios out of 10

If I didn't already know this album was performed by The Men there is no way in hell I would ever have guessed it correctly after listening to the music.  I saw the group live a couple of years back and they performed with a speed and aggression barely one notch below a hardcore band.  But over the last couple of albums they've morphed into a combination of mid-90s Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh indie rock and "heartland rock" that nearly edges into Bruce Springsteen territory.  This amount of transformation would piss me off with many bands (My Morning Jacket instantly come to mind), as I'm rarely a fan of change...but with each step the Men have produced such high quality music that I inevitably end up loving it. The only track that really comes close the the Men sound of old is album closer "Supermoon," a stone cold jam that I recently saw them end a live show with...it was epic to put it lightly. 

Elliott Smith - Alternate Versions From Either/Or 7'' (Kill Rock Stars, 2013)

Elliott Smith
Alternate Versions From Either/Or 7''
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 8 unhappy smog testers out of 10

This is exactly what the title says - alternate versions of songs from the Elliott Smith album "Either/Or."  One of them Record Store Day releases folks like to get all wound up for.  The first three tracks "Alameda," "Ballad of Big Nothing," and "Angeles" are pretty much the same as the album versions.  The last track "Punch & Judy" is basically a new song altogether, it sounds so different from the album version.  That album version is much better mind you, but still an interesting take.  I find it hard to recommend seeking out this seven inch unless you are a diehard Smith fan, but at the same time I can't give it a bad review because these are some of my favorite songs of all time.  Do with that information what you will.  

(For the record you can buy the MP3s off of Kill Rock Stars' Bandcamp page for pretty cheap if you are interested in the songs but don't want ot hunt down and pay for the vinyl.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dinosaur Jr. - Now the Fall 7'' (Jagjaguwar, 2013)

Dinosaur Jr.
Now the Fall 7''

Rating: 6.5 broken cell phones out of 10

A new seven inch by Dinosaur Jr. featuring two unreleased songs.  Side A "Now the Fall" is your typical Dino affair, and side B "Ricochet" features the vocals of Lou Barlow.  The songs were recorded at the same time as their previous full-length "I Bet on Sky" and were apparently included as a limited edition extra when you bought that record, but now you can snag it on it's lonesome if you are so inclined.  Neither track is a game changer but any new music by these guys is welcome to these ears - I'd rank it a "C" in their catalog but that's still better than the best of what most musicians produce.  I can't think of anything more worthwhile to say here. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rhye - Woman (Republic, 2013)


Rating: 6 filled cups out of 10

Because every generation deserves their own Sade, there is Rhye.  Even if it isn't a tenth as good as Sade, it's still...decent.  And apparently the singer is a man, which is really kinda blowing my mind and maybe the coolest part of this album.  Good make-out music, assuming kids still do that.  Based on what I've read on the internet modern dating is snapchatting a photo of your genitalia to a stranger and then straight to anal.