i hate the sound of guitars

an expat dc punk in massachusetts

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7 mar 2016

07 Mar 2016 · Comments Off

7 mar 2016

  1. Tunabunny – I’ve heard a handful of Tunabunny tracks over the years, but never really got a handle on their identity — and it turns out that’s partly because they operate in at least 2 or 3 different modes. The shorter songs tend to be poppier, sometimes salted with abrupt textural shifts, and frequently remind me of the likes of Scrawl and Salem 66, and to a lesser degree of early post-punk explorers. The longer songs often leave me behind.
  2. Hallelujah The Hills – I’d been avoiding the advance singles for the the forthcoming “A Band Is Something to Figure Out” because Hallelujah the Hills are decidedly the sort of band whose albums I like to figure out by listening to the whole thing, from beginning to end. So I was delighted to find a much earlier-than-expected copy in my mailbox last week. First impressions: murkier and angrier than I expected. Still catchy, though.
  3. Muncie Girls – I’ve been trying to reign in my expectations for Muncie Girls’ long-awaited debut (following an albums’ worth of tracks scattered over singles and EPs and splits). First couple spins through suggest that I needn’t have worried.
  4. Kal Marks – Exploding in Sound is building an impressively consistent roster of brainy but heavy indie rock without falling into the trap of signing bands that sound exactly like one other. The new Kal Marks doesn’t sound that much like Krill, but it makes it a bit easier for me to get over Krill not being a band anymore.
  5. Tsunami Bomb – Over at PunkNews John Gentile argues that the early demos on “Trust No One” are more interesting than the punk-pop act’s better-known material, because they’re more exploratory. Fair point, but I think I prefer the higher production values of the later stuff.
  6. Mexrrissey – Latined up covers of Smiths/Morrissey tunes? Yes, please.
  7. Slaves – Overcame my revulsion at the band name long enough to give the album a spin coz I saw it compared to early Godfathers. I can hear that, and McClusky, too. But The Godfathers had better riffs, McClusky had more spittle-flecked fury, and that name, it’s hard to get past. Like, I know it’s supposed to be controversial, but selecting this particular controversy suggests a kind of tone deafness I’m not good with.
  8. Notches – Sounds like these guys listened to plenty of Superchunk, and some DisChord kinda stuff, and it’s pretty lo-fi, and I’m okay with it. Promising.
  9. Horrible/Adorable – Growly guitars, sugary vocals, mostly simple, but catchy, tunes.
  10. Masts – “Adversaries” offers both straight-ahead pop punk and mathier excursions with lots of burbly hammer-on/pull-off riffs, like those bands that used to be on Hello Sir. I really like that the album has multiple modes.

Comments OffTags: 2016 · weekly top

29 Feb 2016

29 Feb 2016 · Comments Off

29 Feb 2016

  1. Flowers – On the new “Everybody’s Dying to Meet You,” Flowers crash back and forth — often several times in the same song — between wispy, semi-acoustic indie/twee pop and fully electrified buzz that often reminds me forcefully both of JAMC’s Lou Reedisms on “Darklands” and The Primitives (Rachel Kenedy’s soprano is airier than Tracy Tracy’s but the resemblance is still powerful on certain phrases). That description basically sounds like somebody followed a recipe for making an an album I ought to love — and maybe that’s the problem. It’s easy to listen to, but it also kinda makes me want to queue up “April Skies” or “Stop Killing Me” instead. And I didn’t have that problem with Burnt Palms.
  2. Holly – OK, so this is the “Holly” who’s released 3 albums to date, “Maps and Lists,” “#2 Record,” and the one I was listening to last week, “The Record.” I assume she’s uninterested in having search engine users as part of her fanbase, but she numbers folks like Ken Stringfellow and John Vanderslice as collaborators, which certainly piqued my interest. “The Record” is inspired by Nelson’s “Redheaded Stranger,” an album I should probably know better than I do, and I need to spend more time with “The Record” before I have anything useful to say about it.
  3. The Lillingtons – What’s that you say? You’ve got song titles like 50’s sci-fi horror flicks, and you sound about as much like the Ramones as you can manage? Yeah, I’m okay with that.
  4. Criaturas – balance melody and ferocity, spiced with metallic but admirably terse solos. One of my favorite hxc bands right now.
  5. High – gonna go out on a limb and guess these dudes like both their cannabis and their post-Lou dino junior. Recent “Bummer Burner” was right on the edge of persuading me I’d want to hear it more than once or twice. Won over by songs mostly not overstaying their welcome, unpretentious vibe, and some great guitar tone. “Canker Kid” is a definite highlight.
  6. Kitten – slicker than what I usually go for, but definitively put together well (Gavin MacKillop has a production credit on some of this, and while I don’t love everything he’s worked on, I do like quite a bit of it.) Seems like a perfect fit for Grey’s Anatomy featured music (but hasn’t been, so far). The cover of The Smith’s “Panic” is well worth tracking down, too.
  7. Yr First Crush Zine – another badly tagged compilation, sigh. Found it trying to exorcise completist impulses re: Burnt Palms, also features Hinds, and plenty more bands/tundes in assorted indie/pop/garage/punk flavors. Free to stream or download.
  8. Hussalonia – The Hussalonia Founder dropped a hint that legendary lost album “Dogdammit” might be released. Unless that was like one of those dreams where Fugazi invites me to watch new rehearsal sessions.
  9. Madison Bloodbath – I’m favorably disposed to gruff pop punk, but jeez, there’s a lot of it, and I struggle to keep all these bands straight. A couple of Madison Bloodbath’s tunes suggest they might have the stuff to pull ahead of the pack — a singer who sometimes sounds a bit like Bob Mould doesn’t hurt. “Sail In, Stumble Out” has some chord voicings that are almost Sugar-y, which is even better.
  10. Clocks – a little too specifically in debt to the early Cars albums, and the lead single “She Looks a Lot Like You,” has a keyboard flurry that’s uncomfortably close to Styx’s “Foolin’ Yourself.” But if you liked the Cars, Split Enz’s “True Colours,” and the thought of a lower-energy take on The Romantics isn’t off-putting, you could do a lot worse. If I’d heard this back then I woulda been all over it, and I’m happy to make the acquaintance now.

Comments OffTags: 2016 · weekly top

22 feb 2016

22 Feb 2016 · Comments Off

A Note

This isn’t a music criticism blog, it’s a music celebration blog. And while I have enough ego to hope it’s interesting or amusing to some people, it’s as much for me as it is for you: it’s here to satisfy my weird obsession with knowing what I liked best, or at least played most, in any given year, and to help me find the song I loved last week that the song I’ll hear three years from now reminds me of so much.

But lately a bit of criticism has been creeping into it, because I can’t always turn off the critical part of my brain and just love the music. I’ve been thinking a lot about problematic art, and voting with dollars, and the horrible Kesha ruling, and how last week I decided not to buy an album because a song title suggested the band might not be not sexist.

This week an algorithm recommended Camera Shy to me. Good job, algorithm, because they sound almost exactly like wistful indie poppers B’ehl, a band I really liked, but bad job, algorithm, because it’s a side project of Whirl/Whirr dude Nick Bassett. Bassett, you may recall, lost a speed-of-Twitter trial last year on charges of transphobia after a public dustup with the band G.L.O.S.S.. I had at that point purchased most of Whirl’s catalogue – second string stuff, worshipping at the altar of MBV/JAMC, but pretty good within its niche — and I felt stung, because it was really clear which side of this dispute I didn’t want to be on. (Bassett’s half-assed apology and attempted blame-shedding was almost worse than the original remarks, if you ask me.)

Somebody recently shared a little graph on Twitter, and one one side it said good people, mediocre people. bad people. and on the other side it said good art, mediocre art, bad art, and lines connected every possible combination. OK. But I believe in supporting artists financially, and I don’t want to support bad people financially. And there’s more good art by good people than I have time to absorb and appreciate anyway. Which isn’t to say I’m not going to listen to anything by anyone problematic ever (not ditching Miles Davis CDs) but I’m going to try to be judicious about it.

(Perversely, this is a kind of a useful thing about streaming revenue structures. Enjoy that thousandth of a penny from me, Nick. It probably won’t happen again.)

on to last week’s most-played artists:

  1. Worthwhile Way are from Tokyo, and have forged ties with the Gainesville Florida punk scene (I stumbled on them through a split with the sometimes Sugar-ish Madison Bloodbath), but they remind me very much of the side of Sarah Records/C86 that was too energetic to be tagged “twee,” and they sound more than a bit like current practitioners of the form Allo Darlin’ and Standard Fare. “After the Rain Comes Sunshine” is totally wedged in my head.
  2. Red Dons – on bandcamp you can recommend artists you like on the checkout screen for your albums, and Daylight Robbery did that, and that’s how I found Red Dons and The Stops. All 3 bands have some stylistic overlap – midrange-y, choppy, guitars and snakey basslines that recall the early 80s before punk and post-punk became really discrete. (My friend Greg helped me figure out that Daylight Robbery, in particular, reminds of early Mission of Burma and Wire; the Exene/John-ish tradeoffs are a red herring.) For what it’s worth, Red Dons probably fit least comfortably in this box, especially on last year’s (really good) “The Dead Hand of Tradition,” which feels like they’re trying some new things.
  3. Daylight Robbery – new Daylight Robbery! I was just thinking, it’s been awhile since they put anything out, I really hope they haven’t broken up. Huzzah.
  4. Discharge – shameful confession: I don’t think I ever really listened to Discharge before. Like, I didn’t know that’s where the term “d-beat” came from. Turns out I probably like Discharge-influenced bands better than the original, but this was some revelatory listening in the “Oh, that’s where that came from,” way. Kinda like when I finally watched “The French Connection.” (In my defense: I followed the US path into hxc, via “Damaged.”)
  5. The Stops (see above)
  6. Hard Girls – Not easy to categorize, which I think is almost always a plus. Reminds me a bit of The Beatings, partly because of a slight similarity of vocal timbre, but mostly because the balance between pop-leaning catchy tunes and more aggressive indie-rock-trending-toward-punk seems similar.
  7. Hussalonia – Listening to Hussalonia raises serious existential questions for me. How can The Founder do so MANY different things, and yet I love almost all of them, from the ramshackle pop rock to the one where angry animals diatribe in synthesized computer voices? I admit I don’t listen to the musical fridge poetry release as much, but I’m really glad it exists. This one, “Beware Young Lovers” consists of short, acoustic tunes with walking bass lines and subtle percussion, typically barbed, sardonic lyrics, and huge, pillowy masses of harmonies adorning melodies that often sound old-timey (Carmichael-ly?) in a way I’m not quite musically literate enough to explain.
  8. Trust Punks – Super excited by this Aussie crew’s single from late last year, “Mother’s Veil.” It goes through several textural shifts a minute, but it doesn’t sound forced to me, it sounds like a band whose command of the potential of the studio far outstrips their relative youth. (And maybe outstrips their songcraft, in the sense of a thing you can play straight through with just chords and melody. But, this time, at least, I’m OK with that.)
  9. Vaaska – See, now I’m qualified to say whether this Austin hxc outfit qualifies as d-beat or not. (Yes.) New single “Futuro Primitivo” slays; older stuff didn’t quite push me over the edge. In family tree with Criaturas, who I like a lot.
  10. Adventures – One of the most drastic main gig/side project schisms I know of, Adventures are emo indie in the vein of Rainer Maria, or Rilo Kiley at their most rocking and least electronica-influenced. Some tunes have a dash of scream-y seasoning, but it still doesn’t sound much like the math-metal sludgecore of alter ego Code Orange (Kids). Adventures got to me early with “Feel So Sure,” with a keening vocal performance that knocks me out because of, not despite, its lack of pitch precision. I don’t think anything else has quite equaled that, but I’m definitely paying attention to the progress of both bands.

Comments OffTags: 2016 · weekly top

15 feb 2016

15 Feb 2016 · Comments Off

  1. Earth Wind & Fire – Better late than never? “Boogie Wonderland” was one of the first 45s I ever bought, but I never dug deeper. Making up for lost time.
  2. The Astounds – Dunno ’bout you, but I’m relieved the long year-and-a-half with nothing new from Dean Edward Wells is over. In the days when he recorded as The Capstan Shafts, I used to think the key to inveigling someone into the cult was to find the one track that showed off Wells’ sardonic wit and effortlessly buoyant melodies, but also had all the instruments more-or-less in-time and on-key. Eventually I realized that was pointless – to love Wells’ music, you have to love the sloppy chaos. Wells’ latest manifestation, The Astounds, is more chaotic than most, not least because it’s among the most ambitious arrangement-wise — some of these tunes have at least 3 guitar parts, keys, and multiple vocal tracks in addition to in-need-of-tuning drums and in-need-of-new-strings bass. Reprises a coupla tunes from the now-vanished Sun Hoax project, but there’s plenty of new tunes waiting to invade your brain.
  3. Game Theory – this week digging into the bonus tracks for the “Lolita Nation” reissue. Thoughts TK.
  4. Eva Salina – NPR’s “Weekend Edition” did a story on Salina’s album featuring the works of Šaban Bajramović several weeks ago, and I’ve been impatient to hear it since. It’s finally moved from “forthcoming” to “released” status. I don’t know a thing about Šaban Bajramović but will have to educate myself. Lots of different textures to the arrangements — the electric guitars always especially perk up my ears, but this is well executed front-to-back.
  5. Burnt Palms – Exactly the sort of thing you expect me to like, and I do. I actually thought I’d cued up the new Dressy Bessy before this, so my initial reaction, when I thought I was listening to a different band entirely, was along the lines of, “wow, the vocals have never sounded so confident and I dig that darker guitar tone.” I get a bit of a Primitives vibe from this too.
  6. Ohio Players – I think I never listened much to these folks because of those album covers. A touch too much!
  7. Dressy Bessy – kinda covered this above? As usual, some solidly catchy tunes. Also as usual, mostly doesn’t quite click for me, and I’m never quite sure why.
  8. Rihanna – yeah, you know, the world does not need takes on “ANTI” from the likes of me.
  9. Badparker – These dudes make the sort of yelpy, jarring indie rock that I generally enjoy quite a bit, and I had their record in my shopping cart, and then I realized they had a song called “Nice Hooters.” And it’s not an objectifying sorta song — it starts with a frank line of suicidal ideation — but it also doesn’t seem to be explicitly about challenging objectification or expectations of it or whatever. And it really made me question whether I wanted to support this band financially (especially given recent experiences with bands that I later learned things about that made me wish I hadn’t supported them). YMMV.
  10. Sia – You know what I mean if I say “Grey’s Anatomy” music, right? Often kinda breathy female vocalists, singing songs that bluntly express emotion in the way the show’s characters perennially struggle to do. Generally not autotuned unto death, often a bit chilly, but danceable, even it’s a sorta sad sway dance. I’m pretty susceptible to this in general, and sometimes it intersects with artists I fully embrace, like Metric. I was introduced to Sia not via “Grey’s Anatomy” but via “Six Feet Under,” but “Breathe Me” sounded like quintessential Grey’s Fodder (and Sia’s music has featured there as well). Nothing on the new This Is Acting grabbed me as immediately, but it certainly struck me as well put together, and I’ll spin it some more.

Comments OffTags: 2016 · weekly top

8 feb 2016

08 Feb 2016 · Comments Off

  1. Game Theory – listening to the “Lolita Nation” reish. Many thoughts TK
  2. Svetlanas – Raucous, raunchy Russian punk with English lyrics delivered in a thick, thick – so many trilled r’s! – accent. Vocalist Olga snarls about her body parts like they’re weaponized. I liked the recent EP “Naked Horse Rider” and their half of a split with New Cold War enough to explore the back catalog. The new stuff is catchier and better recorded, but I especially liked the cover of The Runaways’ immortal “Cherry Bomb” on “Tales from the Alpha Brigade.”
  3. Giant Sand – Of all the things I love about the music of Howe Gelb with and without Giant Sand, I think the key element is the controlled introduction of chaos — whether it’s introducing odd arrangement details or bursts of scarcely controlled guitar noise, Gelb usually weirds up the tunes someway somehow. This is also a prime example of why I struggle to make timely year’s best lists, somehow GS snuck “Hearbreak Pass” out past me last May and all my early-alert systems failed until now.
  4. Washer – wrote about Washer last week but maybe it’s worth mentioning that I’m liking this more as I listen to it more
  5. Step Forward – Boston straightedge crew with only 2 releases in a decade. Concise (most under a minute) hxc jams with a bit of metal edge. Narrowly focused, but consistent
  6. The I Don’t Cares – Is it me, or is it Paul? I’ve liked a lot of Westerberg’s post-Replacements releases, but I haven’t loved very many. This isn’t an exception – it’s pleasant, catchy, and for what it’s worth, sonically closer to the ‘Mats than anything in a while — but it doesn’t cut to the quick. Maybe it’ll be a grower. Juliana Hatfield’s harmonies are nice, but surprisingly sparingly utilized.
  7. Chris Mars – listened to the whole “Sing Our Song” album thinking, man, this is nothing like the pleasantly barbed growly rock I remember from the former Replacements drummer, but my respect for the man is such that I will persevere — and it turns out there’s a very good reason for that, because this Chris Mars is a dude who was in Flock of Seagulls’ touring band. So yeah, caveat streameur.
  8. Rats in the Wall – Hardcore with metallic flourishes and some solid, if abrasive, hooks. Kinda think they should tour with Cloud Rat, despite the singular/plural mismatch it would be a ferocious bill.
  9. Bill Frisell – “When You Wish Upon a Star” finds the deservedly-venerated jazz guitarist tackling familiar (and slightly less familiar) themes from television and film, backed by a small combo featuring the vocals of Petra Haden (of undersong 90s altrockers That Dog, also of being Bill’s daughter). There are remarkably few recordings in Frisell’s vast discography that don’t connect with me — his melodic sense must be encoded in my DNA — and this certainly isn’t one of them.
  10. Bob Mould – Mixed feelings about Beauty & Sleep. Like “Silver Age,” it’s a prime slice of Mould in late Husker/Sugar mode, and I think Jon Wurster may be an even better rhythmic foil for Mould than Hart (heresy, I know). And I like it better than almost all the weird electronica-fied or de-electricized albums. But on some level it also seems like a retreat back into the comfort zone.

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1 feb 2016

01 Feb 2016 · Comments Off

I don’t know what shape my listening will take until after it’s happened, but three themes emerge from this week:

  • bands heavily influenced by the earliest explorations into what would eventually become goth, post-punk, and new wave
  • artists recommended by Jes Skolnik on Twitter (twitter.com/modernistwitch)
  • artists that I was pretty into 5 or 6 years ago but haven’t kept up with
  1. Hands on Heads – I think it’s the insistent organ that recalls “White Music” era XTC so strongly, but with the herky-jerky, spastic, shouty aspects maxed, and some afropop textures thrown in to boot.
  2. Miskatonic – 2 bands with this name, one much too bright to have a Cthulhu Mythos derived name – poppy indie rock that veers in 3 distinct directions: pure power pop, lil bit punky, new-wave sheen. Recommended for fans of early Blondie, the Epoxies, Velocity Girl, etc. The other Miskatonic is Canadian death metal with a bit of thrash/core in the mix.
  3. Sierpien – I hear Bauhaus in this for sure, but it’s also harsh in way that seems metal-fan friendly (or at least friendly to fans of the more avant/experimental side of BM, maybe).
  4. Crimpers – at the intersection of hardcore/noiserock/postpunk. (There’s some fuzz bass right out of the David J playbook, but Bauhaus at their most anarchic were nothing like this.)
  5. Kawehi – Kawhei (aka “I am Kawehi”) caught my ear with a fragile, slow-building cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” with unusual percussion textures. She applies the same sort of thoughtful arrangements to her own layered electro-acoustic pop. The one-two punch of “Youtube/Troll” makes me want to stand up and cheer.
  6. Cait Brennan – “Debutante”’s opening salvo “Good Morning and Goodnight” manages to evoke Mott the Hoople, Queen, and Bowie in roughly equal measure (with a dash of “Walk Under Ladders”-era Armatrading). Second track “Underworld” is a Big Star homage as good as anything from Teenage Fanclub. These are pretty good signposts for the whole endeavor – lovingly crafted in the styles of classic glam and powerpop. There’s something defiantly uncool about this that really appeals to me.
  7. Chroma – Maybe somewhere between punk and postpunk? Reminds me of Warsaw and Daylight Robbery.
  8. Desenterrades – if you imagine a line with the punky/glossy sci-fi new wave of the Expoxies at one end, and the scritchy jitter of Daylight Robbery in the middle, you might find Desenterrades at the other end — darker, harsher, closer to hardcore, but all three have a pre-apocalyptic vibe that seems sympatico.
  9. Hello Saferide – Winsome, smart, self-aware indie pop. Reminds me a bit of Mountain Goats and the Lucksmiths.
  10. Washer – Seems like a pretty safe bet that Washer’s namesake is the 9-minute centerpiece of Slint’s genre-defining “Spiderland” — gutsy, to say the least. Washer takes probably the best approach to having invited this sort of comparison: they make you dig to find the Slint influences in not-very-Slint-y songs (the longest 3 tunes on “Here Comes Washer” barely total 9 minutes, for instance). So yes, some meter play, and a few elegantly melodic basslines, but overall sounds about as much like “Bleach” as “Spiderland,” and fits very comfortably in the EIS roster without sounding too much like any one of the other bands( Krill, Pile, etc.) .

Bonus that I wrote up when I thought it would make the top 10, which it narrowly didn’t

  • Wingtips – don’t think it’s going out on a limb to assume that Wingtips main man Vinny Segretario loves him some early Depeche Mode and mid period Cure. But he dishes up the retro with plenty of panache. Recommended for fans of Plushgun or the synthy-er side of Say Hi (to Your Mom) (and vice versa).

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25 jan 2016

25 Jan 2016 · Comments Off

  1. They Might Be Giants – listened to the most recent kids’ album and the most recent grown-ups’ album, and they sorta blurred together, but I think I liked the former better.
  2. Flesh World – Sort of a sequel band to Brilliant Colors, gothy post-punk (or is that post-punky goth>). I like this, especially the early-Throwing-Muses-gone-shoegaze jitter of “To Lose Me,” but it feels a bit safe.
  3. Sally Timms – Thinking about Marti Jones’ voice leads me down another nostalgia hole, this time one with Mekons chanteuse Timms’ “To the Land of Milk & Honey” at the bottom of it. I bought this disc at a show, and if my memory is right, it was Timms herself who introduced me to the music of Barbara Manning that night, urging a copy of “Sings with the Original Artists” on me. “All these guys play on it,” she said, “but it has better songs.” So that’s next weeks’ nostalgia hole, probably, but “Junk Barge” and “Longing, Madness, and Lust” at the very least, belong on some mythical best-of-Mekons-related best-of box set.
  4. Hinds – Hinds are from Spain, but they have hazy tremolo guitar strumming and delicate ‘verbed-out leads, stacked and counter-sung harmonies that sound quintessentially Californian to me, and like the best Cali pop bands they mix cheer, sneer and melancholy. RIYL Best Coast or, especially, Colleen Green.
  5. Shooting Gallery – Maybe the saddest entry in Andy McCoy’s discography of too-often squandered potential, Shooting Gallery reunites Hanoi Rock’s guitar player with Dave Tregunna, from McCoy’s short-lived Cherry Bombz project and also the Lords of the New Church, for an album of competent but uninspiring and uninspired sub-Guns’n'Roses hard rock.
  6. The Fawns – Fawns’ fronter Lesa Bezo’s songs are characterized both by her sharply observed, but fundamentally warm lyrics, and a knack for the sort of unforced melodic hooks that seem already half-familiar. The band’s new long player sets the songs in arrangements with Byrds-ian chiming guitars, a dash of twang, and a bit of indie rock crunch. Deserves to be way better known, I think.
  7. Orchid – I used to listen to Transistor Transistor and Wolves a lot, so I guess it’s actively odd that I never heard Orchid before. I wish someone would do a Pete Frame-style family tree of all those bands I like with that genre name I refuse to use.
  8. Sports – Many bands with this name, listening to the Ohio pop-punks with a cuts-through-the-mix singer, squarely in Swearin’, Candy Hearts, All Dogs, Bad Banana sorta territory.
  9. The Bears – Back in my college DJ days The Bears self-titled album and “Rise and Shine” showed up one day, with zero fanfare — without, as far as I remember, a one-sheet — I played those records without knowing in advance that Adrian Belew was involved, and so I mentally filed them with some of the other kinda-new-wave, kinda-roots-y stuff I was digging on at the time, like labelmates the dB’s, and, especially, Let’s Active. I’d heard (and liked, mostly) the 3rd album, a decade and a half later, but if felt fundamentally different – much more careful prog craftpeople making a pop, but not too pop record. I didn’t even know til last week that a 4th album came out back in 2007, but it slid by without making a big impression. Little too tasteful, maybe.
  10. Chorusgirl – unlikely but appealing blend of Lush-ish shoegaze textures and Best Coast-y surf/garage tunes. “This Town Kills” is a standout for me (perhaps because it’s maybe a bit too much like Radiohead’s “Creep”).

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18 jan 2016

18 Jan 2016 · Comments Off

  1. David Bowie – When I was a callow young thing, for a while I refused to listen to any popular music older than 1980. This was a reaction to the calcification of nostalgia, and musical taste frozen in time, but it was dumb, and it was an enforced listen to “Ziggy” that shook me out of it. Most of this week hasn’t been listening to the Bowie albums dear to my heart, it’s been listening to some of the (unfairly, I’d say) maligned later records. And Blackstar, of course.
  2. My Sydney Riot – Shows up in my listening diary thanks to tagging error; it’s not a band, it’s a blog devoted to promoting the Sydney punk scene, which has a big mess of free compilations on the My Sydney Riot bandcamp page. I listened to a few of ‘em, need to go back and research about half the bands further, almost all new-to-me, mostly middling-to-very-good. Inclusive vs. orthodox punk.
  3. Tin Machine – (See above re: unfairly maligned Bowie records.)
  4. Bitesize – Indie rock with punky energy, appealingly unsteady cross-sung male/female vocals. Reminds me a bit of New Grenada, which means I like it quite a bit.
  5. Wolves – I’m gonna bet these guys loved Spiderland, but while the influence is prominent, Wolves don’t sound derivative to me — instead they evolve a Slint-ish sound in a more hardcore direction. One of the most willfully obscure bands I know, Wolves refused to title their songs, and didn’t last long. (I think members went on to play in the likes of Transistor Transistor, Ampere, and Orchid.)
  6. Flowers – Mostly melancholy, acoustic-guitar rooted indie pop, and unabashedly gorgeous vocals from Rachel Kenedy. I get a strong Julie Doiron vibe from this, also recalls Nat Johnson of Monkey Swallows the Universe.
  7. Chairlift – If you ask me right this second, I would say that these folks, Polica, and Purity Ring are my current favorites among the artists working in the long shadow of Portishead. (By the time I’ve hit “publish” I will have probably remembered 3 more. But still, these three understand that creepy is as important as cool and catchy.)
  8. Saintseneca – Kicking myself for not paying attention to this band sooner, but better late than never. Smart folkish indie with a dash of roots-rock. Murder by Death and Decemberists might be reasonable signposts.
  9. Krill – Revisiting A Distant Fist Unclenching & still pretty sure it’s my #3 of 2105 (behind Beauty Pill and Speedy Ortiz). Wondering why so many others snubbed it in year’s best lists – wonder if some of it is down to being pissed at them for breaking up.
  10. All Dogs – One of the reasons it’s a bit startling that I didn’t listen to Saintseneca sooner is that I like Meryn Jones’ other band, All Dogs, a lot. Definitely makes sense for them to be sometime labelmates of/tour with Swearin’/Waxatachee etc.

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11 jan 2016

11 Jan 2016 · Comments Off

  1. Marti Jones – Revisiting her first two A&M albums with Don Dixon. Jones’ voice, along with Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson, and Sally Timms’, is one of the quintessential ways I define a certain kind of good singer, more about tone than power or histrionic emotional readings, and just really pretty. Dixon’s arrangements veer between the 80’s jangle-pop he helped define and more experimental soundscape-y things; compositions are a mix of (strong) originals and covers of other jangle pop types (dB’s) and their influences (a gorgeous reading of Bowie’s “Soul Love”). These records maybe aren’t quite as stellar as I remember, but the high points are very high and the low points are still pretty good. Somebody oughtta reissue this stuff.
  2. Sea Lions – Bands like Sea Lions make me feel old, because the references I have for them seem hopelessly dated. Are they really colossal fans of the C86 movement? Or did they wind up sounding like that by taking an admiration of, say, Captured Tracks bands, in a slightly different direction? They sound so much like the Close Lobsters it’s hard for me not to hear them as self-consciously retro, but that might be completely unfair.
  3. Cotton Mather – These guys have veered (often in the scope of the same song) between Big Star/GB/Let’s Active-ish power jangle that I love and trippier stuff I’m much less into. But new tune “Book of Too Late Changes” hits a sweet spot for me, lo-fi drums and intricate choral outro and all.
  4. All Dogs – There’s a sort of American band I have nearly boundless appetite for, characterized by smooth shifts from jangly arpeggiated riffs to crunchy power chords, enlivened by thoughtful (in this case, double-or-more-tracked) harmonies. Bands that sound like they grew up on all those bands that so clearly loved The Replacements. All Dogs remind me most specifically of Waxahatchee, FWIW.
  5. Shunkan – There’s a sort of British band I have a nearly boundless appetite for, characterized by slightly nasal and/or yelpy vocal delivery, a dash of punk ‘tude, and possibly a fear of being too “pretty” addressed with mildly challenging sonics. Shunkan remind me most specifially of Sky Larkin, FWIW.
  6. Damsel Trash – If Abbi and Ilana from “Broad City” formed a punk band it might sound like this. Raw, rude, political, and funny. “Pugs” and “All Girl Band” are pretty genius.
  7. Golden Grrrls – Another new(ish) band very likely to appeal to C86ers. Don’t seem quite as retro to me, for whatever reason.
  8. Spider and the Webs – Tobi Vail playing psych-inflected punky garage.
  9. Terry Adams – Many years ago NRBQ’s exuberant run through “Little Rootie Tootie” was very nearly my first exposure both to the performances of NRBQ and the compositions of Monk (I’d heard Bruce Fowler’s abbreviated run through “Thelonius” about 50 seconds earlier, on the same Hal Wilner-produced tribute album). Although it’s released under Adams’ name, not the Q’s “Talk Thelonious” is cut from the same cloth — arrangements that might seem irreverent if they weren’t played so damn well.
  10. Spear of Destiny – I know it’s not cool to love “Outland,” but I do.

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12 jan 2015

12 Jan 2015 · No Comments

  1. Hussalonia -You’re tired of me writing about Hussalonia, probably.
  2. Anti-Flag – The first time I wrote about Anti-Flag they were releasing music on a major label and compromising nothing. 2015 finds them on a Finnish heavy metal label (!) … and compromising nothing
  3. Strike Anywhere – Back when I used to want to be a music critic, I prided myself on saying negative things about records I liked, because I thought that helped establish a critical perspective, as opposed to a fanboyish one. I think it’s past time for me to apologize for dissing records I later came to love
  4. Bud Powell – Can’t live on avant/eclectic pop and agit-core alone. Need some bebop, too.
  5. Shinobu – chopsy indie rock sometimes veering punkward
  6. Watershed – wanted to familiarize myself with the band before reading Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll. Which I still need to read.
  7. Charlie XCX
  8. Young Statues – I like their own stuff fine, but the New Order cover is killer
  9. Honus Huffines – Gonna save writing about this for next week
  10. Hallelujah the Hills – The fundamental fallacy of the whole critical distance thing is that my motivation for writing about my music in the first place was to share my love of it. I love Hallelujah the Hills. I’ve written plenty about them, and almost all of it embarrasses me, because it’s spiked with left-handed compliments and outright insults.

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