Friday, October 6, 2017

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - Murder Of The Universe (ATO, 2017)

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
Murder Of The Universe

Rating: 8 ice dragons out of 10

They're not quite in Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard territory, but King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard release a lot of records.  And what often happens in these cases is I get overwhelmed with keeping up/digesting their music, and eventually tune out.  According to Discogs this is their eighth full length in the last three years, three from just this year - and apparently they are planning on releasing two more before 2018 gets here!

Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, I somehow end up with a digital copy of "Murder of the Universe," popped it on for a listen I thought wouldn't make much of an impression, but was smitten from the start.  Technically there are twenty-one songs, but really it's just three intertwined epic jams titled "The Tale of the Altered Beast," "The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog," and "Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe."  As you might guess from those titles, the lyrical content is a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons-type silliness, or an even nerdier version of the shit all Led Zeppelin songs are about.  Lyrical content aside, the music is killer - the most perfect combination of kraut rock, prog, and "New Wave of British Heavy Metal"-esque heaviness.  The "Altered Beast" section is especially great, so driving and aggro and I'm pretty sure if I listened to it in my car I would start speeding right away.  Lots of spoken word narration through the whole thing - it's like someone did a mash-up with a "Lord of the Rings" audiobook and a rock band.  And shockingly, delightfully, it works. 

The whole record is pretty damn ridiculous, but I'm way into it.  Still on the fence?  There's a song called "Vomit Coffin."  Case closed.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble - Find Me Finding You (Drag City, 2017)

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble
Find Me Finding You

Drag City

Rating: 7 lucky stars out of 10

I listened to so much Stereolab this summer, easily the most I've listened to since college when they might have been my most-played band, so it was kismet that Stereolab founder Laetitia Sadier released a new record "Find Me Finding You" under the group name Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble.  Outside of the tropicalia-inspired opening track "Undying Love for Humanity," there's no denying this is basically just an older, wiser, more mature version of Stereolab, musically speaking.  I don't mean to sell her former bandmates short, but the ears hear what they hear.  There's not quite as much synth on this album - it's more of a garnish here as opposed to the main course - but Laetitia's voice makes comparing this record to anything other than her classic outfit a real reach, and pointless.  Sure, if I want to hear Sadier I'm much more likely to grab "Mars Audiac Quintet" out of my collection first, but "Finding Me Finding You" fits in nicely with her oeuvre.

Thurston Moore - Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline International, 2017)

Thurston Moore
Rock N Roll Consciousness

Caroline International

Rating: 7.5 hell youths out of 10

Thurston Moore, best known as the front man of Sonic Youth, has been known to get weird on some of his solo material.  To be honest, too weird for me a lot of the time...but that's not the case with "Rock N Roll Consciousness."  Maybe it was his split with Kim Gordon and the seeming end of one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time, but now instead of using his solo platform as an outlet for his more esoteric musical thoughts, it has apparently become the repository of what would have been Sonic Youth songs if the band still existed.  Pretty much every track here could have been featured on any album Sonic Youth released since the "Dirty" era, but especially their early oughts material like "Murray Street."  Hell, Steve Shelley even plays some (or all?) of the drums on this, so with two of the four members of the band involved it's as much a Sonic Youth record as it isn't.  The best song for my money is "Cease Fire," which technically isn't on the album unless you snag a Japanese version (and I think it might also be available when downloading), so seek this version out.   If you told me "Cease Fire" was a lost 20 year old classic by the band I wouldn't have questioned it for even a second.  

Your only decision when deciding if this album is for you is figuring out how much you want to hear a new Sonic Youth record, regardless of the name on the front cover.  A damn good new Sonic Youth record at that. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last (dBpm, 2017)

Jeff Tweedy
Together At Last

Rating: 7.5 dairy high schools out of 10

Does the world really need an album of Jeff Tweedy performing (mostly) Wilco songs by himself with only an acoustic guitar?  Probably not.  Is it still great to listen to? Almost certainly.  Is the person asking these questions someone who has multiple solo Tweedy bootlegs in his CD collection, so his love of this was as certain as anything that has ever existed?  I may or may not have three bootlegs of him...or more.  Also, get off my back, man.

I'm not entirely sure what else needs to be reported here - the record sounds good and feels loose - I'm guessing Tweedy knocked this recording out in an afternoon, or at least it has that laid back vibe.  This is probably just a cash grab, but I don't care - the track list is good, with three tracks from their perfect record "Summerteeth," plus a couple of unexpected Loose Fur and Golden Smog jams.  This is obviously intended primarily for existing fans, and if you count yourself in that group, a worthy pick-up.  Bonus points: no Nels Cline solos. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Stephen Malkmus - Jo Jo's Jacket 7'' (Domino, 2001)

Stephen Malkmus
Jo Jo's Jacket 7''

Rating: 7 missing neon signs out of 10

I was bummed when Pavement broke up, as most of their fans were, but pretty quickly Stephen Malkmus put out a self-titled record that sounded just like the last couple of Pavement records...and we knew the world would be ok.  The title track here is off of that album, and it's a damn good song.  Malkmus was always clearly very involved in shaping Pavement's sound, but when you hear his solo work it's very clear just how much influence he held.  My feelings are not nearly as strong on the flip track as they are for the title track - "Open And Shut Cases" - the lyrics of which mostly are just those four words in the title repeated over and over.  It is the epitome of a seven inch b-side: there, but barely. 

Side note: the label on my b-side is all jacked up...not sure if this was normal for this release, or I'm just "special."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Codeine / The Cocktails - Split 7'' (Simple Machines, 1993)

Codeine / The Cocktails
Split 7''
Simple Machines

Rating: 7 log games out of 10

This appears to be the March 1993 entry of a monthly seven inch series that Simple Machines was doing at the time.  For the kids out there, Simple Machines was one of the best indie labels of the Mid-Atlantic area in the early nineties, back when communication dictated labels be pretty highly regional - these cats, Teenbeat and Merge all did a great job of documenting the scene between North Carolina and DC (with a few outlying bands mixed in there).  

Of course, after all that regional talk, this slab is a split between NYC (Codeine) and Chicago (The Cocktails).  My overall point still stands though, your honor!  The Codeine song "Ides" would later be featured on their best album, "The White Birch" - as you might guess from the word "best," I'm a fan of this jam.  The b-side from the Cocktails is a bit of sillyness called "Working Holiday," which is also the name of the seven inch series.  It does have a loung/kitsch vibe, but not the same sort of lounge/kitsch vibe the Cocktails were famous for.  Not terrible, but slightly off. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ISS - Endless Pussyfooting (State Laughter, 2017)

Endless Pussyfooting
State Laughter

Rating: 8 offgassing plastic trays out of 10

The duo known as ISS, aka Rich (of Bodykit, formerly Whatever Brains) and Eddie (of Brain F≠), are as confounding and interesting a band as you'll come across today.  I'm doing this one in bullet points because I'm not entirely sure how to put all of these thoughts together...
 - The music is made mostly of samples of punk songs, with some additional synth here and there.
 - The results span everything from industrial to punk to noise to god knows what else; Imagine Liars meets Les Savy Fav meets the Fall meets...fuck, there's a lot going on here and I can't even begin to pinpoint it all.  If you ever listened to Whatever Brains, imagine a dancier, crazier version of that band.
 - What sounds like a potential hot mess is actually quite catchy.  Calling this music catchy might actually anger Rich.  
 - "The Gov't Is After Me" is one of my favorite songs of the year.  
 - This cassette-only release has 14 songs in 21 minutes...there's no fluff to be found.  There is supposed to be a vinyl release in the future though, and fingers crossed no lawsuits from all the samples.  This would be great because I sold my car that had a tape deck.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels - Doomsday Troops EP (Loud Punk, 2013)

Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels
Doomsday Troops EP

Loud Punk

Rating: 5 Mexican air conditioners out of 10

This is a reissue of this EP by Ernst And The Edsholm Rebels, the first pass being self-released in 1984 and worth a damn fortune apparently (if you consider a fortune somewhere between $100 and $200 dollars).  I'll be totally honest, I grabbed this out of the used bin and thought it was actually a seven inch by the great Eater, what with the way the band wrote their name and all.  Still, it's an ok slab, five songs of hardcore punk in typical early eighties fashion - the band might be Swedish, but the songs aren't.  This has never been one of my favorite styles of punk, but I bet they were a lot of fun live.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions (Concord, 2017)

The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions

Rating: 7.5 melted ice cubes out of 10

I love pretty much everything about the pop stylings of the New Pornographers, but there are two things I love most about them - the inclusion of Dan Bejar and Neko Case.  In fact, while I normally quite like AC Newman (and I'm well aware that he's the real brains behind this endeavor), sometimes I get mad that he is singing songs that those two could be performing instead.  Which isn't particularly fair, because most of his tracks are aces too... they're just not Dan and/or Neko.  Few are. 

Anyways, "Whiteout Conditions" is the seventh record by this ragtag supergroup, making the New Pornographers more stable and longer-lasting than most of groups from which the band members are actually "appearing."  In a lot of ways this is more of the same from TNP - upbeat, catchy, and very poppy songs (that some people and/or reviewers like to call power pop even though it isn't power pop at all in my opinion, but I admit I'm a bit of an old school purist with that genre term), but with a couple of key differences: no Dan Bejar (boo!!!), who was busy on the new Destroyer album apparently (yay!!!); and it's way more upbeat/electronic than the band typically is.  One of life's great pleasures is hearing a country crooner like Neko belting out a dance pop jam like album opener "Play Money."   

Long story short, if you're already a fan you know you're going to pick up "Whiteout Conditions" anyways; and if you've never listened, I reckon it's as good a place to start as any.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider Bags - Hey Delinquents 7'' (Daggerman, 2008)

Spider Bags
Hey Delinquents 7''

Rating: 6.5 closed motels out of 10

Spider Bags first seven inch!  It's fine - not as good as the band they would become a few years after this, but still totally listenable and worth checking out if you randomly happen across it like I did.  Both the title track (also available on the full-length "Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World") and the b-side "Professionals" are mid-tempo affairs, kinda intentionally loose and sloppy (a descriptor that would fit their entire catalog), but not real strong in the hooks department.  Start with 2012's "Shake My Head" if you want to hear this great band once they hit full stride.  I'm not saying they got better because they moved to North Carolina, but...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Superchunk - I Got Cut 7'' (Merge, 2017)

I Got Cut 7''

Rating: 8.5 dead eye lights out of 10

I suppose it's only fitting the the 600th (!) release on Merge records would be from label founders, stalwarts, and owners Superchunk.  Moreover, this seven inch was also a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, with all proceeds from the limited run of 500 going to help the beleaguered organization.  Good on Merge and Superchunk for doing the right thing, and good on me for buying this slab right away because it sold out pretty damn quick.  

Anyways, the record itself - the title track on side A is a fairly punk affair, sounding like an old Chunk song with a chorus that reminds me of the Damned's "Smash It Up."  If that's not a ringing endorsement I don't know what is because everyone loves that damn Damned song.  The flip side is "Up Against The Wall," a cover of a Tom Robinson Band track that I quite liked.  To be honest my only knowledge of Tom Robinson was their one hit "2-4-6-8 Motorway," but now I'm going to make a point to listen to the original.   

Monday, July 3, 2017

Spiral Stairs - Doris & The Daggers (Nine Mile, 2017)

Spiral Stairs
Doris & The Daggers
Nine Mile

Rating: 7.5 wizard balls out of 10

Spiral Stairs aka Scott Kannberg aka the other dude from Pavement who sings occasionally doesn't appear to be in any hurry when it comes to music or life in general.  His last release was "The Real Feel" in 2009, and since then he's moved around the world and seemingly just enjoyed life without worrying about any music industry bullshit.  I'm not sure if that time off was a necessary recharge that was needed to produce this damn fine record "Doris & The Daggers," or if I should be mad I had to wait nearly a decade to get another recording from him, but I guess better late than never.  The Pavement pedigree is clearly there in most of these songs, especially if you've listened to that band as much as I have, but it's mixed with a mature Kiwi-pop vibe, be that intentional or I'm just imagining shit because I've been listening to a lot of New Zealand pop lately.  You know, the Verlaines and the Bats and the Clean and all those other amazing bands that all your favorite musicians love but don't get nearly enough recognition from the general public.  "The Unconditional" is probably my top jam here, followed closely by "AWM" and "Dance(Cry Wolf)"'s all pretty much gold though.  Scott had a ton of well known musicians show up on this, folks from the National, Shudder to Think, Broken Social Scene, Kelley Stoltz, and plenty more.

Spiral Stairs was great live too, when I saw him recently.  If he happens to play in your town I would get my butt to the venue because god knows when the next time will be that he decides to record and tour again...might be next year, might be in 2030.  

Also: it's never been clear to me if Spiral Stairs in this case is intended as a nickname for Scott, since he went by it in the early years of Pavement, or if it's the name of the band.  I'm treating it as his name, but given my track record I'm probably wrong. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Natural Causes / Sponge Bath - Split 7'' (Acid Etch, 2017)

Natural Causes / Sponge Bath
Split 7''
Acid Etch

Rating: 7 reddish-brown bubbles out of 10

Local synth-punkers Natural Causes drop this seven inch at almost the same time as their excellent self-titled second record.  Why release this non-album song in this format instead of just including it on their full-length where I would likely hear it much more often?  Beats me, musicians gonna musician and their actions often don't make any sense to a non-musical ding dong like me.  Regardless, good track - this might be them at their Magazine-iest.  The b-side is a cover/remix by the group Sponge Bath of one of Natural Causes' songs from that previously mentioned second album.  This version sounds like Ministry or something WaxTrax would have released in the early nineties.  I've been waiting for more people* other than Liars to start really mining this particular genre and era; this style definitely suits Natural Causes' songs. 

*There are probably already a whole shitload of people doing this and I'm just not aware, but I never claimed to be up to date on all the latest shit, man.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Future Islands - The Far Field (4AD, 2017)

Future Islands
The Far Field

Rating: 8 tragic publicists out of 10

My first thought was "This new Future Islands record is really good, I should write about it on my stupid website."

My second thought was "It's good, but it basically sounds exactly like everything they've released since 'In Evening Air'."

My third thought was "Who gives a shit?  Why would you be upset that they made more songs that sound like songs you already love?"

My fourth thought was "You're right, me.  Who gives a shit indeed.  This is awesome, and I'm probably going to listen to it a ton."

And then my final thought was "The last thing anyone needs is a doofus like me writing about this new Future Islands record."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Doug Tuttle - Peace Potato (Trouble In Mind, 2017)

Doug Tuttle
Peace Potato
Trouble In Mind

Rating: 7 really thick milkshakes out of 10

Doug Tuttle was in both Mmoss and Wildildlife, two bands with misspelled names that I tried listening to over the years but they never quite got their hooks into me.  He's still stuck on intentionally misspelling names (clearly, his actual last name is Turtle), but finally I'm digging his output.  Maybe he's matured, maybe my tastes have changed, but who gives a fuck really.  Doug is doing that dreamy, soft-pop thing that many musicians attempt only to be...boring most of the time.  Tuttle isn't boring though, the songs are quite catchy and just weird/odd enough at times to keep you on your toes.  These ears hear "Wish You Were Here" era Pink Floyd, the Radar Bros, and some of Grandaddy's mellower output - your mileage may vary though.  Now I'm really kicking myself for being to lazy to go see him a few weeks back, I bet it was great...and could have been even greater if you were allowed to watch the performance laid back in a lawn chair.  This is great summertime lawn chair music.  I wish you could watch all shows laid back in a lawn chair, to be fair. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Booji Boys - Booji Boys (Drunken Sailor, 2017)

Booji Boys
Booji Boys
Drunken Sailor

Rating: 8 disturbing directors out of 10

I found this Booji Boys release randomly online and downloaded it solely because of the name.  Then I quickly learned that just because you're named after Devo, it doesn't mean you're going to sound anything like them - not that I'm complaining, because I love the shit out of this.  "Booji Boys" is really, really fuzzed out, slightly goofy, & very catchy punk rock, and all the songs are super short - only three tracks surpass the two minute mark, and a number of them are closer to a minute.  Leave them wanting more, right?  If you can imagine Guided By Voices in their very early years (think "Propeller" or earlier), but a lot more agro, maybe you're in the right ballpark.  I would wager every Devo hat I own that this band is a fucking blast live too; and since they're Canadian, by law they're definitely super nice to boot, and obviously love hockey and Molson and probably poutine but who doesn't love poutine?  Stupid people, that's who doesn't love poutine. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody (Warner Bros, 2017)

The Flaming Lips
Oczy Mlody
Warner Bros

Rating: 8 healthy glaciers out of 10

I've always considered myself a Flaming Lips fan, but if I'm being honest the last album of theirs I spent much time listening to was 2006's "At War With The Mystics," and the last one I truly loved was 2002's "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots."  It's not that their material since then has been bad, it's more like my Flaming Lips tank was full and I didn't need any more of their particular brand of silly weirdness.  Still, I listen to many of their classic records quite often, so I never felt disconnected from the group. 

A few weeks ago I caught the Lips playing a song from this new unpronounceable record they just released on one of the late night shows, and I found my interest piqued again.  It turns out that all of that old Lips material resting in my brain gut had settled a little bit and there was once again room in the tank for me to soak up some new recordings by this merry band of Oklahomans.  While not on the level of their fantastic span from 1993 to 2002, this is a damn good record.  This record is often a little more mellow and electronic than the band was in past, but still quite catchy.  I immediately took to "How??" and "The Castle," but there are no missteps at all.  Maybe after I listen to this one for a while I'll go back and revisit that missing period to see what else sounds good to me now. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Superchunk - Tower 7'' (Messiah Complex, 1991)

Tower EP
Messiah Complex

Rating: 10 defeated robots out of 10

Possibly the most interesting thing about this Superchunk single is that it was only ever released on an Australian label, never on Merge or Matador.  Well, that and every song on it is awesome and classics and awesomely classic.  All of the songs were available elsewhere I believe, but surely this short player would have down well here in the States.  All tracks would definitely later be able to be found on their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)," and since that was the first Superchunk album I ever bought it all starts making sense why I think these songs are so crucial.  If I have to pick a favorite, it's the last track "What Do I," a short blast catchy, distorted punk that has been frequently stuck in my head for over 25 years now. 

Fugazi - Furniture 7'' (Dischord, 2001)

Furniture 7''

Rating: 8.5 loose barrels of grey matter out of 10

This was the next to last thing Fugazi released (coming out just after their last full-length "The Argument"), but is the last record of theirs I needed to complete my collection.  It's somewhat surprising that for a band that was not only a huge part of the DIY punk world but owned their own successful label, they only ever released two seven inches - this one and the classic "Song #1" that got added to the CD version of "Repeater."  Unlike most of their peers, I guess they preferred saving their songs for the full-lengths.  The title track of this seven inch is nice and all, but the two b-side tracks are the real winners - an instrumental number called "Number 5", and a Guy Picotto-led burner called "Hello Morning" that might be one of their best songs of all time, and that's saying something. 

Why? - Waterlines 7'' (Anticon, 2013)

Waterlines 7''

Rating: 6.5 squeaky water bubbles out of 10

Why? walk a very fine line between the interesting and annoying levels of quirky.  For the most part, they stay on the correct side of the line - their music is always enjoyable, and the rapping is just good enough to pass.  Their apex is still 2005's "Elephant Eyelash," but pretty much everything they put out is worth a listen and this is no different.  The title track can also be found on "Mumps, Etc."  and the b-side "The Water You Walk" is the demos collection "Mumps, Etc, Etc.", but it was still worth the buck or two I shelled out for it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chavez - Cockfighters EP (Matador, 2017)

Cockfighters EP

Rating: 8 electronic moons out of 10

It's been twenty years since Chavez released anything new, and then out of the blue (at least to me) they release a three song EP called "Cockfighters" that sounds exactly like Chavez of old.  The release has the same label, same font, same design aesthetic, same heavy, melodic jams.  Is that a good thing, that there has been no growth of their sound?  It certainly works for me, but then again my taste is pretty well entrenched in the nineties and I listened to Chavez's two full lengths "Gone Glimmering" and "Ride The Fader" a LOT all through college.  This was gold to my ears, especially coming from a band I had never considered might reform.  As always, the band sounds big, almost polished, but still with an edge...think the "heavy alternative" type of music Foo Fighters plays, only Chavez is awesome and not roundly mediocre.  

The real question: is there more to come?  Sometime soon, or in twenty more years?  I would be shocked if they even told us...some new music will just show up again in a year or ten, and it will probably be rad, and then I'll be left wondering if there is more music to come yet again... 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grandaddy - Last Place (30th Century, 2017)

Last Place
30th Century

Rating: 8.5 beard breakthroughs out of 10

I suppose it's just the nature of modern connectivity and social media, but it wasn't the least bit surprising that Grandaddy got back together and recorded this new album, "Last Place."  I've followed lead man Jason Lytle on Instagram for years, and you could see it brewing all along...reconnecting with old bandmates, reforming for festivals, spending time in the studios, and now this obvious final product.  It was actually nice to follow along at arm's length, modern day eavesdropping essentially, on an artist you really admire.   

But let's talk about what's important - how does this new album by a reformed Grandaddy actually sound?  Well - exactly as you probably are hoping - exactly like the Grandaddy of old.  If it leaked that they actually recorded "Last Place" right after they finished "Just Like the Fambly Cat" in 2006, no one would question it.  I wouldn't rank this as high as their masterpiece "The Sophtware Slump," but it easily stands toe-to-toe with the rest.  The album kicks off with a great one-two punch, "Way We Won't" and "Brush with the Wild," and never fails to delight from there on out.  There's even a call back to "Sophtware" with the track "Jed the 4th," not only referencing a frequent theme from that record, but even including a snippet of one of the "Jed" songs you can find on "Sophtware." 

My only complaint - they're not playing anywhere near me anytime soon, and I might have to fly my dumb ass out to California just to see them next month.   

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Superchunk - The Breadman 7'' (1991, Matador)

The Breadman 7''

Rating: 10 embroidered shirts out of 10

Another Superchunk gem - the title track is still an exciting one to hear, and the band still plays it occasionally.  You can also find it on the "Tossing Seeds" compilation if you're so inclined.  The real story though is side b, "Cast Iron" - if not my very favorite Chunk song, it's at least top three.  It was also my very first favorite song of theirs, which I'm sure colors my overall ranking at least a little bit.  If "Slack Motherfucker" was that first taste that got me interested in the band, "Cast Iron" was the full shot of heroin that got me totally addicted for life.  This is the seventh physical copy of this song I've owned - this seven inch, LP/CD/cassette of "No Pocky for Kitty" (the full-length it appeared on after this single), and lastly the LP/CD/cassette of the already mentioned "Tossing Seeds" compilation.  I've not got a problem, you've a got a problem for not being as stupid about this band as I am!

Honor Role - Craig Olive 7'' (Homestead, 1988)

Honor Role
Craig Olive 7''

Rating: 6.5 viking settlers out of 10

It should be noted that neither song on this Honor Role record is named "Craig Olive" - yeah, it's one of those seven inches.  I'm not even sure what I mean by that...I've just never liked it when a seven inch has a "name."  Pet peeves don't always have to make sense.  I've always thought of Honor Role as a "spazzy proto-math rock" meets "eighties college rock" band, but only the b-side "Lives Of The Saints No. 135 (Naked Wife)" mostly fits that billing; side a, "Twist!," is kinda boring and uneventful and not a cover of the famous song by the same name.  Both songs can also be found on the compilation that Merge put out in the nineties that was inventively titled "Album."

Cause Co-Motion - I Lie Awake 7'' (Slumberland, 2008)

Cause Co-Motion
I Lie Awake 7''

Rating: 6 future laboratories out of 10

Cause Co-Motion were an underrated jangle pop band from a few years ago that never released a proper album, but had a shit ton of singles (and eventually, a compilation of these singles that would act as a full length).  They had a bunch of really catchy songs but never seemed to make a splash.  This isn't their strongest single, but it's decent - the title track is the strongest of the three short offerings, but all are worth a listen.  I always assumed these guys were from the Midwest, probably getting them confused with the Midwest Beat who have a similar sound, but they were actually from Brooklyn.  Useless information!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Neil Halstead - You Are the Glue 7'' (Brushfire, 2012)

Neil Halstead
You Are the Glue 7''

Rating: 6.5 qwerty keyboards out of 10

This seven inch is strangely upbeat for Neil Halstead.  Released around the same time as his great solo record "Palindrome Hunches," I assume these two songs ("You Are the Glue" / "Tennis for Dennis") were recorded around the same time and just didn't fit the overall vibe of that album.  Mind you this is me completely guessing out of my ass, I could be totally wrong.  They're not bad songs, I'll probably dig them more with some additional listens, but it just isn't what I was expecting from the typically somber and morose Halstead. 

Teenage Fanclub - Long Shot 7'' (Creation, 1998)

Teenage Fanclub
Long Shot 7''

Rating: 5 corner kicks out of 10

This seven inch is for the most die hard of Teenage Fanclub fans only, and even then it would only be for completest reasons.  I ran across it in the bargain bin so no real gain or loss for me to be honest.  The title track is an instrumental the band recorded for the 1998 World Cup, I presume to be used in commercials and promos and whatnot.  It's a rather uneventful but upbeat number, and includes a brief portion of the Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again" right in the middle of it for unknown reasons.  The b-side is a twelve minute version of this same song called "Loops and Stings," which is designed solely for TV production use.  The fact that they released this at all is pretty funny to me, and probably a sign of just how "football" crazy they are across the pond.

Superchunk - Mower 7'' (Merge, 1992)

Mower 7''

Rating: 9 sharpened blades out of 10

Came across a bunch of Superchunk singles that I was missing from my collection - this is the first of that group.  Obviously, this is a Chunk classic - "Mower" is from what is widely considered one of their best records "On the Mouth," a song that is still often featured in their live sets.  Interestingly, the b-side "On the Mouth" isn't actually on the record "On the Mouth," but for my money it's one of their very best songs - probably the very best non-album track IMO.  It's entirely possible I love this band even more now in my old age than when I first heard them in high school after buying their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds" on a whim. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Brad Pot - Brad Pot (Slovenly, 2017)

Brad Pot
Brad Pot

Rating: 7 cherry candies out of 10

It feels like all of the punk bands that have come out of Australia over the past decade or so have been custom formulated just so that I would love them - and Brad Pot continues that proud tradition. Eleven songs in twenty four minutes, this is straight-forward buzzsaw punk with heavily distorted vocals and a little bit of synth here and there.  I think I might compare every punk band to something Jay Reatard was a part of, and in this case I'd go with his first outfit the Reatards.  You could probably throw some Spits references in there too if you wanted.  This whole album is so aggressive and immediate, it feels like Brad Pot are racing themselves to get it over with as fast as possible.  No duds at all, with "100 Bills" getting my nod for top track. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Run The Jewels - RTJ3 (Self-Released, 2016)

Run The Jewels

Rating: 9 dizzy eardrums out of 10

Hey look, another middle aged white dude who loves Run The Jewels!  That's definitely a unique thing that warrants further investigation!  Seriously, no one needs to hear another dipshit like me expound on the awesomeness that is El-P and Killer Mike.  They manage to feel both old school and modern at the same time, which is probably exactly why RTJ appeals to people like me.  There's about a million well written reviews already out there if you care to read such things, but here's the deal - if you're on the fence about Run The Jewels, they make it easy for you: go to the link above and you can download their album for free and decide for yourself if this is the best hip hop group of the last decade (hint: it is). 

Side note: this came out so late in 2016 I'm probably putting it on my best of 2017 list because fuck it why not.  It's probably going to be better than almost anything released in 2017 anyways. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jeff Rosenstock - Worry. (SideOneDummy, 2016)

Jeff Rosenstock

Rating: 7 ice cold cold sores out of 10

Occasionally I listen to the podcast "Who Charted?" - they almost always talk about music, usually of the top 40 variety, and I almost never like what they're talking about (but I listen anyways because Howard and Kulap are funny).  A comedian by the name of Matt Besser was a guest on the show a few weeks ago talking about his favorite songs of 2016, and one of his selections was by Jeff Rosenstock - I was immediately hooked.  Apparently the dude came up playing in ska-punk and pop-punk bands that were somewhat popular, but I'd never heard of him because that's definitely not my scene.  This album is probably best described as (mostly) grown-up pop punk...a little less agro, a little more acoustic guitar.  You can definitely hear how his old scene influenced what Rosenstock is doing now though, particularly with his reliance on sing-a-long choruses - but many of the songs are so damn catchy you don't even get mad about this overused deviceI think Besser's song pick was "Wave Goodnight to Me," and I'd have to concur that it's the best track here -it was stuck in my head after only one listen.  Most of the album is quite strong, but occasionally he resorts to his ska-punk past - the track "Rainbow" is particularly, um, not good, but nobody's perfect.  There's enough here to make this more than worth checking out. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Nada Surf - Peaceful Ghosts (Barsuk, 2016)

Nada Surf
Peaceful Ghosts

Rating: 8.5 pink skyscrapers out of 10

Hey, I'm writing about another live album!  This time it's the brilliant pop act Nada Surf, a band that can basically do no wrong in my book.  This past summer they played some gigs in Austria and Germany with local orchestras, and "Peaceful Ghosts" is the recorded output of (I assume) those gigs with the best takes cobbled together.  As with any release of this nature (assuming you're already a fan because a live album seems like a weird place to start listening to a new act), only one thing really matters - how does the recording sound?  The answer: brilliant, mesmerizing, moving.  In fact the recordings are so clean that other than the polite applause at the end of each track, you might think these are just alternate studio takes with an orchestra added.  And the orchestra WORKS...I mean really works.  They should look into actually recording some songs like this in the studio on their next album.  Like most official live recordings, "Peaceful Ghosts" almost works as a "best of" also: this is packed with classic songs like "Blizzard of '77,"Blonde on Blonde," "Rushing," "Inside of Love," and so many more.  Of course not every song I wanted is on here, but that just means they can release another live album like this include an entirely new group of their excellent pop gems.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Notwist - Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff (Sub Pop, 2016)

The Notwist
Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff
Sub Pop

Rating: 8 museum debts out of 10

I didn't really have any intentions of writing about a live Notwist album - honestly, I've not paid a ton of attention to them since "Neon Golden," though there probably aren't a ton of albums in my collection that I've listened to more than that one.   Thing is, even though live records are often write-offs in my book, this is good - really fucking good.  The "Neon Golden" songs are why I decided to give "Superheroes, Ghostvillians + Stuff" a listen, but the recording sounds so fantastic that I've even enjoyed the tracks I don't know and it's inspired me to spend some time listening to their last couple of records.  There is an energy & life here that is hard to really describe or quantify but it makes for an album that's even more engaging than their studio output, and that's rarely the case (at least for my ears).  Built to Spill's "Live" from 2000 might be the last release of this nature to make me feel this way, and like on that record the band really lets the songs "stretch their legs" if you will...quite a few are twice or even three times longer than their studio counterpart.  This doesn't always work, in fact it rarely works, but it definitely works here. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Terry Malts - Lost At The Party (Slumberland, 2016)

Terry Malts
Lost At The Party

Rating: 7.5 fragile egg chairs out of 10

Terry Malts first record "Killing Time" was one of my favorite releases of 2012; their second effort "Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere" was still decent, but a step down from their debut.  Given that, I wasn't sure what to expect from this third outing "Lost At the Party" - a continuing (very slight) downward trend, or a return to their previous form?  Luckily, it was the latter - the differences between this release and the last are subtle and I'm way too dumb to accurately put them in words, but this batch of songs has a little more punch or sheen (or whatever you want to call it) to them that was missing on the last pass.  As always, the Terry Malts sound is cold and very eighties, a combination of punk and new wave and pop...they're more or less a modern version of XTC, Jesus & Mary Chain, and/or Echo & the Bunnymen depending on the particular songI mean that as a compliment, for the record, as I've loved all three of those bands for much of my life.  It's not so much that Terry Malts are ripping off those bands as they are re-imagining the same sounds for a new, current audience.  Opener "Used To Be," "Won't Come To Find You," and "Seen Everything" are my picks for best tracks but there isn't a weak spot in the entire procession. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teenage Fanclub - Here (Merge, 2016)

Teenage Fanclub

Rating: 8 sand toddlers out of 10

I've been thinking for a few months on what to say about this latest Teenage Fanclub record, "Here."  I'm not sure I have a lot more to go with other than "sounds a lot like Teenage Fanclub" and "really damn good."  For my money, this is the best pop band in the world, and nothing about "Here" changes my mind about that.  If you enjoyed their last couple of records on Merge, "Man-Made" and "Shadows," then this is a must buy.  In fact, this is the best of these three records that I think of as their "mature pop" years.  "I'm In Love" and "Thin Air" is up there with one of the best one-two punches to start any of their records.  Maybe a few more mellow tracks than this band usually features, but even those are terrificIf you've never listened to this band, go get "Bandwagonesque" or "Songs from Northern Britain" first - otherwise, a worthy buy to be sure. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Preoccupations - Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar, 2016)


Rating: 7.5 eco-warrior latrines out of 10

Preoccupations used to be called Viet Cong, a band I had never heard of until there was a bit of hubbub over their name.  Apparently it was offensive to some folks - I'm guessing the Vietnamese - though I'm not entirely sure why, as it's the name of a group that fought with the North Vietnamese and not a slur I don't think.  I think a good rule to follow is that if you're a bunch of white dudes, don't name your band after anything that in any way has any connection to another culture, even if it seems non-offensive.  Non-white culture obviously - I can't imagine anyone would give a shit if you named yourself after somethingFrench or German, well, maybe not anything Nazi related.  Unless you're a Nazi band, in which case I guess it makes sense.  Maybe don't be in a Nazi band though, okay?  That seems like a dumb thing to do.  Let me state for the record that Preoccupations are not Nazis, though they are Canadian.  The Stampeders and Pilot are also Canadian, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.  

Uh, where was I?  Anyways, old band with a new name, first record I've heard by them, and I like it quite a lot.  Sounds like the perfect combination of Wolf Parade, Constantines, and the Walkmen (token non-Canadian reference).  One of those rare cases where I was in a record store and heard this album playing and actually asked the clerk who it was.  I never do that - either I already know who it is, I'm too embarrassed to admit I don't know who it is to the music nerd clerk, or my desire not to talk to people is greater than my desire to know what it is.  I guess I could have just used Shazaam.  

This review has been almost entirely useless and pointless.  Just check this record out, it's worth a listen for sure.