Friday, December 19, 2014

Whatever Brains - SSR-63 / SSR-64 EPs (Sorry State, 2014)

Whatever Brains
SSR-63 / SSR-64 EPs Sorry State

Rating: 8 broken pet hospitals out 10

I'm doing this review as a list because yes. 
1.  Whatever Brains is one of my favorite things in the entire world and they can do no wrong in my eyes.  Know that going into reading any of this dribble. 
2.  I have been struggling for years to come up with a fitting comparison for them, to no avail.  These days the closest you can come is parts of some of their songs sound like Liars somewhat, and I'm not sure anyone even agrees with me on that.  I keep hearing it though. 
3.  I took the photo the band used for one of these EP covers (if you can't tell which one, it's the cover that is a photo and not a drawing).  I didn't know the band at all before this, so them finding my photo out of the blue and asking to use it as a cover ranks pretty high on my list of life successes. 
4.  If item one didn't point to how biased this review might be, item three should have definitely given it away right? 
5.  As much as I love all of their records, live is the way to enjoy this band.  They don't tour out of the area a ton but if they ever do, don't miss it.  It's a cacophonous wall of enjoyable noise, and frontman Rich Ivey has a gift for performance.   
6.  Why release two EPs (with each EP one side a 12'' record) instead of just calling it a full length?  Who knows.  And yet somehow with this band it makes sense. 
7.  The "titles" of these EPs are actually the Sorry State catalog numbers, so as to differentiate them from the band's other releases.  Technically both EPs are self-titled, just like the three LPs the band has already put out.  For those that can't count, that is five self-titled albums by Whatever Brains.  They really don't like thinking up titles for their records apparently. 
8.  The entire first EP SSR-63 is one 22 -minute long track called "///////," and it's all about the true story of a hermit Russian family living in Siberia that had not contacted another human in over 40 years.  There was a long article about it in Smithsonian (read it here) - the article is as fascinating as the song is awesome.  That is to say, very. 
9.  The second EP, SSR-64, is a more straight-forward four song affair.  The band seems to slowly be moving into a more keyboard/noise/electronic beat direction, hence the previous mention of Liars.  It works for them. 
10.  I don't have a tenth point, but I do have an affection for lists of ten.  Go buy this record. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ex Hex - Rips (Merge, 2014)

Ex Hex

Rating: 7 piles of pork out of 10

It actually wasn't until I saw them live that I felt like writing anything about this Ex Hex record.  Probably best known as one of Mary Timony's bands (not to intentionally give short shrift to bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris, they're just not as well known), I listened to the album at first and just thought it was a decent, run-of-the-mill punkish power pop record that I might pop on the player here and there.  Then the band played a local club with the also great Speedy Ortiz, and something about seeing these songs live totally brought them to life for me, no cheesiness intended.  The band put on a really great performance, and something about that made the tracks...I dunno, catchier or more intriguing or something.  It made me want to listen to this album a lot more, that's for sure.  "Rips" feels like an album that could have been released in 1975, and that is a high compliment in my book.  

Moreover, go see the band live when you get a chance if you like to have fun.  If you do not like fun, there's probably a Mark Kozalek show somewhere. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Solids - Blame Confusion (Dine Alone, 2014)

Blame Confusion
Dine Alone

Rating: 7.5 annoying cats out of 10

A whole lot of what I said in the Paws review just below this one would apply to Solids - youngish kids from another country (in this case, Canada) heavily mining the nineties indie rock hooks I was raised on and continue to adore.  In other words, it almost feels as if this album was made just for me.  These cats lean fairly heavily towards the Superchunk side of the aisle, with a strong dose of ...Trail of Dead thrown in there (props to the review on Allmusic for that comparison, it was driving me crazy until I read it on there and it finally clicked in my brain).  "Off White" is especially good, as well as the title track, but there isn't a dud on here.  

Catchy indie punk, flannel shirts and beards - the nice thing about the world we live in is if you're stuck in a permanent rut like I am, eventually the trends will come around to what you've always been & loved. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paws - Youth Culture Forever (Fat Cat, 2014)

Youth Culture Forever
Fat Cat

Rating: 8 foggy trees out of 10

I love hearing something I like this much completely out of the blue.  I had no idea who Paws was, or why this album "Youth Culture Forever" was even on my computer, but I decided to give it a listen.  I wasn't even all that taken at first, but when I hit the third track "Someone New" my ears perked up; by the fifth track "Give Up," I was completely sold.  It is so goddamn catchy, an album begging to be sung along to either live or while driving in your car, two of my favorite pastimes.  There is an immediate"nineties indie rock" feel here, and as someone permanently stuck in that decade I welcomed it.  The biggest comparison would be the Thermals, but you hear elements of Superchunk and Archers of Loaf and even a little Weezer (the Weezer of the first two albums, aka the "good" Weezer, obviously). 

I'm going to listen to this so much I get sick of it, and that's ok.  In fact I'm excited for it.  New bands that give me this tingly happy vibe don't come along too often. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights - End Times Undone (Merge, 2014)

David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights
End Times Undone

Rating: 7 restful swallows out of 10

New Zealander David Kilgour is best known for his work in the Clean, and I love the Clean.  Somehow that fact has never translated into my listening to Kilgour's solo work much if it all.  Hell, I've even seen him play solo live a couple of times and loved the shows, and still didn't act on it.  Who knows why we do or don't do some things, but this is where I stand with Kilgour's recorded material. 

Which is a damn shame for my dumb ears, because I'm quite enjoying "End Times Undone" as I listen to it right now and jot down these barely intelligible musings.  The Clean comparison is obvious, but I get very strong Yo La Tengo vibes here (that's probably because Yo La Tengo were likely heavily influenced by the Clean and Kilgour and the whole Kiwi pop sound).  You could also go down a Television/Tom Verlaine path with the guitar work, but regardless it adds up to a lot of mellow, melodic rock songs that I fully plan on listening to more.