Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Damien Jurado - Visions of Us on the Land (Secretly Canadian, 2016)

Damien Jurado
Visions of Us on the Land
Secretly Canadian

: 7 demolition men out of 10

I've listened to Damien Jurado for a long time now, but this is the very first time I've ever thought he sounded like the Zombies.  The voice still sounds like Damien to be sure, but the music has taken a decidedly lush, psychedelic turn.  I will confess I haven't paid as much attention to him these days as I did with his earliest records ("Ohio" remains one of my very favorite songs of all time) where it was mostly just the man and his guitar, so maybe he made this transition a little sooner, but it's still somewhat shocking to hear.  Perhaps the trippy-ass cover art should have been a giveaway.  But a good song is a good song no matter how it gets dressed up, and "QACHINA" is a fantastic effort, as is "A.M. AM."  Not to fret, there are still a few songs on here like "Orphans in the Key of E" that harken back to his old sound.  I'm into this new direction though, and I suppose I'll have to start paying a little closer attention again.   

Konono No. 1 - Konono No. 1 Meets Batida (Crammed Discs, 2016)

Konono No. 1
Konono No. 1 Meets Batida
Crammed Discs

: All the likembes!

I'm not even going to pretend I'm smart to be able to tell much of a difference from one Konono No. 1 record to another, I just know they're really fuckin' good at what they do, and this album "Konono No. 1 Meets Batida" is no different.  Totally mesmerizing, repetitive beats layered with electric likembes and lots of different vocals from multiple members (the band has a shitload of members).  There may well be other artists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere who are better at this particular style of music, but I've yet to hear them.  It certainly doesn't hurt That these cats (as well as the popular Tuareg musicians to the north of Congo) have hooked up with wealthy western artists who can not only get high quality recordings from top-notch studios, but world distribution contacts as well. 
Oh, in case you were wondering, Apparently Batida is a Portuguese DJ and producer who recorded this record, but it's not clear what he did beyond that to actually deserve his name in the title of the album. 

And let it be known that if you ever get a chance to see Konono No. 1 live, run, don't walk.  They're out-fuckin-standing. 

Bleached - Welcome the Worms (Dead Oceans, 2016)

Welcome the Worms
Dead Oceans

: 7 biscuit cups out of 10

I saw Bleached a number of years ago right after they released a couple of "hot shit" seven inches that had people buzzing, enjoyed the show, and then promptly forgot all about them.  We're talking AGES ago people, like 2011 or 2012 ya know?  This new album "Welcome the Worms" popped up on the internet, and why not see what they are up to these days?

According to my diligent research, I totally missed their debut album "Ride Your Heart" in 2013, which is probably why it felt like it had been so long since I had heard from them.  Still, three years for a sophomore follow-up seems like a long time for such a young band.  I guess not everyone is Ty Segall, pumping out material constantly like a modern garage rock Robert Pollard. 

Anyways, as to what this record sounds like - a really polished, poppier version of the Runaways crossed with the "nineties slacker" vibe that seems so popular with this young crop of musicians who were toddlers during the meat of that decade. There's almost an early Weezer-ness to their best songs, or maybe a more current, timely reference would be Jeff the Brotherhood since Weezer has sucked since the late nineties.  The songs are very catchy and the record is almost over-produced in a Haim sort of way, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing for the overblown pop these ladies are making.  "Wednesday Night Melody" is a great track, as is opener "Keep On Keepin' On" - more importantly, not a dud to be found.  I'd definitely go see them play again if they came through town. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mind Spiders - Prosthesis (Dirtnap, 2016)

Mind Spiders

Rating: 8 giant codes out of 10

Despite this being their fourth record in five years and having connections to a ton of great bands (Bad Sports, Marked Men, Radioactivity, etc), somehow the Mind Spiders have totally escaped my attention.  It's punk, but that dark, synthy type that I always find myself drawn to.  The Devo-esque music combined with distorted vocals immediately made me think of Jay Reatard's side-project Lost Sounds, some of the heavier moments from Total Control...and hell, maybe one of the closest comparisons might be the late, great Whatever Brains, but I doubt anyone outside of the greater Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area would have any idea what I was talking about.  Either way, this is catchy, good shit - gonna get a lot of spins. 

Nada Surf - You Know Who You Are (Barsuk, 2016)

Nada Surf
You Know Who You Are

Rating: 7.5 radio kidnappers out of 10

The thing with Nada Surf is that even when you hear a new song by them for the first time, it already feels like music that has been in your life for a long time.  In particular, you could fully convince me that "Cold to See Clear" and "Rushing" were on other albums of theirs and I had just forgotten about it.  I suppose some could read that as the band being complacent and not growing, but when you write and perform pop songs as well as these guys do...well, I'm certainly glad they haven't changed anything and their sound is so consistently familiar.  Leave the "growing" to bands that still have shit to sort out - Nada Surf figured this all out quite a while back.  

As an aside, it still cracks me up to think of these guys as "one hit wonders," which I'm sure is how a lot of people still remember them (ditto for another amazing band that was more than that moniker, Superdrag).  I'm sure the band is well over it by now, but they must get the occasional drunken idiot at a gig who only wants to hear "Popular."