Friday, June 22, 2018

Chromatics - Arms Slither Away 7'' (K, 2002)

Arms Slither Away 7''

Rating: 5.5 appetizing grease fires out of 10

This might technically be the glossy, coke-hazed, electro-pop group Chromatics, but outside of the name you'd never guess it.  Instead, you've got a noisy indie rock band who clearly hadn't discovered or couldn't afford synthesizers yet.  Neither the title track or the b-side "Skill Fall" are bad, they're just not what you're expecting if you came in only knowing their modern incarnation, nor are the songs good enough to overcome those expectations.  This will eventually get filed away into my seven inch bins, and then at some point in the future I'll forget what it is, pull it out expecting catchy electro-pop, and go through this all over again. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive (Acoustic) 7'' (Merge, 2018)

What A Time To Be Alive (Acoustic) 7''

Rating: Yes.  Softly.  

Superchunk loves to release a new seven inch on Record Store Day, and this year it's a pair of acoustic versions of tracks from their latest record "What A Time To Be Alive."  It's on clear vinyl and "limited" to 1500, which doesn't seem all that limited to me, but whatever.  Other than the title track they also perform my favorite song from that record, "Erasure," minus the Stephin Merritt backing vocals but apparently still with the Katie Crutchfield ones (I guess she had more time to stick around the recording studio).  If you're a fan of their new record or the band in general this is kind of a no brainer, obviously it's great. 

Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends / Quivers - Split 7'' (Seismic Wave Entertainment, 2018)

Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends / Quivers
Split 7''
Seismic Wave Entertainment

Rating: 7 beautiful ballerinas out of 10

This is a double dose of friend rock for me - both bands feature dudes I've known for nearly two decades now (it makes me feel really old to say that).  Don't hold that against them though - this is still a damn fine pair of catchy songs worth lending your ear to.  

This is actually the second entry in series (out of four so far) where Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends release a split seven inch with them on the a-side and a different band on the flip.  Their track "Hate Secretary"is guitar rock, very catchy and melodic.  A lot of what Conan did in the past (specifically Replicator) would get compared to Shellac, but this material is closer to Foo Fighters-esque heavy alternative than anything to which Steve Albini would lend an aluminum guitar.  It's very sing-along-able.  That's a word right?

The b-side "Master Of Dirt" is from Quivers, a San Francisco band full of dudes from other bands - most notably a couple of cats from Charmless, and my pal Colin from Ex-Boyfriends (and a bunch of other bands).  To no surprise if you've listened to any of those groups this is very Superchunk influenced, and I'm not just saying that because I know Colin loves them almost as much as I do.  Colin has always had an ear for hooks.

Both of these songs would fit in great on any indie rock comp from the mid-to-late nineties.  Given these guys are basically as old as me or not far off, that's not really surprising. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tracyanne & Danny - Tracyanne & Danny (Merge, 2018)

Tracyanne & Danny
Tracyanne & Danny

Rating: 8 focused camels out of 10

I truly can’t imagine anyone having anything bad to say about this Tracyanne & Danny record…it’s the musical equivalent of purring cat in your lap on a cozy Sunday afternoon.  Tracyanne is the golden-voiced Tracyanne Campbell of twee pop superstars Camera Obscura, a group whose future has been in limbo since the tragic death of keyboardist Carey Lander – wherein we must note, as if it needs to be said, fuck cancer.  I’ve been a Camera Obscura fan since they came on the scene in the early 2000s, and I would probably buy a record of Tracyanne singing CSPAN transcripts, so my love of this was pretty close to certain.  The only wildcard was the other half of the duo, Danny Coughlan of Crybaby, a band/performer I knew not a single damn thing about.  Tracyanne still dominates the vocals (or at least it feels that way), but Danny adds a nice counter-balance with his deep, smooth tones; he also knows his range, and doesn’t try to do too much thinking he can musically keep up with her.  Honestly, this isn’t terribly different from the sixties twee vibes  of Camera Obscura in their later years…just with more male vocals really.  If you’re a sensitive person at all, good luck not tearing up a little bit listening to the country-tinged “Alabama,” their tribute to Lander…I’m not even a lyric person usually, but this one really hits me right in the feels.  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

David Bowie ‎– Welcome To The Blackout (Live London '78) (Parlophone, 2018)

David Bowie
Welcome To The Blackout (Live London '78)

Rating:  It's fuckin' Bowie.

This review will be brief, because there is absolutely no reason to review the actual music...again, it's fuckin' David Bowie.  What I am here to note is how good the sound quality is - this is in the upper echelon of clean, well-mixed live recordings I've ever heard.  This is always a huge issue with live albums, so I just wanted to put that out there for those on the fence or wondering if they should drop the cash for this triple disc Record Store Day "exclusive" (I can't find an actual number of these pressed, but my guess is it's not actually that exclusive because they would be really stupid to limit this one, or not do a second pressing).  

Side note: this was recorded later in the same 1978 tour that another famous Bowie live album, "Stage," was recorded.  Why release two live records from the same tour?  When it sounds this good, why not.  If money is no object, pick up "Welcome To The Blackout" - though you can usually grab "Stage" for a sawbuck so just get both...because it's fuckin' Bowie.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The New Pornographers - High Ticket Attractions 7'' (Concord, 2017)

The New Pornographers
High Ticket Attractions 7''

Rating: 7 fancy door cyborgs out of 10

Another promo seven inch I snagged on the cheap, this one promoting the 2017 album from the New Pornographers, "Whiteout Conditions."  The A-side is the perfectly cromulent "High Ticket Attractions," which sounds exactly like a New Pornographers song should - shiny, poppy, bright, full, other adjectives.  I suppose the B-side is what makes this promo a keeper - a non-album track, specifically a cover of the Jigsaw song "Sky High."  Leave it to a pack of Canadians to cover Jigsaw of all bands. 

Las Rosas - Tax Man 7'' (Greenway, 2018)

Las Rosas
Tax Man 7''

Rating: 6 pneumonia games out of 10

Grabbed this one-sided flexi seven inch off a free table at a local record store, it would appear Las Rosas (or their label Greenway) released it as a Record Store Day giveaway to promote their new full-length "Shadow By Your Side."  Nothing special but certainly worth the price - based on this one song they sorta have a clean garage rock vibe, maybe a little too over-produced for my tastes, but not bad.  I'd like to hear the full record to form a final opinion though. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks - Sparkle Hard (Matador, 2018)

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Sparkle Hard

Rating: 7 dried-out highlighters out of 10

It’s still completely lost on me what the difference is between Stephen Malkmus versus Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, but this new record “Sparkle Hard” is the latter.  It’s very Jicky obviously!  Regardless of title, with Stephen’s voice and song-writing style it’s always going to sound like an extension of Pavement.  A pig is still just a bacon machine even if it wears a dress and dates a frog.  After a few years paying only middling attention, I really got into 2014’s “Wig Out At Jagbags,” and was subsequently quite looking forward to this one.  In three words: I’m digging it.  Does “I’m” count as only one word?  Anyways, while still operating in the well-established pocket he has created for himself these past few decades, “Sparkle Hard” feels…mellower, more mature even?  In this case ”mature” really just means there are some strings and not as many guitar solos and one song sounds a little country (that song is “Refute,” but it’s not as country as Pavement’s “Range Life”).  There are more keys/synths here than I remember him employing in the past, but that could be more my faulty memory than an actual stylistic change. 

I’m trying to imagine a Malkmus fan seeking out & reading this (or any) other review of “Sparkle Hard,” his eighth solo record after five Pavement releases, and trying to decide whether or not they might give this new release a chance…I can’t imagine this person exists.  These people already know how you feel about this man and his art.  If you’re not a fan, this ain’t changing your mind – he’s as Malkmus-y as ever.  And if you have no idea who he is, maybe you’re super young or you just woke from a nearly thirty year coma – just go buy “Slanted & Enchanted” and branch out from there.