Friday, December 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for 8 December

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

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

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

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

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


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

Also out this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Michael Rault - "Sleep With Me"

There are a lot of bands out there that get compared to The Beatles, and with good reason. The Beatles were unquestionably the most influential band of all time, and bands like Oasis have made entire careers off admitting to sounding like The Beatles. The new single from Michael Rault definitely sounds like The Beatles. "Sleep With Me" has a lush production and warm harmonies, and sounds like it's from the late 60's, early 70's. If Rault's press release had claimed he was an undiscovered artist from that time and this was his lost album, I'd completely believe it. Although, instead of sounding like late 60's era Beatles, to me it sounds like George Harrison and Paul McCartney went off on their own to form a duo after The Beatles broke up. 

You can watch the video for "Sleep With Me" below. Michael Rault's forthcoming album will be released on Wick Records, the rock imprint of Daptone Records. For more on Rault, check out his website.

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #7: Fox Face - Spoil + Destroy

Fox Face isn't made for me. Hell, I just discovered they share a name with a character from The Hunger Games. This isn't meant for middle aged men with kids and mortgages. But the original wave of riot grrrl wasn't meant for me, either, and I still loved it. Fox Face is just pure raw aggression and true anger. With song titles like "Nasty Woman" and "I Believe in Science," there is no question who their anger is directed at. Fox Face get a key element of riot grrrl right that a lot of people miss: Despite the anger and aggression in any song from that genre, there is still a sense of fun. They may want to kick someone's teeth in, but they're going to mock them mercilessly first.

Songs of note: "(What You're) Good For," "Clever Girl," "Toxic."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #7: Daddy Issues - Deep Dream

I don't know how I ended up missing Daddy Issues's debut release, but this was on a lot of "anticipated" lists in the spring and so I took a flyer on it. To this day, it's been in constant rotation for me, and there are so many great songs that I can't even pick a favorite. "In Your Head" is an amazing jilted lover tale, the title track addicting as anything that came out this week, and their cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" is equal parts reverent and unique. It has stark instrumentation while giving a full feel thanks to some great production, and the songwriting is top-notch. One of the great listens of the year, for sure.

Songs of Note: "Deep Dream," "In Your Head," "The Boys of Summer"

Friday, December 8, 2017

Buffalo Tom - "All Be Gone"

Photo via Facebook
As much as I adore Buffalo Tom, I couldn't get into their 2011 album Skins. It wasn't bad, but it felt a little too easy listening for me. For "All Be Gone," the first song off of their upcoming album, we're back to classic Buffalo Tom, and I think we can all be happy about that.

"All Be Gone" is an upbeat Bill Janovitz sung rocker. It may not be as noisy as some vintage Buffalo Tom could be, but even at their noisiest, Buffalo Tom have always been melodic. This new one might be a bit more melodic, but that's not a bad thing at all. The framework of classic Buffalo Tom is here, plus, as with most musicians at this point in their careers, the trio have gotten more confident and better as musicians, so you get killer guitar solos the likes of which had just been hinted at previously. I can't imagine any old school fans will be anything less than overjoyed with this song.

You can listen to "All Be Gone" below. Buffalo Tom's new album, Quiet and Peace, will be out March 2 on Schoolkids Records. For more on Buffalo Tom, check out their website.

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #8: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Trust me, I'm just as shocked as you are with this one. We're by far a metal blog. I think we write about a new metal release once every six months or so. And I'm really late to the Converge bandwagon by 25 years. To be honest, I don't think I ever listened to Converge until The Dusk in Us was released. Every so often I'll send something over to Jeff that I know he'll hate, and this was one of them. I decided to try it out after I sent it, and almost turned it off after about a minute. I had always dismissed Converge as one of those metal bands that's just screaming for the sake of screaming. And, to be fair, it kinda is. But then it clicked with me. The Dusk in Us is pure chaos. It's loud and fast with all of this insane feedback and distortion and tempo changes. It's everything I love about all of my noise bands, but unbearably heavy. If Helmet are Sonic Youth for metal fans, Converge is Lightning Bolt for metal fans. What started out as a joke has become a full blown obsession.

Songs of note: "A Single Tear," "Arkhipoc Calm," and "I Can Tell You About Pain."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #8: Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Arcade Fire is a very well-established act at this point, but I was getting concerned that there was perhaps too much happening with their sound at this point. They're an ambitious act always trying to one-up their previous, and I haven't really enjoyed their more recent output. The more time I spent with Everything Now, though, the more I enjoyed it. There are moments that feel a little over the top, like with "Infinite Content," but this is an album with a bit of a message, and one that might not be apparent unless you're a band that's seen success post-Napster but also pre-streaming. It's no Funeral, but nothing is. Instead, it's an album with a lot of interesting pieces that creates one of the more compelling listens of the year.

Songs of Note: "Signs of Life," "Good God Damn," "Put Your Money on Me."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Caroline Rose - "Money"

Photo by Matt Hogan
Back in October, I walked into Great Scott excited to see Caroline Rose's opening slot for Banditos. Considering what I had heard in the past, and the fact that she was opening for Banditos, I expected to see the indie country artist I had come to love. Instead I was surprised (in a good way) to discover this new sound that was much more like DEVO than alt country.

With her new single, Caroline Rose proves that new sound wasn't just a fluke. I had compared my surprise to seeing Caroline Rose to when I saw The Fiery Furnaces. Unlike The Fiery Furnaces, this isn't just a band electing to sound like a completely different band on their albums vs their live shows. This is a whole new direction. "Money" has just the slightest hint of twang, and I mean the very slightest. In fact, I could just be imagining it. The song is played at a breakneck speed of synths, like an ultra-fast version of DEVO or the B-52's, but somehow more pop and with a sharp edge of punk. I know, I'm not making any sense here. You're just going to have to listen to the song to understand.

You can watch the video for "Money" below. Caroline Rose's new album, LONER, will be out February 23 on New West Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Caroline Rose, check out her website. Her tour dates are below the video.

Wed. Mar. 14 – Sat. Mar. 17 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
Tue. Mar. 27 - Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
Wed. Mar. 28 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
Thu. Mar. 29 - Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
Fri. Mar. 30 - Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
Sat. Mar. 31 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd
Tue. Apr. 3 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Wed. Apr. 4 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott
Thu. Apr. 5 - Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brendas
Fri. Apr. 6 - New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine
Sat. Apr. 7 - South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Showcase Lounge
Fri. May 18 - Gulf Shores, AL @ Hangout Music Festival

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #9: Nikki Lane - Highway Queen

When Nikki Lane released Highway Queen back in February, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I wouldn't say I loved it. But then on a whim I went to see her in Portsmouth back in August, and ever since then I've been obsessed. Ever since then, I'm pretty sure I've listened to Highway Queen weekly (at least). Every song on this album is beyond catchy and runs the risk of being jammed in your skull for at least 48 hours. It's modern country, just Lane keeps just enough swagger and outlaw country in her sound to keep it classic. She occupies a world where Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and The Dixie Chicks are all just as valid as each other. It might not be fair to rate an album based on how much I loved a live show, so I forced myself to keep this one at #9. (Plus, it's my list, so there you go...)

Songs of note: "Jackpot," "Highway Queen," and "Big Mouth."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #9: Diet Cig - Swear I'm Good at This

In a year where early-1990s female-fronted alternative-rock-inspired indie music flooded the streaming airwaves, a number of albums stuck out. One of them for me was Diet Cig's full-length debut, which was a little lo-fi, a lot confessional ("it's hard to be a punk girl wearing a skirt" is one of my favorite lines of the year), and was a throwback in so many ways. Songs like "Maid of the Mist" felt like it could fit in on alt-rock radio, while "Barf Day" and "Link in Bio" have shades of Sarge/The Reputation all over it. There's so much to love here that the whole thing is just worth as much time as you can give it. I'm very excited to see what will come next for this duo, and you should be, too.

Songs of Note: "Link in Bio," "Barf Day," "Maid of the Mist"

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #10: Molly Burch - Please Be Mine

When I was a kid, I gravitated to oldies. It was most likely since that's the music that was always in my house growing up. My parents didn't listen to much of anything that could be considered current, so most of what I heard were bands like The Coasters and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. In my middle age, I lean towards music that could be defined mostly as roots/Americana. This is probably why I've loved the debut album from Molly Burch so much. It's this absolute perfect mix of 60's soul and the current roots movement. Please Be Mine is a collection of these perfect little pop nuggets that exist in their own genre and time.

Songs of note: "Downhearted," "Torn to Pieces," and "Not Today."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #10: What Cheer? Brigade - You Can't See Inside of Me

Sometimes an album comes along that completely and utterly surprises you, both in terms of what it is and how much you like it. What Cheer? Brigade is a brass act out of Providence that is hipster enough to cover a Brian Eno song but authentic enough to sound like it's making a modern approach on the regional influences that inform their sound. This is unlike almost anything else I've heard this year, and I pretty much spend a good deal of time looking for excuses to listen to this a lot of the time.

Songs of note: "Here Come the Warm Jets," "Black Cannon," "Punk Gratitude"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Safe Hex - Sidereal Time

I will always have a fondness for synth heavy 80's post punk dance music. I'm even a fan of most of the more modern bands who mimic that sound, although a lot of them tend to be more on the lines of being guilty pleasures. Safe Hex doesn't feel like a guilty pleasure. Their new EP, Sidereal Time, is awash in dark as possible synths and vocals dripping in reverb. Despite having a full sound, the songs on Sidereal Time are extraordinarily minimalist. The opener, "Watched Us Fade," and the closer, "Forgotten Bodies," and the more danceable of the four songs on the EP. "Forgotten Bodies," in particular, has a more decidedly driving beat, although both songs are better for awkwardly post punk dancing than really going for it. "With What Sacrifice" has a more 80's feel to it, in the best possible way. It would have fit right in on a Dave Kendall hosted episode of 120 Minutes.

You can listen to "Forgotten Bodies" below. Sidereal Time is available now via Bandcamp as a free download. For more on Safe Hex, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for 1 December

We're headed toward the end of the year! It's almost here, everyone!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Glassjaw
Album: Material Control
Quick Description: The return of an act after 15 or so years.
Why You Should Listen: They were a classic act that is back in full force.
Overall Thoughts: The punk/post-punk revivals continue with Glassjaw. They hold nothing back on this reunion, and we all benefit – this is a great, loud, angsty punk record that doesn’t feel like it’s lost a step. The opening track just comes roaring out of the gate and by the time it’s over, you sit wishing there was more. Absolutely my surprise favorite of the week.
Recommendation: Welcome back, Glassjaw!

Artist: Taylor Swift
Album: reputation
Quick Description: The latest from the pop superstar.
Why You Should Listen: This is basically the album everyone's talking about.
Overall Thoughts: I generally don’t like to fully trash things. I listen to a lot of really bad albums over the course of a given time frame, and we’re now able to get to Tay Tay’s newest on the streaming services. So first, it should be acknowledged that “Look What You Made Me Do” is great. “…Ready For It” isn’t bad, but it’s far from very good. As a leadoff track, however, it’s jarring, and then we get a rap song directly afterward. Later, we get Taylor Swift rapping, which just shouldn’t happen for no other reason except that it doesn’t sound remotely credible. And at the end of the day, that’s the problem with reputation in a nutshell – a pop star who made her name as a country singer-songwriter and who at least appeared to give the air of authenticity has provided us with one of the most over-engineered inauthentic musical experiences in a while. When you have Carly Rae Jepsen offering a strong pop confessional a few years back, when you have Katy Perry trying on a different persona as she evolves, when you even have Britney Spears offering an interesting take last year in an attempt to fit into the current pop landscape that she helped form (and did so, it should be noted, by being about as inauthentic as a pop star can be), it is absolutely stunning that this is what Taylor Swift came out with this album, especially when she is dealing with her own issues in this area. This remains a fascinating release in a lot of ways except for the music, which is frustratingly awful almost across the board and comes across as a manufactured artist playing at currently popular trends. If that’s the point, it did succeed, but at the expense of basically everything else it takes down with it.
Recommendation: As a cultural moment, listen to it, but you probably won't like it.

Artist: The Just Joans
Album: You Might Be Smiling Now...
Quick Description: Fun, lo-fi indie twee.
Why You Should Listen: You were really digging into the record crates a few weeks after learning about Belle and Sebastian.
Overall Thoughts: It’s been a long time since the pseudo-twee, lo-fi, indie stuff hit my ears and took me back the way Just Joans did with this album. The songs are fun and melodic while still having a slight air of strangeness to it. This would have fit right into my early-2000s rotation, and I’m hoping more time with this uncovers more solid stuff from this along with the initial nostalgia hit.
Recommendation: A solid, fun listen.

Artist: Cindy Wilson
Album: Change
Quick Description: B-52s singer with a solo record.
Why You Should Listen: The B-52s are/were awesome!
Overall Thoughts: One of the singers from the B-52s has a solo album out this week, and I was initially very excited as the lead single, “Mystic,” has been in a semi-regular rotation since it popped up for me, and my expectation was an album that would mirror that, and instead I got an interesting, perhaps a little slower and more introspective, pop album. If you’re expecting B-52s hijinks here, you won’t find them – Wilson, at least on first listen, is playing it straight, and that’s worth something in and of itself. I enjoyed this and I’m looking to see if this gets much staying power or even the proper attention...
Recommendation: it’s deserving of both.

Artist: Neil Young and Promise of the Real
Album: The Visitor
Quick Description: Protest music from the legendary folk artist.
Why You Should Listen: You shouldn't. And I mean that.
Overall Thoughts: I mean, Neil Young is a legend. I don’t want to take away his contribution to the arts, and especially the arts when it comes to politics. This record, however, is kind of embarrassing in many regards. Protest music is always a little dodgy (even though Neil Young is perhaps best known for the protest songs he’s entered into the canon), but this is just a very cringeworthy effort, and perhaps is too on the nose, especially with the inadvertent timing of being released on the day Michael Flynn, key Trump advisor, was indicted. My recommendation is to stay away, but I’m not going to be the one who can change your mind on Neil Young at the end of the day, nor do I want that responsibility.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: The Monsieurs
Album: Deux
Quick Description: Lo-fi garage goodness.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that sound that you loved when The Strokes were huge.
Overall Thoughts: This is your gritty, noisy garage rock effort of the week, featuring a member of Fuzzy. It’s brash and buzzy and if you’re looking for a new lo-fi, blown speaker garage album, this will absolutely scratch that itch for you.
Recommendation: Worth your time for sure.

Artist: U2
Album: Songs of Experience
Quick Description: U2's latest. It's U2.
Why You Should Listen: You know what you're getting.
Overall Thoughts: I’m not a fan of U2 on a whole, and, frankly, this did nothing to change my mind. But there’s autotune in parts and it’s your typical earnest modern Bono, so I’m sure people who heard me wax ecstatic over late-era R.E.M. who like modern U2 will find plenty to like here.
Recommendation: For me, it’s a firm skip.

Artist: Bill Baird
Album: Straight Time
Quick Description: Lo-fi psychadelic indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: You really thought Elf Power and Olivia Tremor Control were amazing 20 years ago.
Overall Thoughts: I would have really been into this 15 years ago. This is melodic, strange rock music that has a lot going for it but is just far enough off the beaten path for people to question whether it's quite what they want to hear. But the first two songs sealed it for me, and the rest may work for you as well. A good listen on a whole.
Recommendation: An interesting listen, especially on a short week.

Christmas Corner:

* The Minus Five - Dear December (maybe my favorite rock-originals Christmas album since Squirrel Nut Zippers 20 years ago)
* Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

EPs of note:

* Powerslut - Go Fuck Myself (so good, guys)
* Owl City - Reel 1
* Gorgon City - Grooves on the Vinyl
* Line and Circle - Vicious Folly (sounds like old R.E.M.)

Also out this week:

* Doug Tuttle - Deeper Peace (not really an album, more a collection of clips)
* STRFKR - Vault Vol. 3
* HAN - The Children
* Karine Polwort with Pippa Murphy - A Pocket of Wind Resistance (gorgeous folk + spoken word piece)
* Heron Oblivion - The Chapel

Monday, December 4, 2017

Yeah Wings - Tomorrow Will Be Better

Add Yeah Wings to the ever growing list of great bands coming out of Minneapolis. Yeah Wings describe themselves as "slow core," and, never really hearing that description before, I'd say they pretty much nailed it. Their latest album, Tomorrow Will Be Better, opens with the sparingly minimalist "We Can't." "Threce" starts off very similar, but slowly builds into this noisy epic. The entire albums follows this loud/quiet formula, although it does mix it up in each song, so that when it feels like the loud part is taking over for the song it will be short lived. Except for when it isn't short lived. Plus, the quiet parts are too noisy to be truly quiet, and the loud parts never really break out into a full on uproar. I'm getting Slint meets the quiet side of Fugazi vibes from this. It's an album that's frustratingly brilliant since it never quite does what you want or expect it to do. But that's exactly the point.

You can listen to "The Promise Bison" below. Yeah Wings new album, Tomorrow Will Be Better, is out now. You can get your copy via Bandcamp. For more on Yeah Wings, check them out on Facebook.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Freebie: MC Paul Barman - Blue Moon Kaboom

This one is personally very exciting for me. I haven't heard anything from MC Paul Barman for years, to the point that I had figured he called it quits and had stopped making his own music. Of course, I never tried Googling anything to find this out. Today, seemingly out of nowhere (to me, at least), he announces Blue Moon Kaboom which is meant to tide us over until he releases his upcoming album! Blue Moon Kaboom is a collection of live performances, remixes, songs he's released on YouTube, etc. It's a mix of exactly what we want from MC Paul Barman: Awkward indie hip hop that works far better than it ever should, possibly because his production is always just about perfect. While the songs definitely have a sense of humor, they're far from jokey like he could be in the past. This has me impatiently waiting for the new album I didn't even know was on its way.

You can listen to "Exiled from the Getalong Gang" which features Open Mike Eagle below. To get your copy of Blue Moon Kaboom for free, head over to MC Paul Barman's Bandcamp.

Friday Freebie: They Might Be Giants - Up to Date

I have a little bit of a confession. As much as I say that I like They Might Be Giants, I haven't exactly kept up with their recent career. When I've heard more recent songs of theirs, I've enjoyed them, but haven't exactly listened to full albums with any regularity. I don't really have a reason, except I don't really know where to start with their newer albums.

If you're like me, we're in luck. Alternative legends They Might Be Giants are currently giving away Up to Date, a collection of some of their newer songs. While NoiseTrade has been specializing in three to five song EPs lately, this is a twelve song release that is being given away completely for free. If you've ever liked anything They Might Be Giants have put out in their absurdly long career, you're sure to end up liking most, if not all, of everything here.

You can get your own copy of Up to Date for free via NoiseTrade. For more on They Might Be Giants, including a 75 date tour next year, check out their website.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brief Candles - Retreater

I owe everyone an apology. The latest full length from Milwaukee's Brief Candles has been out for over a month, and I'm just letting you all know about it now. I know with some of my reviews I can drop the pretend professional journalist act and be a little over gushy. With Retreater I'm worried I'm not going to be gushy enough. It's just that good. The album starts off with "A Way Around," a lighter, bouncier shoegaze song that owes as much to 90's alternative power pop as it does anything. That leads into "Appearances," which is more discordant and with chuggier guitars, but still retains the same spirit. The third song, "Tiramusi," is more traditionally shoegaze, but does that by ramping up the noise and aggression factor. These three songs embody what is great about this album. None of the songs truly sound alike, but they all build off each other to make a cohesive unit. You're going to end up loving this.

You can listen to "A Way Around" below. Brief Candle's new(ish) album, Retreater, is available now. You can get your copy via Bandcamp. For more on Brief Candles, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tea Leigh & Luke Reed - "Underwater"

Somehow I completely missed Tea Leigh & Luke Reed's series of singles back in 2012. I'm much more familiar with Reed's work with Bent Shapes (RIP) and Mini Dresses. In the past five years, Leigh opened Welcome Home, an all female tattoo shop in Brooklyn. The duo is back with a new single, "Underwater." The new single is remarkably stunning. It fits right into the dream pop genre and defines the word "lush." What truly sets it apart from the usual music called dream pop is how sparse it is despite having the lush dream pop sound. It's sparse enough to be almost considered folk, but just almost. 

You can listen to "Underwater" below. If you like what you hear, you can download a copy for free thanks to The Native Sound. For more on their previous releases from 2012, be sure to check out their Bandcamp.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for 24 November

A solid week, given that it's the Thanksgiving holiday in the States...

Artist: The Staves + yMusic
Album: The Way is Read
Quick Description: Hauntingly beautiful modern folk.
Why You Should Listen: You like the idea of a combination of gorgeous strings and harmonic vocals.
Overall Thoughts: I was into the previous Staves album because it felt like a strange modern folk record. Adding yMusic to the mix here gives The Staves some considerable attention-grabbing instrumentation to go with their already-haunting vocals. This is great in a way the Bjork or Sufjan records kind of aren’t, in that the weirdness is enhancing the experience as opposed to being the centerpiece, and the whole package feels a lot more modern and interesting as a result. I want to spend a lot more time with this, but this is absolutely the listen of the week for me.
Recommendation: A must listen.

Artist: Bjork
Album: Utopia
Quick Description: Latest from the Icelandic legend.
Why You Should Listen: It's hard to call this a reinvention when none of her albums sound alike.
Overall Thoughts: I was a huge, huge fan of Bjork early on, to the point of even getting tickets to see Radiohead because she was opening before I was actually into Radiohead. She has collaborated more recently with Arca, which fits her sound nicely while also being something that I’m just not terribly into anymore. Bjork is making interesting and challenging music, but it’s not what we might call essential anymore, which is unfortunate. This was an okay listen, but didn’t stick with me in the least, so it might be better just for fans.
Recommendation: Be wary.

Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Album: Polygondwanaland
Quick Description: Album 4 of 5 from the indie psych artists.
Why You Should Listen: They're so ambitious you can't help but at least try.
Overall Thoughts: King Gizzard is trying really hard to get five albums out this year, and this fourth release is offered for free and is also perhaps the most King Gizzardy album out there, in that it basically hits all the notes you’d expect as an introduction to the band while also feeling incredibly dense and impenetrable. I love what they’re doing and what they’re up to, and this might be the best release they’ve put out in this series on a whole.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: The Greatest Gift
Quick Description: Odds and sods from the folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Even if you didn't love his recent work, there's plenty to like here.
Overall Thoughts: Billed as a “mixtape,” this is kind of a mishmash of where Sufjan’s musical mind has gone over the last decade. Some remixes, some folk stuff, some weirdness, and I probably liked it better than Carrie and Lowell. Fans might be frustrated or might love it, I don’t know which, but it’s worth giving a listen even if the end result is just pulling the parts you like for later.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Album: Who Built the Moon?
Quick Description: Former Oasis singer-songwriter with his second solo-ish effort.
Why You Should Listen: You're willing to admit Oasis was a great band.
Overall Thoughts: First, it’s good to know that hearing this a few weeks after the Liam solo effort, Noel’s got the upper hand. With that said, this album is just good, and would be great if it didn’t feel so muddled and overburdened. The production on this is kind of insane in a lot of ways, not letting anything in particular take the lead. The songs are so good, however, that it might be easy to look past. It’s all dependent on how much you can tolerate some of the production/creative choices being offered.
Recommendation: A strange one.

Artist: Kaiti Jones
Album: Vows
Quick Description: Solid Americana.
Why You Should Listen: In a year with a lot like this out there, Vows stands out.
Overall Thoughts: Yes, I tend to say the same thing a lot with these releases, but something about Kaiti Jones, whether it's the musicality or the vocal delivery or something, leaped out at me as something special. Nearly my album of the week, this was a welcome surprise over the Thanksgiving weekend, and one you don't want to miss.
Recommendation: A must listen.

Artist: New Fumes
Album: Teeming 2
Quick Description: Droney, psychedelic indie music.
Why You Should Listen: You like the recent Flaming Lips output.
Overall Thoughts: I was like "wait, is this a Flaming Lips album" a few songs in, and then Wayne Coyne shows up anyway, and yeah. I highlight it due to that fact, but your patience on this might ultimately be limited depending on how much you enjoy this type of thing or how high you get.
Recommendation: May be a mixed bag.

The Christmas Block:

* Sofia Talvik - When Christmas Comes: Sofia Talvik is a longtime favorite of mine, and she’s consistently released good Christmas music every year. She released a full Christmas album this weekend as well, which has some of those releases and new material, and it’s of her typical high quality. It’s melodic, string-heavy folk music with a seasonal flair, and you can’t ask for much more from an album of mostly originals. Someday I hope we’ll get an album of traditionals/standards with her take, but for now? This is great.

* Dude York - Halftime for the Holidays: I always love when indie rock acts get into the holiday spirit, and this is (mostly) a set of originals that are fun and silly and kind of dumb, but it all works. Come for the quick "Taking Care of Christmas," stay to get your rocks off a bit.

EPs of note:

* Meriki - Beach
* Melis - Parallels
* Mavi Phoenix - Young Prophet
* The New Division - No Pride in Paradise
* Ellen Allien - Nost RMXS Vol. 2
* !!! - Shake the Shut Up

Also out:

* Frank Turner - Songbook
* The Orb - The Orb Chronicles

Live Shows: Deer Tick, Met Cafe, Pawtucket, RI 11/25/17

Considering how much I love seeing bands in their hometown and how long I've been going to see Deer Tick, it's odd that I've never made it down to RI to see Deer Tick (festivals excluded.) Last Saturday, I headed down to Pawtucket to see night two of Deer Tick's three night two venue stand. 

Breaking from this tour's format of An Evening with Deer Tick and playing two sets, one acoustic and one electric, this was an all electric evening. Deer Tick played in front of a thrilled hometown audience, and the energy between the performers and audience built all night. This was definitely a crowd that has been following the band for a while, and older songs like "Ashamed" and "Christ Jesus" garnered the biggest reaction. As the band continues to go on, frontman John McCauley relinquishes that role more and more, with guitarist Ian O'Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan taking over lead vocals for more of the sets. O'Neil did a fantastic, energetic cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" mid set that really upped the enthusiasm of everyone involved. The band closed out the night with another cover: The McCauley sung "You Are So Beautiful," originally done by Joe Cocker.

Once again, "Let's All Go to the Bar" brought out the biggest reaction of the show, including a little baby mosh pit. I guess hearing the word "bar" in a song is exciting when you've just started going to bars legally? The only reference I have to this kind of overly enthusiastic reaction to an ok song is back in the 90's when giant mosh pits would break out at Fun Lovin' Criminals shows. Not to the giant megahit of "Scooby Snacks," but the much mellower pot anthem "Smoke 'Em." The ability of Deer Tick to appeal to hipster music snobs and the bar song moshing crowd is just one indicator of how great they've truly become. For a band that has gone from local dive bars to the kind of band that wears in ear monitors, they have retained what has always made them a unique group.

I was a bit disappointed to find out Deer Tick was breaking tour format with these hometown shows and having bands open up and not comedians. Luckily, RI's Nova One was a delight. All four members took the stage in matching wigs and all black outfits (large t-shirt wore sorta as a dress, black leggings) and played this ultra lo-fi version of 60's girl group music. The highlight of their set was an excruciatingly slow and reimagined version of Nirvana's "Come As You Are." Expect to hear more of them on this site in the hopefully near future. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Anna Burch - "Asking 4 a Friend"

Photo by Ambar Navarro
I usually have the "no using '4' for 'for' unless you're Prince" rule, but I'll give Anna Burch a pass on this one. Hailing from Detroit, Anna Burch's new single, "Asking 4 a Friend," will probably get her lumped into the neo-folk category, and while fans of that genre will end up liking this song, it's far from folk. Instead, the song is laid back yet still somehow quietly intense 90's infused indie rock. It reminds me of Juliana Hatfield going just a tiny bit country while fronting a Pavement that have decided to lose the adjective "quirky." Yeah, it's a pretty great song.

You can listen to "Asking 4 a Friend" below. Anna Burch's debut solo album will be out in early 2018 on Polyvinyl. For more on Anna Burch, check her out on Facebook and Twitter.

"Weird Al" Yankovic Covers Ramones

Photo via Facebook
In a case of worlds colliding for me, here's "Weird Al" Yankovic covering the Ramones' classic "Beat On the Brat." I was definitely more than a little worried that it would be an accordion heavy polka, like his covers tend to be. ("Worried" might not be the best choice of words, since I would have been just as happy with that.) However, this is a completely faithful cover of a legendary punk song, and you'd never know it was "Weird Al" if it wasn't for his distinctive voice. This version of the song will be available on Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, which features punk artists covering novelty songs and novelty artists covering punk songs. It will also feature covers by William Shatner, Colleen Green, Nobunny, Rasputina, and more!

You can listen to "Weird Al" Yankovic's version of "Beat On the Brat" below. Dr. Demento Covered in Punk will be available on January 12. You can pre-order your copy here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for November 17

We're getting toward the end of the year and, with Thanksgiving, new releases are slowing down.

Artist: GFOTY
Quick Description: Bizarre anti-pop.
Why You Should Listen: This is a necessary listen even if you end up not liking it.
Overall Thoughts: GTOFY put out an EP last year that intrigued me, and this is closer to a full length than anything else, and it's just weird. There are snippets of covers, strange songs and structures, and yet it's utterly compelling. This is definitely an artistic effort, and it might turn off more people than it turns on, but this is one that I'll be diving back in on. There's just too much going on to ignore.
Recommendation: Probably the most divisive release of the quarter.

Artist: Pete International Airport
Album: Safer With the Wolves...
Quick Description: Dandy Warhols side project with some interesting droney rock.
Why You Should Listen: We haven't had some good Dandys stuff in a while.
Overall Thoughts: Pete International Airport has been hit-or-miss with me, and this album generally reflects that. Sometimes a good listen, sometimes a little frustrating, that's kind of par for the course. As a fan, I'm fine with it, but the other album is probably a better introduction.
Recommendation: Not for everyone.

Artist: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Album: Rest
Quick Description: Latest from the musician/actress.
Why You Should Listen: Has a bit of a theatrical flair...
Overall Thoughts: ...but feels like a Charlotte Gainsbourg record, and that's probably all that matters. Some French language stuff, some poppy stuff, some interesting experiments. It's a good album, but might not work for everyone who wants something more accessible.
Recommendation: Give it a shot this week.

Artist: Tove Lo
Album: Blue Lips
Quick Description: Second half of the Lady Wood dualogy.
Why You Should Listen: Tove Lo is pulling her hardest Madonna play yet.
Overall Thoughts: It's hard not to hear this and think that it's Lady Wood castoffs, but there are enough solid pop songs here to make the effort. I liked a lot of what was happening here, but I really wanted something a little more substantial after the high-profile pop releases this year. This doesn't quite get there.
Recommendation: Good, not great.

Artist: Mavis Staples
Album: If All I Was Was Black
Quick Description: Latest collaboration with Jeff Tweedy.
Why You Should Listen: Politically tinged, and a little difficult to listen to.
Overall Thoughts: Mavis Staples isn't necessarily known for having a dark demeanor, but she definitely wants you to know she has some opinions, and she shares them in bulk on this latest album. A reflection of many opinions going around in the Trump era, there are a lot of ways to take this album outside of the obvious. From a purely musical standpoint, this isn't their best collaboration, but I also think it's not meant to be the sort of effort that showcases Staples's voice as much as her message.
Recommendation: A successful album even if it's not a pleasant listen.

Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Album: Soul of a Woman
Quick Description: The finale for the late Jones.
Why You Should Listen: Sharon Jones was a great singer with great crossover cred.
Overall Thoughts: What struck me in listening to this is that the group finished it up on their terms. On first listen, this doesn't sound like a farewell and Sharon Jones doesn't sound like she's leaving us. This isn't Blackstar. There's a triumphant something to this that is bittersweet in that we lost Sharon Jones too soon, but this is as good a goodbye as any.
Recommendation: Listen to this.

EPs of note:

* Fujiya & Miyagi - Different Blades From the Same Pair of Scissors
* Electric Wizard - Wizard Bloody Wizard

Also out:

* Morrissey - Low in High School (not good at all)
* Bee Bee Sea - Sonic Boomerang
* Barenaked Ladies - Fake Nudes
* Talib Kweli - Radio Silence
* Paloma Faith - The Architect