Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Freebie: Shovels & Rope - Swimmin' Time

This week Friday Freebie is a pretty great one. Shovels & Rope are making their absolutely great 2014 release Swimmin' Time available free for one week. This is an album we would highly recommend you buy, so to have it available for free is pretty fantastic. In case you're not familiar with their music, they're this absolutely brilliant mix of garage rock, folk, and rockabilly. If you read this blog with any regularity, you'll want this.

You can get your free copy of Swimmin' Time for free over at NoiseTrade. And, of course, any time a band is kind enough to give you free music, make sure you check out their website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pure Beauty - "Panama Hands"

If "Panama Hands" is any indication, Pure Beauty are the exact type of college party band the 90s were filled with. I don't mean the type of cover band that did half assed Spin Doctors covers ever Thursday for free beer. I mean the band that discovered the funk of Parliament and Funkadelic from PCU, got super into ska (like we all did), and has that one guy secretly edging the band into the realm of jazz without anyone knowing it. They're just fun enough for the meatheads but smart enough for the music geeks. Plus, they'll get the ladies to dance, so everyone is happy.

Pure Beauty are set to release their debut EP on November 20 on Marshall Teller Records. You can pre-order it now, and listen to "Panama Hands" below.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Marlon Williams - "Hello Miss Lonesome"

Photo by Justyn Strother
Marlon Williams can sing. Not in an American Idol way; I'm sure they'd hate him. He just has this haunting voice that's mesmerizing for anyone that likes actual music. The New Zealander has his debut solo album due out in February. One of the songs on it, "Hello Miss Lonesome," fits many of the alt-country and folk stereotypes. Chugging guitars sounding like a locomotive, almost yodelling vocals for parts... but his voice is just what sucks you in. There is also the odd (but perfect) choice to have some feedback squalls towards the end to add just a hint of 90s indie rock. It's definitely a must-listen.

Marlon Williams' self-titled debut is due out February 19 on Dead Oceans. You can preorder a copy here, and be sure to check out his website for more information.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for October 23

I would have loved to review the new Joanna Newsom album, but she is quoted as saying that Spotify, the If It's Too Loud music option of choice, is "the banana of the music industry." So instead we have a pretty short week ahead of us.

Album of the Week:

Artist: John Newman
Album: Revolve
Quick Description: Second album from the British soul singer.
Why You Should Listen: You're still on a high from his excellent singles from his first albums and his collaborations with Rudimental.
Overall Thoughts: I was really, really disappointed with his 2014 debut, and seeing that he had a new album out didn't exactly leave me with warm thoughts. The new album, though? Really good! Much better songwriting, with songs that play to Newman's strengths more than trying to balance a line of how he started out. I may be grading it on a bit of a curve because of the week we're in and how much I wanted to like this, but the album is absolutely worth your time this week. Well done.
Recommendation: Easily the album of the week.

Artist: Vanessa Carlton
Album: Liberman
Quick Description: The pop starlet from long ago goes a little weird.
Why You Should Listen: You think you know what this will sound like. You don't.
Overall Thoughts: So if you know the name Vanessa Carlton, it's via "A Thousand Miles," the pop song from the early aughts that was everywhere and probably soured you on her for good. We're Deer Tick fans here, and she married one of the guys from that band, but that wasn't really enough for me to explore this. I'm glad, however, that I opted to anyway - this is a truly different album that, if it was released by some no-name singer-songwriter without any baggage or expectations, we would likely be talking this up even more. Is it a great album? That remains to be seen/heard. It's a truly ambitious piece, and one that would probably turn off her fans that are approaching 30 right now in an attempt to get new ones, but that's not a bad thing. Overall, a welcome surprise.
Recommendation: This needs to be in your rotation this week. It might not be for you, but it deserves to be heard.

Artist: Fuzz
Album: II
Quick Description: Second album from the Ty Segall side project.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy homages to old metal.
Overall Thoughts: I dunno. I don't know Ty Segall's music at all, and I don't have a deep love or appreciation for the music that's being referenced in this album. The music is good, though, and those who have a soft spot for hard music will find something to love here, but at well over an hour it's very long.
Recommendation: Be wary, but you might like this.

Artist: Dave Gahan and Soulsavers
Album: Angels & Ghosts
Quick Description: Second album with Soulsavers from the Depeche Mode frontman.
Why You Should Listen: At this point, anything Gahan does is probably worth a look.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't love this, I didn't hate this. As I'm not really someone who has kept up with Dave Gahan's non-Depeche Mode work, I didn't go in with much in the way of expectations, and the result of this is some quiet, interesting music that, while not sounding like Depeche Mode, doesn't sound like a lot of anything else, either. In a different week, I might feel differently about it, but it's an interesting listen.
Recommendation: Worth a shot if nothing else is speaking to you.

Artist: Killing Joke
Album: Pylon
Quick Description: Latest album by the UK metal pioneers, and with the original lineup.
Why You Should Listen: If you know who Killing Joke are, you should be listening to this.
Overall Thoughts: Again, not really for me. I confess to having no idea who this band was, and looking up some quick information and seeing who they influenced, there's no excuse for it. This is definitely some tightly-made music, though, and if you're into this scene, you might like what you hear. I can't compare it to their past, but for the now, this was an interesting listen.
Recommendation: If you know them, you should.

Also out this week:

* Elvis Costello - Unfaithful Music
* Joanna Newsom - Divers

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Freebie: Blake Babies - Live 5.9.1989

This is a pretty great Friday Freebie for you all. The Blake Babies are currently offering a free download of a concert from 1989 on Noisetrade. If you're unaware of the Blake Babies, they were (are?) a Boston band featuring Juliana Hatfield, Freda Love Smith, and John P. Strohm. The band is currently putting together some expanded reissues of their catalog, and found this in the archives. They found a live concert recorded on 5/9/1989 and decided to put it up for free. It was recorded for Emerson College's WERS, so the quality is really good, especially for 1989. It's really something you need to have. And it's free!

To get your copy of Live 5.9.1989, head over to Noisetrade. Also, be sure to sign up for the band's mailing list on their website to keep up on the reissues.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rubblebucket Covers Fugazi?

Photo by Ken Sears
Rubblebucket was a band that I somehow decided were a jam band without ever hearing their music. That was my mistake, as instead they're this super fun indie dance band. I know some people consider them ska, but I'm not buying that. Ska adjacent, sure. Regardless, after I saw them at the Green River Festival this year, I'm officially a convert and I recommend their live show for all.

Fugazi, on the other hand, were this super-serious D.C. post hardcore band that while I love them, I wouldn't consider them a party band. That's why I'm not completely sure how I feel about this cover of "Waiting Room" by Rubblebucket. While I'm really late to the party on this one (it came out in June), I just discovered it and can't tell if it's brilliant or a total trainwreck. Either way, it's a really interesting take, and it's probably a blast and I'm just being a grumpy middle aged curmudgeon.

Check out the video for Rubblebucket's cover of "Waiting Room" below. Head on over to their website for more info, and I implore you to check out their live show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Live Shows: The Dead Milkmen and Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 10/17/15

Anyone who's been reading this blog with any regularity knows that I'm pretty much obsessed with both The Dead Milkmen and Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. As soon as tickets went on sale for The Dead Milkmen I knew I was going. Once they added the Army of Broken toys, that was a huge bonus.

This was the third time The Dead Milkmen have swung through Boston since they first reunited in 2008, so I was curious to see how they'd do. The first two times are usually glossed over with the pure excitement of seeing a band you didn't think you would ever have the chance to see. Once a band is on their third pass and second reunion album, they're just back. Of course, the Milkmen were still spectacular for this show, playing with more energy and passion than any other reunited band I've seen in years. While they played a good chunk of their newer material, they delved far into their back catalog and pulled out some near forgotten classics. "Nutrition," "Methodist Coloring Book," "Dean's Dream," "Surfin' Cow," and holy shit! Is that "If I Had a Gun?!??!!?" While the rant before "Bitchin' Camaro" had been about violating the corpse of Archbishop Cardinal Law's mother and making "Dream On" the MA state song over "Roadrunner," this time was a kinder, gentler story about meeting The Damned while playing Riot Fest. What's truly great is how well their new material fits into their classics. I did miss the local cover tradition, though.

I was curious to see how The Dead Milkmen's audience would accept Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. The Milkmen are a pretty barebones and straightforward alt-punk band, and the Broken Toys are much more theatrical and fantastical. While the crowd seemed confused at first, they got pulled right into the folk/punk/metal/burlesque/all around freakshow that is a Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys show. They played "Bully Boys" from their Shockheaded Peter performance, and really sucked everyone into fandom with "28 Seeds," my favorite of theirs live. They closed with their covers of "Paint it Black" and "Ghostbusters," proving that a viola can be a punk as fuck instrument.

As always, head on over to or for more info on either band. Video below is from YouTube user john doherty.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for October 18

This was a ridiculously full week for new releases, along with some really anticipated stuff and some real surprises. Let's dive right in:

Album of the Week:

Artist: YACHT
Album: I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler
Quick Description: Latest album by the indie-synth act, first featuring Claire Evans being the sole lead singer.
Why You Should Listen: You feel like you've been missing out on fun music in your life.
Overall Thoughts: There's definitely some attitude featured on this album, no doubt, but this is just an album that felt really fun on first listen. A number of standout songs across the board and an album I've wanted to jump back on board with as soon as I can. If you heard "Plastic Soul" from last year, you know the direction this is going, and this isn't really an unexpected listen from them. Easily the best thing I've heard this week, and absolutely one that I expect to see at the end of the year on some lists.
Recommendation: One of the best albums released recently, so give it a listen.

Artist: David Wax Museum
Album: Guesthouse
Quick Description: Latest album from the blog favorite.
Why You Should Listen: It's David Wax Museum. If you're still reading this blog after we've spent so much time with this band, I'm sure you know you want to hear this.
Overall Thoughts: Ken wrote about this one to cap off our David Wax Museum week and I think I agree 100% with him. This is not a typical DWM album, but it is a complicated and interesting change for the band with a lot of great things happening in the background. I can't wait to spend more time with it, but my only hesitation from a review standpoint is how different it is from the Mexican-style folk music we've come to expect.
Recommendation: A great album, but definitely a tonal shift. Worth hearing.

Artist: Alela Diane and Ryan Francesconi
Album: Cold Moon
Quick Description: A collaborative folk effort from two established musicians.
Why You Should Listen: Stark folk is your thing.
Overall Thoughts: I can't really describe this beyond it feeling like a stark folk record that feels really arresting when you hear it. There's some beautiful stuff going on here, and it's ultimately one of those quieter albums that need to be heard.
Recommendation: Another album definitely worth listening to.

Artist: Chris Walla
Album: Tape Loops
Quick Description: An instrumental EP from the former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Walla's solo work; you don't mind some experimental stuff.
Overall Thoughts: This wasn't for me, but it's also something that absolutely does what it says on the tin. It's instrumental music that may or may not hit the mark for you, so I don't know what else to say about it.
Recommendation: You'll know quickly if this works for you. Not one I'd explicitly recommend in a busy week.

Artist: Supersuckers
Album: Holding the Bag
Quick Description: Latest album by the iconic band.
Why You Should Listen: It's the Supersuckers!
Overall Thoughts: Listen, I know they're not for everyone. But their version of country, complete with featured guests Hayes Carll and Lydia Loveless on this go 'round, is something that's just an enjoyable time. This isn't going to change your world at all, but it is a fun album if you have some time this week.
Recommendation: A good listen if you have the time. The Supersuckers are always a fun time.

Artist: Annie
Album: Endless Vacation
Quick Description: The latest EP from the European dance artist.
Why You Should Listen: Annie is typically a good time, and she typically comes up with some interesting music.
Overall Thoughts: The interesting thing about Annie is that I wouldn't call her on the cutting edge of dance music, but she's not on the fringes, either. This EP is noteworthy, for me, because of the lack of true standout tracks, but, as a whole, it's a pretty good listen.
Recommendation: Worth hearing, it's a short and quick hit.

Artist: Maritime
Album: Magnetic Bodies/Map of Bones
Quick Description: Indie rock from former members of The Promise Ring.
Why You Should Listen: Some straightforward rock music is always good; you like the associated bands.
Overall Thoughts: This one is good, with a lot of solid songs even if there's not a ton of standouts. The flaw in this album is not that it's bad or not good enough, but that it's easily forgotten in a crowded week. You should definitely make time for this in your rotation, though, and especially if you like The Promise Ring - this is some well-crafted rock music this week.
Recommendation: Recommended, but not at the top of the list.

Artist: The Casket Girls
Album: The Piano Album
Quick Description: An album of piano versions of many recent Casket Girls songs.
Why You Should Listen: You're a big fan of The Casket Girls and/or alternate versions of songs.
Overall Thoughts: As a fan, this was fun for me. If you have no context for the songs, though, this just sounds like some sparse piano songs and you'll be wondering why this exists at all. If you're hearing about The Casket Girls for the first time today, look up True Love Kills the Fairytale first.
Recommendation: A fans-only affair.

Artist: !!!
Album: As If
Quick Description: Latest album from the dance rock group.
Why You Should Listen: Some rock music with some groove to it is your jam.
Overall Thoughts: At this point, if you're not listening to !!!, I don't know why. This needs more listens to see if there are standouts like "When the Water's Cold" or "Pardon My Freedom," but, for now? Another solid effort from a favorite of mine.
Recommendation: Definitely find some time for this.

Artist: Dead Ghosts
Album: Love and Death and All the Rest
Quick Description: Authentic-sounding retro psych-rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is possibly the best authentic-sounding band like this I've heard.
Overall Thoughts: This may not be your genre, and that's fine, but if you are, you need to hear this. It feels like it's straight from the 1970s, complete with the guitar sounds and production values. It's rare to get something like this, so it's almost worth a listen based on that alone.
Recommendation: Might not be for you, but this requires a listen just to hear how well done this is.

Artist: Nikki Hill
Album: Heavy Hearts Hard Fists
Quick Description: Roots-based singer-songwriter music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that thing to replace the Kathleen Edwards-shaped hole in your heart; she's similar to singers like Lydia Loveless.
Overall Thoughts: Honestly? I should love this, and the songwriting is great. What doesn't work is that Hill's voice doesn't feel up to the material, and the production values feel cheap and muddied (which may contribute to the former). This album felt more like a letdown than anything, and it's too bad because it's an album I was ready and willing to love.
Recommendation: Be wary. You might really enjoy this, but it might not work for you.

Artist: The Innocence Mission
Album: Hello I Feel the Same
Quick Description: Ninth(!) album from the alt/indie group.
Why You Should Listen: You love quieter bands like Hem.
Overall Thoughts: How is a band this good, making an album this pretty on their ninth album and I've never heard of them until now? This was a close runner up for album of the week, and for good reason - it hits all the right tonal ideas while being musically interesting along the way. Really reminds me of early Hem in particular.
Recommendation: Absolutely make time for this album this week. One of the best releases of the week.

Artist: Beach House
Album: Thank Your Lucky Stars
Quick Description: The follow-up to August's Depression Cherry.
Why You Should Listen: Your sad-sack indie rock needs a pick me up.
Overall Thoughts: It's impossible to discuss this album without looking back at Depression Cherry, which largely did what it said on the tin. This one feels more like Beach House to me, and it definitely feels more optimistic on first listen, which might be more of what you're looking for. It's early to say how much better or worse this might be, though, or if we should even take the two albums as a cohesive unit or not.
Recommendation: Worth a listen in the crowded week.

Artist: The Oh Hellos
Album: Dear Wormwood
Quick Description: Pretty folk/roots-based music.
Why You Should Listen: You like your more folky music with a bit of interesting instrumentation with it; you really enjoy pretty music.
Overall Thoughts: I liked their debut album, and Dear Wormwood is absolutely more of the same, and that's a good thing. I keep wanting to use the term "pretty," which seems trite and meaningless but it's really, really true. Just a gorgeous album all the way through, and one I'm looking forward to revisiting.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this a listen.

Artist: Keep Shelly in Athens
Album: Now I'm Ready
Quick Description: Electronic-based rock music from Europe.
Why You Should Listen: It's the only album like it this week; it's some of the better electronic-based music released recently (YACHT aside).
Overall Thoughts: This was a pleasant surprise for me, as it sounded unlike anything else I heard this week and also has some interesting sounds going with it. The final song on the album in particular tries some interesting things on a whole, and the result is a fast-paced album that scratched a few itches for me.
Recommendation: Give this one a listen if you have the time.

Artist: Ugly Kid Joe
Album: Uglier Than They Used Ta Be
Quick Description: The reunion effort of the alt-rock band from the 1980s/90s.
Why You Should Listen: You're someone with nostalgia for Ugly Kid Joe.
Overall Thoughts: I'm not going to crap all over this, as it's not for me, but it almost certainly hits a nostalgia point for a lot of people given the successful PledgeMusic campaign and otherwise successful reunion. It's just like what you'd expect from a grunge album from 25 years ago, though, so there's that, but this just wasn't doing it for me.
Recommendation: Good for a nostalgia trip, or maybe more.

Also out this week:

* Alex Bleeker and The Freaks - Country Agenda
* Neon Indian - Vega Intl. Night School
* Coil - Backwards
* Lyle Lovett and His Large Band - Waltzing Fool
* Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs - Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Monday, October 19, 2015

Weezy Ford - "Phantom Lover"

I know next to nothing about Weezy Ford, except for the following two things:

1. She's Sallie Ford's sister.
2. She has two songs on Soundcloud.

I've looked for some kind of web presence for her. Maybe a Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp... all the usual places, but all I've found is this Soundcloud. Normally, we music journalist types like to report a little more on an artist's background, but these songs are insanely good, so I wanted to make sure you heard them. "Phantom Lover" definitely has some similarities to her sister's music, but Weezy is a little more stripped down. It's a barebones indie rock doo wop sound. Her voice seems a little hesitant on these songs, and that just adds a layer of vulnerability. It's really good, and you should check it out.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rodney Anonymous of The Dead Milkmen Has a Halloween Playlist

Halloween is my absolutely favorite holiday of the year, and I'm always looking for songs besides "Monster Mash" to listen to. This year, Rodney Anonymous posted his Halloween playlist over at, and I threw it all on a Spotify playlist for us all. It has some fairly obvious ones, like Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster," but there are also some surprises. White Zombie's "I'm Your Boogie Man" seemed too obvious, while there are some fairly obscure picks like Dead When I Found Her's "No More Nightmares." It's perfect for parties and background music while handing out candy.

The Dead Milkmen have two upcoming shows: Tomorrow night at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA and October 30 at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. For more information, head on over to their website.

David Wax Museum - Guesthouse

For their fifth album, David Wax Museum are back with a significantly tweaked sound. The Mexican influences are mostly hinted at for Guesthouse, and there is a heavy (for David Wax Museum at least) addition of electronic elements.

This all works amazingly well. "Dark Night of the Heart" in particular is almost a trip hop track with folk instruments interspersed. "Guesthouse" might be the song that fits into the David Wax Museum catalog the best. It's quite keyboard heavy, but the style fits into their previous songs where Suz plays the accordion. "Time Will Track Us Down" is one of their loveliest ballads, with just an acoustic guitar and David and Suz harmonizing throughout. They even tackle their parenthood with "Everything Changes." It's a subject that has made some of the greatest songwriters of all time stumble on sappiness, but David Wax Museum turns it into a joyous celebration.

For me, the standout track is "Singing to Me." It's a quiet ballad that doubles as an ode to the die hard fan that feels a song at a concert is speaking directly to them. It's entire being is completely infectious, with lines about loving every aspect of a live performance, except for the people in the back talking over the music.

With most David Wax Museum albums, there are the instant standout tracks, like "Born With a Broken Heart" or "Colas" that immediately draw you in on first listen with their boisterous energy. Then, as you listen to the album a few dozen times, you start connecting with the quieter, more introspective songs like "When You Are Still" or "Rosamar," and those become your personal favorites. This is an album made virtually of all of those songs. Nothing really jumps out as an instant single, but they will all end up being some of your favorite songs. I also implore you to really listen to Guesthouse. I've spent about a week listening to this album, in the background at work or while doing dishes. When I finally sat down and listened through headphones, I noticed all of these elements I had missed previously, like the matching spoken word vocals behind "Every Time Katie." This is a truly dense record that you owe it to yourself to focus on.

Guesthouse is out today. You can get your copy at David Wax Museum's website. Also, please, please, please go see them live. You will not regret it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

David Wax Museum Week - Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 12/31/15

At this point in 2011, I had already seen David Wax Museum twice: The Newport Folk Festival and earlier that month at the Arlington Street Church on December 2. While I consider the Arlington Street Church show the single greatest concert of my 21 year regular concert going career, I consider this show at Lizard Lounge in Cambridge to be the most special I've seen of theirs. (Besides, Jeff already wrote about the Arlington Street Church one first...)

On a personal note, it was the first concert I had attended with my now-wife. Aside from that, it was completely different than the other two previous times I saw David Wax Museum. After seeing them at an outdoor festival for 10,000 people and a large church, seeing them in a barely lit basement club with 105 people was a revelation. They completely altered their presence and sound to fit the space. Instead of playing huge to get the attention of the guy standing in a beer line 100 yards away, they got smaller and more intimate. In an age where a band can go around the country and play the exact same show including stage banter in every venue, it was beautiful to see a band make a show completely different from one I had seem just days before. Plus, the intimacy of the show was truly felt by Suz going around and hugging literally everyone in between sets.

David Wax Museum's new album, Guesthouse, is due out October 16th. You can pre-order it here. Also, be sure to check out their website for their upcoming mega-tour. We can't recommend their show highly enough.

Video by YouTube user supertonic3

Cross Record - "Steady Waves"

Photo by Madeline Harvey
Setting up camp on an 18 acre ranch in TX, Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski began working on their sophomore album as Cross Record. One of the songs that came from that time is "Steady Waves." "Steady Waves" starts off as pretty standard ethereal singer/songwriter fare, with only Cross' striking vocals and guitar. That is enough to pull you completely in, as her voice is simply captivating. Slowly an electronic hum or reverb slips in, followed by the plinking of piano keys. After about a minute, the guitar gets heavier and then fades back out, only to come roaring back with crashing drums. It's a more unified version of the loud/quiet/loud blueprint of the Pixies. 

Cross Record's second album, Wabi-Sabi, is due out January 29 on Ba Da Bing Records. You can listen to "Steady Waves" below. As always, be sure to check out the band's website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can pre-order the album here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sheer - "Uneasy"

Photo by Chrissy Britt
Coming off their debut album, Sheer have just released the video for "Uneasy." A song about battling social anxiety, this song absolutely must be heard. It's such a throwback to the mid-90s, blending parts of Galaxie 500 with Belly and just the slightest touch of The Promise Ring. It's all swirling fuzzed out guitars and the catchiest power pop in ages. It's a mix of dreamy, aggressive, and vulnerable. Plus, the drummer wears a shirt for The Queers in the video, so instant 90s cred!

Sheer's debut album, Uneasy, is due out November 20th on The Native Sound. You can pre-order a copy via Bandcamp. Also, make sure to follow Sheer on Facebook and Twitter. I honestly can't recommend this song enough.

David Wax Museum Week: A ramble regarding their best song, "Unfruitful"

David Wax Museum - Unfruitful from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

I'm pretty sure Ken got me into David Wax Museum fairly early on as a local band. Their song "I Have Wasted My Life" really got me hooked, and when Everything is Saved came out, all the better. It was the full, complete album I had been waiting for from the band, and happened to have a pretty killer song on it as well in "Unfruitful." I don't know if it was the imagery or what that got me hooked on the song, but when I finally got to see the band perform it at the Arlington Street Church in December 2011, well...

I mean, by now you've listened to the video above. The song is a fun, crazy piece of work in someone's kitchen in the Boston area. Now translate it to a giant room. Or a church. And the band is entering the audience, and everyone knows the words, and there's the sing-a-long part at the end.

Just brilliance.

The song is perfect from start to finish, really. The way it builds is great, with the multiple distinct parts. The bass work is subtle but indispensable, and the controlled chaos at the end is as fun on record as it is in person. There are countless videos of this song being performed without amplifiction in the middle of crowds, throughout the venue, wherever. It's great.

I feel like a crazy person ranting about it, but it's just one of those songs that drives up that feeling of a sort of happy madness. When I want people to love David Wax Museum, I show them this song. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. But for me, it's absolutely the song that transformed them from a band I liked to a band I love.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

David Wax Museum - "Forgiveness"

This Friday is the release date for the new David Wax Museum album,Guesthouse. To help celebrate its release, this week we'll be looking ahead to the upcoming album and looking back to some of our favorite David Wax Museum related memories. 

"Forgiveness" might be the most traditional of all the new songs on David Wax Museum's upcoming album, Guesthouse. While it is missing the trademark Mexican guitar sound you typically hear on their songs, it is at least half sung in Spanish. Instead of the Mexican guitar, "Forgiveness" includes a very heavily electronic presence. Although it's more of a ballad, it's an exciting shift in sound that is dominating a lot of the band's newer material. Guesthouse is slightly tweaking a band's sound and is a perfect way for the band to continue to grow without being stale.

Guesthouse is due out October 16th. You can pre-order it here. Also, be sure to check out their website for their upcoming mega-tour. We can't recommend their show highly enough. Check out "Forgiveness" below.

First Listen: New Releases for October 9

A slower release week than we've been used to. Still some gems, though:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Duncan Sheik
Album: Legerdemain
Quick Description: Latest album by the singer/songwriter/Broadway hero.
Why You Should Listen: This is his first album of original, non-theatrical music in close to a decade, and he's come a long way since "Barely Breathing."
Overall Thoughts: Duncan Sheik has been one of my favorites for a while. I think the fact that I love theater as well as folkish music doesn't hurt, but Duncan Sheik always ends up surprising me. The latest album actually dabbles in some electronic instrumentation a bit, but still retains a lot of the songwriting beauty that we've come to expect from Sheik. This album won't get the love it deserves, and that's a shame, because this is a really strong release and arguably some of his best work since Phantom Moon in this space.
Recommendation: An overwhelmingly positive recommendation.

Artist: The Decemberists
Album: Florasongs
Quick Description: A five song EP companion to their wonderful album from earlier this year.
Why You Should Listen: You're a Decemberists completist; you're really really excited for more from their most recent album.
Overall Thoughts: The EP dessert from the Decemberists is quickly becoming a typical affair, and that's more than okay. I loved What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, but I do understand that it's a little divisive and this EP will not do much to change those opinions. I wouldn't call anything here essential, but I wouldn't call this a fans-only release, either.
Recommendation: If you haven't listened to their album yet, do that first.

Artist: Glenn Mercer
Album: Incidental Hum
Quick Description: Instrumental album from the lead of The Feelies.
Why You Should Listen: The idea of instrumental experiments from the lead of The Feeliies is appealing.
Overall Thoughts: This is not anything I'd call essential, and I could argue this isn't anything I'd even recommend. It's not bad, but it's hardly anything special and I don't see myself going back.
Recommendation: Only if you're really into The Feelies, and even then...

Artist: Dilly Dally
Album: Sore
Quick Description: Debut punkish indie album.
Why You Should Listen: You like Bully but wish it was a little grittier.
Overall Thoughts: This hits a lot of my favorite things I look out for. The female singer, the immediacy, and so on. It's a fun album, arguably the second best thing released this week, and it reminds me a lot of Chumped in many ways. Just a great, straightforward rock album with some interesting layers.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Artist: The Zombies
Album: Still Got That Hunger
Quick Description: The latest post-reunion album from the classic rock act.
Why You Should Listen: You really shouldn't.
Overall Thoughts: This is not good. I can't stress enough that this seems to just be a really terrible mistake on all accounts, and you're best off not bothering. It barely sounds like them, and the overall feeling is uninspired. It will sully your memory of this great band.
Recommendation: Don't do it.

Artist: H2O
Album: Use Your Voice
Quick Description: Classic punk music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something of the more traditional punk variety.
Overall Thoughts: When I think of stereotypical punk music, this is it. A 22 minute quick hit with a message, you'll know if it's your thing within moments, and it'll be done just as quick.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Protomartyr
Album: The Agent Intellect
Quick Description: Post-punk goodies!
Why You Should Listen: You like recent post-punk offerings, you want a more complex palate cleanser from H2O.
Overall Thoughts: In a week with a lot of interesting offerings, Protomartyr kind of fell through the cracks for me. It's good but not great, it's not terrible but not wonderful either. There's a good deal to like here, for sure, but you may not be into this unless you're looking for some good rock music in comparison to what's out this week.
Recommendation: Listener beware, but this is a good week to add it to your rotation.

Artist: Bob Forrest
Album: Survival Songs
Quick Description: Solo album from the songwriter and member of Thelonious Monster, among others.
Why You Should Listen: You like strongly confessional folk music.
Overall Thoughts: Without knowing anything about Bob Forrest, listening to this album makes it really clear he's been through some stuff. One could argue that the album, as a result, is a little too on-the-nose with its storytelling, but that's also a very Kozalek way of approaching things, and I think that's the best comparison one can make for this album. This won't be for everyone, and you'll know quickly by the presentation if you're the audience, but you might really get something out of this if it's your bag.
Recommendation: Recommended with some significant caveats.

Artist: Saintsenica
Album: Such Things
Quick Description: A follow-up to their Dark Arc breakthrough.
Why You Should Listen: More complex rock music with some strong hooks.
Overall Thoughts: Saintseneca consistently defies description for me in part because I expect them to be darker and stranger than they are. The result is an album that leaves me surprisingly off-balance for a rock record, but still wanting more. This is an exceptionally poor description even for me, but this is an album that really needs to be heard more than anything.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, especially with this week.

Artist: Rudimental
Album: We the Generation
Quick Description: Second, highly-anticipated album from the British drum and bass group.
Why You Should Listen: You like their first album; the mashup of popular singers and dance music is working for you.
Overall Thoughts: I loved a lot of what Rudimental was doing, and so I looked forward to this one quite a bit. Honestly? This is a bit of a disappointment. Not a lot in the way of memorable songs, the collaborations you'd expect to be awesome end up being a little underwhelming, and the result is something fairly inessential.
Recommendation: Honestly? Skip it.

Artist: Last Good Tooth
Album: And All Things On the Scales
Quick Description: Off-center, compelling folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You miss Brown Bird (and there is a relationship here); nothing this week is striking you as terribly different.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over to me, and it's definitely accessible indie folk while still being something a little different. It's tough to describe - there's some Brown Bird, some Americana, some interesting stuff here that I just know I need to spend more time with. That's often the sign of a good listen right there.
Recommendation: Worth a shot this week for sure, might be something you'll go back to as well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Two Podcast Recommendations for the Week

I recommended some podcasts long ago, and two music-related podcasts are ones I've been listening to recently/for a while and I've been meaning to share here:

Switched on Pop: If you've been keeping up with First Listen, you know I have a bit of a sweet tooth for pop music. Pitch, highlighted in last year's post, posted an episode of Switched on Pop that spent about 25 minutes on the musical structure of Carly Rae Jepsen's "I Really Like You," comparing it to "Call Me Maybe" and delving into the theory behind the songwriting structure, the lyrical points, and so on. I was a music major in college, so the musician in me geeked out a bit, but it's impossible listen to this and not have a deeper appreciation for the pop music we can't really escape. I'm about a quarter of the way through the episodes right now, but the Taylor Swift episode (which discusses her evolution as a songwriter) and the Carly Rae Jepsen episode are both really amazing listens.

Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser: So my college was far too small to have a radio station even though Ken's wasn't, but I think it's the dream of every music nerd to have some sort of radio program of their own. While the show was a bit before my time, WKRP in Cincinatti was a sitcom that took place at a fictional radio station in the late 1970s, and Mike Grasso and Rob MacDougall started a watch-along podcast of the iconic television show earlier this year. It's impossible to talk about WKRP without also talking about the music of the era (and the music clearances for the show, which is a special case in itself), and they spend a good deal of time on that as well as the cultural touchstones of the era the show exists/existed in. If you're a nerd in any way culturally, this is a show you should give a shot - I'm not even watching along with the podcast and I've seen maybe five minutes of the show ever, but this is basically "listen once it's posted" territory for me. And if you're curious as to whether the hosts "get it," they did a 1970s radio show over the weekend in celebration of their upcoming second season. Enjoy the music, come for the information and goofs, and you might actually come away with some cool knowledge as well.

David Wax Museum - "Don't Lose Heart"

This Friday is the release date for the new David Wax Museum album, Guesthouse. To help celebrate its release, this week we'll be looking ahead to the upcoming album and looking back to some of our favorite David Wax Museum related memories. 

"Don't Lose Heart" tackles some truly tricky subject matter for a musician: The hardships of being a musician. The average listener can't exactly relate to the issues of touring, such as "sleeping in a different bed every night," but it does strike the much more universal chord of doing what you absolutely love and not caring about the problems that come up. As someone who sits in a cubicle and fantasizes about more just about every day, it's beautiful to hear from someone who had the guts to take the less common road, struggled through it, and still loves it. You hear too many stories from musicians complaining about touring in their individual buses while staying in $500 a night hotel rooms, and here is this band singing about not knowing if they have enough money for gas to the next gig and how much they love it. That's what makes David Wax Museum such a special band: They love every moment of their career and it shows.

Guesthouse is due out October 16th. You can pre-order it here. Also, be sure to check out their website for their upcoming mega-tour. We can't recommend their show highly enough. Check out "Don't Lose Heart" below.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Supersuckers featuring Lydia Loveless - "I Can't Cry"

Photo via Facebook
Since Eddie Spaghetti had been diagnosed with throat cancer earlier this year, the last thing I was expecting was word of a new Supersuckers album. Today we were surprised to learn that not only is there a new album coming out, but it's due next week! Holdin' the Bag will feature a duet with blog favorite, Lydia Loveless. "I Can't Cry" is a lot more serious and introspective than the normal Supersuckers cowpunk fare, but I suppose facing mortality will do that. That's not to say it's all sad and bleak. Even though the song features the chorus "It doesn't matter how hard I try, I can't cry," Spaghetti also wrote the line "Your dick is in the dirt" for Loveless to sing. And now I start dreaming of a co-headlining tour...

Holdin' the Bag is due out October 16 on Acetate Records. You can listen to "I Can't Cry" below. For more information, check out The Supersuckers' website, and if you're able, please donate to Eddie Spaghetti's cancer fight.

The Wharves - "NAZ"

I almost don't know what to make of The Wharves. The way I am about to describe their new single is going to sound awful, but somehow it works. "NAZ" starts off with thunderous but minimalist drumming (think Meg White), and then combines the vocals and harmonies of a folk band like Mountain Man with the post-grunge (and harmonizing) of That Dog or Cake Like with that sense of dark and dread of a slower Black Sabbath song. I know, I know... It sounds like a total mess, but it works so well and melds into this haunting and hypnotic cohesive song. You really need to check this out.

You can watch the cat heavy video for "NAZ" below. (Also, cats in the UK chase green lights apparently? Mind blown). After that, you'll want to check out their Bandcamp and follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The "NAZ" 7" is due on November 13 on Upset the Rhythm. You can pre-order it here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Brilliant Beast - "Like Dreaming"

Brilliant Beast are back, this time with a full length due out on November 6th. The Minneapolis band, started by brother/sister pair Hannah and Jordan Porter, have made the first single, "Like Dreaming," available to listen. "Like Dreaming" is virtually perfect with equal parts fuzzed out droney shoegaze and pop sensibilities. This time around, there is a darker element and a sense of foreboding lurking around the edges of the song. Maybe it's just the Halloween anticipation inside of me, but this feels like the soundtrack to an indie horror film, especially the way it cuts out at the end. 

Brilliant Beast's debut full length, Dissolve, is due out November 6. For more information, check out the band's Bandcamp and Facebook. You can download "Like Dreaming" on Soundcloud, and watch the just released video below.