Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nest Egg - Nothingness Is Not A Curse (Fuzz Club, 2018)

Nest Egg
Nothingness Is Not A Curse
Fuzz Club

Rating: 7 spiral-bound carpets out of 10

Let me put it this way – I’m seeing Oneida in a few months, and Asheville’s Nest Egg is scheduled to open for them…I’ve got no issue with similar bands on the same bill, but this one is WAY on the nose.  If you walked into the club not already knowing which band was which, you’d probably be totally confused (pro tip: Nest Egg are the young dudes, Oneida are middle-aged dad types).  They do the whole psyche-krautrock thing – repetitive, driving, mesmerizing.  You could also compare to Wooden Shjips/Moon Duo if you were so inclined.  Nest Egg does a damn good job of it, similarity to other artists be damned…if you’re good at what you do and the songs you perform are a fun listen, I’ll ride with it regardless. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Wye Oak - The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs (Merge, 2018)

Wye Oak
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs

Rating: 8 sunk fishing boats out of 10

I’ve been listening to this new Wye Oak record for a couple of weeks now and I can’t think of anything noteworthy to say about it.  Not that “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs” isn’t noteworthy itself - it’s really damn good and I’ve listened to it a lot, and will surely be one of my favorites of the year.  It’s just…it sounds pretty much just like the last couple of Wye Oak records, and the Flock Of Dimes record (Jenn Wasner’s solo project)…this doesn’t lead to that many fresh talking points to tackle.  I suppose I could prattle on about how I have a rock star crush on Jenn akin to the way most seventh grade girls feel about New Kids On The Block (that’s still a thing right?  Is it still 1989?), but nobody cares to hear about that.  This band has a sound and they’re sticking with it, and that is a-ok with me.  You should definitely go see Wye Oak live if you get a chance, they are a delight.  Buy this record.  Buy all the rest of their records while you’re at it.  And the Flock Of Dimes record.  And anything else Jenn Wasner has even the slightest hand or influence on. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Guided By Voices - Ogre’s Trumpet (Guided By Voices, 2018)

Guided By Voices
Ogre’s Trumpet
Guided By Voices Inc

Rating: 7 bulletproof federales out of 10

As someone who has seen Guided By Voices many times, I can definitively say that “Ogre’s Trumpet” does a pretty damn good job of giving you a small glimpse into what seeing them perform live is all about.  At a little over an hour it’s way shorter than one of their shows…when I saw them a few months ago I left after two and a half hours, and the band was still going (I think their set list that night was in the neighborhood of 60 songs if not more).  The one big feature lacking here: the recording is very clean, likely straight from the soundboard with additional mastering, and you miss out on all the crowd singing/participation - something that would be annoying with almost every other band, but with GBV it almost works like an extra band member.  The track list is about one-third classics and two-thirds post-reunion tracks, which is a fair mirror to what you get in person - of course everyone always want more of the OG songs, but it’s not a bad ratio given the sheer size of the band’s song catalogue.     

Belle & Sebastian - How To Solve Our Human Problems (Matador, 2018)

Belle & Sebastian
How To Solve Our Human Problems
Rating: 6.5 rusty frying pans out of 10
1.    Technically the new Belle & Sebastian release “How To Solve Human Problems” is three EPs and not one single album, but I’m reviewing the whole lot at once because:
a.     I’m lazy. 
b.     I’m always going to listen to this as an entire single record, not three small ones. 
2.     There are a number of good songs here, but on the whole I’m not super enamored with this…hopefully it will grow on me.  You can’t win them all…I’ve consider myself a pretty big fan, but I’ve still barely listened to “Storytelling.” 
a.       For the record, those good songs include:
                                                               i.      We Were Beautiful
                                                             ii.      The Girl Doesn’t Get It
                                                            iii.      Everything IS Now (Part Two)
3.     It feels like this is the least Stuart Murdoch has ever sang on one of their releases.  Feels like a lot more lead vocals from the other band members…I love Stevie and the rest of them, but Stuart is the main draw here and let’s not lose sight of that. 
4.     Is this a much dancier record than in the past?  I may have said the same thing with 2014’s “The Party Line.”  Maybe it’s just the dancey songs that stand out and that’s why I feel that way.  Or maybe I’m an idiot.   
5.     My list-based OCD is forcing me to put a fifth entry even though I don’t have anything else to say. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive (Merge, 2018)

What A Time To Be Alive

Rating: 9.5 broken rakes out of 10

I’ve “reviewed” a lot of Superchunk releases, and by “review” I mean fanboy rambling from someone who has considered them one of his top three favorite bands for nearly thirty years (holy shit I’m old) don’t expect any earth-shattering insight here.  Guess what?  You'll never believe it, but it is my opinion that this record rules.  RULES!!!  Due to the current sad state of this country under the leadership of King Grab-Ass, Superchunk has come out with the most upbeat, angry/aggro record that they’ve released since their first couple of records in the early nineties.  Much to my delight, it also appears to be the most talked about record they’ve probably ever had - the critical praise is effusive, plentiful, and has come from nearly every media outlet of note.  I would suggest reading some of those for a more critical breakdown of what’s going on in “What A Time To Be Alive,” but the crib notes are: everything is fucked, it's time to burn the motherfucker down and let a better class of people (aka not old rich white people) try again.  There’s exactly one mellow track here, the closer “Black Thread” - everything else sounds like…well, I can already picture how sweaty drummer Jon Wurster is going to get playing these songs.  No stranger to having help from the occasional guest vocalist on their albums, this time they threw down the gauntlet and roped in five of them – Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog), Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee), Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields), David Bazan (Pedro The Lion), and Skylar Gudasz – can’t really blame them for wanting to be a part of such a great record, one that is going to be played in my car a lot all summer long.  Gonna be tough not driving fast listening to this one. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

6 String Drag - Top Of The World (Schoolkids, 2018)

6 String Drag
Top Of The World

Rating: 7 changed minds out of 10

I had somehow missed that our local record store chain here in the Triangle, Schoolkids, was now also a label, but here we have the latest 6 String Drag offering “Top Of The World” as proof.  Since they’re a local band and I at least moderately keep up with the scene I knew that they had reformed, but I’d be lying if I said I’d given them much thought since the late nineties when they were part of the alt-country scene that dominated Raleigh (Whiskeytown being the best known act of that era).  The thing is – despite the very country-sounding name, despite a smidge of twang in the guitar here and there…6 String Drag are a pop band.  “Adult pop” as I call it, very much in line with the likes of Elvis Costello or Big Star or Elvis Costello or Pernice Brothers or…I mean, this record really, really, REALLY sounds a lot like Elvis Costello.   Guess what, you know what is an awesome compliment for any artist?  You sound like fuckin’ Elvis Costello!  Of course I say all that and the best song here, “Small Town Punks,” sounds the least like Costello – an organ driven bar rocker that’s probably a hoot live.  “Every Time She Walks On By” might as well be from Costello’s “This  Year’s Model” though.   This is a quality pop record that hopefully folks give a listen and don’t just write off as post-reunion garbage (like so much post-reunion music is, unfortunately). 

Bonus points for using the locally infamous Dorton Arena in their cover art...the first structure in the world to have a cable-supported roof!  It looks like a space ship!  I saw Superchunk there once!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Shannon & The Clams - Onion (Easy Eye Sound, 2018)

Shannon & The Clams
Easy Eye Sound

Rating: 6 greasy mouths out of 10

This latest record by Shannon & The Clams – “Onion” – is pretty good…quality musicianship, original but immediately familiar in a retro-throwback way, and Shannon Shaw has one hell of a voice, on par with about any singer currently operating in any genre of music (and Cody Blanchard has a damn fine voice himself).  More importantly, the album opener “The Boy” could possibly be the best song of the year.  All of this leads me to the following question: are my lukewarm feelings about the rest of the record after that first song because “The Boy” sets an impossibly high standard, or would I have been non-plussed about this material regardless to how it kicks off?  I’m pretty sure I don’t have an answer to this question, nor is it even answerable.  I may just have to come back and re-visit the rest of the record at a later date when the shiny newness of "The Boy" has worn off.  The band made an actual official video for the song, so they must think it’s pretty special too – you can view that here

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop, 2018)

Hot Snakes
Jericho Sirens
Sub Pop

Rating: Perfection.

You could say I was pretty excited when Hot Snakes announced they were getting back together.  Excited enough to plan a trip to other side of the country just to see them perform.  At that show they played nothing but their old material - almost all of it actually – because that’s what the people want out of a reunion, right?  Now that I’ve listened to “Jericho Sirens” multiple times, I can say, unequivocally, they could have easily added any or all of this new record into the set list that night and no one would have batted an eye or been angry about having to hearing their "new shit."  This entire new album sounds so much like their first three releases that if you didn’t know better, you could easily assume it was just something they had in the can from years ago that they just got around to releasing now.  Listen, when you’ve got a sound that is this goddamned good and special and perfect, why fuck with it? 

I’m trying to imagine a scenario where this isn’t my favorite record of the year, but I can’t picture it right now.  If by some impossible scenario anything else gets released that tops "Jericho Sirens," well I guess that will make us all winners in this game of life. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Yo La Tengo - There’s A Riot Going On (Matador, 2018)

Yo La Tengo
There’s A Riot Going On

Rating: 1000 tasty hoagies from Hoagie Haven in Princeton, NJ

I’m a bald, overweight, white dude in his forties that’s listened to “indie rock” for pretty much his entire life…do you think there is a chance in hell I don’t love this new Yo La Tengo record, “There’s A Riot Going On”?  Or any new Yo La Tengo record?  Or anything with which Yo La Tengo is in any way affiliated?   Hell, it might even technically be illegal for someone with my particular demographic makeup to dislike them, but I’ll need to consult the “WFMU Rules & Regulations” handbook to be sure though. 

I'm sure there are already a shitload of smart reviews written by brainy people (likely also bald, middle-aged, and white) on why this record is great, and I ain’t trying to compete with them.  I’ll just say this is quite good, as if that wasn't already clear - it’s on the mellower/more atmospheric side of their sound more often than not.  I prefer their poppier fare, but this is still totally enjoyable.  Most importantly, this is the ideal time to re-post this gem from the Onion, as it’s one of the best things they’ve ever written. 

And as I’ve likely said before in every other equally un-enlightening blurb I’ve ever written about this trio, if you’re totally unfamiliar with the work of Yo La Tengo, just snag a copy of their 1997 album  “I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One” and go from there.  That record perfectly encapsulates what is so good about them in one tidy package.