- Game Theory – listening to the “Lolita Nation” reish. Many thoughts TK
- 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.”
- 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.
- Washer – wrote about Washer last week but maybe it’s worth mentioning that I’m liking this more as I listen to it more
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
08 Feb 2016 · Comments Off
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Chroma – Maybe somewhere between punk and postpunk? Reminds me of Warsaw and Daylight Robbery.
- 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.
- Hello Saferide – Winsome, smart, self-aware indie pop. Reminds me a bit of Mountain Goats and the Lucksmiths.
- 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).
25 Jan 2016 · Comments Off
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”).
18 Jan 2016 · Comments Off
- 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.
- 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.
- Tin Machine – (See above re: unfairly maligned Bowie records.)
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
11 Jan 2016 · Comments Off
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Golden Grrrls – Another new(ish) band very likely to appeal to C86ers. Don’t seem quite as retro to me, for whatever reason.
- Spider and the Webs – Tobi Vail playing psych-inflected punky garage.
- 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.
- Spear of Destiny – I know it’s not cool to love “Outland,” but I do.
12 Jan 2015 · No Comments
- Hussalonia -You’re tired of me writing about Hussalonia, probably.
- 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
- 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
- Bud Powell – Can’t live on avant/eclectic pop and agit-core alone. Need some bebop, too.
- Shinobu – chopsy indie rock sometimes veering punkward
- 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.
- Charlie XCX
- Young Statues – I like their own stuff fine, but the New Order cover is killer
- Honus Huffines – Gonna save writing about this for next week
- 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.
05 Jan 2015 · No Comments
- Professor Longhair – as one does when returning from New Orleans
- The Fur Coats
- Prince – no explanation needed, right?
- The New Lows
- Total Control – evokes a lot of stuff I like — early Orchestral Manoeuvres, X-ray Spex, Neu!, Go4, Chameleons, and, yes, Joy Div – pleasantly enough, but only intermittently commands my attention and doesn’t really establish a distinct identity of its own.
- Pyrrhon – weird discordant metal with lots of queasy little bends, crazy tempo shifts, vocals in both shouty and gurgly modes, and, crucially, sometimes enough breathing room in the mix to put the pummeling into sharp relief. I liked the shorter songs enough to listen to all the long ones.
- David Bazan – no explanation needed, right?
- Andy Stott
- My Favorite – I’m often a bit suspicious when an artist abandons a recent band name (The Secret History, in this case) to go back to an earlier one. Sometimes feels like throwing the new stuff under the bus a bit, or an attempt to recapture prior glory. But it’s not like My Favorite were a household name in the first place, The Secret History were hardly a world apart stylistically, and had substantial roster overlap anyways, and it is like you could put the new My Favorite single up against the old ones and not find it lacking. So, yeah, it’s fine.
- Jasmine Minks – How is it that I never heard these folks before? Were on Creation, prolly just missed being on the original C86.
29 Dec 2014 · No Comments
- The New Lows – catchy indie rock, sometimes with a bit of punkish bite
- The Gateway District – Something about singer Maren Macosko’s phrasing reminds me of The Beatings’ Eldridge Rodriguez, and that makes me hear more similarity to The Beatings’ than exists, possibly. But I think they wind up in a similar place: punk by virtue of heart and pedigree more than stylistically, crafting tough, no-frills rock that some times takes a spin or two for the melodies to dig in.
- Piss Vortex – Experimental grindcore seems like something I ought to like, and the sonic commitment to lower mids on all the stringed instruments is unusual and noteworthy. I’d like it better if it were instrumental, and I’d like it even better — and think it was much edgier — if it ditched the de rigueur song titles (and presumably lyrics, not that they’re comprehensible) of violence, nihilism and scatological fetish. Which is to say, I’d like them better if they were a completely different band.
- Earworms – apparently somebody in Earworms used to be in I Farm, which makes total sense. Somewhere between hardcore and tech death, with a dash of Reis/Froberg-esque chaos.
- Andy Stott – minimalist techno with suitably chilly vocals. Some of the sonic palette reminds me a bit of Shriekback, never a bad thing
- The Both – put off listening to this for a while, both because I was worried an Aimee Mann/Ted Leo wouldn’t be able to live up to my expectations, and because I was worried that listening to the Scott Miller-inspired track might be more than I could handle. But I like it a lot. Unsurprisingly more verve-ful than recent Mann, a bit mellower than most TL/RX, and a fine, fine batch of songs. (If you listen to it waiting for the Miller-ish one to pop up and devastate you, you might notice that a lot of tracks seem like they could be the one inspired by Miller. Although there’s still no mistaking the one that is.)
22 Dec 2014 · No Comments
- Permanent Ruin – “blistering” is a lazy word for describing hardcore, but it is the one that is wedged in my head after listening to this. They often do this little bridge of feedback between songs that I’m totally a sucker for, and they include just enough melody and slow(er) bits to make the songs hang together. Can’t remember who hipped me to this, but I owe somebody.
- Tony Molina – minute-long, fuzz-on-max, power-pop nuggets. RIYL Weezer, Lemonheads, Muffs (and even more if you think those bands’ songs are too long)
- Ovlov – saw these dudes on a knock-out bill with Speedy Ortiz, Krill, Two-Inch Astronaut and Lemuria. They were the one band I wasn’t a fan of before the show, but their high-volume command of discordant-but-catchy sludge and Mascis-esque guitar histrionics was pretty impressive.
- Krill – holy shit, Krill. Krill remind me a lot of Dismemberment Plan without sounding much like D-plan. But like D-plan at their best, Krill often seem to follow a different form of musical logic from normal bands, not weird for weirdness’ sake, just thinking with different rules.
- Rachel’s – not sure what impelled revisiting the Rachel’s catalog, but it’s always a fine way to spend some listening time.
- Night Rally – another rec from Ryan of HtH. Intricately structured indie rock with thoughtful lyrics and often surprisingly aggressive vocal delivery — The Paper Chase might not be a bad reference point, although thematically they’re quite different. Rewards active listening for sure.
- The Fur Coats – Fun, punky, power-pop — sometimes reminds me of the earliest, most raucous Big Dipper songs. One thing that’s very unusual for me, the two longest tunes on The League of Extraordinary Octopuses are my favorite — although they’re not far from the 3-minute mark.
- Final Club – Spacious indie rock with lots of tonal variation, some lovely noisy bits, I’m especially fond of “Stay Lost.” They’d probably hate to be called goth, but the dark sonic mood of some of these songs calls that word to my mind. But I like a lot of goth. (They’d probably hate to be called jammy too, but there’s at least one solo that goes on too long for me.)
- Parquet Courts
- Honeyblood – Indie rock with hazy vibe, nice harmony work. Sometimes sounds a bit Catpured Tracks-y, while reminding me, perhaps a bit obliquely, of Mazzy Star
15 Dec 2014 · No Comments
- Singing Adams – Lost track of Steven James Adams after the end of the late, much lamented Broken Family Band. But look here he is!
- DTCV – née Détective. Fits somewhere in the extended GBV fambly tree, via Jim Greer. Their album art leads me to expect something sly and slinky, like Black Box Recorder, and there are some nods in that direction, but it’s not their mainstay. I like this, but it’s eclectic enough that it’s hard to get a handle on the band’s sound.
- Steven James Adams
- Azealia Banks – Creepy but kinda compelling.
- Charlie XCX – I like this just fine as mainstream pop goes, but I do wish I could hear the loud guitar-y record that was apparently scrapped in favor of this one.
- Machine Go Boom – Recommended by Ryan Walsh of Hallelujah the Hills, aka one of my very favorite bands. It’s probably a bit lazy to describe to this as E6-ish, but I’m going to claim the mostly acoustic guitars, lo-fi drums, and odd arrangement details in my defense
- Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – (needs no explanation)
- Leagues Apart – If you name your album after a David Foster Wallace book and you have song titles like “I Was Born a Snake Handler and I’ll Die a Snake Handler” I’ll listen to your record at least once. But if you’re a good-but-not-extraordinary band in the Latterman/Lawrence Arms mode I may be more disappointed than if you hadn’t unreasonably raised my expectations.
- Parquet Courts – Remember how the first Spoon album sounded like an unlikely meeting of The Fall and Jonathan Richman? Parquet Courts lean more to the groove of the Fall’s rockabilly covers than the jackhammer pulse of early Spoon, but mining not dissimilar territory.
- Bad Canoes – Screaming Female’s Marissa Paternoster in a no-wave keys/bass/drums/vox outfit. Atonal and catchy. Mmm good.