Monday, December 21, 2015

Low - Ones and Sixes (Sub Pop, 2015)

Ones and Sixes
Sub Pop

Rating: 8 breathing snails out of 10

I've long been a total fanboy of Low, both in recorded form and live, ever since I randomly bought a used copy of "The Curtain Hits the Cast" in college...nearly twenty years ago.  I don't feel good about typing that.   I do, however, feel good about this new Low record "Ones and Sixes."  There are never any great leaps or changes in what Low does - it's always subtle, and often takes a few listens to pinpoint.  The two most noteworthy items on "Ones and Sixes" are the use of electronic drums to augment the simple drum beats that usually populate their tracks, and a strong Cocteau Twins vibe from the guitars on a few songs.  Make no mistake though, any fan of Low is going to feel right at home with this one.  As is always the case anytime they release a record, it's one of my favorites of the year. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Destroyer - Poison Season (Merge, 2015)

Poison Season

Rating: 8.5 male potency drugs out of 10

It wasn't until I read another review that I realized this latest Destroyer album, "Poison Season," carried a New York City theme throughout much of the songs.  Listen, I hardly ever pay attention to lyrics - so long as they aren't super blatantly stupid, singers can pretty much be saying whatever they want.  The thing is that musically, this album sounds very much like the late seventies in the greater New York City area - there are easy comparisons to Springsteen, Lou Reed and Bowie of that era.  Not the vocals mind you - Dan Bejar sounds nothing like those three titans, but is amazing all the same on his own terms.  The second track on the album, "Dream Lover," is instantly one of the top five best songs Destroyer has ever released - very strong praise in my opinion.  I keep waiting for the inevitable downhill slide with Bejar and Destroyer, but album after album they not only meet but surpass my expectations. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Archers of Loaf - Curse of the Loaf - Live at Cat's Cradle (ARRA, 2015)

Archers of Loaf
Curse of the Loaf - Live at Cat's Cradle

Rating: vs. the Greatest of All Time

As a self-professed superfan of the Archers of Loaf, the only thing that could possibly keep me from loving this is if the live recording was bad.  It's not.  I've seen them a good half-dozen times since their reformation, including one of the nights when this was recorded (August 19-20, 2011) if I remember correctly, and they give me that same excitement that they did when I saw them for the first time more than twenty years ago.  No, a live recording isn't quite as good as the live experience, but it's still a damn fine representation of what is so great about this band. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Flesh Wounds - In the Mouth EP (Snot, 2015)

Flesh Wounds
In the Mouth EP

Rating: 8 political journals out of 10

Running through six songs in about thirteen minutes, Flesh Wounds like to get right to the point.  This is aggro old school-style punk that almost borders on hardcore at times.  On the opener "Attack," it feels like you're being attacked for the entire 78 seconds of the song.  This is a lot closer to early Black Flag or Negative Approach or the punk coming out of DC than it is the modern happy-go-lucky garage punk that the kids love so much.  Most of the songs sound like singer Montgomery Morris is eating the microphone while he sings...I can attest after seeing them live a number of times that this is actually the case.  As a side note, they have a song called "Joy Division Killed My Boner."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Caspian - Dust and Disquiet (Triple Crown, 2015)

Dust and Disquiet
Triple Crown

Rating: 7.5 headphone planets out of 10

I honest to god couldn't tell you much of anything that sets Caspian apart from Explosions in the Sky or Mono or This Will Destroy You or <insert the name of other post-rock band here>, but I can tell you it sounds totally fuckin' great.  They do occasionally sing, and I mean very occasionally, so that's one small difference.  Maybe a little more piano in their music?  that's total speculation.  They do the whole quiet-loud-quiet thing as well as anyone.  I recently saw them perform live on the tour for this record, and it was outstanding.  As with all of these bands, this is much better when listened to through headphones...jamming it through your car radio while cruising down the freeway, you're going to lose a lot of the nuance.  This is definitely worth a listen though, regardless of format. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pavement - The Secret History, Vol. 1 (Matador, 2015)

The Secret History, Vol. 1

Rating: 9 distant voices out of 10

A compilation of B-sides, Peel sessions, live records, and miscellaneous other tracks from one of my favorite bands of all time, Pavement.  If you're already a fan like myself, you'll recognize the B-sides from some of their seven inches, but it's nice to have them all in one spot.  The recordings on the Peel sessions are obviously excellent as is usually the case with Peel sessions.  The live recordings are all from a 1992 concert in Brixton, and these are A+ as well - and as someone who's seen a couple of "phoned in" Pavement gigs, it sounds like the band is on their game here.  Owning this is a no-brainer for fans like myself; anyone new to Pavement would probably still enjoy this, but I'd suggest grabbing a copy of "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" and/or "Slanted and Enchanted" first. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mac McCaughan - Non-Believers (Merge, 2015)

Mac McCaughan

Rating: 7.5 fresh limes out of 10

Portastatic seemed like it was already basically the solo act of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, a place for him to record and release his poppier songs.  Apparently for reasons I'm not aware of and too lazy to try and look up, he needed to distance himself from that outlet as well, releasing his first ever solo record "Non-Believers" under his own name.  Not that I'm complaining obviously - I'm a huge fan of everything the man puts to tape, and this album is no different.  Except for some guest appearances by label-mates Michael Benjamin Lerner (Telekinesis), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), and Annie Hayden Spent), everything on this album was written and recorded by Mac himself.  Despite the name change, this feels and sounds A LOT like a Portastatic record, not that there's anything wrong with that - I'm certainly digging it, one of my favorite records of the year.  

A possible side note - these songs take on a much more rockin' vibe live, as Mac has recruited the punk band Flesh Wounds to be his backing musicians when playing gigs most of the time.  It's definitely worth seeing them perform and gives the songs a whole new life - it wouldn't be terrible idea for Merge to record the Flesh Wound versions of these tracks and release them as would almost be like an entirely new Mac McCaughan record. 

The Dodos - Individ (Polyvinyl, 2015)

The Dodos

Rating: 7 synaptic trees out of 10

I'm pretty sure everyone has a band or bands that fall into this category - every time you hear them you love their music, and yet you rarely ever listen to them..and you have no idea why.  That's where I've always been with the Dodos.  I'm listening to this record, "Individ," as I type this, and it sounds fantastic - every song is strong, very catchy and should be something I revisit frequently.  "The Tide" and "Goodbyes and Endings" are especially noteworthy, both heavily driven by the drums (not uncommon with this band) but held together by the vocals of Meric Long.  But if my past history is any indicator, I'll forget about this record nearly as soon as I stop listening to it...likely forgotten until the Dodos' next release, when I have this exact same revelation.  Sorry Dodos, you deserve better because you're definitely holding up your end of the bargain. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bandway - Buddies (The Man Who Drives the Van, 2015)

The Man Who Drives the Van

Rating: infinity + 1

I've used "bandwayrules" as my name on message boards and in email addresses for nearly 20 years now...go ahead and guess how excited I am that Bandway released their first new record in thirteen years.  

I don't have the words for it.  "Buddies" is amazing.  Everything they do is amazing.  They have a song on here called "White Nipples."  Last time I saw them live Brooks played air guitar on a vacuum cleaner.  They are everything.  Buy all of their records.  The end.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

American Aquarium - Wolves (Self-Released, 2015)

American Aquarium

Rating: 7.5 green goats out of 10

American Aquarium are well loved here in Raleigh where I live and where they hail from, and I've known the singer BJ Barham for a number of years now.  In some ways that connection actually plays against them for me, because it's kinda weird to critically write about people you've played basketball and shot the shit with...then again I'm not much a of a critic so I'm not sure it matters.  

Anyways, blah blah blah, this record is damn good.  I find more often than not I prefer a band's earlier output to their later work, but AA has grown steadily into their sound over a few records, and without a doubt "Wolves" is their best album.  I'm sure getting Megafaun's Brad Cook didn't hurt (content aside it sounds amazing), but I think the real credit just comes with age and maturity and the band growing into the professional musicians they are today.  They also play 300ish shows a year, so I'm sure that hasn't hurt either.  Their music floats somewhere on the spectrum of shit-kicker alt-country, but somehow that seems a little too limiting for what they are trying to do.  If I were to give a specific comparison I would say Bruce Springsteen with more slide guitar and less saxophone...and knowing BJ, he'd be more than happy that someone compared him to his idol Bruce.  "Man I'm Supposed To Be" is one of the best songs to come out this year and the title track "Wolves" is very strong, but there isn't a bad track here.  Nice job fellas - now get back to town and let's play some basketball. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Monsterland - Insulation 7'' (Seed, 1993)

Insulation 7''

Rating: 6.5 offensive clippers out of 10

Despite having been featured on a split with my beloved Archers of Loaf, I never paid much attention to Monsterland during their active years.  I probably should have, as I quite like both tracks here.  The title track has an early Soul Asylum/Husker Du vibe, and I'm really feeling it.  The b-side is a cover of the Fall's "Totally Wired," which is kinda weird but I give them a thumbs up for giving it a shot.  It's sorta odd the Fall doesn't get covered more often. 

Looper - Impossible Things 7'' (Sub Pop, 1998)

Impossible Things 7''
Sub Pop

Rating: 5 fat red-headed girls out of 10

To be totally honest, I only bought this Looper record because it was dollar and it has a Belle & Sebastian connection.  Both tracks sound like pop versions of something Arab Strap would have done.  I love the Strap but I'm not sure there was ever a need for another like them. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art, 2015)

The Agent Intellect
Hardly Art

Rating: 8.5 reds and greens out of 10

Protomartyr didn't really win me over until I saw them live, and then everything changed.  Like a bolt of lightning straight to my head, all of their recordings went from "that's pretty good" to "holy shit this is my favorite thing in the entire world."  With "The Agent Intellect," somehow they got even better and I didn't think that was possible. 

Starting with the opener "The Devil in His Youth," the songs always feel like they're trying to jump out of the speakers - so much pent up force-feeding a fidgety kid a half-dozen Red Bulls and then locking him in a closet.  And yet, they hold that restraint, never really breaking through, always teetering on the edge of exploding musically but keeping their shit together, so to speak.  The band always gets called post-punk, but they are so much more than that.  At their best, Protomartyr are a more melodic version of the Fall, minus the overbearing Napoleonic front man (but retaining his genius).  I also get a heavy Jonathan Fire*Eater vibe, which was the more rockin' precursor to the Walkmen.  All the other comparisons have their place as well, from Pere Ubu to Les Savy Fav to Joy Division to US Maple, but the Fall is the big one, the important one.  They're not a cover band though, don't get that impression - but pretty much everyone is a confluence of those that came before them, and those groups are the building blocks of Protomartyr in my mind.   
It took me about half a listen to realize this was going to be one of the best records of the year.  Top three almost certainly...maybe even landing my personal top spot.  Don't miss out on this one. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Rock*A*Teens - Turn on the Waterworks 7'' (Merge, 1997)

The Rock*A*Teens
Turn on the Waterworks 7''

Rating: 7 pacific jets out of 10

I always like/liked the Rock*A*Teens live much more than recorded (they played last year for Merge25, so I'm unclear how exactly to refer to them).   Both songs - "Leave What's Left Of Me" and "Bloodhound" - are pretty good, but the band are so raucous and excitable live you just know that would be the better way to hear these.  Oh, and both of these songs are on their 1998 release "Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall."  I'm always excited to find an old Merge record though. 

ABBC - Gilbert 7'' (Easy Tiger, 2001)

Gilbert 7''
Easy Tiger

Rating: 6.5 broken defenses out of 10

ABBC is Burns and Convertino of Calexico combined with a pair called the Amor Belhom Duo that I don't know anything about.  The title track sounds pretty much exactly like a Calexico song, and is the real draw here.  The b-side "Butterfly Mouth"is an instrumental, jazzy affair that I'm neither here nor there on.  Not bad for a random find. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mandolin Orange - Such Jubilee (Yep Roc, 2015)

Mandolin Orange
Such Jubilee
Yep Roc

Rating: 7.5 torpedo skies out of 10

Even though Mandolin Orange are a local band for me, I feel like I never hear anything about them.  I suppose that's more a sign of the tastes of my friends more than anything, but this is a duo, much like Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, that should be able to cross multiple boundaries and appeal to nearly everyone - country fans. bluegrass fans, folk fans, country rock fans, etc.  The music is fantastically performed, and the vocals are excellent.  They also don't seem to play out very often, at least around here, which also probably plays into the feeling that they aren't part of the local scene.  Anyways, "Such Jubilee" is a great follow-up to 2013's fantastic "This Side of Jordan," a record I really got into about a year ago and played nearly constantly for a few weeks.  I wouldn't put this one on that level yet, but these past few listens are very promising. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dick Diver - Melbourne, Florida (Trouble in Mind, 2015)

Dick Diver
Melbourne, Florida
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 8 liver souvenirs out of 10

I think I read somewhere that Dick Diver doesn't consider The Clean and their Kiwi pop brethren to be influences, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of that New Zealand scene is going to have a really hard time believing that after listening to "Melbourne, Florida.".  Regardless of influences, this is a damn fine pop record, one of the best of the year to be sure.  There is a maturity here that far exceeds the actual age of the band members, with moments reminding me of other great pop acts running the gamut from Yo La Tengo to the Stone Roses to Sea & Cake.  This could have easily come out in 1985, but doesn't sound dated at all.  I suppose that makes it timeless, and I won't argue.

As a side note, I wonder if "Dick Diver" is some sort of Australian slang phrase, god knows they keep things colorful down there.  Or maybe it's about a diver who is a dick.  Or a dick that can dive.  Who knows. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Spoon - Anticipation 7'' (Mag Wheel, 2005)

Anticipation 7''
Mag Wheel

Rating: 8 bowing letters out of 10

Surprised to find this Spoon record in the bargain bin.  Even more surprised that despite it's limited run, it's not particularly valuable.  And lastly, most surprised that "Anticipation" was never on any of their full-lengths, it's a great song that should be heard more widely.  This is actually the second pressing - these songs (title track plus b-side "Headz") actually first came out in 1998 circa their amazing "A Series of Sneaks" album.  On red vinyl.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Screaming Females - Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni, 2015)

Screaming Females
Rose Mountain
Don Giovanni

Rating: 5.5 carbonated birds out of 10

I wish I liked the recordings of Screaming Females as much as I've enjoyed seeing them play live.  I'm not sure the songs are their strong point though, it's all about singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster...the way she plays, you half expect smoke to be rising from the strings at the end of every song.  Everyone should see them live at least once.  The recordings...they're fine I guess...I certainly don't jones to listen to them often.  When they hit a local stage though, chances are I'm there. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Make-Up - R U A Believer 7'' (K, 1995)

The Make-Up
R U A Believer 7''

Rating: 6.5 fired hats out of 10

I love all things Make-Up, and while this isn't their strongest release it's still worth having.  The title track is a jammer, and also available on their singles comp "I Want Some."  To be fair, Ian Svenonius could read the ingredients off of a Shake-n-Bake box, set it to a funky beat, and I'd shill for it.  The B-side title is listed as "Version," but in actuality it's a Dub Narcotic remix of the title track.  Maybe not necessary, but certainly a sign of the era this record is from. 

The Ends - New Rome 7'' (Dirtnap, 2003)

The Ends
New Rome 7''

Rating: 6 sandpaper fingerprints out of 10

The Ends put out a catchy, decent punk record called "Concrete Disappointment" years ago on Dirtnap, but I haven't thought about them in probably decade.  Came across this seven inch used at Amoeba and bought it on a whim, because why the hell not.  Turns out both tracks on this slab (the title track and the b-side "Saw It Comin") are both on that previously mentioned album, so this release is more or less superfluous.  Still, decent tracks and it didn't cost much so whatevs. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Golden Boys - Got Time 7'' (Sold Sex Lovie Doll, 2005)

Golden Boys
Got Time 7''
Sold Sex Lovie Doll

Rating: 6.5 hard-working matrices out of 10

I couple of good-but-unremarkable garage stompers from the Golden Boys, the garage punk kings of Texas.  This is out of Italy I guess, and the sleeve appears to be photocopied, but the wax is good so no big whoop.  I like these cats but recorded was never their strong suit - seeing them live is the way to go, because they put on a scorcher of a show.  The songs are decent though, and if you came across this like I did in a bargain bin it's worth a nab.  

Let's not discuss that label name though.  Oof. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mikal Cronin - MCIII (Merge, 2015)

Mikal Cronin

Rating: 7.5 hemorrhagic pails out of 10

Can something be slightly disappointing and totally great at the same time?  Because that's how I feel about this most recent Mikal Cronin record, "MCIII."  By most measures it's an ambitious, big pop album...the only problem is he released one of the best pop albums of the past decade in 2013 with "MCII."  While I instantly loved this new one, it's just not quite as good as it's predecessor, and it's difficult not to compare.  "MCIII" is still better than almost everything else of it's ilk though.  There isn't a 1-2 punch as strong as "MCII" openers "Weight" and "Shout It Out," but this new record does have a shitload more instrumentation and what appears to be a six-part pop opera or something of that nature.  Make no mistake I'm going to listen to this a lot...but probably not as much as the other one.

Thomas Function - The Insignificants 7'' (Tic Tac Totally, 2006)

Thomas Function
The Insignificants 7''
Tic Tac Totally

Rating: 7 Chicago clutches out of 10

At first I thought this was a split between Thomas Function and "The Insignificants," but it turns out that is just the name of the song on side A.  There are three songs total ("Blue & Green" and "Conspiracy of Praise" make up side B), and they all walk a fine line between garage rock and art punk.  I've always liked this band, and have never thought they got due credit, but the flip side of that is I managed to pick up this record for 50 cents so it's not all bad.  "Blue & Green" is my top choice, sounding like the Lapse trying to cut a demo for Goner Records. 

Flock of Dimes - (This Is Why) I Can't Wear White 7'' (Frenchkiss, 2012)

Flock of Dimes
(This Is Why) I Can't Wear White 7''

Rating: 8 devilish talons out of 10

I love all things Jenn Wasner, from her work with her main band Wye Oak to this solo offshoot called Flock of Dimes.  I was particularly stoked to be digging through the Amoeba bargain bins on a recent trip to SF and snagged a copy of her/their first seven inch (I'm never sure how to refer to bands that only have one member...).  Given what a commanding performer she is regardless of band name, it would be hard not to make Wye Oak comparisons here, although this music is a little more upbeat/electronic/almost dancey compared to her parent act.  The vocals still sound like Wasner though so those comparisons are going to be there no matter what.  Both tracks, the title song and the b-side "15" are excellent and worth seeking out.  So far she's only released three seven inches so hopefully a full-length record will make an appearance at some point in the near future. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Run the Jewels - Bust No Moves EP (Mass Appeal, 2015)

Run the Jewels
Bust No Moves EP
Mass Appeal

Rating: 8 house scourers out of 10

Yes, this Run the Jewels EP was released months ago for Record Store Day, but I never get to anything on time.  Big surprise - this collection of songs fuckin' kills; this duo can seemingly do no wrong right now.  "Pew Pew Pew," featuring DJ Qbert, is as strong as anything they've ever released, equal parts new shit and a throwback to hiphop of the late eighties/early's time for scratching to come back!  Title track "Bust No Moves" sounds like lyrical syrup, just drippy, especially the chorus from Cuz.  "Blockbuster Night Part 2" is likely the predecessor to part one from "Run the Jewels 2" only lyrically, because it doesn't actually sound anything like it.  Possibly the most interesting track is "Love Again (Akinyele Back)," which is exactly like the same song from the last full-length, until the final verse when Gangsta Boo flips it up and talks about oral stimulation from the female point of view.  Yeah, it's been done before, but it's done real damn well here.  

This vinyl is already getting expensive, so grab one if you see it.  Otherwise, cop the tracks online. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Caustic Resin - Yeah Right 7'' (Up, 1995)

Caustic Resin
Yeah Right 7''

Rating: 6.5 upstairs couches out of 10

I didn't even know this Caustic Resin seven inch existed until I stumbled across it at my local record store.  The two songs are "Yeah Right" and "Yeah Right Pt. 2," and while neither are stand-out songs by the band, they're still worth hearing.  It's fuzzy, spacey and sludgy in that way Brett Netson does so well.  As a side note, anyone and everyone should track down their amazing record "The Medicine Is All Gone," it's a vastly underrated nineties masterpiece. 

Future Islands - The Chase 7'' (4AD, 2015)

Future Islands
The Chase 7''

Rating: 8 cement bells out of 10

As near as my brain can figure, this is the first release by Future Islands since they done blown the fuck up.  And as much as it sucks that I no longer get to see them play in small venues multiple times a year, I'm glad for them - they deserve all the success they get.  Certainly no complaints here with theese new songs - both tracks on this seven inch measure up to the high bar these guys set with their last few records, and fame doesn't seem to have messed with their creative process.  Title track "The Chase" starts off with a very Kraftwerk-like keyboard line, but then quickly goes down the path already well worn by the band - I'm guessing this track is already a favorite at their live shows.  The b-side "Haunted By You" is a little mellower but no less enjoyable - it's like you can see lead singer Sam Herring emoting with his hands through the music, grasping at the air like a high school drama teacher performing Hamlet.  My only worry about these two songs is they'll get "lost," having not been put on a proper full-length - because both are certainly worthy. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Make-Up / Lung-Leg - Split 7'' (Southern, 1998)

The Make-Up / Lung-Leg
Split 7''

Rating: 7 super shredders out of 10

I'll buy anything that has the Make-Up on it, even if I already have the song ("Pow! To The People") on their compilation "I Want Some."  It's  rad song and there is no such thing as owning too many Ian Svenonius recordings.  The flip was totally new to me, a Scottish group called Lung-Leg - sort of a jangly, C86ish all female Fall or something, a good pairing.  Someone else recommended this short-lived band to me as well, I guess I need to get digging. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Belle and Sebastian - Live 2015 (Concert Live, 2015)

Belle and Sebastian
Live 2015
Concert Live

Rating: <insert photo of baby duck here>

Belle and Sebastian released a live album via their website recently (CD only, cross your fingers for an eventual vinyl release), and being that I love all things B&S I had to acquire it via the internets.  It was recorded at SECC Hydro in Glasgow, and they did it with the help of the Scottish Festival Orchestra.  The set list is damn near impeccable and does a great job of hitting highlights from across their career...shit, look it up if you don't believe me.  The epic medley of "Boy with the Arab Strap" and "Legal Man" followed by "Sleep the Clock Around" are worth the price of admission alone.  The whole thing clocks in at about an hour and fifty minutes long, and I have no idea why they decided to span that over three discs, but they did.  I would say that any fan of the band needs to hunt this down, but knowing their fanbase they already have. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jeff the Brotherhood - Wasted on the Dream (Infinity Cat, 2015)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Wasted on the Dream
Infinity Cat

Rating: 7.5 sneezing dogs out of 10

I thought it odd that Jeff the Brotherhood had signed with major label Warner Bros. in the first place before their previous record "Hypnotic Nights," and it was no huge shock that the label dropped them right before the band released "Wasted on the Dream."  Based on their reaction after getting dropped, JtB seemed more than ecstatic being able to release their music on their own imprint again, so it seems like it all works out in the end.  The band has pop hooks, and you can sorta see why a major might think they can mold these kids into some version of stoner rock Weezer, but anyone who has seen them live or listened to their older material isn't surprised this didn't work out.  JtB seem like the types to do exactly what they want to do, no matter how much money they have behind them.  

That said, there was definitely loot involved in this record, as it was finished before they got the boot - the production is through the roof.  I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it over-produced, but it's just an ass hair away from it.  I'd love to hear the original rough masters of these tracks.  They got Ian Anderson to play flute on the second song "Black Cherry Pie" - yes, that Ian Anderson, from Jethro Tull - it's such a weird decision, it kinda works.  You hear songs like "Cosmic Visions," "Coat Check Girl," and "Prairie Song" and you start thinking these guys actually have a shot at radio airplay if the right pockets got lined with cash (aka why they got signed to a major in the first place), but I'm pretty sure that is out the door now.  And I'm not sure the band don't even need that much money to buy cut-off jean shorts at the thrift store and drink crappy beer. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Lees of Memory - Sisyphus Says (SideOneDummy, 2014)

The Lees of Memory
Sisyphus Says

Rating: 7.5 dental flossers out of 10

If you ever wondered what it would be like if Superdrag sounded more like My Bloody Valentine, you're old like me.  Also, you're in luck - two of the members of the Drag (including singer John Davis) have a new act called the Lees of Memory.  I've actually had this sitting on my computer for a while, reluctant for some reason to listen to it; a foolish move on my part (I'm good for a few of these every day).  Bands that rise from the ashes of your favorites can often be disappointing, but that definitely isn't the case here.  And that shouldn't really be a surprise - with Davis' voice, anything they put out is just going to sound like Superdrag, the only difference here is the addition of extra swirly/distorted guitar parts on some of the songs.  My favorite track after the first few listens is "Not a Second More," which to be totally frank sounds exactly like a Superdrag song that would have been on their classic record "Regretfully Yours."  Not complaining about that at all. 

Fugazi - Furniture 7'' (Dischord, 2001)

Furniture 7''

Rating: 9 broken sandals out of 10

I always assumed this Fugazi seven inch was the result of too many songs for their album "The Argument," but if this is true god knows how they decide which songs go where - certainly all three songs on this short player are worthy of a full-length album.  I'd love to be able to listen to these songs more easily than busting out this seven inch every time, and I'm too cheap to buy the songs again as digital downloads from the Dischord site.  Anyways, like everything the band has recorded, this is well worth having. 

Electro Group - Lifter 7'' (Omnibus, 1999)

Electro Group
Lifter 7''

Rating: 6.5 mighty beds out of 10

Like most people, when I think of shoegaze I think of Sacramento, from where Electro Group hail.  Jokes aside, they do a pleasant enough job running through a couple of tracks in this well worn style.  This single might be 16 years old, but given the recent resurgence in this genre you could easily think this is a modern release.  Apparently these kids are still out there playing gigs and writing new music based on their Facebook page, and good on them...I saw them once or twice in the early oughts and they were a good time.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Spray Paint - Punter on a Barge (Homeless, 2015)

Spray Paint
Punter on a Barge

Rating: 7 fat reds out of 10

I saw Spray Paint live a couple of years ago and left thinking they sounded a whole shitload like the Intelligence - kind of an angular, repetitive, post-punk thing going on, with the vocals barked or chanted more than actually being sung.  On their new record "Punters on a Barge," they sound more like...well, goddammit, I still think they sound a whole shitload like the Intelligence.  Not that that's a bad thing, because the Intelligence are radical.   And it doesn't feel like they're trying to rip-off the Intelligence either, more like they're just two bands who are driving in the same direction independent of each other.  Hell, you could probably throw Tyvek into this same party most of the time, and I love all of those bands. 

The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave (Fat Cat, 2014)

The Twilight Sad
Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
Fat Cat

Rating: 7 invisible nets out of 10

Is it weird that a big part of the reason I like the Twilight Sad so much is because the singer's Scottish accent is as strong as it is even when he's singing?  The same was true with Arab Strap.  No idea why I find that so fascinating and/or appealing, but I do.  I would be hard pressed to spot many differences between all of the records these cats have put out, but I do know pretty much every time I hear their take on morose, dynamic indie pop I always enjoy it, or as much as you can enjoy music that feels so depressing.  Somehow they actually sound like the weather of Northern Britain, if that makes sense.  It probably doesn't.  This record does sound a little more "eighties" for a lack of a more succinct term, and not nearly as heavy on the quiet/loud/quiet crutch as their earlier material.  Are they just maturing as song writers?  I dunno, but it still sounds good, and it's not all that different really.  I doubt any long-time fans heard this and got mad.       

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (Constellation, 2015)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

Rating: Yep.

I'm not entirely sure what to say about a Godspeed You! Black Emperor recording after this many years...they have a sound all their own, and this new record very much sounds like their sound.  Spacey, doomy, loud, symphonic, dark, abrasive, know what you're getting here, and I highly doubt anyone interested in these Canadians needs to be sold on it.  If you need something that differentiates this from their other records, it feels like there might be more violins this time around, or they're at least louder in the mix.  The final song "Piss Crowns are Trebled" is amazing, very dynamic.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, and I'm not sure why you would be looking at this dumb review on this obscure blog to start with.  Just go check out their album "Yanqui UXO" and go from there. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lower Dens - Escape From Evil (Ribbon, 2015)

Lower Dens
Escape From Evil

Rating: 8 friendly forces out of 10

I've listened to a lot of Lower Dens recorded output and even seen them live a time or two, but the band has really hit new heights with their latest offering "Escape from Evil."  This record is fantastically polished, a judgement that can be perceived as both good and bad but in this case it really works...the retro eighties New Order meets C86 vibe is strong here, and oh so catchy and listenable.  Baltimore might be the best city in the world for cultivating this sound these days, from Jenn Wasner's work with Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes to big dogs Future Islands; perhaps only Sweden's Mary Onettes do a better job at making cold eighties pop songs sound retro and modern at the same time.  "To Die in LA" was my quick favorite from the album...and I'm sure it's not just a coincidence that the name is so similar to the movie/soundtrack "To Live and Die in LA," an original from the era this album seems to be aimed towards.  This is going to get a lot of spins this summer, and will surely find it's way onto my "best of" list at the end of the year. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Best Coast - California Nights (Harvest / Virgin, 2015)

Best Coast
California Nights
Harvest / Virgin

Rating: 7 green straws out of 10

Best Coast signs with a major label and their sound gets considerably more polished.  Surprising?  Of course not.  It's also not a bad thing in my opinion - the pop songs Bethany Cosentino has been writing all along could have easily gone this route if the money had been there - the only reason this band was ever considered "indie" in the first place was because they didn't have the money behind them to be otherwise.  Songs like "In My Eyes" or "Run Through My Head" are no different than something Kelly Clarkson would release, they're just coming from a band with more street cred.  The thing is though, those two songs are catchy as shit, as are many others on this album, and in the realm of pop music that's all that really matters.  The only thing keeping this band from being all over top 40 radio at this point is purely luck (and/or getting the fat envelopes of money into the hands of the correct station managers).  God knows if it was 1985 a band and an album this polished and likable would be everywhere; guess we'll just have to wait and see what 2015 holds...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Allo Darlin' - We Come from the Same Place (Slumberland, 2014)

Allo Darlin'
We Come from the Same Place

Rating: 7.5 easter candies out of 10

I love Allo Darlin' - I loved their first two records & as well as when I saw them perform live a couple of years ago - which makes it all the more puzzling that I slept so long on their newest release "We Come from the Same Place."  And it's not like this third record by them is some great departure - if you told me this batch of indie twee pop was recorded at the exact same time as the rest of their material, it would be believable.  They're a one-trick pony I suppose, but they're really, really damn good at that one trick.  It might just me but it's impossible to not fall in love with singer Elizabeth Morris while listening to her perform - something about her tone drills right into my heart.  Note to self: if Allo Darlin' release a fourth album, maybe listen to it right away okay?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Outer Spaces - Garbage Beach EP (Salinas, 2014)

Outer Spaces
Garbage Beach EP

Rating: 8 blue bags out of 10

I came across Outer Spaces, both the band and this record, when I caught them on tour with a band I love, Lace Curtains. They closed the night and had just intended to see a couple of songs to hear what they sounded like - I ended up staying for the whole set and rushing to the merch table to buy the record.  With six songs at a little over 20 minutes long, I've found myself listening to this over and over and over since my first listen, mesmerized by Cara Beth Satalino's voice.  Musically the closest comparison I would make might be our very own Mount Moriah, with a little less twang.  There's also the occasional sheen of pop here, like on the Best Coast-ish "Rust."  Not a bad song in the bunch, and I really couldn't recommend this more highly.  Really looking forward to future recordings and future shows by this group. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues (Drag City / Palace, 2014)

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Singer's Grave / A Sea of Tongues
Drag City / Palace

Rating: 7.5 overseen cambers out of 10

Usually one of the main draws for any Will Oldham aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy record is his extremely sparse / spartan approach to folk and country and old time music.  So I was quite shocked to put this album on and find out how big it sounded!  Most of the songs here previously appeared on a release from a few years ago called "Wolfroy Goes to Town," and they sounded exactly as you would expect - quiet, introspective, haunting.  This time around, the production is amped up like they were trying to emulate a hit Nashville record from the seventies...lots of instruments on every song, full choruses as backing vocals, and Oldham sounding more upbeat than ever when he delivers the vocals (or at least as upbeat as is possible out of him).  It was all a bit of a shock at first, but as I sat with the record it really grew on me.  I'm not saying I'd want Oldham to record all of his music like this, but it's a fantastic project and I wouldn't thumb my nose to hear other past recordings of his get this type of reworking just to see what we end up with.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tweedy - Sukierae (Anti / dBpm, 2014)

Anti / dBpm

Rating: 7.5 dreamy anglers out of 10

We can pretend this debut Tweedy album "Sukierae" isn't just another Wilco album if we really want to...but when Jeff Tweedy, the driving force, voice and main songwriter of Wilco puts out a solo (or in this case almost solo, with his son playing drums) release, and it sounds just like his main band, it's a little silly to pretend otherwise.  How does this differ from Wilco?  Well, the songs are mostly shorter, and there are a lot of them on this record.  There are no annoying masturbatory Nels Cline guitar solos.  And...that's about it.  In fact if you told me this had been recorded around the same time as Wilco's best record, "Summerteeth," and was lost until now, I would totally believe you.  The dude is a damn fine songwriter, but he writes a very specific type of song, so let's not kid ourselves. 

The Spinanes - All Sold Out 7'' (Sub Pop, 1999)

The Spinanes
All Sold Out 7''
Sub Pop

Rating: 6 adjusted templates out of 10

"Manos," the debut album by the Spinanes holds a prominent place on my top records of all time list.  Whether their later output was actually a step down, or my placing that first record on such a high pedestal made for unfair judging of later material, who knows...either way, this seven inch is just okay.  It appears to be the last material the band released before breaking up, oddly enough both songs Rolling Stones covers - the title track and "(S)he Smiled Sweetly."  Sort of a strange note to go out on, but bands rarely plan their demise. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Crooked Fingers / Spider Bags
Split 7''

Rating: 7.5 grumpy grandmas out of 10

I totally forgot I had one more seven inch to review of the Merge subscription series, which is especially dumb considering how much I love both bands featured on this slab.  The track by Crooked Fingers, "Western Line," sounded instantly familiar - it could be he performed it at one of the many, many live Eric Bachmann shows I've seen in one form or another; or maybe I'm just so used to hearing the man's voice and output for more than twenty years that all of his songs sound familiar to me even if I've never actually heard it before.  Good song though.  Spider Bags go the cover route, tackling "Into a Tree" by the Limes, but unsurprisingly it sounds exactly like a Spider Bags song, as they do.  In fact I think I've possibly heard this one live as well.  Interestingly enough, the only time I've seen the Limes live was with Spider Bags...I smell a conspiracy. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Terry Malts - Insides EP (Slumberland, 2014)

Terry Malts
Insides EP

Rating: 7.5 raspberry submarines out of 10

Four songs in under ten minutes, Terry Malts know how to get right to the point.  The band is a equal parts punk, pop and Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitars, and this combination really really work for me both on record and live.  I could probably do without the slightly goofy second song "Grumpiest Old Men," but the other three tracks are gold - especially the third song "Don't."  This is going to send me into another obsessive listening jag of their fantastic 2012 album "Killing Time," I just know it. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Belle and Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador, 2015)

Belle and Sebastian
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Rating: 8.5 lenticular trading cards out of 10

I thought I had already written a review of this new Belle and Sebastian record a few weeks ago, and yet I don't see it here on the website?  Did I dream this?  Maybe it was one of those fever dreams you always hear about in the movies?  After all, this template autosaves the shit you write into it, so I have no explanation. 

Anyways, it's the band's first new record in five years and their ninth full-length by my count, and they still haven't lost that magic touch.  Bear in mind that the person reviewing this has flown both to Montreal and Miami just to see them perform, and I'm driving to DC for the same in a few months...I often claim I'm fairly biased in reviews, but my superfandom of B&S might put them at the top of the list. 

To put it simply, "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance" sounds like the band wrote and recorded a typical album, and then decided to throw some dance jams in to appeal to the kids.  Kids love dance jams right?  First there is the disco-infused "The Party Line," then the New Order-esque "Enter Sylvia Plath," and finally the calypso-infused "Play for Today" that sounds like it would be at home on a film soundtrack from the eighties (not that there's anything wrong with that).  The film would most likely star Andrew McCarthy.  I like those upbeat tracks just fine, but the two best and most classic-style B&S songs are the first two on the release, "Nobody's Empire" and "Allie."  "Ever Had a Little Faith?" towards the end of the record is also a strong classic-sounding song.  Not a dud on the whole thing though, which continues the bands streak of never ever releasing a bad song.  Listen, I already told you I'm kind of a fan...

Ex Hex / Twerps - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

Ex Hex / Twerps
Split 7''

Rating: 9.5 Russian judges out of 10

I've loved nearly everything about this Merge subscription series, but this might be my favorite release of them all.  It kicks off with the amazing Ex Hex covering the Kids' "All Kindsa Girls," one of the greatest power pop songs of all time - and they do a fine job of it.  I've been in love with Ex Hex since seeing them live a few months ago, and this only stokes the flames.  The flip side is one of Merge's newest bands, the Australian pop group Twerps.  They have a new song called "Science" that much like the rest of their catalog sounds more like something unearthed from 1987 than new material, but I love it. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pampers - Right Tonight 7'' (In The Red, 2014)

Right Tonight 7''
In The Red

Rating: 8 empty pee jars out of 10

I'm not sure if I love or hate that this band named themselves Pampers, it's so goddamn stupid it might actually work.  One thing I do know is the title track from this seven inch, "Right Tonight," is one of the most instantly catchy songs I've heard in quite a while.  I want to listen to it on repeat again and again and again.  The other three songs are great too, but goddamn that first track, it's like the good kind of kick to the nuts.  Not sure exactly how I would describe their sound - like a distorted, scuzzy Hot Snakes crossed with A-Frames maybe.  It works, it really works. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Records - Starry Eyes 7'' (Virgin, 1978)

The Records
Starry Eyes 7''

Rating: 10 award winning plays out of 10

This, record is one of the gold level members of the power pop pantheon of perfection.  Ask anyone in the know, and they'll all name-check "Starry Eyes" in any list of best power pop songs ever, and the b-side "Paint Her Face" is rad too.  Their first two records ("Shades in Bed" and "Crashes") and any singles associated with them are well worth the purchase if you come across them.