Friday, December 15, 2017

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #3: Sallie Ford - Soul Sick

Sallie Ford's Soul Sick has earned the distinction of being the only album both Jeff and I put on our top ten lists. By default, that most likely earns it If It's Too Loud... album of the year honors, if we did such a thing. Sallie Ford has always been an artist that plays raw and with a confessional songwriting style. It's never been more apparent than on Soul Sick. Her doo wop meets garage meets indie rock sound is kept intact, but, while her previous albums have had a sense of fun, this one is dark and decidedly uncomfortable at times. I know this makes it sound like I'm calling Soul Sick a complete bummer, but somehow Ford keeps her songs catchy and upbeat, despite the subject matter.

Songs of note: "Loneliness is Power," "Get Out," and "Failure."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #3: Partner - In Search of Lost Time

There's a lot of reasons why this album shouldn't work. It's got a sound from another era, it relies heavily on comedy, it's an indie rock record with skits. But then you hear a song like "Everybody Knows" and you just get it - that the humor is because real life can be funny, that the choices made here are really deliberate, and that the duo is completely leaning into the whole thing. There is no reason why a 36 year old straight married white guy who hasn't as much as touched marijuana should love an album by a couple 20-something lesbian stoners, but here we are with an album that should really be enjoyable for anyone who doesn't take themselves too seriously. It's an achievement at any point, but it's absolutely one of the best listens of the year.

Songs of note: "Everybody Knows," "Gross Secret," "Daytime TV"

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #4: Sallie Ford - Soul Sick

While this was one of the best albums I've heard this year, it was also one of the saddest. So much pain emanates from this album, and the end result is Sallie Ford's best effort yet. The songs are a little more stark, a little more retro, but then you have "Screw Up" and "Get Out" and "Romanticized Catastrophe" and you're just kind of on board. Even looking back on this album, I could point to most of the songs as favorites here, so really just listen to the whole thing and share your hurt a bit.

Songs of Note: "Record on Repeat," "Screw Up," "Get Out," "Romanticized Catastrophe"

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #4: The Huntress and Holder of Hands - Avalon

Avalon is one of the most powerful and heartbreaking albums of the year. With her first full length as The Huntress and Holder of Hands, and the first since losing Dave Lamb, her husband and Brown Bird bandmate, MorganEve Swain has crafted this amazing album that keeps what we loved about Brown Bird and growing from it. Avalon keeps the eastern European folk sound prevalent in much of Brown Bird's catalog, keeps the metal leanings of Axis Mundi, and adds in some of the noise of indie rock. It's an album of loss and rebirth. It may look back fondly, but it moves on from a horrible loss into something brand new, while still cherishing the past. Plus, it includes "Borealis," which may be my favorite song of 2017.

Songs of note: "Borealis," "Shake Off Your Flesh," and "Creatures in Flight."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Blog That Celebrates Itself Releases a Girl Groups Covers Album!

Two of my favorite musical genres are oldies from the 60's and noisy indie rock. It's rare that those two genres get mixed together, but luckily for me The Blog That Celebrates Itself has released yet another brilliant covers collection, this one specializing in girl groups covers. If you're looking for covers that stay true to the original, this one may not be for you. It's filled with genre shattering versions that skew towards shoegaze  and noise rock, filled with more feedback and droning guitars than most people can handle. A perfect example is include "Now You're Gone" (done here by Ceremony, originally by Bobbie Smith and the Dream Girls), which would be entirely unrecognizable without a track listing. It's a blisteringly noisy nearly 7:00 version that ignores the vocals for two full minutes, which completely defies the entire girl group genre. Ghost Transmission goes a little more traditional with their version of The Shangri-las "Remember, Walking in the Sand," but that might only be since you can actually understand the vocals, which are fairly straightforward. The Persian Leaps also pop in with "And Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals, which is probably my favorite girl group song of all time. Their version is possibly the most faithful version on the compilation.

You can download your copy of Girl Groups - The Underground Versions at The Blog That Celebrates Itself's Bandcamp for free! 

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #5: Versing - Nirvana

It's getting more and more rare to just stumble into a band at a live show these days. Back in the pre-internet days, you'd go to see a band you loved and had absolutely no idea about the opening band. The first time I ever heard Mogwai was when they opened for Pavement at Lupo's in Providence, RI in 1997. These days, I'll see that some band I've never heard of is opening a show and look them up to see if they're worth checking out. Sure, you get to miss terrible openers that way, but you lose out on that blown away out of nowhere experience.

Back in October, I went to see The Courtneys and Weakened Friends last minute, and got to experience that again with Versing. Back then I wrote that Versing reminded me of early Superdrag meets The Dismemberment Plan, and after hearing Nirvana, I stand by that statement. The songs on the album have the epic feel and power pop noise of Regretfully Yours and the slightly quirky alterna-punk of the latter. It's a fun 90's throwback sound mixing two things I never knew I wanted to hear together.

Songs of note: "Body Chamber," "The Draw," and "Chorus As."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #5: Stef Chura - Messes

Stef Chura's album came out at the beginning of the year and immediately impressed us with the sharp songwriting and the interesting vocals and instrumentation. "Slow Motion" has been in rotation basically since the moment it hit my ears, and its disappearance from Spotify as she transitioned to Saddle Creek was one of the lowlights of the fall. But it's here now, and it's just as good coming back around. With a sound that reminds me of perhaps a more manic Margaret Glaspy, this is one that I hope more people find in the next year and I can't wait to hear what Chura has coming next.

Songs of Note: "Slow Motion," "You"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for 8 December

Artist: Jim James
Album: Tribute To 2
Quick Description: A covers record from a beloved indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Covers albums are always at least worth a shot.
Overall Thoughts: Another cover record timed to coincide with the rerelease of an earlier covers EP, what is really noteworthy to me is how kind of bland and dull the whole affair is. There is no real life breathed into these songs, instead resulting in an album that almost feels intentionally dull. It’s…weird. I don’t get it, but I also can’t say that I necessarily “get” Jim James from a solo perspective period. Ultimately, I just hope I’m missing the boat entirely.
Recommendation: Skip this unless you have reason otherwise.

Artist: Diablo Swing Orchestra
Album: Pacifisticuffs
Quick Description: Is it metal? Is it indie? Is it disco?
Why You Should Listen: You want to know the answers to those questions.
Overall Thoughts: This is easily the most confusing, strangest genre mashup I’ve heard since Babymetal. It’s Nordic black metal in some regards, but has disco and pop and folk influences throughout and the whole thing is weird enough to grab anyone’s attention yet compelling enough to have me excited to get more.
Recommendation: Easily the most fascinating listen of the week.

Artist: The Eskies
Album: And Don't Spare the Horses
Quick Description: Nautical indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: Has an old, but fresh, feel.
Overall Thoughts: If The Coral, The Zutons, and Gogol Bordello were combined into a giant amorphous musical blob, they might sound like The Eskies. There’s a definite sea shanty/traditional folk angle to this, but still feels like it has a modern attitude. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and this would be worth your time even if the new releases weren’t slowing so considerably as of late.
Recommendation: Worth a listen this week.

Artist: Telyscopes
Album: The Hobbyist
Quick Description: Multi-faceted multi-genre indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: They're good at a lot of things.
Overall Thoughts: There’s a lot to unpack with Telyscopes, who bridge the sort of retro psych rock with some modern instrumentation and pop elements. The album ends up being something that I didn’t hate, but I can’t say I necessarily loved it, either. This is a situation where I likely would have preferred a little more focus on what was being attempted on a whole. Some might really enjoy their take on this, but my best recommendation is to be wary.
Recommendation: Might be worth your time.

Artist: Moderate Rebels
Album: The Sound of Security
Quick Description: More multi-genre indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: A more serious take on the world to go with the interesting music.
Overall Thoughts: Another sometimes confusing but often fun mishmash of musical ideas is in this album, which, like Telyscopes, has more to like in the pieces than in the sum of the whole. I like a lot of the attempts here, but not as much with the overall. Give this a listen, take what you like – this is interesting enough where it may be all of it for you.
Recommendation: Also worth your time.


* The Daizies and Courtiers - Seen a Ghost (split EP)
* Belle & Sebastian - How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1) (the most B&S record in a decade)
* The Oh Hellos - Notos

Also out this week:

* Chris Thile - Thanks for Listening (rerecordings of some of his Prairie Home Companion tunes)
* Shovels and Rope - Busted Jukebox Volume 2 (solid second try at a covers record)
* Statik Selecktah - 8

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #6: Downtown Boys - Cost of Living

If I felt that Fox Face weren't making music for me, then Downtown Boys really aren't. Just the fact that a good percentage of the songs are in Spanish, and I understand an embarrassingly low amount of Spanish. Cost of Living is by far the best political record of the year. Released during the Charlottesville, VA protests made this album feel even more vital upon its release. A lot of music that gets called punk these days is hardly punk, and Downtown Boys don't have the traditional punk sound that "real" punk bands have been required to sound like since the 70's, but Cost of Living is by far the most punk album of this century.

Songs of note: "A Wall," "Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)," and "I'm Enough (I Want More."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #6: Alex Lahey - I Love You Like a Brother

Every so often an album comes along that nearly encapsulates everything you're looking for from an album at a given time. In a year with so much solid female-fronted alt-rock coming out, Alex Lahey takes the model and turns it into something that pops into focus in a way artists like Mitski and Courtney Barnett (both of which who are excellent) do not. This is part alt-rock, part power pop, part soul-bearing singer-songwriter stuff, but the bombast of "Lotto in Reverse" or just the way the title track sets up the entire mood is just superior to most of what came out this year. Ken hopped onto this bandwagon early, and I'm glad some room was left for me, because I haven't been able to get enough of this one since it came out.

Songs of Note: "Lotto in Reverse," "I Love You Like a Brother," "Every Day's the Weekend"