Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Freebie: Belly - Belly Noise

We haven't brought you a Friday Freebie for far too long, but, luckily, today's is a great one. As I'm sure you're all aware, Belly is back after a 20+ year break. They are currently working on new material and have started a PledgeMusic for fans to pre-order their upcoming new album, but for right now Tanya Donelly and company are giving out a four song sampler of live material and rarities. Out of the four songs, the only live one is "Dusted." The rarities are absolutely fantastic and must haves for any fan of Belly. The first two are from the 90's glory days of film soundtracks: "Thief" was originally from the Tank Girl soundtrack and "Spaceman" came from the Twister soundtrack, which I guess was a thing? The final song on Belly Noise is the absolute must have. It's a cover of "Trust In Me (The Python's Song)" from Disney's The Jungle Book. 

You can get your own copy of Belly Noise right now over at NoiseTrade. In order to pre-order the brand new album from Belly due out next year, head over to PledgeMusic. We certainly can't wait for new music from Belly, and we can barely believe it's actually happening.

Forgotten Fridays: Twisted Willie

Forgotten Fridays is an occasional feature here at If It’s Too Loud... where we go back and find the lost records of our glory days. We played these on our college radio shows, put them on countless mix tapes, and then forgot they existed. We go back and remind you of their existence, and help decide if they were any good.

Oh, the mid 1990's. It was the glory days of the compilation album, where labels would just throw a bunch of bands on a cd, knowing that as long as you liked two or three of the bands, you'd but the entire album since there was no way you'd ever have any other way to get a copy of the exclusive songs. One of their favorite ways to put one of these together was a tribute album. You'd get a bunch of bands that would usually never be associated together, often covering an artist you'd never expect. 

One of these tribute albums was Twisted Willie, which is a mostly alternative tribute to Willie Nelson. Including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on a tribute to Willie Nelson makes perfect sense, although the Johnny Cash version of "Time of the Preacher" gives Cash a backing band of Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Alice in Chains' Sean Kinney, so this is hardly a classic country version. Other bands like the Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat, and X make perfect sense since they've always been tinged at the very least with classic country. But then you get the oddballs, like L7. Their version of "Three Days" is a little more melodic than L7 normally are, but it still sounds like L7 except for a bizarre (and fantastic!) twangy breakdown in the middle of the song. The Presidents of the United States of America might have seemed like a weird band to play a country song, but looking back twenty years later and their take on "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" fits right in their regular catalog. Other weird choices that somehow work include songs by Jello Biafra, Kelly Deal, and Jerry Cantrel.

While the alternative heroes of the 90's playing classic Willie Nelson songs might have seemed weird in 1996, looking back and it makes perfect sense. Willie Nelson's music has always been universal, and, even though 20 year old me would never have admitted it, country music infected a lot of my favorites from back then. Twisted Willie works in ways most other tribute compilations of the time don't. Plus, a lot of the songs feature Willie joining in, because of course they do.

The Dead Milkmen - Welcome to the End of the World

My gushing fandom of The Dead Milkmen has been well documented here at If It's Too Loud..., so I'm obviously thrilled that this week saw the release of a new EP, Welcome to the End of the World. One of the biggest changes with The Dead Milkmen since their return has been their move away from "joke" songs. Hits like "Punk Rock Girl" and "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)" always had them unfairly labelled as a novelty band by some. Their newer material, while still including a biting sense of humor and social satire, could never be called novelty music.

Which leads the newer material to be more traditionally punk than the classic material. While most bands, especially punk bands, tend to get slower, quieter, and more melodic as they age, The Dead Milkmen are getting louder. One of my favorite style of songs that The Dead Milkmen have always done are gleeful songs about horrible things. The EP's title track, "Welcome to the End of the World," is a driving mid-tempo angry but somehow joyous song called "Welcome to the End of the World." It's not all heavy songs on the EP. "The Coast is Not Clear" has a bit of a disjointed New Order feel to it. "Tomorrow Should Have Been Here Years Ago" is almost a drum and bass song, if drum and bass was done by aging indie punk bands from the 80's and 90's. And it wouldn't be a Dead Milkmen release without a freaky surf rock track, which we get in "Battery Powered Rat."

Welcome to the End of the World is out now via The Giving Groove. You can get your copy on vinyl or a digital version here. For more on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Live Shows: The Courtneys, Versing, and Weakened Friends, Great Scott, Allston, MA 10/16/17

Whenever a show I'm planning on attending gets cancelled, I always end up with a feeling of panic and a need to find another show to fill the void. After Jessica Lea Mayfield cancelled her tour and show this week at Great Scott, I started scouring the listings to see what else I could attend. Once I saw that blog favorite Weakened Friends had been added to the already tempting Monday night show for The Courtneys, I knew that would be the one. 

This was my third time seeing Weakened Friends in a little over a year, and their live shows keep getting better. I wouldn't say it's because they're getting tighter as a band. They are a bit, but they're still just sloppy enough to be completely charming. "Miserable" and "Main Bitch" are still complete highlights of any set, with new song "Hate Mail" soon to be a much beloved addition, even without J Mascis on the live version. Weakened Friends seem to be having a blast when playing, particularly bassist Annie Hoffman as she bounces around the stage. Guitarist/singer Sonia Sturino was in rare form, reminding the crowd that they could die at anytime, so we should all enjoy every day equally. Weakend Friends are beginning to hearken back to this glorious but brief time in 1997 where it was completely ok for indie bands to want to be successful. Not huge rock stars, but at least enough to quit their day jobs.

Versing was the band I knew the least amount walking into the show, but I left as a new, obsessive fan. The Seattle band was playing for the very first time in Boston, and we need them back as soon as possible. Their sound reminded me a ton of early Superdrag mixed with The Dismemberment Plan. But loud. Songs like "Call Me Out," "Body Chamber," and "Nirvana" completely won me over. (I'm not completely sure how I feel about a Seattle band calling a song and album "Nirvana," but we'll leave that for another time...) I have a feeling you'll be hearing us rave about Versing for a long time to come.

The Courtneys headlined the evening, and weren't quite what I expected them to be. The newly released album, The Courtneys II, is the epitome of 90's influenced alternapop, but live they seemed much more restrained and raw than the sheen you can hear on the album. It reminded me much more of early that dog instead of the more pop influenced sound that I expected. As much as I enjoyed their performance, it's always hard to completely focus when an unexpectedly fantastic opener like Versing has just mesmerized you. Plus, after two more energetic and frenetic performances, The Courtneys were a wee bit too downbeat for what I needed to keep me going after 11:00 pm on a Monday night. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Flat Five Covers Edgar Allen Poe

We're officially two weeks away from Halloween, so it's time for bands to start releasing special Halloween songs. Chicago's The Flat Five have presented us with a version of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," set to music. Instead of merely reading the classic poem with some moody music in the background, The Flat Five have turned it into a swinging, groovy song. This is the kind of song that would have been a huge megahit in 96-97 when retro cool was all the rage. It has the strangest vibe to it where it somehow feels like swing, beatnik, and something out of the 60's Batman show all at the same time. Odds are that this won't be the next "Monster Mash," but it's a ton of fun.

You can listen to The Flat Five's version of "The Raven" below. The single is available now via Bloodshot Records. You can get a physical copy here, or a digital version through Bandcamp. For more on The Flat Five, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for October 13

My time management was really, really poor this weekend from a blogging standpoint. I watched three crappy movies and an awesome one in It Follows (which has a killer soundtrack/score, by the way) instead of doing the requisite stuff for First Listen this week. Please forgive me, especially given as there's 20-something new releases out there this week.


Melkbelly - Nothing Valley: Latest entry in the female-fronted alt-rock thing, but really deserves your time. Shades of Dinosaur Jr here, easily my favorite release of the week.

William Hut and Gisli - 22: His best solo effort (duo, really) in a long time, and is the closest to classic Poor Rich Ones we’ve seen in a long time on his half. The Gisli half is gorgeous in entirely different ways, but both are worth it.

Jeffrey Martin - One Go Around: Solid roots music, lots to love here.

Stars – There is No Love in Fluorescent Light: Best Stars album in 15 years, and a return to form for a band that’s been hit-or-miss lately.

Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice: I don’t love Kurt Vile, but this album simply works from beginning to end. The two here complement each other nicely.

Beck – Colors: His best album in a long time, and one of the more enjoyable listens he’s put out at that. This is what I think of when I think of Beck, and it’s surprising he can put out something like this after being at it for so long.


Lenka – Attune: I still don’t know who she’s supposed to appeal to, but no matter – she’s good at what she does even if she’s probably not going to be your first choice popster.

Terra Lightfoot - New Mistakes: A good listen, but it can’t decide if it’s more roots or more alt-rock, and that lack of clarity dragged it down a lot for me.

Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy and Single(s): A reissue of her first EP, which is a reminder of why we're so into her. The singles are a lot of covers, which is great.

Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers: Gorgeous Canadian folk, its only flaw is its overall lack of heft/impact.

Robert Plant – Carry Fire: If you liked Raising Sand, this is largely along those lines. It’s hard to separate the man from the album, though – if this were someone who wasn’t Robert Plant doing this, I bet I’d like it more.

King Khan – Murderburgers: A solo effort that sounds a lot like his non-solo efforts. This is fine.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Wild: This is a very reliable and dependable band. Nothing mind-blowing here, but I can see myself coming back to this over and over.

Wu Tang Clan – The Return: This is better than you think it will be, although not as great as you want it to be. Still, the grooves are great and the rapping solid.

St Vincent – MASSEDUCTION: I really wanted to like this more than I did on first listen. Her albums are often growers, though.

Ransom Pier – Beauty and Demise: This won’t work for everyone, but if the vocals and instrumentation work for you, it might become a near-instant favorite for you.

Dead Leaf Echo - Beyond.Desire: Reminds me of those reverb-heavy 80s indie bands. Pretty solid.


Pale Honey – Devotion: Considering how good their first album was, the direction they go here ends up being disappointingly unmemorable. One of my most anticipated albums of the month, and I don’t really know what to say about it.


Neil Finn – Out of Silence: Neil Finn is super important on a whole, but this album generally didn’t work for me.


Elin Ruth Sigvardsson - Fel

Caroline Spence – Secret Garden: Great to hear her music hold up in a stripped-down format.

Mountain Goats – Marsh Witch Visions: Why couldn’t his last album be more like this?

Also out:

Electric Six - How Dare You

The Front Bottoms - Going Gray

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dan Rico - "Flesh & Bone"

Based in Chicago and released on a French record label, Dan Rico's latest 7" is pure 70's power pop joy. "Flesh & Bone" is heavily influenced by T-Rex, which is always a good thing. In fact, it could pass as a long lost T-Rex outtake. It's a mid-tempo groove with swagger to spare. 

The b-side, "Gold Volvo," is another fantastic song. It's a ballad, but has an odd Prince meets Big Star feel to it. You get that hyped up Prince vibe mixed with the sweetness of a song like "Thirteen." This might sound like an odd mixture, but it's fairly perfect. There's also a digital bonus track. "Anyway You Want Me" is another ballad, this one squarely in the Cheap Trick/Big Star side of things.

You can listen to "Flesh & Bone" below. The 7" is available now via Shit In Can Records. You can get your own copy at Bandcamp. For more on Dan Rico, check him out on Facebook.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Film Review: Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story

Even though I consider myself a pretty die hard Bowie fan, I really know very little about how his music came to be. I know some of the names of his collaborators, but I don't know what they did. I always had the assumption that everything was David Bowie and he more or less defined how everything sounded.

That's why Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story was such a revelation for me. Mick Ronson wasn't with David Bowie from the very start, but as the guitarist for the Spiders from Mars, his influence was wildly important to Bowie. Every so often the film seems like it is veering towards telling the story of David Bowie, but the director avoids this and truly tells the story of Mick Ronson, only using Bowie as background and context.

It shows how Ronson helped turn Bowie into a true rock star, by bringing a heavier, more rock n roll sound into his music. Ronson arranged a lot of the strings on Bowie's music, and even though Bowie was credited as the producer of Lou Reed's Transformer, Ronson was the one who knew how to run the boards and did a good amount of the production work. Even though the Spiders from Mars only lasted 18 months, Ronson worked with Bowie on The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, and The Jean Genie. It also shows off his post Bowie work with artists like John Mellancamp, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, and Tina Turner, up to his too early death in 1993.

Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is great for those of us who are trying to expand our knowledge of David Bowie besides what we know from just listening. It's also perfect for die hard Bowie fans who might have all the information since it's filled with amazing archival footage and pictures. Plus, it has interviews with Bowie discussing the importance of his work with Mick Ronson.

Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is available now. You can pick up a copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray here or through Amazon.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

John Davis & The Cicadas - "Contamination In the Grass"

Following up on 2013's Spare Parts, John Davis (formerly of Folk Implosion) is about to release a new album under the name John Davis & The Cicadas. This one is a concept album about "... corporate corruption in the food industry and related issues like (im)migration, mass incarceration, public health, and the stock market." Most of the songs were written back in 2010 and 2012 but were recently recorded in North Carolina where Davis now works as a public school teacher. One of the songs we can now hear, "Contamination In the Grass," is about how society disregards the soil we count on for so much of our needs. It's a moody song that is synth heavy while still feeling rootsy. Concept albums can go horribly wrong, but this one could end up being interesting based on "Contamination In the Grass" and "HFCS."

You can listen to "Contamination In the Grass" below. John Davis & The Cicadas' new album, El Pulpo, will be out October 20 on Shrimper/Revolver. It can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. For more on John Davis, check out his website.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri - "Crypt of Lost Styles"

Way back in 2011, Mr. Lif was invited to play the Seattle Folk Festival. (It might seem like an odd venue for him, but for those of us who've been following Mr. Lif for a while, it makes perfect sense. Also, how aren't more folk festivals booking hip hop artists by now?) He didn't have a backing band, so he was paired up with Brass Menazeri, San Francisco's original Balkan Brass Band. It went so well that they've all joined up for an album coming out next month.

"Crypt of Lost Styles" is virtually perfect. For decades, hip hop artists have been sampling horns, and now Mr. Lif has the energy of a live brass section behind him. It's a sound that's completely obvious in how perfect it all melds, but hasn't really been done before. It's pure old school hip hop through this glorious new prism that feels familiar even though it's completely fresh.

You can listen to "Crypt of Lost Styles" below. Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri's album, Resilient, will be out on November 3 via Waxsimile. For more on Mr. Lif, check out his website. For Brass Menazeri, check out their Bandcamp. And let's all hope for a collaborative tour.

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for October 6

The rest for the week:

Artist: Cults
Album: Offering
Quick Description: Latest from the buzzy reverb rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Cults has made enough of a splash that they're worth a listen.
Overall Thoughts: Everyone knows "Go Outside," but this third album moves in a bit more of a poppy direction for them, and it works in the sense that they absolutely have hit their stride as a band, but this is a sound that hasn't quite stayed as relevant as one might expect. I feel like I'm damning this with faint praise, but this album is just good, but not essential in a busy week.
Recommendation: Perhaps a fans-only affair.

Artist: Liam Gallagher
Album: As You Were
Quick Description: Former Oasis frontman with his debut solo effort.
Why You Should Listen: You really liked Oasis.
Overall Thoughts: This is an okay album. It's not good, it's not bad. But Liam will always be compared to Noel, and we have a High Flying Birds record coming soon, and this is just unfortunate and unnecessary. It's fine, but there's better efforts out there.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Wolf Parade
Album: Cry Cry Cry
Quick Description: New album from the Canadian indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Wolf Parade has traditionally been fairly interesting.
Overall Thoughts: Every time I see a new album from Wolf Parade, I'm surprised because I forget that they didn't break up. The new album sounds somewhat like their older stuff, and that's fine, but there's not a lot that's exciting about this to point out.
Recommendation: Meh.

Artist: The Weather Station
Album: The Weather Station
Quick Description: New album from the Amaricana-tinged indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: The Weather Station has been sneakily producing some solid listens lately.
Overall Thoughts: I'm trying to figure out why I love The Weather Station but have basically had it with The War on Drugs. There's the same sort of prog feel in a lot of ways, but the things The Weather Station are doing on this album is a great leap forward. If "Thirty" doesn't do it for you, I question the existence of your soul. This is one of the better listens of the week, and needs to be heard.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Yumi Zouma
Album: Willowbank
Quick Description: Latest from the retro-ish rock act.
Why You Should Listen: In a crowded field in this genre, Yumi Zouma sometimes stands out...
Overall Thoughts: ...but doesn't always on this album. There's a distinct lack of growth on this album compared to their last, and that's too bad because there's a lot to like on a whole. I still think they peaked with "Song for Zoe and Gwen," and I keep waiting to get some of that brilliance again. It's not bad, just like so much of this week, but it could be so much better.
Recommendation: Not essential this week, but might be worth some time.

Artist: Kelela
Album: Take Me Apart
Quick Description: Buzzy R&B with a unique sound.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy acts like FKA Twigs.
Overall Thoughts: This is absolutely the most interesting listen this week in a run of good albums from Kelela. I want to love this, and I generally do, but this might be a breakthrough for her that we haven't seen yet. There's a lot in the media about this one, so if you're into a more challenging R&B record that pushes the accessibility envelope, this could be worth your time.
Recommendation: A good listen this week.

Artist: Ducktails
Album: Jersey Devil
Quick Description: Laid back indie rock from a former member of Real Estate
Why You Should Listen: We like Ducktails here and this is a good listen.
Overall Thoughts: I find Ducktails hard to describe for whatever reason. Laid back seems right, but that almost seems to give the album a tone that it isn't maybe trying to put out there. The songwriting is crisp, the songs don't take a lot of risky chances, and the result is a really solid album that may not get the due it deserves. But in a busy week, it's still deserving of your time.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Matt Patershuk
Album: Same as I've Ever Been
Quick Description: Traditional rootsy country.
Why You Should Listen: Nothing like it this week.
Overall Thoughts: Instead of saying a lot of the same things I say week after week on a lot of these somewhat interchangeable country records, know that Patershuk has a really good voice for it and the songwriting here is sharper than most. More listens might reveal some really good stuff here, but for a first listen it doesn't 100% stand out.
Recommendation: Worth your time for a roots listen.

Artist: Slane vs. Termanology
Album: Anti-Hero
Quick Description: Boston-area indie rap.
Why You Should Listen: This is a good blend of old and new.
Overall Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this listen on a whole, there's a lot to love here. The instrumentation feels a little hokey and dated, but the rapping is good enough to ultimately cover for a record that feels about ten years too late in all the right ways.
Recommendation: Find time for this.


* Andrew Bird - Echolocations: River

Also out:

* The Church - man woman life death infinity
* Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Low Cards - "Suffer"

Rhode Island has quietly become a haven for a roots music revival. I recently stumbled across The Low Cards, yet another great Americana/roots/folk artist from RI and their new song, "Suffer." 

"Suffer" isn't the quiet, acoustic singer-songwriter side of the current neo-folk revival. It's a dirty, noisy blues based sound, like if early White Stripes lived down in a swamp and not Detroit. This isn't pretty music, but that's kind of the point. It's an amped up early rock n roll with a modern slant. Even if you cringe at the current crop of bands labelled "folk," you're going to love this song.

You can listen to "Suffer" below. To get your own digital copy, head over to The Low Cards' Bandcamp. For more on The Low Cards, check out their website

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for October 6

A busy week, so we're splitting this in two:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Alex Lahey
Album: I Love You Like a Brother
Quick Description: Debut full-length from someone who we've come to love very quickly here.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best mix of indie, alt-rock, and an older aesthetic I've heard in a while.
Overall Thoughts: Ken’s spent a lot of time raving about Lahey, and both of us had very high expectations for her debut full-length. Somehow she didn’t just meet them, she exceeded them easily. Sing-along choruses, a nice wall of sound that both hits hard and doesn’t overwhelm, an instrumental aesthetic that seems fully rooted in current times while still borrowing heavily from 80s and 90s soundscapes? There’s no flaw in this record at all, and it’s easily my favorite of the week. Unless you’re really, really anti-alt-rock, this has to get into your rotation this week, because Alex Lahey will probably end up being your favorite new musician on the block.
Recommendation: Best of the week, a best of the year candidate, and maybe your new favorite.

Artist: JD McPherson
Album: Undivided Heart and Soul
Quick Description: Latest from the rocker with a classic sound.
Why You Should Listen: His last album was great and he knows how to craft a tune.
Overall Thoughts: JD McPherson had one of my favorite songs in recent memory in “Head Over Heels.” This new album kind of leans into that song a bit, with a lot of well-structured pop rock to go along with everything. This isn’t a bad thing at all in this case, as McPherson has found a unique (to this era) sound that works for him. But if you’re looking for a little more variety, it might not be here as you might expect. This is a good listen, it’s simply surprising that it doesn’t take as many chances as one would expect.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Ane Brun
Album: Leave Me Breathless
Quick Description: The oddest covers album of 2017.
Why You Should Listen: Ane Brun's voice is unique and has offered a number of great songs.
Overall Thoughts: A singer I’ve enjoyed for a while, this is an interesting-yet-puzzling collection of cover songs ranging from the classic to the confounding – no one is asking for a version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” as far as I know, but if you were, there’s one here. Her voice is so unique and interesting that the takes on these songs is enough to give this a listen, but for me, this was just one of those weird curiosities rather than a really solid album.
Recommendation: Listener beware.

Artist: Best Girl Athlete
Album: Best Girl Athlete
Quick Description: Genre-hopping sophomore indie effort.
Why You Should Listen: You don't mind surprises in your indie music.
Overall Thoughts: This was an album I picked out solely due to the title of the act. Within the first song I was first impressed by the way the songs were structured, but then there was a rap break. The approach here appears to be to confound expectations whenever possible, and the result is an album that I definitely liked, but found myself questioning a lot of the choices more than really just being able to enjoy what I was hearing. This isn’t to say this is a bad album; it’s just a weird listen with a lot of strangeness seemingly baked in.
Recommendation: I’m not 100% sure it works.

Artist: Silver Torches
Album: Let It Be a Dream
Quick Description: new album from an indie folkie.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of the more quiet side of indie music.
Overall Thoughts: This album reminds me of an old band, Fuck, that hasn’t been heard from in a very long time. Quiet, kinda weird, kinda folky, very unexpected. This album is good, but almost too unassuming, and it’s an album I put on and then it ended and I could barely remember much else except the overall tone. I’ll come back to it, but in a busy week you absolutely want to be more memorable than this.
Recommendation: Not essential in a busy week.

Artist: Kele Okereke
Album: Fatherland
Quick Description: Bloc Party lead singer with an introspective effort.
Why You Should Listen: This is not what you expect at all.
Overall Thoughts: If you asked me what direction a proper Kele Okereke solo album would go, I do not think chamber pop would make it anywhere in the top 30. But here we are, with a very introspective, gentle chamber pop record that would probably be a lot more enjoyable if the Bloc Party baggage wasn’t being towed behind it. Look at it on its own, however, and it’s an interesting album with a lot of positives going for it. The songwriting is great and the musicality behind it impressive. It’s just hard to shake where this is coming from given how long Okereke has been in the musical consciousness.
Recommendation: A weird listen that I didn't love, but didn't hate.

Artist: Dhani Harrison
Quick Description: George Harrison's son's first proper album.
Why You Should Listen: You're a Beatles completist, or just curious.
Overall Thoughts: George Harrison’s only son doesn’t sound like what I expected him to sound like, and that might be a positive in his corner. On the other hand, when we’ve had the “famous kids” albums in recent years, like Harper Simon or Liam Finn, they’ve offered some truly memorable moments both to strike away from their heritage and to make their own names. Harrison appears to be keeping it a little closer to the chest, and that’s fine. It just might not land for everyone as a result.
Recommendation: Not great, but not bad either.

Artist: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Album: The Kid
Quick Description: New album from the indie electronic act.
Why You Should Listen: Smith is getting significant buzz over the last year.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't get to write about it, but I loved her last mini-album. This is definitely in a more pop(ulist) direction, and it's a little off-putting on first listen, but I was hooked by the end and simply can't wait to dive back in. This is a solid listen for anyone, but especially those who like the sort of indie electro stuff I've featured here lately.
Recommendation: Should be something on your list this week.

EPs of note:

* Mirah - Sundial
* Surf Rock is Dead - We Have No Friends

Also out:

* Pearl Jam - Let's Play Two
* The Darkness - Pinewood Smile

Monday, October 9, 2017

Live Shows: Banditos and Caroline Rose, Great Scott, Allston, MA 10/4/17

Listening to the latest album from Banditos is almost like listening to two separate bands. First you get the band led by Mary Beth Richardson which is a more bluesy, soulful band. The second is led by Stephen Pierce, and is a more fun loving, almost outlaw country band. Seeing them live last week, the divide was even more apparent, which was part of the whole charm of the live experience.

This might seem like an odd comparison, but I'm going to compare the Banditos live to Squirrel Nut Zippers live. Katherine Whelan is a far superior singer to Jimbo Mathus, and live her voice was even more incredible and mesmerizing. However, his songs were livelier and more fun, so they became the hits the crowd reacted to. The same can be said for Richardson and Pierce. Her voice is great, particularly live, but she sings mostly ballads. Pierce's voice is a fairly standard country rock twang, but his songs are just more energetic and fun. Wednesday night his collection of songs reminded me a lot of early Hank Williams III, back when he was still more country than metal. The crowd responded far more energetically to songs sung by Pierce, mainly because they're more fun and easier to move to. It took a while, but the crowd fully woke up during "Still Sober (After All These Beers)" with the majority doing some kind of dancing for that particular song. Even the current single "Fine Fine Day" elicited less of a response from the crowd, but how can you beat that title? Richardson's songs had far less energy, but she completely drew the crowd in with her vocals, especially "Healin' Slow."

As much as I meant to catch opener Caroline Rose's full set, poor planning led me to only catching her last three songs. On her album, I Will Not Be Afraid, she's a groovy Americana singer, with at least as much of a country sound as you'd expect with song titles like "Blood on Your Bootheels." Some of her songs do stray a bit more on the pop side of things, but it's still fairly roots and country based. Live she was a whole different artist. I haven't been more blindsided by an artist's live show versus their album since The Fiery Furnaces. Wednesday night she was more akin to DEVO trying to play with the slightest hint of twang. It was wildly unexpected, and made me wish I had caught her full set.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Rentals - "Elon Musk is Making Me Sad"

Typically we have to wait an insane amount of time in between releases from The Rentals. Matt Sharp [editor's note: We're legally required to remind you that he used to be in Weezer] takes his sweet time working on new music, so since Lost in Alphaville was released in 2014, I wasn't expecting anything new from The Rentals until at least 2020.

Well... I'm in luck. The Rentals have a new single out, "Elon Musk is Making Me Sad." For those of us a little disappointed by Lost in Alphaville, "Elon Musk is Making Me Sad" is a true return to form. The best songs from The Rentals have always been equal parts sense of humor and melancholy. The song tells the tale of two boys who each received a Commodore computer back in 1982. One boy used his to "... make fake IDs and buy beer in junior high" while the other one learned everything he could about his. As you can probably guess, Matt Sharp was the one making fake IDs. Sharp does have a bit of a gloat in the song that he had the lead in 1995, but has been since overtaken by Musk. It's also a song to implore Musk to take Sharp along when it's time to leave the planet. Although the song is very synth heavy, it's a bit more organic than most of The Rentals' releases and edges into Sharp's acoustic solo releases.

You can watch the lyric video for "Elon Musk is Making Me Sad" below. You can get your own copy via your digital music outlet of choice. Right now it appears to just be a single, but let's hope an album is forthcoming. For more on The Rentals, check out their website.

Melkbelly - "Off the Lot"

Photo by Lenny Gilmore
With just a week before the release of Melkbelly's debut album, we have another new track to check out. "Off the Lot" is an aggressive, noisy quick burst at just over 2:00 long. "Kid Kreative" didn't quite explode into the noise I wanted it to, "Middle Of" did while still being kind of poppy, but "Off the Lot" is just noise. It reminds me of the kind of Sonic Youth song that only Kim Gordon would write, but the weird thing is there is this bizarre feeling of catchiness and just the slightest hints of melody throughout the song to keep it reigned in enough to not be just another noise rock song. This is making me long for next week.

You can watch the video for "Off the Lot" below. Melkbelly's debut album, Nothing Valley, will be out October 13 on Wax Nine/Carpark. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Melkbelly, check out their website.

Fri. Oct. 13 - Chicago, IL @ The Hideout (Record Release Show)
Mon. Oct. 16 - Bloomington, IN @ Bishop Bar +
Tue. Oct. 17 - Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness
Wed. Oct. 18 - Washington DC @ Comet Ping Pong
Fri. Oct. 20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
Sat. Oct. 21 - Cambridge, MA @ YMCA
Sun. Oct. 22 - Providence, RI @ Aurora
Mon. Oct. 23 - Philadelphia, PA @ Space 1026
Tue. Oct 24 - Cleveland, OH @ Now That's Class
Wed. Oct. 25 - Detroit, MI @ Donovan's
Wed. Nov. 8 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom ^ — SOLD OUT
Thu. Nov. 9 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox ^
Mon. Nov. 11 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop ^ — SOLD OUT
Sun. Nov. 12 - San Francisco, CA @ the Independent ^ — SOLD OUT
Mon. Nov. 13 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater ^ — SOLD OUT
Tue. Nov. 14 - Phoenix, AZ @ LBX
Thu. Nov. 16 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Fri. Nov. 17 - Lawrence, KS @ Replay
Fri. Feb. 16 - Norman, OK @ Opolis *
Sat. Feb. 17 - Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf *
Sat. Feb. 24 - Eugene, OR @ Hi Fi Music Hall * 
Sun. Feb. 25 - Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater *
Mon. Feb. 26 - Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret *
Thu. March 1 - Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett *
Fri. March 2 - Boise, ID @ Neurolux *
Sat. March 3 - Salt Lake City @ Kilby Court *
Tue. March 6 - Kansas City @ The Record Bar *
+ = with Snail Mail
^ = with the Breeders
* = with Bully

Thursday, October 5, 2017

People Come, People Go: Remembering Tom Petty

Photo via Facebook
Back in the spring of 1989, I was an incredibly awkward 12 year old coming to terms with my parent's divorce and my mom dating again. My newly single mom would go out with her single friend, and I'd end up hanging out at her friend's house with her kids. One bonus is that her daughter and her daughter's friends were older, attractive girls. Seeing that we were teenagers, we watched a lot of MTV. Most of what they liked was the kind of heavy metal that terrified me, but there was this one video they thought was cool, and that didn't scare me. That was "Free Fallin'" from Tom Petty. 

Tom Petty shouldn't have been huge in 1989. 1989 was the time of Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, and Guns n Roses. Petty was nearly 40 years old, and roots tinged rock and roll wasn't exactly lighting up the charts. But that's what has always been cool about Tom Petty: He was always just there, doing his own thing. While other "classic rock" artists have had comeback hits, Petty just had hits. Virtually from the start of MTV to when they stopped showing videos, he had massive hit videos for decades. 

Petty never went through a grunge phase. He never dabbled in industrial, or released an electronica record. He just made the records he wanted to make, and that's what made him so effortlessly cool. He released what might have been his finest album, Wildflowers, in 1994, 18 years since the first Heartbreakers album was released. In the mid 1990's, literally everything was considered alternative. Sheryl Crow and Jewel had the alternative label thrown on them at some point. You know who wasn't alternative? Tom Petty. "You Don't Know How it Feels" was a huge song back in the days of Dr. Dre and Bush. How cool was Tom Petty? The video was censored by MTV, the station of cool and youth, for saying the word "joint."

Tom Petty's music is timeless. It truly is. He's never released a bad album. (If you say The Last DJ, you're wrong. Listen to that one now that rock radio is effectively dead, and tell me it isn't brilliant.) You don't know anyone who doesn't like Tom Petty. Ok, maybe you have a cousin that only listens to black metal or hardcore, but if you listen to more than one genre of music, Tom Petty is your guy. And he has been for years. Comedians Jonah Ray and Marc Maron both have jokes about Tom Petty being the one thing that can unite all Americans since he's the one thing we all like. And now he's gone. And we're going to have to figure it all out without him.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fox Face - "Clever Girl"

Photo via Facebook
Milwaukee, WI isn't exactly known as a beacon for feminist punk, but sometimes, that's exactly the point. Fox Face have their debut album coming out next month, and right now we can hear a song from that album. "Clever Girl" is everything you want in a riot grrrl style punk song. It's loud and perfectly obnoxious, but with just enough of a hint of melody to be oddly catchy. It reminds me mostly of older Sleater-Kinney but with a smidge of L7's thrash. It's a throwback sound, of sorts, but somehow it doesn't sound like 90's nostalgia. Maybe it's the political climate of this country, but Fox Fire is what we need right now.

You can listen to "Clever Girl" below. Fox Fire's debut album, Spoil + Destroy, will be out November 3 on Dirtnap Records. For more on Fox Fire, check them out on Facebook.

Oct 14 - Mickeys Tavern, Madison "Turkeyfest" w/ Fire Heads, BlahaThe Smells
Oct 31 - WMSE radio Milwaukee - Local/Live

Nov 3 - Acme Records, Milwaukee * Release show*  w/ Sex Scenes, Red Lodge

Nov 17 - WSUM radio Madison - 4pm

Nov 17 - North Street Cabaret, Madison * Release show*  - w/ Cool Building, No Hoax

Nov 18 Caliwaukee, Chicago * Release show*  - w/ TBD

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for September 29

A busy week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Anna Tivel
Album: Small Believer
Quick Description: Latest from a favorite folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Anna Tivel is crazy consistent.
Overall Thoughts: Ken has raved about Anna Tivel before, and I’ve been jumping back and forth on her back catalog since he turned me onto her. The new album? It’s predictably great. There’s a reason we’re a big fan of hers here, and while she’s not trying to reinvent the wheel with her brand of folk music, there’s something to be said about nearly perfecting it. This is a solid listen for this week, and definitely worth your time.
Recommendation: My favorite of the week.

Artist: Keep Shelly in Athens
Album: Philokalia
Quick Description: Weird, yet accessible, electronic music.
Why You Should Listen: Keep Shelly in Athens has been under the radar too long.
Overall Thoughts: I missed the release last year, but the release from a few years ago was of interest to me. This new album is a little less indie electronic and instead leans in more on the 1980s soundscapes. In some ways, the tone reminds me of Kitty’s album from last month, but in most others it feels more like it was just completely extracted from the mid-1980s. This is still a little weird on a whole, but not impenetrable and I think most who would be interested in this would enjoy it.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Worriers
Album:Survival Pop
Quick Description: Power pop goodness.
Why You Should Listen: You don't realize how much you want an album like this until you hear it.
Overall Thoughts: All hail power pop! This album scratches an itch I haven’t been able to address in some time. Worriers put together a great, amped-up album filled with some hooky songs and just enough aggression to keep things interesting. One of my top recommendations this week, for sure, this is absolutely a listen that you’ll appreciate.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: Ben Frost
Album: The Centre Cannot Hold
Quick Description: [ethereal whooshing]
Why You Should Listen: You like atmosphere more than melody.
Overall Thoughts: This is not going to be for everyone, as a basic point, but if you’re looking for challenging, atmospheric electronic music, you’ve come to the right place. As someone seeking Twin Peaks-y media, the feel and tone of this record is absolutely clicking for me, but this is probably a niche listen for most.
Recommendation: Not for everyone even if it worked for me.

Artist: Loney, Dear
Album: Loney, Dear/
Quick Description: Latest from the European indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: They deserve some goodwill from their debut.
Overall Thoughts: I was first turned onto Loney Dear a decade or so ago. I want to say they opened for Of Montreal? Regardless, they had an album that was pretty solid and buzzworthy, but nothing since then has quite reached those heights. The latest album still isn’t there, if I’m being frank, but there are moments like “Little Jacket” that give a taste of what this act is truly capable of. In a somewhat busy week, I cannot fully recommend this...
Recommendation: ...but it might be worth some time to find the parts you’ll enjoy.

Artist: J. Roddy Walston and The Business
Album: Destroyers of the Soft Life
Quick Description: Surprisingly great indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This act walks the right balance between pop rock and indie craziness.
Overall Thoughts: I didn’t know the first thing about this act or album when Ken sent it over, but given a lot of the roots rock/retro rock acts coming through with similar name conventions, what I didn’t expect was a sort of indie rock with some punk overtones similar to Jeff Rosenstock. This is a record I definitely liked, and I could see myself loving it with future listens, but this is one of those albums that defied my expectations repeatedly, and I don’t feel like that happens enough these days.
Recommendation: You need to give this a shot.

Artist: Robin Shultz
Album: Uncovered
Quick Description: Club-ready dance music.
Why You Should Listen: You just want to mindlessly groove.
Overall Thoughts: I was absolutely addicted to a remix of “Sugar” from a few years back, so I figured I’d put this on my radar. Honestly? This feels pretty rote and uninspired on a whole, and is kind of the sort of stereotypical club music that doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. There’s a place for this, just not in your rotation or in mine.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Jessica Lea Mayfield
Album: Sorry is Gone
Quick Description: Latest from the country-adjacent chameleon.
Why You Should Listen: Jessica Lea Mayfield is one of those essential voices in music currently.
Overall Thoughts: Jessica Lea Mayfield started out as a rising alt-country star and went alt-rock on us a couple albums back. While the albums have been really good, I also haven’t felt like she has exactly found her footing in the transition. This new album is maybe the first time I’ve felt like it’s all truly clicked – her country influences still shine through, but not at the expense of a more traditional rock sound couched in a lot of reverb and interesting instrumentation. She has a very unique sound all her own, and this is a really solid listen this week.
Recommendation: Highly recommended.

Artist: Four Tet
Album: New Energy
Quick Description: Latest from the indie electronic act.
Why You Should Listen: Four Tet keeps it unpredictable.
Overall Thoughts: Four Tet has always been an interesting electronic act, and this new album is no different. No one sounds quite like Four Tet these days, which is what makes this album both interesting and frustrating in that it never really hits a significant stride while remaining a good listen on a whole. I confess to being a little befuddled about the whole thing, and that’s fine, but that also might mean it won’t work for you.
Recommendation: Don’t spend too much time with it if it’s not working for you.

Artist: Torres
Album: Three Futures
Quick Description: Indie singer-songwriter gets it even more together.
Why You Should Listen: Torres has been making interesting indie stuff for a few years now.
Overall Thoughts: Torres is another favorite around these parts, and her latest album feels a little more weighty than her previous affairs. This is not a negative criticism – where I always felt her sound was all over the place in the past, there’s a more cohesive feel to this album that makes the whole thing a little better as a full album. Still, I found myself enjoying parts of this a lot more than the whole, which is my default with Torres, and with that in mind this is probably some of the best stuff she’s put out thus far.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth some of your time this week.

Artist: Wolf Alice
Album: Visions of a Life
Quick Description: New album from the alt-rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Their first album was SO GOOD.
Overall Thoughts: I loved loved loved Wolf Alice’s debut album after love love loving their early EPs. The album dropped around the same time as Bully’s album, and I was decidedly Into It, perhaps more than a lot of stuff that year. This was absolutely highly anticipated for me, and I would say that the end result of the first listen of this album is where I was on my first listen of the debut – I need more time. There are not solid winners from the start like “My Love is Cool,” but that’s not a bad thing – the album is on such an even keel that I believe there are some hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.
Recommendation: So I’m withholding full judgement, but I’m optimistic.

Artist: Protomartyr
Album: Relatives in Descent
Quick Description: Solid post-punk.
Why You Should Listen: They are quietly making some of the best loud music you'll hear.
Overall Thoughts: I shouldn’t like Protomartyr on the surface. It’s a very heavy, yet very melodic, act with a sound I don’t generally gravitate toward. This is the second album I’ve heard from them, though, and I continue to be impressed and fascinated by what they offer. I love music, but it’s rare these days for an album to repeatedly get me to stop and listen outright, and Protomartyr does this repeatedly with their latest effort. I’m not always in the mood for this genre, but it works swimmingly when I am.
Recommendation: This is one of the better listens of the week, never mind being one of the most interesting.

Artist: Lauren Ruth Ward
Album: Well, Hell
Quick Description: Debut album from your new favorite singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: She deserves to be noticed.
Overall Thoughts: Lauren Ruth Ward is a testament to Spotify doing a good job pinning down my musical interests. They’ve been slowly feeding me new singles from her debut over the last six months or so, and her debut album ends up being a pretty fun record with a lot going for it. Ward isn’t afraid to get a bit angsty, she doesn’t shy away from topics of sex, and she doesn’t hold herself to any specific genre when exploring things on a whole. Some listeners could be turned off by how intentionally all-over-the-place she is, but this totally worked for me and was a surprise favorite.
Recommendation: Make some time for this.

EPs of note:

* H2O - The Don Fury Demo Sessions
* Molly Rocket - More Than All This (worth a listen!)
* Echosmith - Inside a Dream

Also out:

* Hannah Lurry - This Heart of Mine
* Primus - The Desaturated Seven
* Michael Jackson - Scream