Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bruising - "Emo Friends"

Credit: Carolina Faruolo
Bruising began forming last year back when Naomi Baguley and Ben Lewis met at a Leeds nightclub because of Ben's Perfect Pusyy shirt. The two began trading song ideas, and started recording demos in his bedroom. They started playing out, opening for Twin Peaks and Waxahatchee. Now, they're set to release their debut single.

"Emo Friends" is truly great. It's a chilled out, upbeat song with these killer, swirling, dreamy guitars. The vocals feel shoegaze but the rest of the song is far too epic to be shoegaze. It truly needs to be heard.

"Emo Friends" is out November 20 on Beech Coma, which is somehow not a label based in Dorchester, MA. You can listen to the song below. Also, be sure to check out their website, and follow them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for September 25

A pretty stacked new release week this week.

Album of the Week:

Album: Every Open Eye
Quick Description: Sophomore effort by one of the most buzzed-about bands going right now.
Why You Should Listen: You found their version of synth-heavy indie rock appealing during their first album; you like staying on top of the trends.
Overall Thoughts: In a way, CHVRCHES couldn't win with this album. The anticipation was huge, the mythology behind things ever-growing. Somehow, some way, Every Open Eye improves upon the sound we all fell for while still feeling familiar and fresh. No sophomore slump here, and definitely the best releases of the week.
Recommendation: A must listen for all.

Artist: The Dead Weather
Album: Dodge and Burn
Quick Description: Latest outing from the Jack White rock side project.
Why You Should Listen: You've missed the heavy grit of The Dead Weather; you're totally into anything Jack White does.
Overall Thoughts: I loved loved loved the debut album from The Dead Weather, and had some trouble with their second album. I think this is definitely a return to form of sorts for this group, and while there isn't a song that jumps out and grabs me on first listen, there is a lot here to like and I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time with it.
Recommendation: A definite recommendation for this week.

Artist: Silversun Pickups
Album: Better Nature
Quick Description: Latest album from the well-known alt-rock
Why You Should Listen: You wish the Smashing Pumpkins just put out an album of their less inspired stuff.
Overall Thoughts: This is a disappointing album, and I say that having gone in with very low expectations. This is a band that was doing something interestingly derivative for their first couple albums, and now just come across as a shell of themselves. This is just not interesting and, ultimately, not worth your time.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Artist: Disclosure
Album: Caracal
Quick Description: Second album by the DJ duo.
Why You Should Listen: The first album did the trick for you; electronic DJ music is your thing.
Overall Thoughts: It's difficult to separate Disclosure from the rest of the EDM scene, and, while one can argue that they have a lot to do with its current popularity, the reality is that this album not only fails to break any new ground, but doesn't feel even a little unique for them. Settle had a ton going for it, this one feels more like it is going through the motions.
Recommendation: If you're into the genre, it's worth a listen, but be wary.

Artist: Julia Holter
Album: Have You In My Wilderness
Quick Description: Latest album from the off-center singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Challenging singer-songwriter music is your thing.
Overall Thoughts: Holter is known for being a little more difficult, and what stands out with Wilderness is how straightforward it is at times. This is not to call it mainstream by any means, but it loves the reverb, loves the musicality, and it just works. It's tough to describe, so give it a listen.
Recommendation: Worth a shot, you're likely to find something to love.

Artist: Big Grams
Album: Big Grams
Quick Description: Collaborative EP between Big Boi of Outkast and Phantogram.
Why You Should Listen: Look at who is collaborating on this! That should be enough to at least give a listen.
Overall Thoughts: In a sense, this is critic-proof. Even if this was terrible, the idea behind it is enough to give it some time. The good news? While not great, it's still pretty good and has some solid moments. Some will like this more than others, but it's worth it if only for the curiosity piece it may end up being in the long run.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Peaches
Album: Rub
Quick Description: First album in years from the electroclash favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Peaches is an automatic listen at this point.
Overall Thoughts: So, Peaches. If you've been into the offbeat music of the last 15 years or so, things like The Teaches of Peaches are one of those things you just know. It feels like it's been a while since we heard from her, and the new album is classic Peaches in some ways, and, honestly, kind of stale in others. I liked this, I wanted to love it.
Recommendation: Definitely add it to the rotation this week, but it might just make you want to go back to her older stuff.

Artist: Sexwitch
Album: Sexwitch
Quick Description: A side project of sorts featuring Bat for Lashes, Dan Carey, and others.
Why You Should Listen: Bat for Lashes is the impetus behind this, and she's always worth a listen.
Overall Thoughts: This is a strange album, but it's kind of meant to be a strange album. It's some sort of collection of one-offs and songwriting ideas that are sometimes fully formed and sometimes don't feel like it. Ultimately a fans-only affair, I think.
Recommendation: Be wary. I like Bat for Lashes and didn't love this.

Artist: Level & Tyson
Album: Gruesome Twosome
Quick Description: Are we ready for retro-indie rock that sounds like it's from the early 2000s? If so, here you go.
Why You Should Listen: You're ready for that hit of nostalgia and appreciate good indie pop.
Overall Thoughts: Level & Tyson would be my favorite band if it were 2003. That's the best way to describe this - it's got a lot of the indie rock feel of the early 2000s, especially early Beulah in some places, and the album just works. Maybe my second favorite album of the week, it's just a winner across the board and I hope it has some staying poiwer.
Recommendation: Highly recommended.

Artist: Jill Andrews
Album: The War Inside
Quick Description: Latest album from the singer-songwriter who has slowly been building a following over the years.
Why You Should Listen: Female singer songwriters are your thing; you appreciate a well-crafted pop-folk song.
Overall Thoughts: It's hard to categorize Jill Andrews these days, as she's moving away a bit from the more rootsy stuff, but people will find this very reminiscent of some favorites here (especially like Amanda Shires in some regards). I think Andrews might be poised for a breakthrough, so I do recommend checking this one out.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Ricked Wicky
Album: King Heavy Metal
Quick Description: Another weird project from Guided by Voices's Robert Pollard.
Why You Should Listen: You already know the answer, and it's based on how much Robert Pollard you can tolerate.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know if this will win him any new fans, but you probably know for sure whether you like the insane level of output Pollard offers.
Recommendation: Fans only on this one.

Artist: New Order
Album: Music Complete
Quick Description: Tenth album from the 1980s synth rock band.
Why You Should Listen: You like New Order; you're not done with nostalgia-type acts.
Overall Thoughts: Ken wasn't hot on this but I found a lot to like here. There's nothing here that's going to scream "return to form" or have the impact of their early, post-Joy Division work, but in terms of albums from longtime acts, this is actually pretty solid. In a strong new release week, this might get overlooked, but if you have the time, add it to your rotation.
Recommendation: I liked this a lot and definitely recommend.

Artist: Ryan Adams
Album: 1989
Quick Description: Ryan Adams doing Taylor Swift's latest.
Why You Should Listen: It's a cool gimmick that works.
Overall Thoughts: Ryan Adams, as prolific as ever, was once rumored to have done the entirety of the Strokes album This is It as a blues album. This is basically a Ryan Adams reimagining of Taylor Swift, and, while I only know a couple of the singles, this could pass as a credible Ryan Adams album if we wanted it to. That's how good this is, and your enjoyment of this will either come from who is covering it or who it covers. If this concept makes you glance sideways at the whole thing, skip it, but otherwise...
Recommendation: Definitely a strange, weird, worthwhile listen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Persian Leaps - High & Vibrate

The Persian Leaps are back with their third EP in as many years. High & Vibrate keeps in line with their jangly, fuzzed out guitar pop reminiscent of mid-90s power pop bands, but they're showing a heavy 60s influence with solid, catchy hooks. "Under the Lilacs" has a guitar jangle that will suck you in with a heavy bass buzz hiding underneath. "Dottie, Queen of the West" is perfect for anyone that skipped the whole Blur vs Oasis debate and skipped to Suede and The Charlatans. It's guitar pop in its best form.

High & Vibrate is out now on Land Ski Records. You can listen to it via The Persian Leaps' Bandcamp. While you're at it, like the band on Facebook and check out their website. If you're in Minneapolis, you can see them November 5 at Kitty Cat Klub and December 5 at Palmer's Bar. If not, you'll have to be content with watching their video for "Under the Lilacs" below.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Let's Talk Daggers - "I Love You Dad But I'm Mental"

Noise rock isn't very fun. It's very serious and it's an art. It's very rarely anything that can be considered party music. Usually that's left to metal, and us noise rock fans sooth ourselves with the knowledge that are music is smart and important while we watch the metalheads have a blast without us.

Enter the UK's Let's Talk Daggers. From their forthcoming debut album, A Beautiful Life, "I Love You Dad But I'm Mental" combines the sonic assault of noise rock with the speed and fun of a metal band. They also throw some of Queen's more symphonic elements in. It's bizarre, and ferocious, and a ton of fun. It's not very often noise can be party friendly, but Let's Talk Daggers have figured it out.

A Beautiful Life is due out October 23 on Tangled Talk Records and Milky Bomb Records. You can listen to "I Love You Dad But I'm Mental" below. Be sure to check out their website and Bandcamp for more information.

Friday Freebie: Funeral Advantage - Body is Dead (Demos)

Jeff and I have been loving the debut album from Funeral Advantage, Body is Dead. For a limited time, Funeral Advantage has made the demos for the album free to download. The actual album is full of lush, rich production and sounds. So are the demos, but in a slightly stripped down way. I've always been a fan of hearing the demo along with an album I love, since it's fascinating to hear the songs as they were originally written. It's obviously more lo-fi than the album, but this could have stood on its own as is.

Body is Dead (Demos) is available as a free download until September 30. You can get your copy here. And be sure to check out Funeral Advantage's Bandcampto get an actual copy of Body is Dead, and follow them on Facebook to keep track of their doings. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Promised Land Sound - "Push and Pull (All the Time)"

Photo by Semi Song
Hailing from Nashville, Promised Land Sound are about to release their sophomore album, For Use and Delight. Today, you can listen to a song from it, "Push and Pull (All the Time)." The track starts off as this bizarre hybrid of an Americana-delving Tom Petty and Belle & Sebastian. After about two minutes, it morphs into what would have happened if Gram Parsons had decided to leave the US and joined a psych-folk band in England. It's enough of a great mix and match of wonderful sounds that For Use and Delight might be one of my most anticipated albums for the rest of the year.

For Use and Delight is due out October 2 on Paradise of Bachelors. You can listen to "Push and Pull (All the Time)" below. Be sure to check out Promised Land Sound on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp. To pre-order the album, head over to Paradise of Bachelor's website. Upcoming tour dates are listed below.

Oct 19 - Limelight - San Antonio, TX
Oct 20 - Stubbs - Austin, TX*
Oct 22 - Club Congress - Tucson, AZ*
Oct 23 - Echoplex - Los Angeles, CA*
Oct 24 - Soda Bar - San Diego, CA*
Oct 27 - The Independent - San Francisco, CA*
Oct 29 - Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR*
Oct 30 - Neumos - Seattle, WA*
Oct 31 - Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC*
Nov 4 - The Aquarium - Fargo, ND
Nov 5 - Turf Club - Minneapolis, MN
Nov 6 - Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL
Nov 8 - Drake Hotel - Toronto, ON CANADA
Nov 10 - Mercury Lounge - New York, NY
Nov 11 - Kung Fu Necktie - Philadelphia, PA
Nov 12 - The Pinhook - Durham, NC 

*w/ Natalie Prass

The Melvins and Teri Gender Bender Cover Bikini Kill

Photo via Facebook
I don't think words can even express how fucking badass this cover is. First of all, it's a Bikini Girl cover, which is great to begin with. Then you add the sludgy ferocity of The Melvins with Teri Gender Bender of their summer tour mates Le Butcherettes and you get one of the best things you'll hear all year. The Melvins make "Rebel Girl" that much heavier. I think the only thing lacking is the unhinged on the edge of disaster quality of the original. The track was recorded live for Joyful Noise as part of their "Almost Live From Joyful Noise" series, and we all need copies of this to be made available ASAP. Unfortunately, all 100 copies of the 7" are sold out, so we only have the video for now.

For more information on The Melvins, head over to their website. For Le Butcherettes (including their just released last week album), you can find them here. Coincidentally, Bikini Kill just reissued their debut album, Revolution Girl Style Now, yesterday. You can get your copy here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

First Listen - Truncated Edition for the September 18 New Releases

Seeing how I was busy for half the weekend, sick for the other half, and, by my count, there were 21 new releases worth covering in some form this week, I'm forced to do a truncated First Listen this week.

Top albums I actually heard this week:

Metric - Pagans in Vegas: Metric is similar to Muse in the regard that they keep transforming themselves over time and it still generally works. I can't say this is as good as their most recent couple albums, but they're still putting out some of the more interesting music in recent times.

The Front Bottoms - Back on Top: Arguably one of the better albums of the week, a great indie rock record of the more traditional type. This band has never immediately caught me, so I'm looking forward to spending more time with it.

Meg Myers - Sorry: I talk a lot about the "dark pop" trend happening, and Meg Myers actually got me into it a few years ago with "Adelade," an all-time favorite song of mine. This album has its shares of hits and misses, but when it's on, it's on.

Rose McDowell - Cut With The Cake Knife: This album was apparently shelved for 25 years, being recorded in the late 1980s. What's interesting is how well it fits in with existing retro acts right now, and the title track is truly awesome. A little weird and different, but worth a listen this week.

Telekinesis - Ad Infinitum: Telekinesis is the best band on Merge you're not listening to. Another stellar indie-pop effort by this group that has yet to do anything wrong.

Other albums I heard this week and can recommend:

* Say Hi - Bleeders Digest
* Leigh Nash - The State I'm In
* Ought - Sun Coming Down
* Battles - La Di Da Di
* Lucero - All a Man Should Do

Other new releases this week:

* Glen Hansard - Didn't He Ramble
* Devil City Angels - Devil City Angels
* CocoRosie - Heartache City
* Chris Cornell - Higher Truth
* Dave Rawlings Machine - Nashville Obsolete
* Darlene Love - Introducing Darlene Love
* Joe Ely - Panhandle Rambler
* Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1
* Lana Del Ray - Honeymoon
* Black Violin - Stereotypes
* Toadies - Heretics

We should be back to business next week.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Dead Milkmen and F.O.D. Release a Split 7"

In case you need a break from streaming Ryan Adams' cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 today, there is a "lost" 7" from The Dead Milkmen and F.O.D. you can listen to. At first the bands claimed it was originally recorded in 1985 and unearthed in a label employee's parent's house, but they're now admitting the songs were recorded earlier this year in an attempt to sound like the bands did in 1985.

Now, I can't vouch for the F.O.D. songs. For some reason, I never actually made an effort to listen to them before, mostly because their reference in the Dead Milkmen classic "Nutrition" made me convinced they were a jock hardcore band. Even later on when I found out they were friends with the Milkmen and considered a good band, I just never actually checked them out. They always had this mythical element, and I was pretty sure they weren't actually real. Based on the songs on this 7", they're real and they're good. If you like your 80s hardcore thrashy, dirty, and out of control, this'll be for you.

The Dead Milkmen aped their 1985 sound perfectly for this. "If the Kids Could Git Togehter" is a perfect 80s Rodney rant. Right now, Brooklyn Vegan appears to have an exclusive on the stream, so head over there to hear it. You can order the 7" on the SRA Records website. It is set to ship on October 31. For more info on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website. For F.O.D., check them out on Facebook.

Friday, September 18, 2015

David Wax Museum - "Young Man"

Photo by Ken Sears
For the first time since discovering David Wax Museum in 2010 they have released a song I wouldn't have recognized as them. "Young Man" is an almost complete departure for the band. The Mexican-infused Americana of their previous four albums is present but barely hinted at. Instead, Wax sings in a style more reminiscent of an old time crooner, backed by electronic elements and synthesizers. There is still the trademark guitar playing and horn section, but it's really nice to see a band that has such a set and familiar style mix it up and branch out a bit. I'm still deciding where this ranks in the David Wax Museum catalog, but it has me even more intrigued for the next album.

Right now, Consequence of Sound has an exclusive stream of "Young Man," so head on over there to check it out. David Wax Museum's fifth album, Guesthouse, will be released on October 16. You can pre-order it now, and be sure to check out their tour dates. We can't recommend their live show enough.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tanya Donelly and Bill Janovitz Cover The Kinks

I personally love it whenever Tanya Donelly (Belly, Throwing Muses, The Breeders) and Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom, The Needy Sons) work together. We also love covers, so when Bill and Tanya get together to cover The Kinks, we're heavily on board. The two recently recorded an acoustic cover of the 1981 Kinks song "Better Things" with Janovitz on guitar and vocal duties split. Their voices always blend together beautifully, and "Better Things" is no exception. 

Tanya Donelly and Bill Janovitz's cover of "Better Things" is available now on Janvitz's Bandcamp for $1.00. All proceeds go to the Foundation to Be Named Later

Guerilla Toss - Flood Dosed

Guerilla Toss is back with a brand new EP which might be their most accessible to date. Of course, this is Guerilla Toss, so even their most accessible isn't very. It starts off with "Realistic Rabbit," which features Kassie Carlson actually singing. It's a swirling mess that's beautiful in an odd sort of way. It's the audio equivalent of getting a tattoo: Sure it hurts, but it's not as painful as you expected and it's actually kind of nice in its own way. "Ritual In Light" is almost chill and is funky as hell. "Polly's Crystal" is a bizarre blend of jam band and post punk, which I never thought I'd compare a band to but it makes so much sense.

The new Guerilla Toss EP, Flood Dosed, is due out on September 25. You can stream it and pre-order it (including a cassette version) on their Bandcamp. Listen to ""Realistic Rabbit" below, and below that are their current tour dates.

9/17 Philadelphia PA @ Everybody Hits
9/18 Philadelphia PA @ Haverford College
9/19 Long Island NY @ Huntington Rd. Beach Club
9/26 Queens NY @ Riis Park Beach Bazar
9/27 Brooklyn NY @ Shea Stadium
9/28 Providence RI @ Aurora
10/3 Chicago IL @ Hyde Park Free Theater
10/9 Brooklyn NY @ Palisades
10/10 Portland ME @ Waking Windows fest
10/13 Harrisonburg VA @ Golden Pony *
10/14 Athens OH @ House Show *
10/15 Chicago IL @ Secret Location *
10/16 Toronto ON @ 8-11 Dungeon *
10/17 Montreal ON @ Drones *
10/18 Burlington VT @ The Sink *
10/19 Boston MA @ Cantab Lounge *
10/22 Poughkeepsie NY @ Vassar College
10/23 Amherst MA @ Hampshire College
10/24 Amherst MA @ Amherst College
10/31 Brooklyn NY @ Palisades
* Tour w/ Buck Gooter

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shovels & Rope - "Hush Little Rocker"

This is a cute one. To celebrate the birth of their daughter, Louisiana Jean, bandmates/married couple Shovels & Rope have released their own version of the eternally known "Hush Little Baby." They call theirs "Hush Little Rocker," and while it's obviously not going to go down as one of their classics, it's a fun and adorable way to announce a birth. In a Facebook post, they also promise to "See you in 2016 but you’ll definitely be hearing from us before then…"

Take your time, guys. I'm pretty sure you're busy right now.

Make sure you follow Shovels & Rope on Facebook and their website for more information.

Weakened Friends - Gloomy Tunes

When you call your EP Gloomy Tunes and the first song on it is called "Miserable" (which is what Portland, ME's Weakened Friends have just done), you'd expect the music to be a lot more depressing. The subject matter may be mopey, but the songs are truly fun. 

"Miserable" might include the lyrics "We're the worst kind of people," but it's this burst of 90s infused joy that successfully marries early 90s self deprecation with mid 90s power pop fuzz. "Won Yet" is as beautiful a song can be played this fast with fuzzed out guitars feeding back. This album feels like Boston in 1995 when bands like Letters to Cleo started graduating from TT the Bears to Avalon.

Gloomy Tunes is now available for the name your own price option on Weakened Friends' Bandcamp. You can listen to "Miserable" below, and be sure to give them a "like" on Facebook.

09.17.15 Dr.Martens Newbury Street - Boston MA (official EP release show) 
09.24.15 Great Scott - Allston MA 
09.26.15 Mathews - Portland ME

11.25.15 The Sinclair - Cambridge MA (The Sheila Divine record release show)

First Listen: New Releases for September 11 - Part Two

And the b-sides of this week's releases:

Artist: Garfunkel and Oates
Album: Secretions
Quick Description: Latest album from the comedy duo.
Why You Should Listen: They're really funny, and you've enjoyed their last albums.
Overall Thoughts: You know what you're getting with G&F, and the only addition to some of these redone songs is the added instrumentation. It's a fun album, and your enjoyment of it will be directly correlated with your tolerance of comedy music. I liked it.
Recommendation: Worth a listen if you're into comedy music.

Artist: Jess Glynne
Album: I Cry When I Laugh
Quick Description: Debut album from the European singer everyone's buzzing about.
Why You Should Listen: You've enjoyed the Europop I've featured here in the past; you like being ahead of the European music trends.
Overall Thoughts: I enjoyed this a lot. Some hints of that modern disco revival at times, other times it feels like a retread, and none of it feels new, but that doesn't mean it's bad. If you're looking for innovation, you might want to look elsewhere, but if you're into something a little different than the rest this week?
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Empress Of
Album: Me
Quick Description: Much-buzzed about debut indie album.
Why You Should Listen: You like pretty things; the sort of pseudo-R&B thing that so many indie rock groups are doing speaks to you.
Overall Thoughts: I struggle to describe this, actually. I feel I've heard it before, but never like this. I feel this is something special, and can't place why. It's defying a lot of my expectations as well as my ways to describe it, and that might be what makes it great. If the new Gary Clark Jr is the #1 album this week, this one is a close #2.
Recommendation: A mandatory listen. Worth a few listens.

Artist: Craig Finn
Album: Faith in the Future
Quick Description: Latest solo album from the Hold Steady frontman.
Why You Should Listen: You're still into The Hold Steady; Springsteen's still your jam.
Overall Thoughts: I'm currently in a full-blown Frank Turner addiction, and his latest album still feels like it does The Hold Steady better than The Hold Steady has of late. In that I didn't love Finn's first solo album and, frankly, haven't been loving the latest Hold Steady output, this really didn't do anything for me. Fans might feel differently, but this just feels like a bit of a miss.
Recommendation: Maybe a fans-only affair.

Artist: Shannon and the Clams
Album: Gone by the Dawn
Quick Description: A garage rock effort.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more rockish to get the taste of the Hollywood Vampires record out of your mouth.
Overall Thoughts: The only thing worse than this group's name is this album cover, and it looks so amateurish and out there that it felt like an independent record I was supposed to avoid at all costs. I'm glad I listened, though - while there isn't a ton of standout stuff here, they're doing some interesting things musically and, once you get past the really strange first track, it might be worth it. Maybe.
Recommendation: Handle with care, but a lot of readers here might love this.

Artist: Low
Album: Ones and Sixes
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: It's Low. If you need an explanation, go listen to The Great Destroyer and then come back.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes bands fall into a comfortable rhythm that just works. I feel like Low tried to shake themselves out of that with Drums and Guns a few years back, but the overall result as of late has been a solid effort from the band every time. Ones and Sixes is no different than their past efforts in that regard, complete with some songs you love and some songs that fill out the rest of the album in a great way. I don't know if I could dislike Low at this point, and I'm glad this isn't the album I need to find out.
Recommendation: Definitely worth your time.

Artist: The Legendary Shack Shakers
Album: Surreal Summer
Quick Description: First album in five years from the, well, legendary rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Their version fo Southern rock interests you, you're missing that sort of flair in your recent listens.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like this is a group that has an established everything. If you know them, you either like them or you don't, and if you don't know them, you think you can figure them out. They're a critic-proof band and, with the understanding that I barely qualify as a critic, this is exactly what I expected and that's all you ultimately need to know. A strong effort.
Recommendation: You ultimately know what to do.

Also out this week, round two:

* Stereophonics - Keep the Village Alive

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for September 11 - Part One

This is a very busy new release week, so we'll be splitting this one into two posts. Part two will be out tomorrow!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Gary Clark Jr
Album: The Story of Sonny Boy Slim
Quick Description: Second album by blues rocker.
Why You Should Listen: Because you like good things that impress you musically. Because you like music. Because you're a human being.
Overall Thoughts: Man, this album. I can't wait to spend more time with it because it's just so well done. I liked his first album a lot, but this one, for me, is even better. A few standout tracks, nothing that falls apart, and it doesn't feel long even at 53 minutes. Just a stellar album, and a must listen this week.
Recommendation: Album of the week by far, will deserve end of year consideration.

Artist: Ben Folds
Album: So There
Quick Description: A Ben Folds solo album with added orchestration.
Why You Should Listen: Ben Folds is always doing something interesting, and this is no different.
Overall Thoughts: Even when he fails, he's still worth listening to, so So There is an interesting listen in the context that it's better than it looks on paper, but not quite as good as you feel it could be at any specific time. Clearly a labor of love and a significant effort/undertaking, but I'm not sure this is something a lot of Folds's fans would necessarily go back to.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen, but it might not be for you.

Artist: Micachu and The Shapes
Album: Good Sad Happy Bad
Quick Description: A fractured art pop album from a project more recently known for film scores.
Why You Should Listen: You like a challenge; prior Micachu efforts have been worth your while.
Overall Thoughts: This is absolutely a challenging listen, but also might not be very good, if we're being blunt. I didn't really enjoy this, it's probably a bit too off the beaten path for me in this specific genre.
Recommendation: You'll know within moments if it's for you, but most should probably be wary.

Artist: Hollywood Vampires
Album: Hollywood Vampires
Quick Description: Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp collaborate on a tribute to 1960s/70s rock music.
Why You Should Listen: The Darkness is a serious band for you; you still listen to Alice Cooper.
Overall Thoughts: I'm going to be honest here. I can't take this seriously at all, no matter how much I can appreciate the history behind the Hollywood Vampires and what this revival/tribute means. A collection of rock covers, the tongue just isn't in cheek enough for me to enjoy it as camp, and the effort just not really good enough to take as truly sincere.
Recommendation: If the description makes you curious, you'll like this. If you're sideeyeing the whole thing, move along.

Artist: Duran Duran
Album: Paper Gods
Quick Description: Latest album from the 80s rock superstars.
Why You Should Listen: You still think Duran Duran has it; you're trying to find out if Duran Duran still has it.
Overall Thoughts: It's too easy to grade what are essentially legacy acts on a scale. Duran Duran arguably hasn't been relevant since the mid-1990s, and some might argue that it was even earlier than that. Astronaut, their last effort, was lacking, and this is definitely an improvement. There's no "Rio" to be found, but there might be a "Union of the Snake" in here somewhere. Overall, a good listen that might have improved with a less crowded week.
Recommendation: Worth a listen at some point.

Artist: Beirut
Album: No No No
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie pop favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Beirut is a band that's been worth attention for a while, and this is sort of a return to form.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't realize how much I missed the Beirut that sounded more like this until I heard this album. It's stark and stripped down and perhaps isn't as jaunty as my memory remembers Beirut, but it's still a pretty well-done album even if it's on the short end.
Recommendation: A good listen this week, and worth your time.

Artist: Jewel
Album: Picking Up the Pieces
Quick Description: Latest album by folk crossover superstar Jewel.
Why You Should Listen: You really shouldn't. No, I'm warning you.
Overall Thoughts: I don't even dislike Jewel. Everyone liked Pieces of You, but I even found her weird pop star phase to be fun and "These Hands" is not a terrible song. Yeah, the country thing was misguided but whatever. This? This is dull. This is really uninspired, and I can honestly say that it's one of the few albums I have ever outright given up on midway through. It's not good.
Recommendation: Don't do it.

Also out this week, part one:

* Phil Cook - Southland Mission

Monday, September 14, 2015

Primetime - "Anyway"

Primetime's "Anyway" is one of the more interesting songs I've heard in a while. It runs about 1/2 a step slower than it feels like it should based on the intensity. It sounds like they're trying to be a poppier (and British) Sleater-Kinney, even though it's more discordant than Sleater-Kinney have been in multiple albums. It's one of those increasingly rare songs that isn't trying to reinvent music or punk, but uses pre-existing elements in a way that is incredibly fresh. It makes even us old guys realize that we recognize all the pieces but have no idea how Primetime is assembling them. And before we get a chance to figure it out, the song just kind of ends after less than two minutes.

You can listen to "Anyway" below. To keep tabs on Primetime, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and their Bandcamp.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Salem Wolves - "Teenage Wonder"

Salem, MA's Salem Wolves are back with another single, "Teenage Wonder." This one is a pretty straightforward rock n roll anthem with heavy punk elements. It feels like a song that would have been played at The Rat in Boston any time in the early 80s. You get the sense of breakneck ferocity even though the song never quite rips it out that heavily. We might be a little late posting this since a press release describes it as "... the soundtrack to a stoned-and-sunburned summer night." Oops. Hey, the end of the summer gets busy!

You can listen to "Teenage Wonder" below. Also, be sure to check out Salem Wolves' website for more info (including tour dates), and their Bandcamp for more releases. 

Vertical Slump - "Tether"

You'd think that releasing two albums this year would be enough for Shopping. Apparently not for drummer Andrew Milk, who has a side project called Vertical Slump. Vertical Slump will be releasing their debut EP on October 2. The first song from that EP, "Tether," definitely has a similar post-punk sound to Shopping, but Vertical Slump are more discordant and somehow upbeat. It's a unique mix of 70s post punk ferocity mixed with 90s American indie slacker rock. Think Joy Division meets Pavement.

Ruined Value is due out October 2 on Icecapades. You can pre-order the EP here. You can follow Vertical Slump on Bandcamp and Tumblr.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys - Shockheaded Peter

Back in March, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys provided the music for a production of Shockheaded Peter at Boston's Company One Theatre. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to any of the performances. Luckily, they just released an album of the musical accompaniment. 

Performing songs written and originally performed by The Tiger Lillies, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys truly made each song their own, blending in their mixture of punk, folk, cabaret, metal, etc., or "steam crunk," as they call it. Since each song appears to be about the horrific fate of a character of the play, mostly children, it fits right into The Army of Toys' catalog, coming across like a darker, more musical version of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory or Ghastlycrumb Tinies come to musical life. The band attacks each song with a disturbing glee. "The Dreadful Story About Harriet and the Matches" is a jaunty ditty complete with creepy sounding kids' instrumentation. "Bully Boys" has a frenetic energy and is pure evil fun. The band really kicks in with the folk-metal "Augustus and the Soup," which might be the song that most sounds like it comes from a theatre production, somehow.

Overall, it makes me truly regret missing out on the theatre production of Shockheaded Peter. As a consolation, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys is opening for The Dead Milkmen at the Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on October 17. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that might be my ultimate dream pairing. You can listen to and order Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys' version of Shockheaded Peter on their Bandcamp.

Live Shows: David Wax Museum, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 9/5/15

Photo by Ken Sears
David Wax Museum are one of my current favorite live bands, and seeing as I hadn't seen them play live for over a year, I had to head up to Portsmouth to check them out. The combination of a Saturday night show, perfect weather for an outdoor show, and the absurdly low $8 suggested donation ticket price were too much of a draw to miss it.

Prescott Park Arts Festival is one of the more unique venues to see a show. They get absolute top level acts (Steve Earle, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and Josh Ritter have all played this year), but they also put on family friendly plays on the same stage. This year was Peter Pan, and the stage was still decorated for the play. The park is right on the Piscataqua River, which creates a beautiful backdrop, especially as the sun slowly sets during the show.

Suz and David came out and started off the show as a duo with a completely retooled version of "Lavender Street" that was heavy on the low end and almost sounded like a ska song. After that, they were joined by the rest of the band (a bassist and drummer who's names I didn't catch (Sorry...)), and started the set in earnest. Shows at Prescott Park tend to a crowd that is mostly older and families, so it always starts with just about the entire crowd chilling on blankets and in chairs. David and Suz encouraged the crowd to dance or at least stand, and slowly they did, especially the kids in the crowd. "Unfruitful" finally started getting the crowd up and moving, which it always seems to. I know I always bring up this song, but it's pretty much the perfect song and it is always a highlight of every show I've ever seen of theirs. They closed their first set with "Yes, Maria, Yes," bringing in a huge singalong for the crowd, and having some of the kids in the audience onto the Peter Pan backdrop to dance and sing.

Photo by Ken Sears
This might be the downfall of shows at Prescott Park. They break shows into a first set and a second set with a 20 or so minute intermission in between. It seemed like once David Wax Museum had finally gotten the crowd into the show and participating, they had to break for a bit. Once they came back out for their second set, the crowd had mostly settled back into their blankets and chairs with ice cream for the night. It did get better and the crowd more energetic as the set went on, but it was weird watching a band as experienced as David Wax Museum have to start over some scratch with the same crowd. They closed their set with the brand new "Guesthouse," which is even better live than the recorded version. After ending their second set, David and Suz charged back out for a duo version of "When You Are Still" from the edge of the stage. It was a virtually perfect way to end a great night of almost free music.

David Wax Museum are about to release their fifth studio album, Guesthouse, October 16. Check out their website for details, and make sure to check out their tour page for when their extensive tour comes out your way. You'll never regret going to one of their shows.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for September 4

Waaaaaaay too much out this week, and none of it is especially mind-blowing.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Widowspeak
Album: All Yours
Quick Description: Dreamy folk rock.
Why You Should Listen: It's the prettiest album released this week, and does a lot of interesting things.
Overall Thoughts: I had a visualization of this band that was much different than the end result. It's definitely a strange record in some regards, but its beauty more than makes up for the challenge. In a week where there's a lot of straightforward music out (the new Miley notwithstanding), this does stand out.
Recommendation: Best release of the week.

Artist: Family of the Year
Album: Family of the Year
Quick Description: Latest, more mainstream, album from the indie rock band.
Why You Should Listen: Pop folk is your thing.
Overall Thoughts: The first thing that came to mind during this listen was how polished it was. "Make You Mine" has radio hit written all over it, and the rest of the album is along the same lines. It's not bad, but the indieness of this band appears to be gone. That's probably going to impact your judgement more than anything else.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, the parts might be better than the whole, though.

Artist: Oh Wonder
Album: Oh Wonder
Quick Description: What if the Civil Wars really liked Kanye West's 808 and Heartbreak?
Why You Should Listen: There's a Civil Wars-shaped hole in your heart that only some singer-songwriter duets can fix.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this album. I think. Every so often the traditional modernness of the whole thing throws an unexpected curveball that makes listening more interesting than you'd expect. It might not be for everyone, but I definitely know I'll go back for more.
Recommendation: Might not be for everyone, but should be heard.

Artist: Dan Bern
Album: Hoody
Quick Description: Latest folkish album from the longtime singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Dan Bern. Or Bob Dylan. Or politically-oriented folk songs.
Overall Thoughts: This is a perfectly okay album on a whole. It's one I thought was fine when I listened but I don't know if I'd actually go back, especially considering a lot of the more interesting folk albums that have come out as of late.
Recommendation: Probably for fans only, unless you're really into this style. You'll know quickly.

Artist: Fidlar
Album: Too
Quick Description: Skate punk at it's finest/most obnoxious.
Why You Should Listen: You still have an old beat up pair of Vans in your closet; you think Blink 182 sold out with "Dammit."
Overall Thoughts: I mean, listen. I'm 34 years old, a wife, a kid, a mortgage. I am not the audience for this. It's fun, it's goofy, and I think 15 year old me might find some meaning in this that I just can't anymore. I don't know if this blog is even close to its intended audience, but this album works at what it's trying to do.
Recommendation: Not for me, but maybe for you.

Artist: Public Image Ltd.
Album: What the World Needs Now
Quick Description: What if McLusky and The Fall had a really weird lookin' kid.
Why You Should Listen: You like this band already or you're feeling really adventurous.
Overall Thoughts: I had never actually heard any PiL prior to this, and, well, I don't see myself going back. Let's just leave it at that.
Recommendation: Ehhh....

Artist: Cold Beat
Album: Into the Air
Quick Description: Late 1980s/early 1990s alt rock stylings from a west coast indie band.
Why You Should Listen: You know the drill: this is a nostalgia trip you want to go on.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know if anyone remembers that song "Crash" by The Primitives, maybe best known to American audiences via Dumb and Dumber. This album gives me a huge vibe like that song, and I am on board.
Recommendation: Great listen, definitely recommended this week.

Artist: Diane Coffee
Album: Everybody's a Good Dog
Quick Description: Foxygen side project that feels like a 1970s rock record.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Foxygen and you find this appealing.
Overall Thoughts: Another album that didn't really work for me, it's just a weird album that feels a little out of place and is clearly more of a passion project than anything else.
Recommendation: You'll know within minutes if it's for you, but be wary.

Artist: Painted Palms
Album: Horizons
Quick Description: A mix between synth pop and psych rock.
Why You Should Listen: You wish the Elephant Six folks did more with synths?
Overall Thoughts: I feel like the description is kind of it for this. I liked this album, but I didn't love it and it didn't stick in my head for long. I'll want to spend more time, but, in a crowded week...
Recommendation: Give it a shot if you have the time.

Artist: Lou Barlow
Album: Brace the Wave
Quick Description: Lou Barlow (of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh) does a divorce record.
Why You Should Listen: You're into Lou Barlow.
Overall Thoughts: This is a stark, kind of heavy album, as one can imagine. I've always been up and down with Barlow's stuff, and this is no different for me. It's stripped down and interesting enough to be worthy of a listen.
Recommendation: Give this a shot if you're into what Barlow offers.

Artist: The Arcs
Album: Yours, Fondly
Quick Description: Psych side project of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys).
Why You Should Listen: You're a Black Keys fan looking for some retro rock.
Overall Thoughts: Honestly, Temples does it better. I get that a lot of the appeal of The Black Keys is how they update the sort of blues rock genre, and this is an attempt to do so with a slightly different genre, so that's noteworthy, but I just didn't find it all that catchy on a whole - and that's going in with low expectations.
Recommendation: Unless you're a Black Keys fan, skip it.

Also out this week:

* Against Me! - 23 Live Sex Acts
* Miley Cyrus - Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz
* Thunderbitch - Thunderbitch