Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holy Motors - "Honeymooning"

Photo by Kertin Vasser
This may be one of the most unique tracks we've brought you in a long time. Hailing from Estonia, which is unique enough, Holy Motor are described as "... a five-piece twang and reverb band," which is shockingly accurate. "Honeymooning" somehow combines shoegaze with cowboy guitars in one of the moodiest and foreboding songs you've heard in years. The whole song sounds like it's being listened to from miles away through a hazy dustbowl filter. Plus, for a band with three guitars, "Honeymooning" is shockingly minimalist. Three guitars is normally a wall of sound that slams into you face first, but Holy Motors use them to creep up on you and make you feel awkward.

You can listen to "Honeymooning" below. The debut album from Holy Motors, Slow Sundown, will be out February 9 on Wharf Cat Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Holy Motors, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Lucy Dacus - "Night Shift"

Lucy Dacus' 2016 album, No Burden, was really good (although we somehow missed it, oops). Her latest single off her follow up might be the best song of 2018.

"Night Shift" is amazing. It starts off as quiet, fragile singer/songwriter fare. For the first two minutes, it's a delicate and powerful song held together by Dacus' voice and a barely strummed guitar. If that was how the song played all the way through, it would be beloved here. But then some drums and other instruments come in, filling out the song into a more mainstream singer/songwriter track. Dacus' voice gains some strength for this part, and once again, she masters this slightly different genre of song. Then it quietly but abruptly goes minimal again, with just voice and guitar. This is just brief until a fuzzed out stomper of a song crashes in, taking over. Dacus fuses together 3 distinct songs into one masterful track. It's simply a must listen.

You can listen to "Night Shift" below. The new album from Lucy Dacus, Historian, will be out March 2 on Matador Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Lucy Dacus, check out her website.

Anna Burch - "Tea-Soaked Letter"

Photo by Elene Usdin
We just keep getting more and more excited for the upcoming debut album from Detroit's Anna Burch. Her latest single from it, "Tea-Soaked Letter," is a bit more pop leaning than "Asking 4 a Friend," but in the best possible way. It's pop in the way mid-90's alternative bands were pop. The guitar is a sun soaked haze of just enough fuzz, but the real star of the track is Burch's vocals. She doesn't have a traditionally beautiful voice, instead it's interesting along the lines of Liz Phair and Juliana Hatfield. "Tea-Soaked Letter" is a perfect nugget of alternative pop perfection.

You can watch the video for "Tea-Soaked Letter" below. Anna Burch's debut album, Quit the Curse, will be out March 2 on Polyvinyl. You can pr-order a copy here. For more on Anna Burch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Live Shows: A Colleen Green and Cassie Ramone Christmas Time Spectacular, Democracy Center, Cambridge, MA 12/23/17

There's something that's always fun about going to shows in Boston around Christmas and New Year's. Maybe it's just that almost all the college kids are out of town and the city is just dead. There's something that feels like you're in on some little secret. Or maybe it's just that parking isn't an issue, even in Harvard Square on a Saturday night. 

Cassie Ramone's set really hyped up the "Christmas Time Spectacular" aspect of the night. Considering she's the one with a full Christmas album that shouldn't be any surprise, but the majority of her set her unique and stylized renditions of Christmas classics such as "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," "Run Run Rudolph," and "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree." She even made the universally horrible "Wonderful Christmastime" by the usually great Paul McCartney listenable, which is a feat alone. For most of her set she was joined by Colleen Green on bass and backing vocals. When I first heard about the show and how it was part of a "Christmas Time Spectacular" tour, I was worried that the majority would be Christmas music. Turns out I was right, but that made the night that much more fun. Sometimes you don't actually know what you want.

Colleen Green also played a handful of Christmas songs including "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" by the Ramones and a song from the Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus. Playing with a prerecorded backing track (mostly drums with some keys and guitar) like a 21st century Sebadoh, she pulled out a few originals like the audience requested "Darkest Eyes" and "TV." It was a very charmingly loosely put together set and perfect for the occasion. 

A few notes on the venue. Any time you see the name of the venue is "Democracy Center" and it's an all ages drugs and alcohol free show, you know it's going to be a young, young crowd. But holy shit was this a young crowd. I'm pretty sure I was old enough to be just about everyone's dad, and in one case, grandfather. It was incredibly DIY, with no stage and a small PA. The performance area was a few rooms into the building and off a kitchen, so you really felt like you were wandering into a house party that you weren't invited to, especially since this seemed like the place to hang for most of the crowd. It was a great show and night, but I felt about 100 years old by the end of the night.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Spook School - "Someone to Spend Christmas With"

There are a shocking number of Christmas songs about love, either being happy you have that super special someone at Christmas or about wishing you had that super special someone at Christmas. Glasgow's The Spook School are confronting that idea head on with their Christmas song "Someone to Spend Christmas With." Instead, it's about doing what makes you happy and not relying on that picture perfect concept to define your happiness. It's about there not being a set in stone way to find your happiness, but instead only your way. The song is an upbeat, almost New Wave/post punk song, if post punk can possibly be upbeat. 

You can listen to "Someone to Spend Christmas With" below. The song is currently available on The Spook School's Bandcamp. For more on The Spook School, check out their website.

Jessica Lea Mayfield Covers Loretta Lynn

Photo by Ebru Yildiz
There are three things I have a nearly undying love for:
1. Cover songs
2. Jessica Lea Mayfield
3. Loretta Lynn
Luckily for me, all three have been combined as Jessica Lea Mayfield has recorded a version of Loretta Lynn's Christmas classic "To Heck With Ole Santa Claus." Before listening, I assumed that this would be a return to Mayfield's original, more country inspired sound, but I was wrong. In covering this country Christmas classic, Mayfield doubles down on her current more dream pop sound. The result is this haunting take on Lynn's upbeat novelty song, that is both more disturbing and more amusing.

You can watch the video for Jessica Lea Mayfield's version of "To Heck With Ole Santa Claus" below. The song is part of this year's Amazon Indie for the Holidays playlist which also includes Charly Bliss, Best Coast, Dean & Britta, and more. For more on Jessica Lea Mayfield, check out her website.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ruby Boots - "I Slept Through Christmas"

Photo by Cal Quinn
Ruby Boots, who already has us dying for February to hurry up so that we can listen to her new album Don't Talk About It, jumps into the Christmas music game with "I Slept Through Christmas." She tones down her noisy indie rock/garage side for this song, and instead gives us a torch song that would have been written in the 60's and originally produced by Phil Spector and is now being redone on a 70's variety show by a country legend. It's this great, cool Christmas song (and how many of them can you say that about?) with just enough groove to make you love it.

You can listen to "I Slept Through Christmas" below. The song is currently available on Bloodshot Records 13 Days of Xmas compilation which also features Christmas songs from Murder By Death, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Ron Gallo, and more! You can get your copy here. For more on Ruby Boots, check out her website.

Clownvis Presley - "Don't Be a Bitch (Or You Won't Get Stuff for Christmas)"

Photo by Brian Looby
Somehow I've missed the phenomenon known as Clownvis Presley until now, and then I fell into a giant multi-day rabbit hole. The America's Got Talent competitor has released a new Christmas song that's sure to be a classic along the lines of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and "Silent Night." Sung to the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Don't Be a Bitch (Or You Won't Get Stuff for Christmas)" warns us all of the dangers of being a bitch and not getting anything for Christmas. After listening to the song, you won't be able to celebrate Christmas without the lyrics "He sees you when you're sleeping / He knows when you're awake / He knows if you have been a bitch so / Don't be a bitch" sung by a clown Elvis playing in and endless loop in your head.

You can watch the video for "Don't Be a Bitch (Or You Won't Get Stuff for Christmas)" below. And seriously, watch it. For more on Clownvis Presley, check out his website.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tristen - "Crying on Christmas Day"

One of our favorite artists has released a new charity single for Christmas this year. Tristen has released "Crying on Christmas Day," an absolutely gorgeous new single. Even though it's a Christmas song, this may be one of Tristen's best singles. It's a stripped down yet lush acoustic masterpiece. It's just a quietly strummed guitar with Tristen's vocals at the beginning, but then backing vocals with heartbreaking harmonies slowly start coming in. It's the rare holiday song you'll want to listen to in the middle of June.

You can listen to "Crying on Christmas Day." Tristen has made the song available on Bandcamp as a way to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. You can get your copy here. For more on Tristen, check out her website.

Jeff's Best of the Rest for 2017

A quick countdown of the rest of my favorite albums from 2017. A mix of my favorite songs follows.

* Kitty - Miami Garden Club
* Lenore. - Lenore.
* Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps
* Anna Tivel - Small Believer
* Molly Burch - Please Be Mine
* Greg Graffin - Millport
* Valerie June - The Order of Time
* Jen Cloher - Jen Cloher
* EMA - Exile in the Outer Ring
* Rainer Maria - s/t
* Amanda X - Giant
* Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
* Ratboys - GN
* Benjamin Booker - Witness
* Sarah Shook and the Disarmers - Sidelong
* Chrysta Bell - We Dissolve
* Julian Eldridge and Chris Lage - Mount Royal
* Harry Styles - Harry Styles

The list of my favorite songs from the year are in the embed above, but they're also available below in no particular order! My top recommendations are bolded, however.

Kitty - "Asari Love Song"
Daddy Issues - "In Your Head"
Robin Bengtsson - "I Can't Go On"
Deer Tick - "Card House"
Portugal. The Man - "Feel It Still"
Lenore. - "Heavy Eyes"
Emperor X - "Schopenhauer in Berlin"
Stef Chura - "Slow Motion"
Susanne Santo - "Ghost in My Bed"
!!! - "Dancing is the Best Revenge"
Taylor Swift - "Look What You Made Me Do"
Little Silver - "Anytown"
The Weather Station - "Thirty"
The Mynabirds - "Witch Wolf"
Caroline Spence - "Wishing Well"
Ratboys - "Elvis is in the Freezer"
A Giant Dog - "Photograph"
Sarah Jaffe - "Bad Baby"
Jade Jackson - "Aden"
Charly Bliss - "Westermarck"
Tashaki Miyaki - "Girls on T.V."
Dude York - "Tonight"
Diet Cig - "Maid of the Mist"
Grace Mitchell - "Now"
Alt-J - "In Cold Blood"
Nataly Dawn - "Clocks"
Pip Blom - "I Think I'm in Love"
Sunny Sweeney - "Better Bad Idea"
The New Pornographers - "High Ticket Attraction"
Nikki Lane - "Jackpot"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for December 15

A short week, understandably. With not a lot to say about many of these, we're doing this short-style.

* Spose - Humans: rap album made in 24 hours but doesn't feel like it, it has great beats and instrumentation along with some truly solid songs. Best of the week.

* Serpent Power - Electric Looneyland: Solid psych rock. I came for the Lovecraftian songs, I stayed for the weird, enjoyable mess this album is.

* Charli XCX - Pop 2: Another mixtape-style album. I'm glad she's spreading her wings, but this doesn't work.

* N.E.R.D. - No One Ever Really Dies: I never understood this group when they were somewhat important, and I don't get it now.

Also out:

* Little Bandit - Breakfast Alone
* Pye Corner Audio - Where Things Are Hollow
* Eminem - Revival

MC Paul Barman - "(((happy holidays)))"

I wouldn't have expected a holiday song from MC Paul Barman, but it's 2017, so here we go. "(((happy holidays)))" is produced by Mark Ronson, and it features MC Paul Barman rapping over the Christmas classic "Sleigh Ride." The song stays the same tempo, but has a much faster beat over it, with an even faster rhyme from MC Paul Barman over that. If you've been a fan of MC Paul Barman for any time at all, this is the holiday song you want from him. It's a quick almost friendly blast of holiday joy from the awkward master of hip hop. My only complaint is that it only lasts 1:30.

You can listen to "(((happy holidays)))" below. The song is available now for free on Mello Music Group's Bandcamp. For more on MC Paul Barman, check out his website.

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #1: Margo Price - All American Made

Last year, Margo Price had my #3 album of the year with Midwest Farmer's Daughter. Somehow she released a fantastic new EP and my #1 album of the year, All American Made. Price just expertly nails a retro 70's style country with absolute perfection. It's a sound I didn't know I wanted more of until she came around, and I haven't been able to get enough of her music in the past two years. As great as Midwest Farmer's Daughter was, she grew on that sound. Margo Price will be a household name in the next few years, and she'll be one of the few that truly deserves it.

Songs of note: "Weakness," "Learning to Lose," and "Loner."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #1: Charly Bliss - Guppy

Every so often, you hear an album and say "yep, this is the one I'll be addicted to for a while." With Charly Bliss, I've been into them ever since I first tripped up on "Ruby" however long ago. This debut album gives some sleek production to the sometimes power-pop, sometimes 90s alt-rock record that dominated by listening all year. It's not so serious in comparison to Diet Cig - lyrics about smoking bad weed and accidentally peeing a trampoline don't necessarily have the same gravitas - but it more than makes up for it with a party-like atmosphere and having hooks for days. I won't even do a "songs of note" for this one because they're all so amazing: "Westermarck" with its great instrumentation, "Scare U" being a straightforward rock radio play, "Black Hole" being that sort of confessional song that makes you fall in love with a band over and over. I definitely had a musical type this year, as my top 10 list shows, but I also don't think there's an album I heard this year that I wasn't saying "man, I wish this was as good as Guppy." If you missed this the first time around, now is your chance to hear the best record released this year with a few weeks to spare. It's nearly perfect.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The I Want You - "I Know What You Don't Want For Christmas (It's Me Right​!​?​!​?​)"

This week I'll be doing something a little different. Instead of bringing you the best new music we've stumbled on, and instead of putting together a If It's Too Loud... Holiday playlist (Aquarium Drunkard has nailed that, anyway...), I'll be sharing some of the more interesting Christmas and holiday music I've come across this year. 

Boston's The I Want You start us off with "I Know What You Don't Want For Christmas (It's Me Right!?!?)," a power pop ode to being unwanted for Christmas. This is pure classic 70's power pop and is just perfect for fans of Cheap Trick and Big Star. One of my favorite things about "I Know What You Don't Want For Christmas (It's Me Right!?!?)" is that it's just about as far away from traditional Christmas music as you can get, but it isn't in that bratty modern "Shut up and give me presents!" style. It has attitude, but more the heartbroken and upset variety.

You can listen to "I Know What You Don't Want For Christmas (It's Me Right!?!?)" below. It's also available as a free download on Bandcamp. For more on The I Want You, check out their website.

Ken's Top 10 of 2017 - #2: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Sidelong

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers hit such a sweet spot for me. Their latest album, Sidelong, is a collection of fun, dark, whiskey soaked country punk tunes. If the definition of outlaw country is too rock n roll for country and too country for rock n roll, Sidelong spits in both genres' faces and does whatever they feel like. You'll get enough twang to satisfy your country itch along with enough attitude to chase away the hokeyness the classic country twang can bring along. That's what is so great about Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: Most bands go too far into the classic country thing and become almost cartoonish copies of what classic country is supposed to be. This band goes that far, but play music far too badass for that foolishness.

Songs of note: "Keep the Home Fires Burnin'," "The Nail," and "Fuck Up."

Jeff's Top 10 of 2017 - #2: Tashaki Miyaki - The Dream

This album initially flew so far under my radar that I never actually got around to reviewing it for the site, and by the time I had gotten some time to talk about it? I was already in way, way too deep. Tashaki Miyaka does some great, sometimes shoegazey, always gorgeous dream pop music that demands attention while you're listening while getting trapped in your head any time you're not. You'll be sold with the instrumental intro, but if songs like "Girls on TV" or "Something is Better Than Nothing" don't grab you, you honestly might be reading the wrong website. There's only one album I loved more than this album this year, and probably no album that was more positively complex and interesting musically for me in terms of execution and enjoyment. This is a perfect mix of musical ideas in every way, and not enough people are hearing about it.

Songs of note: "Girls on TV, "Something is Better Than Nothing," "Cool Runnings," "L.A.P.D."

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

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