Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs (Sub Pop, 2018)

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Hope Downs
Sub Pop

Rating: 8 parked wines out of 10

1. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is a dumb name, and I’ll be calling them RBCF because I’m not typing out all that shit again.  Apparently even the band feels the same way, because they have their name as “Rolling Blackouts C.F.” (a pretty half-assed attempt at brevity) on the cover on this, their debut full-length.  It’s odd you would opt to go by such a long, weird name, and then not even use the whole thing on the first record you release.

2. I think the name is the only actual gripe I have about “Hope Downs,” and I’m not entirely sure why I led with it.  It sets an unnecessarily grumpy tone for an album I quite like and whose content isn’t grumpy whatsoever. 

3. In fact, I’d call this music breezy…like a modern, more upbeat version of yacht rock from the late seventies and early eighties.  I deem this new genre sunglasses rock, because it’s the sort of music where you can imagine the guitarist wearing sunglasses during the show and looking completely non-plussed the entire time.  There’s also a surf rock vibe to the guitar, and I’m pretty sure surfers also like sunglasses so…

4. Fans of Real Estate, Vampire Weekend, and that ilk should definitely give RBCF a spin.  I actually like this quite a bit more than either of those bands listed.  You could also draw a line to some of the kiwi rock acts like the Chills or 3ds, and since this group is Australian that comparison might even make them mad so that’s a bonus.  In my mind Aussies and Kiwis hate each other, but I have no idea if that’s true.       

5. The back-to-back jams “”Talking Straight” and “Mainland” could both be contenders for any list compiling the best songs of the year.  “Bellarine” is also a strong contender.  RCBF is one of the best new bands made up of actual young people I’ve listened to in quite some time.  Get on it. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Howard Ivans - Red Face Boy 7'' (Spacebomb, 2013)

Howard Ivans
Red Face Boy 7''

Rating: 7.5 loved things out of 10

Howard Ivans = Ivan Howard, best known as the singer of the Rosebuds.  So as not to repeat myself (aka I'm lazy), see my live review from last year here if you need further information about what this is.  

This single actually predates the last record from the Rosebuds "Sand + Silence" (I don't think they ever officially broke up, but I would be shocked if they were ever a band again), but it falls right in line with his solo full-length from last year "Beautiful Tired Bodies."  Both tracks - "Red Faced Boy" and "Pillows" - sound like modern takes on seventies-era Chicago.  Given that the Spacebomb collective not only released this seven inch but also served as the backing band for this recording session, it totally makes sense it would sound like Chicago.  Ivan has a perfect voice to compliment this style of funky soul instrumentation, and to nobody's surprise both tracks work quite well.  

Morrissey - This Is Morrissey (Parlophone, 2018)

This Is Morrissey

Rating: <insert gif of a confused child shrugging their shoulders>

In the grand tradition of the classic Morrissey cash-grab , I present to you “This Is Morrissey.”  No one loves continually releasing and re-releasing his own music as much as he does, and I guess why not if people keep buying it?  I’m never entirely sure how to rate this things – if it’s purely on music, it’s a 10 out of 10.  A ton of his very best songs are here, including a remastered version of what might be my favorite track of his, “Speedway” (it’s at least top three with “Sing Your Life” and “Boyracer”).  If instead you rate the release for its necessity to exist, the number drops to almost zero.  Maybe the biggest issue is I have no idea what the theme is – there are some of his biggest hits like “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”; obscure cuts like a live cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” (really good, and probably the best argument for actually buying this) and a remix of “Suedehead” (one of the worst things I’ve ever heard); plus run-of-the-mill (but perfectly fine) album tracks like “Have-A-Go Merchant” and “Whatever Happens I Love You.”  It’s too pedestrian for the super fans, and has too strange a tracklist to be recommended to someone new to the curmudgeonly crooner.  Plus the track order is beyond bizarre – who puts “Everyday Is Like Sunday” as the last song on anything?  Honestly, I think the compilation might have been created by just loading every Morrissey song into iTunes, putting it on shuffle, and then taking the first random 12 songs and calling it a new release.  Good job by all!

Friday, July 6, 2018

American Aquarium - Things Change (New West, 2018)

American Aquarium
Things Change
New West

Rating: 7 flooring modules out of 10

“Things Change,” indeed – American Aquarium is back with their seventh full-length, and an entirely new line-up short of frontman BJ Barham.  He might cycle through band members as often as the Fall’s Mark E. Smith did, but like Smith it’s Barham’s voice and vision that makes the band tick anyways…things change, but things also stay the same. 

If I didn’t know the backstory, I’m not sure I would even notice the change – the last set of dudes were damn good musicians, and it these new cats seem just as good.  What does seem to improve album after album is Barham’s songwriting – I’m almost always a “their earlier material was better” sort of person, but AA seem to up themselves with each successive release.  I can say definitively that the second song “Crooked+Straight” is the best thing they’ve ever released, or at least my favorite – it sounds like Bruce Springsteen meets Drive-By Truckers in the best possible way.  The lead slide work on the Tom Petty-referencing “When We Were Younger Men” will worm into your head and sit there for days.  “I Gave Up The Drinking (Before She Gave Up On Me)” sounds like the type of seventies outlaw country (complete with organ and wah guitar) with which Merle or Waylon would be proud to be associated.

Can American Aquarium continue this upward trajectory with each successive release?  Is it possible the band will eventually cycle through every active musician in the known universe?  Can anything be done to get that slide guitar line out of my head?  I guess we'll find out next time around.   

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Jeff The Brotherhood - Whatever I Want 7'' (Third Man, 2011)

Jeff the Brotherhood
Whatever I Want 7''
Third Man

Rating: 7 unreleased boys out of 10

I'm always down for a couple of tasty Jeff The Brotherhood songs, and these please the palate.  The title track is one of the classic "stoner rock" type jams, and would later be found on their 2015 record "Global Chakra Rhythms."  This version actually features Jack White playing the organ part, not that you can tell that from listening...just a fun fact for your next White Stripes trivia night.  The b-side is "Everything I Need" by a German band I'd never heard of called Tiger B. Smith...I really dig it and will be digging up their albums from less reputable sources online pronto. 

The Mary Onettes - Cola Falls EP (Cascine, 2018)

The Mary Onettes
Cola Falls EP

Rating: 9 lucky fat horns out of 10

I’m calling “Cola Falls” from the Mary Onettes an EP, but that’s only because I have no idea what to call a digital only single with two songs (three if you count the instrumental version of the title track, which is still damn great).  It is a step up from their previous two releases “Ruins” and “Juna,” which were only a single song each.  Listen goddammit, this band put out one of my favorite records of the past decade with 2013’s “Hit The Waves,” and I really really REALLY need them to get busy in the studio.  Isn’t Sweden covered in a ten-foot thick solid sheet of ice 3/4ths of the year?  What the hell else do they have to do with their time in their beautiful socialist utopia full of gorgeous blond women that I am in no way super jealous of?

My dumb nonsense aside, anyone who holds “Hit The Waves” in the same esteem I do will be ecstatic at the two songs here, "Cola Falls" and “Wait Out A Ghost.”  Their dreamy/synthy/breezy pop sounds like a convertible ride along the coast on a beautiful summer day, and shockingly are as good as anything they've ever released.  If they can put out a new full-length even close to as good as this release, it will be my favorite album of whatever year it comes out.  That this band isn’t gargantuanly popular continues to be totally dumbfounding.  Also: my kingdom for a live show!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Finger - Ship Full Of Holes 7'' (Jettison, 1992)

Ship Full Of Holes 7''

Rating: 6 chaste firetrucks out of 10

This Finger slab is one of those rare instances where the b-side is much better than the actual single.  Finger were active in the Raleigh in the early nineties, notable for being the first(?) band of local legend John Howie (Two Dollar Pistols, tons of solo work, and playing with Sarah Shook these days).  The title track is nothing special: sludgy, mid-tempo "alternative" rock that would have fit in fine on the "Singles" soundtrack.  The real treat is side b, where they do a fun cover of "All This And More" by the Dead Boys, a song I'm happy to hear no matter who plays it.  If you were to happen across it, it's worth a listen just for that cover.