Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Brentwoods - Do the Bug with Me 7'' (Telstar, 1995)

The Brentwoods
Do the Bug with Me 7''

Rating: 7 beautiful tables out of 10

The Brentwoods - no idea what prompted me to buy this.  Probably the lo-fi xeroxed black-and-white sleeve...and the cheap price tag obviously.  One look at this and you knew exactly what youe were getting - rough, kitschy garage rock from an all-girl trio.  Worst case scenario it would be a goofy mess; best case scenario, it would be entertaining and catchy too.  Outside of the annoying two minute long fake newscast to start the song, the title track is pretty great and stupid at the same time; and exactly what you would expect - very primitive music, the same lyrics repeated over and over, and most importantly - kind of infectious.  The B-side "Buri Buri USA" isn't nearly as good and musically is kind of a mess but I still sorta like it.  Not bad for a random pick-up. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jimmy Eat World / Jejune - Split 7'' (Big Wheel Recreation, 1997)

Jimmy Eat World / Jejune
Split 7''
Big Wheel Recreation

Rating: 7.5 ass kickers out of 10

I was insanely nuts for the first couple of Jimmy Eat World records, they excelled at blending good pop hooks with the emo/punk sound that was popular with people like me in those days; and then they jumped the "over produced" shark with 2001's "Bleed American" and I haven't really paid attention since to be honest.  Based on how big their fanbase became I'm pretty sure they're not too broken up at the loss of my fandom.  This record is very much from their good years - in fact, the first of their two tracks "What I Would Say To You Now" would be in the running for one of their best songs ever.  It makes up for the fact that the second song is pretty much a throwaway.  I'll give this seven inch a high rating just for that first song though.

The flip side is Jejune, female-front emo-pop, a good match for Jimmy Eat World though not at their level of fame (or quality in my opinion).  Decent songs but nothing worth punching a horse in the throat over. 

Juno - Magnified and Reduced by Inches 7'' (Jade Tree, 1997)

Magnified and Reduced by Inches 7''
Jade Tree

Rating: 6.5 cowboy behinds out of 10

Can we talk about how bad the cover art is on this Juno record?  It should be a short discussion - it's really bad.  I think I only know about this band and picked up this seven inch because Juno shared a split with Dismemberment Plan, who I was gaga over for a short while.  It's pretty easy to lump them in with the other emo-post hardocre-post rock bands from this era, god knows there were a lot of them, but I will give Juno a little credit and say they were pretty strongly influenced by Slint as well, which certainly helps with their current listen-ability. 

Based on the era most of the records from this box are from, expect a lot more shitty reviews about emo music from the nineties in the future.  I apologize in advance. 

Half Film - The Only Direction Is South 7'' (AudioInformationPhenomena, 2000)

Half Film
The Only Direction Is South 7''

Rating: 6 burned hands out of 10

Half Film was a thing out in the Bay Area at the same time I lived there, so not only did I hear about them a lot I saw them a couple of times.  They always felt equal parts shoegaze and post-rock, though the title track of this seven inch has a distinct Beta Band vibe to it (a very mellow Beta Band that is).  B-Side "Assemblage" is somewhat more of the same, though not nearly as catchy as the title track.  I don't really have anything else to say about this record or this band...they're pretty good I guess?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Midlake - Antiphon (ATO, 2013)


Rating: 6.5 insane homes out of 10

There have been big changes in the Midlake camp since their last record "The Courage of Others" in 2010 - specifically, lead singer Tim Smith decided to leave the band.  Not a lot of bands can survive the loss of their voice, but they've made a valiant effort with "Antiphon" to move on as best they can.  No, it's not as good as the classic "The Trials of Van Occupanther" nor the already mentioned "Courage," but I can see myself giving this quite a few spins.  Guitarist Eric Pulido has stepped forward to be knighted as the new singer, and while his vocals aren't quite as striking as Smith's, they're close enough to the original sound that I'm sure any number of people who haven't followed the drama will have no idea someone different is singing.  As a whole this album feels more upbeat,but still very much in line with previous efforts.  I didn't hear any songs that stood out along the lines of classics "Roscoe" or "Rulers, Ruling Things," but it's still worth a listen, regardless of changes. 

Two Dollar Pistols - Blistered 7'' (I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday, 2001)

Two Dollar Pistols
Blistered 7''
I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday

Rating: 7.5 missed plays out of 10

I always forget how big the alt-country scene was here in the Triangle during my college years because I wasn't real into it, but Two Dollar Pistols were definitely one of the better offerings. The title track here is a cover of the classic Johnny Cash song, and a damn fine cover at that.  The B-side "When You Had Time for Me" is a fine example of the honky tonk that John Howie & co excelled at. 

(I'm not entirely sure about the label on this one, that's my best guess.  It might also be self-released.  Important information!)

Brokeback - Returns to the Orange Grove 7'' (Thrill Jockey, 1997)

Returns to the Orange Grove 7''
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 6.5 uncleared checks out of 10

I don't really know shit about Brokeback, but the man behind the band Douglas McCombs is also in Tortoise and the record was cheap so why the hell not?  It has the same vibe as Tortoise, instrumental jazz rock and all that, though this band is much more guitar oriented and not so much into the percussion like Tortoise.  In fact, it's entirely guitar and zero percussion, so Tortoise is probably a terrible reference.  There are three songs total, one of which "A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond" is a Captain Beefheart cover apparently.  Wouldn't know myself, Beefheart has always been one of those musicians I've tried to like (see also Frank Zappa) that never sounds right to me. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Butterglory - Wait for Me 2x7'' (Merge, 1995)

Wait for Me 2x7''

Rating: 7 false faces out of 10

I've never had much to say about Butterglory, but I've always enjoyed their music.  They were onbe of those Merge staples from my college years that always seemed to be around and no one had a bad word about them, but I never knew any big fans either.  Every song on this double seven inch is good mid-nineties indie rock like I grew up on, with the final song "Chump or Champ?" probably my favorite.  Worth a shot if you see it in a used bin somewhere (which is where my copy came from). 

Various ‎Artists - If It Ain't The Snow It's The Mosquitos 2x7'' (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1992)

Various ‎Artists
If It Ain't The Snow It's The Mosquitos 2x7''
Sympathy for the Record Industry

Rating: 6 broken tabs out of 10

A two slab compilation of Finnish rock-n-roll music.  I'm certain I only bought this because of the record label, and I then just tucked it in my seven inch box without listening to it.  So this is my impression after one listen to both records:

Side A
CMX - What if fIREHOSE was a hardcore band, with gruff vocals?

Side B
Limanarina - Run-of-the-mill distorted garage punk on one song, but then this weird distorted simplistic kraut rock the next.  We'll just say they play "distorted."
Paska - World's strangest accapella cover of "Ace of Spades"; apparently this dude achieved some level of notoriety for these sort of covers.  Pretty entertaining.  

Side C
Radiopuhelimet - The best song in the comp, the band plays an aggro Karp-like type of punk.
Generators - It's only fitting you'd follow the best song with the worst song - sounds like a bad Primus rip-off.

Side D
Faff-Bey - If you told me this was Ministry recording under a fake name I would believe you.
Death Trip - Kinda like the Cramps, kinda boring. 

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Music for Pets 7'' (K, 1991)

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
Music for Pets 7''

Rating: 7 broken hears out of 10

It's completely impossible for me to listen to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and not think of "Kids in the Hall" - not only did they play the theme song, but all the between skit bits as well.  And as I've watched every episode of that show multiple times...listening to this makes me expect Bruce McCulloch or Kevin McDonald to start talking after each song is over (most likely dressed as women).  Anyways, the band plays five instrumental surf tracks here, or actually four and one track that is just the band talking to your cat.  All of the songs are animal related, and the real highlight is their version of ballpark favorite "Baby Elephant Walk."  Hearing it really makes me wish I still DJ'd so I could play this earworm of a song just to drive people crazy. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mikal Cronin / Superchunk - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Mikal Cronin / Superchunk
Split 7''

:  9 happy faces out of 10

The other seven inch from the January/February delivery of the Merge subscription series. As you can sorta tell from the photo, it's on bright pink vinyl - it really pops a lot brighter in person.  Unlike the other seven inch, where both tracks were covers, this offers all original material.  Side A is a very catchy track from Mikal Cronin, sounding very much like it would be right at home on his previous full-length of garage pop "MCII."  The other side is a new song from Superchunk called "Good Morning" that also sounds in line with their fantastic record from last year "I Hate Music," in fact I really wish it was on there so I could listen to it all the time and not just when I'm pulling out records.  As with the other subscription single, this isn't available in stores so you're going to have to track down a used copy somewhere. 

Bluetip - Past Tense 7'' (Dischord / Hellfire, 1995)

Past Tense 7''
Dischord / Hellfire

Rating: 8.5 extremist ties out of 10

I'm not entirely sure why I wasn't more into Bluetip back when they were in their heyday, because they certainly played the brand of post-hardcore music I loved  - along the lines of Jawbox or Jawbreaker or maybe even some other bands that start with "Jaw."  Plus they were on Dischord, and there was no bigger "check this band out solely because of the name" label than Dischord in those days as far as I was concerned.  They very rarely led me astray.  The title track was also on their album "Dischord No. 101," but the b-side "Ephadrephin" appears to only be on this releases and is well worth seeking out.  I need to make a note to myself to go back and check out more of their music...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Meanest Man Contest - Contaminated Dance Step 7'' (Weapon-Shaped, 2002)

Meanest Man Contest
Contaminated Dance Step 7''

Rating: 7 backside screens out of 10

Meanest Man Contest was a pair of Bay Area folks who were sorta on the Anticon rap thing, aka middle class white dudes rapping about more complicated shit than bitches and money (not saying all of Anticon was educated whiteys and fancy lyrics, but it certainly felt like the majority).  One of the dudes was in a band with a friend of mine so I ended up at their show one night, and was impressed with their music.  Show wasn't overly exciting, but I definitely liked what I heard enough to buy this seven inch.  Hadn't heard it in ages but this recent re-spin held up. 

30 Amp Fuse - Whatever It Was 7'' (Arena Rock, 1997)

30 Amp Fuse
Whatever It Was 7''
Arena Rock

Rating: 6.5 military families out of 10

While 30 Amp Fuse appeared to be the brainchild of Mike Smithers, the fact that John Davis and Don Coffey of Superdrag also played on this sorta made me think of the band as a Superdrag side project.  That's not really fair to this band or Smithers, but sometimes that's just how shit shakes out.  There are three songs here, two originals and a cover.  The originals are good pop punk with strong lean towards pop, though definitely more aggro than Superdrag ever was.  Catchy, enjoyable songs.  And then they continue the Superdrag connection to Guided by Voices by doing a rendition of "A Good Flying Bird," an all-time favorite of mine and undoubtedly my favorite song here.  Again, this seems slightly unfair to 30 Amp Fuse's original compositions, but that's what happens when you cover one of the best GBV songs of all time. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mount Moriah / The Mountain Goats - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Mount Moriah / The Mountain Goats
Split 7''

Rating: 8 gigabytes out of 10

A review of an actual new seven inch!  This split is one of the first two sent out by Merge as part of their 25th anniversary subscription series.  Given that I love 3/4ths of the bands on the label, subscribing was a no-brainer for me.  

Both tracks here are covers - Mount Moriah does a terrific take on Neil Young's "Revolution Blues," really making it their own.  If I didn't already know the song I would have definitely assumed it was an original of MM.  The b-side is The Mountain Goats covering Ozzy's "Shot in the Dark," which is exactly as amazing and preposterous as it sounds.  I actually saw John Darnielle play this song live at the Hopscotch Music Festival a year or two back, and I'm incredibly stoked there is now a recorded version. 

This shit is subscription only, but you know copies will hit the secondary market. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mandolin Orange - This Side of Jordan (Yep Roc, 2013)

Mandolin Orange
This Side of Jordan
Yep Roc

Rating: 7 old bags out of 10

Despite Mandolin Orange being a well-known and well-regarded music act here in the Triangle of North Carolina where I live, I'm just finally getting around to listening to them now.  The verdict - why was I such an idiot for waiting this long?  I don't even have a good reason, just pure laziness I guess.  The group is a duo - Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz - and between that group dynamic and their chosen style of music, pretty much every other review I've seen mention Gillian Welch and David Rawlings as comparison.  They all probably say it because it works pretty well.  I hear some John Prine in there too when Andrew sings on his own, but you get the gist - folky, well-crafted music, the best part being the couple's terrific harmonies.  Yes, there is an actual mandolin played on some of the songs.  No, I can't verify if it's orange or not. 

Lovers - A Friend in the World (Badman Recording Co, 2013)

A Friend in the World
Badman Recording Co

Rating: 8 loose fugitives out of 10

I'm a little mystified that I hadn't written about this newest Lovers album yet.  I've been listening to it for a while now, it was one of my top records of 2013...maybe I wrote something and then just forgot to post it, or maybe I'm losing my mind.  Both are completely possible.  

Anyways, this record is a follow-up to the completely amazing "Dark Light" from 2010.  How amazing was that record - for me we're talking top five status of the last decade, and I listen to a lot of goddamn music.  Even today it would be rare for me to go a week without listening to at least one song from that album.  

I knew "A Friend in the World" was never going to reach those heights - I was just hoping for it not to be a disappointment.  It definitely is not.  As already mentioned, it was one of my favorite records of last year, so I guess that is obvious.  No, it doesn't reach the same heights as "Dark Light," but very few records in the world do.  They still follow roughly the same formula though - Carolyn Berk's amazing vocals layered over incredibly catchy electronic pop.  These songs instantly seep into your brain, like a good kind of meningitis, if there was such a thing (maybe there is, I'm no meningitis expert guys!). 

As a side note, if they ever play in your town live, go see them.  Somehow they pull off their brittle, beautiful sound in that setting too.  Twice now I've rearranged my life to make sure I didn't miss their show - no regrets at all. 

Superchunk - Driveway to Driveway 7'' (Merge, 1994)

Driveway to Driveway 7''

Rating: 10 garage co-owners out of 10

This Superchunk single is one of the oldest in my collection, as I'm pretty sure I bought it right when it was released.  More than that, I don't have any numbers to back me up, but I'd guess it's my most listened to record of all time, regardless of size.  There are three songs total, all acoustic versions of the regular electrified versions you can find on their albums - the title track, "Seed Toss," and the best of the bunch "Sick to Move."  If a really strange person broke into my house and told me to pick five seven inches to keep and the rest were being used for target practice, this would be one of the five. 

The Walkmen - Little House of Savages 7'' (Record Collection, 2004)

The Walkmen
Little House of Savages 7''
Record Collection

Rating: 7.5 busted heads out of 10

I'm thinking I got this Walkmen single as a promo at some point in my life.  The title track is also on their fantastic record "Bows + Arrows," as is the b-side "No Christmas While I'm Talking," though the version here is a live version recorded in London in 2002.  Two great songs regardless of format.  

Sunday's Best - My Very Ethos (A Simple Star, 1998)

Sunday's Best
My Very Ethos 7''
A Simple Star

Rating: 6.5 old homesteads out of 10

This is the early, more emo version of Sunday's Best, before they basically turned into a pop band (their full-length "The Californian" from 2002 was particularly good and sadly seemingly forgotten).  While I was way into the whole emo musical style of the mid-nineties, I didn't get into this group until their poppier later years so it's fun/interesting to go back and listen to them when they were clearly influenced by Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral and that lot.  Not sure how much I will ever go back and listen to this wax, but as I probably grabbed it out of the bargain bin at Amoeba or somewhere similar it was definitely worth a check out. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

We Ragazzi - I Shot the Future 7'' (Self-Released, 1997)

We Ragazzi
I Shot the Future 7''

Rating: 7.5 shot down planes out of 10

We Ragazzi never got the respect they deserved - guess the world didn't need synthy Italian art rock nearly as much as I did.  Both songs here, "Skinny Fingers" and "The Active" are also on their full-length "Suicide Sound System," a damn good record.  This band really should have been on Dischord. 

Small 23 - Chopsocky 7'' (Alias, 1993)

Small 23
Chopsocky 7''

Rating: 7 good cars out of 10

"Chopsocky" always struck me as a strange choice for a single - it's one of the mellower, least catchy songs Small ever recorded.  Not that I didn't like it, it was just much more b-side material (and in fact is the very last song on the "True Zero Hook" album).  

For the "record," the b-side track "Useless" is actually at 33 1/3 and not 45 as the label states.  And it's probably the better of the two songs. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Future Islands - Singles (4AD, 2014)

Future Islands

Rating: 9 tin whistles out of 10

As with all Future Islands records so far, the question isn't will it be one of my favorite records of the year, it's how high on my list will it finish.  What I'm saying is, I'm a big fan, and this new outing "Singles" only further solidifies that position.  Their last record "On the Water" was fantastic though a bit subdued.  This new one is more in line with 2010's "In Evening Air" - upbeat, catchy, and full of songs that sound like hit singles to me.  Hey, maybe that's why they named it "Singles"!  Yes, I'm brilliant as you can tell.  There's truly not a weak link here..."Doves" should be a hot dance floor jam; album opener "Seasons (Waiting On You)" is the obvious choice for a lead single; "A Song for Our Grandfathers" is a top tits slow jam; and on and on and on...I can't even quantify how much I'm going to listen to this record going forward. 

You know what, I've never said a word about what this band sounds like, assuming everyone already knows.  Given their connection and popularity in the area I'm from, this is an understandable mistake.  The best descriptor I've got is "dramatic, dark electro-pop." I've heard more than a few people compare them to Erasure, though the vocals are much deeper, like Ian Curtis crossed with an art school drama teacher.  Or as my lady refers to him, the singing Count from "Sesame Street."  I have no idea what she is talking about as he doesn't have an accent and I don't think she's on drugs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fuzz - Live in San Francisco EP (Castle Face, 2013)

Live in San Francisco EP

Castle Face

Rating: 7.5 lip smackers out of 10

If it wasn't for the between song cheering, I don't think I would have had any idea this was a live Fuzz record.  The EP is four songs total, with only a single track from their full-length ("One"), both sides of the "This Time I Got a Reason" seven inch, and the b-side of the "Sleigh Ride" seven inch, "You Won't See Me."  I guess the tracks are a little different, a little more rocked out, but the recording is so clean and crisp that it sounds more like a compilation than a live album.  I have no idea if that is a compliment or a complaint, I really don't.  What I do know is I'm enjoying listening to this regardless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mogwai - Rave Tapes (Sub Pop, 2014)

Rave Tapes
Sub Pop

Rating: 7 sideways looks out of 10

I saw Mogwai open for Pavement back around 1997 - didn't know a thing about them, and they completely melted my brain.  Soon after I bought "Young Team" and it was a crazy huge influence in my life and musical taste for years and years. 

At this point, I'm not even sure how or why to review a new Mogwai record.  "Rave Tapes" is their eighth full-length by my count, not including all the soundtracks and EPs and compilations they've produced since their inception in the mid-nineties.  Given their output, all you can really do now is compare their music to that of the past as a reference to whether a new record is good or not.  Opener "Heard About You Last Night" is very strong, as is "Master Card."  and "Blues Hour" which is one of only a couple tracks with vocals.  It's a good record, not a great one. Mogwai will never disappoint, it's just a matter of how much they will excite. 

The Men - Tomorrow's Hits (Sacred Bones, 2014)

The Men
Tomorrow's Hits
Sacred Bones

Rating: 7 phone poles out of 10

I certainly don't hate the band The Men have become - I grew up on and continue to love country rock or twangy bar rock or whatever you want to call the music they play these days.  But I really miss the band they used to be, and it can be difficult to reconcile those two feelings - mad that they changed from something I loved, but still appreciative of the current output.  Shit, what is probably the best song on the record, "Another Night," has a horn section! It's hard to fathom this is the same band that put out "Leave Home" just a couple of years ago.

This might end up being one of my favorite records at the end of the year, but I just don't know right now.  The songs are strong, the craftsmanship possibly even stronger.  The record just isn't sitting comfortably with me yet though. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Thin Lizzy / 10cc - Split 7'' (Collectables, 1992)

Thin Lizzy / 10cc
Split 7''

Rating: 10 bags of peanuts out of 10

Some strange record I picked up somewhere that I assume was meant for folks that still use old school jukeboxes.  The songs in question are "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy and "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc.  Obviously neither track came out in 1992, that's just when this "collectable" was released. While there's nothing special about the record itself, the music is obviously aces: the Thin Lizzy song is obviously one of the all-time greats, and while it seems like 10cc has fallen out of popular culture consciousness, this sort of soft keyboard rock still holds sway with me. 

Velocity Girl - Sorry Again 7'' (Sub Pop, 1994)

Velocity Girl
Sorry Again 7''
Sub Pop

Rating: 8 false teeth out of 10

I honestly had forgotten I even owned this many Velocity Girl seven inches. The title track might be their very best song of all time IMO, and is also found on the great full-length "Simpatico."  The B-side "Marzipan" isn't on the same level as "Sorry Again," but it's still a decent cute pop song worth an occasional listen.