Friday, July 21, 2017

J.R. Roach Covers Jimmy Reed

Based on what we write about on here, you most likely wouldn't guess that either one of us would be obsessed with Sam Black Church. Hardcore typically isn't my thing, but they just do this bizarre, unhinged version of it that has always resonated with me. Plus, if you were coming of age in central Massachusetts in the early to mid 90's, Sam Black Church stickers covered virtually every road sign, drive-thru menu, etc. It was viral marketing before there was such a thing.

Even odder is this first solo offering from J.R. Roach, Sam Black Church's drummer. (He also drums for Goddamn Draculas.) It's a cover of the Jimmy Reed 1961 classic blues song "Bright Lights, Big City." It's a pretty standard cover while being amped up just slightly. It avoids the middle aged white guy doing the blues thing you'll hear at your local BBQ and Blues fest this summer, and maybe it's just my assumptions based on who Reed is, but the guitar licks have just the trace hints of a metal riff. 

You can listen to J.R. Roach's cover of "Bright Lights, Big City" below. You can get your own copy of the song at Roach's Bandcamp. For more on J.R. Roach, check out his website.

Stalagmites - "Binary"

Photo by James Byrne
If you're from Manchester, starting a band is a damned if you do/damned if you don't proposal. How do you not start a band when your city has such a rich and legendary history? But... how do you start a band when your city has such a rich and legendary history? I'm not saying Stalagmites are the next legendary Manchester band, but based on "Binary," they're off to a good start.

"Binary" borrows pretty heavily from multiple genres. It could just be that the opening (and repeated) riff is very reminiscent of "Bastards of Young," but there's more than a hint of The Replacements here. You're going to hear a ton of modern post punk, but the more palatable Interpol variety than Gang of Four. When the guitar isn't sounding like The Replacements, it swirls around on the line between shoegaze and psychedelia. It's a great blend that takes a few of the most copied genres but puts them together in a way we're not quite used to.

You can watch the video for "Binary" below. The single is available now on Veta Records. For more on Stalagmites, check them out on Facebook.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Melkbelly - "Kid Kreative"

The latest single from Chicago's Melkbelly will hit a perfect retro button if you were an indie rock fan in the 1990's. Right from the use of a "K" to spell creative in the name "Kid Kreative," you'll know the level of 90's you're getting. It's crunchy, droning guitars that just chug along with a stylistically half done guitar solo, plus fairly monotone vocals (and I mean all of that in the best possible way). It never gets quite as noisy as you want it to get, but it's a great alternative pop song in the vein of The Breeders and Cake Like.

You can watch the video for "Kid Kreative" below. Melkbelly's debut album, Nothing Valley, will be out on October 13 via Wax Nine Records (aka Sadie Duspuis' (Sad13, Speedy Ortiz) label!) It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Melkbelly, check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

Lee Ranaldo - "New Thing"

Photo via Facebook
At this point in his career, you should know what to expect from Lee Ranaldo. He's the guy formerly of Sonic Youth that brought in the psychedelic noise and was the master of the ten minute solo heavy jam. That's why his latest single, "New Thing," is so surprising. It's a fairly straightforward mainstream almost folk song. I've always said that he was the George Harrison of Sonic Youth, but for this song he's John Lennon. It includes melodic guitar and piano (the piano is very reminiscent of "Imagine"), Ranaldo harmonizing with Sharon Van Etten, and pretty standard verse/chorus/verse format. Sure, every so often there's a burst of feedback followed by some psychedelic guitar, but this is kept to a very minimum. After a 30+ year career, Lee Ranaldo can still surprise, this time by being so normal.

You can watch the video for "New Thing" below. Lee Ranaldo's latest album, Electric Trim, will be out September 15 on Mute Records. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Ranaldo, check out his website.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Torres - "Three Futures"

Photo by Ashley Connor
Last month we brought you Torres' first single on 4AD, and last week her 4AD debut was announced along with a new song. "Three Futures" is a slow, slow build. Dominated by strings and driven by electronic sounding drums, it's a sluggish song that doesn't gain any speed, but builds intensity. It's not a nice song in the pretty sense. It's a bit uncomfortable and foreboding in the best possible way. Torres' voice adds to the mood of the song. She's never had a traditional sound to her voice, and "Three Futures" is the best example of her vocal talents.

You can watch the video for "Three Futures" below. Torres' 4AD debut, also called Three Futures, will be out September 29. For more on Torres, check out her website.

First Listen: New Releases for June 14

Album of the Week:

Artist: Waxahatchee
Album: Out in the Storm
Quick Description: Latest from the indie singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Katie Crutchfield has improved with every album under the Waxahatchee moniker, and this is her best yet.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how to describe this, even now, because Waxahatchee has always filled its own little nook in the indie world. Trying to compare it to anything else is a little bit of a challenge, and that's fine - at its core, it's a unique indie listen, and this is no different. But this album also gives us songs like "Silver" and "Never Been Wrong" that speak to a positive evolution in her sound that just works for me. I can't recommend this enough, and I hope it has some solid staying power.
Recommendation: Easily the best of the week.

Artist: RAC
Album: EGO
Quick Description: Turntablist/DJs continue their pop ways.
Why You Should Listen: They've traditionally been interesting.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this DJ/turntable collective’s previous album, but this one just feels… weird. Some songs are solid – the Rivers Cuomo effort is fine, the MDNR song a definite plus, but on a whole, this feels more like going through the motions more than anything.
Recommendation: Probably skip it.

Artist: Kabells
Album: Ten Flowers
Quick Description: Strange, poppy music.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely the most interesting listen of the week.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes these songs have a whistle to them where I think it’s Andrew Bird singing falsetto with an electronica backing effort. Other times this feels like the standard pop efforts that are a little left of center and won’t get a ton of radio play. I can’t say this did much for me at all, and I can’t say I fully grasp the intentions here.
Recommendation: I didn't love this, but you might.

Artist: Siobhan Wilson
Album: There Are No Saints
Quick Description: Solid singer-songwritery stuff.
Why You Should Listen: A fascinating listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: In what kind of looks like a slowish week, I took a flier on this one and I’m glad I did – this is a unique singer-songwritery take, has some folk elements but also pushes out a lot of fuzzy elements and takes plenty of risks.
Recommendation: Absolutely try this one out.

Artist: Dishwalla
Album: Juniper Road
Quick Description: The latest 1990s revival.
Why You Should Listen: You loved "Counting Blue Cars."
Overall Thoughts: As much as we’re loving the 1990s revival around these parts, this was not an album anyone was asking for and is really not an album we needed. They’re also trying to be a little heavier than what they’re famous for, and none of it works.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Album: Quazars vs. The Jealous Machines
Quick Description: Off-center rap music.
Why You Should Listen: The weirdest rap album you'll hear this year.
Overall Thoughts: Some really dark, perhaps almost gothic in a way, rap music. There was a moment when Tricky, the trip-hop guy, was experimenting in this space a bit, and this felt very reminiscent of that effort. As for this, I don’t think it was bad, but I can definitively say it wasn’t for me. If you’re looking for something really different, give this a shot...
Recommendation: ... but your mileage may vary.

Artist: Offa Rex
Album: The Queen of Hearts
Quick Description: British folk with the Decemberists.
Why You Should Listen: If the Decemberists don't get you on board, the rest of this should.
Overall Thoughts: This was a surprise! I did not anticipate a collaboration between the Decemberists and a British folk singer, but here we are – the album itself is fun, feeling both modern and traditional, and it toes that line perfectly. Colin Meloy’s voice on the tracks where he’s featured as a vocalist are perfect, and Olivia Chaney often sounds like she was transported from two generations ago.
Recommendation: One of my favorite listens this week, and just a great little piece of music overall.

Artist: Oh Wonder
Album: Ultralife
Quick Description: New album from the poppy duo.
Why You Should Listen: Oh Wonder isn't forging a new path, but they still sound new and fresh in their space.
Overall Thoughts: Oh Wonder is sort of like the poppy cousin of The Head and the Heart in my brain. I can’t think of many acts that sound like them, but what they do generally works. This latest album is Oh Wonder hitting their stride, and it’s pretty solid. Even songs like “Bigger Than Love,” which try to be a little less traditional, have a lot going for it.
Recommendation: On a whole, a solid listen this week.

Artist: Twisted Pine
Album: Twisted Pine
Quick Description: Great straightforward bluegrass.
Why You Should Listen: You like your roots records to be no-nonsense.
Overall Thoughts: This is just a fun, light bluegrass record, no way around it. Pretty vocals, great instrumentation, and it doesn’t try to jump outside of what it does really well. If you’re into the more “progressive bluegrass” that’s made some waves in the last decade, you’ll probably be bored by this, but as someone who really enjoys the traditionalist side, this is a gorgeous modern take.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this some time this week, it’s a lovely listen.

Artist: The Dears
Album: Times Infinity Volume Two
Quick Description: The latest from the Canadian indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: They were so good early on that it's hard not to want to try them again.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like I’ve been waiting for The Dears to replicate the brilliance of their first album for 15 years. This one doesn’t do it for me, unfortunately, being a bit of a mishmash of genres and ideas that never seems to fully flow together. Lots of talent here, but I never feel as if the execution is there for me anymore.
Recommendation: A miss.

EPs this week:

* Coldplay - Kaleidoscope (They've become a ridiculous band over the last decade, but they know how to write an anthemic song better than anyone)
* Best Ex - Ice Cream Anti-Social (awfully close to the pop side of things, but it works when it works)
* Railroad Earth - Captain Nowhere (Solid if unspectacular)
* The Radio Dept. - Teach Me To Forget

Also out this week:

* Sheer Mag - Need to Feel Your Love
* Psychic Temple - IV

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Dead Milkmen - "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge"

Photo via Facebook
My long term love of The Dead Milkmen has been well documented here, so I'm thrilled that we can say that there's a new Dead Milkmen song! Not very long ago, the thought of new music from these guys was limited to merely wishing for some unheard tracks being unearthed, but here we are two albums and multiple singles into new Dead Milkmen music this century.

The Dead Milkmen have a new EP coming out this fall, and we can now hear the first song from it. "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge" fits right into the reunited band's sound. It's a little more rocking than their 80's and 90's output, and the band is losing the novelty tag that was wrongly placed on them for too long. The song is about an urban legend about a Swedish ghost train station, so this hits so many of my buttons. It's a driving, fun song about a ghost train. If that doesn't appeal to you, then you're just wrong.

You can listen to "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge" below. The Dead Milkmen's new EP, Welcome to the End of the World, will be out in the fall on The Giving Groove. 50% of all profits after taxes will be donated to Girls Rock Philly. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Brilliant Beast Covers Stereolab

With our love of cover songs, we look forward to each and every tribute album put out by The Blog That Celebrates Itself. This week saw the release of Stereolab in, Metronomic Underground Versions, their collection of Sterolab covers. To our particular delight was track one, which features one of our favorites, Brilliant Beast, covering "Wow and Flutter."

Brilliant Beast, with their noisier version of shoegaze, might seem like an odd band to take on Stereolab, and they are. That's one of the main reasons this cover works. The original is a typically light and airy Sterolab song, with a jangly guitar. Brilliant Beast have a heavier version with a far crunchier guitar. It somehow still maintains the feel of the original, albeit louder and with more rock.

You can listen to Brilliant Beast's cover of "Wow and Flutter" below. You can download your own copy of Stereolab in, Metronomic Underground Versions for free via The Blog That Celebrates Itself's Bandcamp. For more on Brilliant Beast, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

The Furniture - "OPBD"

Photo via Facebook
Despite our love of Hallelujah the Hills, we have yet to write about bass player Nicholas G Ward's other band. They just released "OPBD," which is an odd little ode to his hometown of Peabody, MA. It works as a tribute to all of Massachusetts' uncool cities and towns. In true Massachusetts style, it's done mostly by stating simple facts and talking down about other areas, most notably California and the Great Lakes. Musically, "OPBD" is a rock song with just enough quirks to keep it interesting, almost like a more beer soaked Archers of Loaf. It's a fun song that clocks in at 2:02, which is the perfect length for a song like this.

You can listen to "OPBD" below. It can be downloaded for free via Bandcamp. For more on The Furniture, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Live Shows: Deer Tick, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 7/7/17

Photo by Ken Sears
Deer Tick have always had a bar band feel to them. Maybe it's the fact that a ton of their songs are about booze. Maybe it's the fact that the first time I saw them they bought everyone in the club a beer. Maybe it's the copious amount of beer I've seen them drink onstage. Because of all that, a family friendly arts festival in a public park with a 7:00 start time was an odd venue for them, but last Friday it seemed to work.

Playing on a stage still set up for a family production of Mary Poppins, Deer Tick opened the show with one of their already released songs from their upcoming two albums. Unfortunately, the sound was a bit off so I couldn't tell which one. (The show started about 30 minutes late while they ironed out some issues due to the heavy rains that had just ended two hours before the show started.) Luckily, the issues were fixed by the second song, and the rest of the show sounded great.
Photo by Ken Sears

One great thing about a band playing without a new release out is that they're free to play whatever they wanted without worrying about their new album. Deer Tick played a few new songs, but a huge amount of their set was taken from their first two albums, War Elephant and Born on Flag Day. War Elephant was represented by perhaps my three favorite songs from their set: "Ashamed," "Dirty Dishes," and "These Old Shoes." The version of "Little White Lies" and "Song About a Man" from Born on Flag Day were more highlights. The band played a loose and laid back set while still being a rock band. At one point while they made some adjustments to the drum kit, John McCauley played the theme from Super Mario Bros. 

Photo by Ken Sears
The crowd was definitely used to the typical public park folk show, and stayed seated on blankets and lawn chairs for the vast majority of the show. A very small handful of people stood standing and dancing to the left of the stage, but most people were fine sitting just about as far from the stage as they could be. A very small group of preschoolers and toddlers used the walkway typically reserved for dancing for actually dancing. McCauley rewarded the kids participating in the show by handing out guitar picks, and then hopping off the stage to let some kids take turns playing his guitar. He might be creating the next generation of rock stars, and bless him for that.

It seemed that his act reminded the crowd that shows are much more fun if you're actively participating, and they came more alive for "Ashamed." For the final song of the main set, "Let's All Go to the Bar," renamed "Let's All Go to the Park" for the night, finally brought the crowd alive. People came running down from out of nowhere and filled up the area in front of the stage. Who knows how much fun the show could have been if everyone had that much energy for more than a single song?