Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dan Sartain - Century Plaza (One Little Indian, 2016)

Dan Sartain
Century Plaza
One Little Indian

Rating: 8 paddlin' belts out of 10

Dan Sartain has always been a garage rocker type of dude, recording and performing music that was ok but never got me overly excited.  He's been around for nearly a couple of decades, releasing an album seemingly every year, and to be perfectly honest I stopped paying attention a long time ago.  I honestly don't know how this new album "Century Plaza" even got on my computer, but I've had a lot more free time to listen to music this past month or so, so why not see what the hell Dan Sartain is up to these days?

Well, it ain't garage rock anymore.  It appears that for at least this album, Sartain has re-invented himself as a new wave electro-pop artist writing dark, almost gothy songs that would make Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and Suicide all proud.  The highlight is the album opener, a remake of his own song "Walk Among the Cobras" that would sound right at home on the "Drive" soundtrack.  All of the sudden I'm a big Dan Sartain fan now because I absolutely love this.  Keep going in this direction Dan!

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop, 2015)

Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Mom + Pop

Rating: 8 dinging ringers out of 10

Courtney Barnett is the extremely rare example where the tastemakers that decide who gets to be popular actually picked someone making really great music, and moreover really great music that I quite like.  There are about a million reviews of this already so consider this "review" more of a "thumbs up popular media, you actually got one right!"  Also, it's almost a year old at this point and nobody gives a shit.  Additional thumbs up to Courtney's voice, because I love it when I can actually hear the accents of where they are from when they sing...or sorta sing-talk, in Courtney's case.  Even more thumbs up for the production on this record - it sounds goddamn amazing.  I'm totally out of thumbs now. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Benji Hughes - Songs in the Key of Animals (Merge, 2016)

Benji Hughes
Songs in the Key of Animals

Rating: 6.5 well-fed giraffes out of 10

I have no idea what to make of this Benji Hughes record.  He's from Charlotte so he's sort of a local, but despite playing live A LOT all over the Triangle over at least the last five years if not longer, I've never paid much attention.  By all accounts he puts on a tremendous live show, so not seeing him after all of these years is probably a personal failing on my part.  This record, "Songs in the Key of Animals," his first for Merge, is stylistically all over the map.  He'll span from Parliment-like funk one song to a modern impression of Dr. John on the next song to something that sounds like an outtake from a National album after that.  Thing is, he does a damn fine job of all of these different styles without any of them feeling like mimicry or he's ripping the original artists off.

As interesting as this record is, I'm not sure how much I would actually listen to it just out of the blue.  It's almost too all over the place, like a mixtape with no theme.  But I definitely want to go see him live now, because there's no way these songs aren't fun
performed with a full band.  

Bully - Feels Like (Columbia, 2015)

Feels Like

Rating: 7.5 old habits out of 10

The sound of the nineties are alive and well with the new kids, and Bully are as good an example as any currently on the scene.  I see lots of PJ Harvey comparisons, and maybe I hear that a little in the vocals, but musically I'm not there at all.  I've even seen some Hole comparisons, which get a huge "hell no" from me (I never liked Hole so there's a lot of bias in that reaction).  On Bully's best songs like "Milkman," "I Remember," and "Brainfreeze," the most apt comparison might be the driving indie punk guitars of Superchunk or the mid-nineties version of Dinosaur Jr (when it was really just J Mascis solo even though he still called it Dinosaur Jr.).  Bully doesn't sound exactly like Speedy Ortiz, but both acts are mining the same territory musically - and for my money, Bully are doing it just a little bit better.  I'll be honest, not nuts about their slower songs, but hopefully they grow on me.  The upbeat tracks (such as those mentioned above) are so damn good it doesn't matter though, as this record is a keeper for sure. 

Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin Down... (Matador, 2015)

Kurt Vile 
B'lieve I'm Goin Down...

Rating: 7.5 giant chocolate chip cookies out of 10

I often wonder if my brain would automatically think of Kurt Vile and War on Drugs at the same time if I didn't already know of their connection, because it's what I always get stuck in my head whether I like it or not.  The War on Drugs went in more of a rock direction ala Tom Petty or Dire Straits, and Vile likes to hang out in the folkier/Bob Dylan-esque part of town - but the same vibe is there for me for both artists.  I kinda feel like either act could cover the work of the other and make it feel like they were the original authors of the songs.  Why does any of this matter?  It doesn't, but my stupid brain was really stuck on this topic as I listened to "B'lieve I'm Goin Down...". 

Long story short, this record is probably Vile's best work; "Pretty Pimpin'" is an amazing opener and the best song on the album; and I'd give anything to hear War on Drugs take Vile's folky songs and get real loud and stretchy with them like they do so well. 

Parquet Courts - Monastic Living EP (Rough Trade, 2015)

Parquet Courts
Monastic Living EP
Rough Trade

Rating: 5.5 coozy bottle openers out of 10

I appreciate that Parquet Courts got a wild hair and decided they would try to do a Devo imitation for this EP, but it instantly reminded me that I'd rather just listen to the real Devo.  I suppose points to them for reminding me to listen to Devo, and that's not a bad thing.  Everyone should listen to more Devo.