Friday, December 28, 2018

Forgotten Fridays: Whale - All Disco Dance Must End in Broken Bones

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

1998 was my first ever time at CMJ New Music Marathon, and my first ever show was a Virgin Records showcase with Gomez, Placebo, and Whale. Whale went on first. Singer Cia Berg was onstage with just one other member of the band playing keys. They performed their first song that way, and it being 1998 and all, it seemed pretty much right. A ton of electronica leaning bands in 1998 did live performances that way. It was pleasant and all, but I braced myself for a pretty dull 30-45 minutes. Then, a bunch of 80's metal looking dudes ran onto the stage, put on instruments, and rocked out the rest of Whale's set.

I had this in mind while listening to Whale's 20 year old album All Disco Dance Must End in Broken Bones. Whale aren't nearly as electronica as I remember them being. They definitely have a distinctly rock sound. Well, rock morphed by late 90's Britpop with the metal influence all Swedish bands tend to have. The album starts off much more fun and less serious than I remember with songs like "Deliver the Juice." It's immediately followed up by "Roadkill," which sounds like Portishead with all sense of groove eliminated. "Losing CTRL" has full on flashes of hard rock. That seems to be the story with All Disco Dance Must End in Broken Bones. It's by no means a bad album. But it just never seems to be able to fully commit to either being chilled electronica or full on rock. They're more interesting and fun when they let their metal flag fly, much like how their live show was. Unfortunately, metal wasn't very big in 1998 so they tried for more of an electronic sound. This leads to All Disco Dance Must End in Broken Bones just making you want to listen to bands that did that sound better.

Friday Freebie: SkyTigers - Disasterbation

Recorded over the past three years, the latest EP from SkyTigers tweaks their sound just a tiny bit. It's still loud, thrashy hardcore, but Disasterbation has a bit more of a rock 'n' roll sound that Appetite for Reconstruction didn't quite have. Even before I realized that the last song is a cover of "Ace of Spades," I felt that the entire EP sounded like a more hardcore version of Motorhead. Plus, there are some of my favorite song titles of all time included here: "Nobody Puts Baby in a Dumpster (Stillborn in the U.S.A.)" and "Keep Christ in Christmas (and Out of Rock n' Roll)." Sorry we're a few days late on that last one.

You can listen to SkyTigers's version of "Ace of Spades" below. The other songs are equally as good if not better. We just really love covers here. You can download Disasterbation for free on the band's Bandcamp. If you do download a copy for free, at least give them a like/follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Weepies Cover Bruce Springsteen (on ukulele)

I've had a longstanding complicated relationship with Bruce Springsteen. I spent most of my life hating his music and dismissing it as overblown stadium rock. Then I discovered Nebraska and became obsessed. With Nebraska. I've expanded a bit with albums like Greetings from Asbury Park, but most of his work I just can't get into. I prefer Springsteen the folk troubadour and not Springsteen the stadium rocker.

This is why Born to Uke may be perfect for me. Born to Run is the epitome of Springsteen the stadium rocker, but Born to Uke has various artists limiting their versions of the songs from Born to Run with only ukulele, bass, vocals, and percussion. The first up is The Weepies with their take on "Backstreets." They strip it down to just vocals and ukulele, and the result is exactly what I want with my Springsteen. It's a down to absolute basics folk song without even a shred of pomp or huge rock star. This I can get into.

You can listen to The Weepies's version of "Backstreets" below. Born to Uke will also feature Born to Run songs performed by Sara Watkins, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls, and more. All proceeds will benefit Little Kids Rock, which funds music education in underprivileged schools. For more on the album, be sure to head over to www.borntouke.com.

Burly - "Infinite Broken"

Photo by Irene O'Leary
The latest single from upstate NY's Burly is an interesting one. "Infinite Broken" is a hazy and almost lazy rambling little pop song that sounds like a primarily folk band trying their hand at jazz. I don't think you'll find a more laid back song this year. The song is driven by saxophone but has more stumbling stops (in the best possible way) than you could ever imagine. The mood of the song fits the lyrics as it is about a "...  long winter and of solitude decaying into loneliness." 

You can listen to "Infinite Broken" below. Self Titled Demon, the debut EP from Burly, will be out January 25 on Five Kill Records. You can pre-order the EP via Burly's Bandcamp. For more on Burly, check out their website. Their upcoming tour dates are below the song.


January 18 - Gug's - Glen's Falls, NY
January 25 - Troy Arts Center - Troy, NY
February 2 - Elixir 16 - Troy, NY
February 18 - The Low Beat - Albany, NY

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Baabes - "Won't Be Back"

Boston's Baabes are back with a new single. "Won't Be Back" is just pure rock and roll, in that it's loud, fast, and sleazy. It's completely in your face garage rock with plenty of proto punk influence. This isn't the sheeny kind of garage rock that filled hundreds of "Rock is Back!" headlines in the early 00's. There isn't anything sheeny about "Won't Be Back." It's The Stooges meets The Lyres, but they somehow squeeze just the slightest bit of hooks in there to make it catchy and ever so close to being accessible. But, they stop just short of that so it's just about perfect.

You can listen to "Won't Be Back" below. For more on Baabes, be sure to check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday Mix: Jeff's Favorite Songs of 2018

Me: "Jeff, you gotta do the mix for Monday before Christmas.

Also me: "On it."

Also also me: "Hey, I liked a lot of songs this year. Gonna be hard to narrow it down to 30."

Also also also me: "Screw it, do 40."

Also also also also me: "Dude, you added 67 to the playlist."

Also also also also also me: "Fine, I'll try to cut it to 50."

Also also also also also also me: "There's no way I'm cutting 'The Hamilton Polka' from this."

So yeah. Here's 51 songs for the year. Shuffle and enjoy!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday Freebie: Sufjan Stevens - Song for Christmas

In what will most likely be our final Christmas post (unless Jeff has something up his sleeve), to use a cliche we saved the best for last. Or I received an email about this just this morning... Sufjan Stevens has been releasing amazing Christmas music for years now. Right now via NoiseTrade you can download his 2006 Christmas album Songs for Christmas. This album is 42 songs long, so this is quite the freebie this week! I'm going to assume any reader of If It's Too Loud... has at least a passing knowledge of Stevens's Christmas music, but if not, they are these brilliantly whimsical pieces of holiday music that can make even the Grinchiest among us want to cover every single part of your house with Christmas lights. 

You can download the 42 song Songs for Christmas right now via NoiseTrade. If you're still hesitant, check out "It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad!" below. For more on Sufjan Stevens, check out his website.

Dani Bell and The Tarantist - "The End"

Photo by Kristy Walker
The latest single from Dani Bell and The Tarantist isn't quite as unusual as "Mystery" is, although it's still far from top 40. "The End" has a slinky groove while still being a little bouncy. It layers together a ton of interesting sounds that don't normally get associated with each other. There is definitely some Eastern sounding guitar work, much like The Beatles after George Harrison visited India. The aforementioned slinky groove comes across like more organic trip hop, and there is definitely some of the indie folk style of bands like And the Kids. Plus, they throw in a killer fuzzed out electric guitar solo, just in case they hadn't already nailed enough points for you.

You can listen to "The End" below. Wide Eyed, the new album from Dani Bell and The Tarantist, will be out January 18 on The Redwoods Music. For more on Dani Bell and The Tarantist, be sure to check them out on Facebook.

The B+ Players - "Mandible Claus"

It's not very often that Jeff and I get to indulge our love of wrestling here. Luckily, this song from Halifax, Nova Scotia's The B+ Players allows us to proclaim our love of music, Christmas, and wrestling.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with professional wrestling, Mick Foley is a famous retired wrestler who has wrestled under various names. He's really known for taking an obscene amount of punishment, and his finishing move is the mandible claw. He's also a huge fan of Santa and Christmas. He has a Christmas room in his house, brings his family to Santa's Village in NH every year, and was a major part of the I Am Santa Claus documentary. "Mandible Claus" is a tribute to Mick Foley the wrestler and his love of Christmas. It's a great song perfect for anyone who loves Christmas and Mick Foley, or even just Mick.

You can listen to "Mandible Claus" below, and download it for free on The B+ Players's Bandcamp. For more on The B+ Players, check them out on Facebook.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lillie Mae - "The Christmas Letter"

Photo via Facebook
I don't want to post too many Christmas songs this week, but when I heard Lillie Mae's cover of "The Christmas Letter" I couldn't resist. Recorded for 12 Days of Greyland (which is reaching out to Nashville area artists to create new holiday content) and for the benefit of MusicCares, this is exactly what we want it to be. Lillie Mae does an absolutely gorgeous rendition of this song, which isn't really a shock. Her 2017 album Forever and Then Some was a hit around these parts. It was throwback country without being hokey and somehow still sounding current. That's what she does with "The Christmas Letter." It's been done by countless country artists and could easily come across as cheesy, but Lillie Mae avoids that and does a perfect version of the classic.

You can watch the video for "The Christmas Letter" below. For more on MusicCares, check out their website. For more on Lillie Mae, check out her website

prior panic - "backseat driver"

Since I'm becoming a huge fan of co-opting a band's Bandcmap bio in my review of their music, Boston's prior panic describe themselves as "gay cello rock music." While it's a great description, you're going to think the wrong thing upon hearing that. When I first heard that, I thought they'd have a Rasputina sound, and I was 100% wrong. Their latest single (although it came out in September (OOPS!)), "backseat driver," does include an electric cello, but it's far heavier on the rock than the cello part of the description. In fact, "backseat driver" is far noisier and punk rock than anything I could ever have thought a cello could be involved in. It's a loud, aggressive song but still is catchy and quite listenable, even if you're not a huge loud music fan.

You can listen to "backseat driver" below. For more on prior panic, be sure to check them out on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Love Love - "It's Christmas We Wanna Be Happy"

We don't usually get political Christmas songs, but these are the times we currently live in. Boston's Love Love has just released their new Christmas song, "It's Christmas We Wanna Be Happy." Musically, it's a straightforward rock song with hardly a jingle bell to be heard. It's only through the lyrics that you get the holiday nature of the song, and while politics aren't specifically mentioned, with lyrics like "There’s a bad clown leading us, don’t let him lead you" and the more obvious "Impeach that bad clown and let’s get down to business," I'm pretty sure we can guess where this is going. The message of the song is no matter how bad you may find things, at least try to be happy on Christmas. The band refers to it as a "... a short song with a long, raucous, party outro," which it is, but make sure to give the party outro a shot. It somehow holds the whole song together.

You can listen to "It's Christmas We Wanna Be Happy" over at Love Love's Soundcloud. For more on Love Love, be sure to check them out on Facebook. If you happen to be in the area, they're playing Luthier's Coop in Boston with Ray Mason Band on Saturday the 22nd.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Jeff's Best of the Rest for 2018

Some albums didn't make the top ten, but should still be highlighted. Here's the best of the rest:

* St. Beauty - Running Into the Sun
* V.V. Lightbody - Bathing Peach
* Natalie Prass - The Future and The Past
* Kathinka - Kathinka
* Screaming Females - All At Once
* Esme Bridie - Today It Rains
* Half Waif - Lavender
* Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
* Sunny War - With the Sun
* Many Rooms - There is a Presence Here
* Tancred - Nightstand
* Jodee Lewis - Buzzard's Bluff
* My Indigo - My Indigo
* Shopping - The Official Body
* Jenn Champion - Single Rider
* Marie Davidson - Working Class Woman

Babyteeth - "Cocoon"

Sometimes you just want a big, loud rock song, right? Enter London's Babyteeth with their new single "Cocoon." "Cocoon" is reminiscent of the mid/late 90's when everything still had the fuzz and crunch of grunge but was getting a bigger, more polished sound. Basically "Cocoon" sounds like Eight Arms to Hold You era Veruca Salt and if The Donnas wanted to go bigger. It's a straight up rock song, but still with enough distortion to make those of us that refuse to fully give up our beloved 90's happy.

You can listen to "Cocoon" below. For more on Babyteeth be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Young Readers - "Silent Night"

Considering Jeff and I met while working for a children's book company, you're always going to get our attention when you name your band/project Young Readers, and even more so when your press release calls your version of a Christmas classic "chilling." Considering it's an acapella version of a song we all know, how chilling can it be? When Young Readers do "Silent Night," the answer is pretty chilling. Jordan Herrera strips the song completely down to just his own voice (with the exception of the chorus at the very end) and a song we've all known and heard countless times over our lives has a new life. It's as unsettling as it is beautiful, but still sucks you in like no version that you've heard in years. "Silent Night" was written two hundred years ago (2018 is the actual two hundredth anniversary of the song) and Young Readers somehow inject new life into the song.

You can listen to Young Readers's version of "Silent Night" below. For more on Young Readers, be sure to check out the band's Facebook and Bandcamp.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

First Listen: New Releases for December 14

Some quick hits for you:

Of note:

* Grlwood - Daddy: An interesting, abrasive punkish record with a lot going for it.
* Mega Ran - The Visitor: How is Mega Ran so good? Solid rap music here yet again.
* Post Lovers - Post Lovers: Post Lovers is good, but they might have been my favorite band if we were in 2004.

EPs:

* Emmy the Great - ε†δΎ†ηš„ζ„›
* Goldfinger - The Goldfinger Christmas EP
* Sarah P. - Maenads
* Charlotte Gainsbourg - Take 2
* The Decemberists - Traveling On
* Maria Kelly - notes to self

Also out:

* Mew - Mew with Copenhagen Philharmonic
* Outrageous Cherry - Meet You in the Shadows

Ken's Best of 2018 - #1: Lucy Dacus - Historian

I somehow missed Lucy Dacus's 2016 album No Burden, but from the very first time I heard her song "Night Shift" last December, I was completely hooked. From there I was left impatiently waiting for Historian to come out. Once it did, I became obsessed with it. It's an obsession that has stuck, as this is my favorite album of 2018. A song like "Night Shift" starts out quietly and delicately as Dacus slowly gains strength and power as it builds to a more confident and rebuilt climax. The kids these days get criticized a lot for being obsessed with their phones and being unable to live in the moment and unplug. When I saw Lucy Dacus at The Sinclair back in April, I barely saw a phone taken out (except by us old guys) and the younger members of the crowd were the most engaged. It was a devotion I haven't seen since going to see Tori Amos in the 90's. Lucy Dacus does this amazing blend of mainstream singer/songwriter and 90's alt rock that doesn't sound dated. Historian is the type of album anyone could like if they truly gave it some time. It's mainstream enough for that but has enough interesting song structure to even give us music snobs plenty to love.

Songs of note: "Night Shift," "Next of Kin," Pillar of Truth."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #1: Bear Grass - LEFT

Ken sent me this one at some point out of the blue, noting that he nearly said it was “guaranteed to be in your 2018 top 10” but wanted to temper my expectations. He told me this after I sent him a text noting that I was in love with this album two songs in. That’s the sort of experience Bear Grass is, in that it sneaks up on you, gets its claws in, and does not let go. While this is not a debut (lead singer Katie Hammon has been recording under the moniker since 2011 but this is the first wide release available), if there is anything like it out there, I have yet to find it.

“Wash Over Me” is one of my favorites of the year, being a little more upbeat but maybe not as representative as “Snake in the Grass” or “Unawake,” two early tracks that set the tone. Although I could go on indefinitely about “Winter Caps,” which was positively transcendent when I first heard it and still gives me goosebumps in the opening chords through the first iteration of the chorus. And then there's "Clock in the Corner," and then there's "Shadow on the Wall," and then you have a gorgeous and lush finisher in "Sail Out," and at this point I'm listing every song because each one did... something for me.

Not only was this my favorite album this year, nothing else really came close. It’s that good. Just listen to the whole thing. You won't regret it.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Vandoliers - "Troublemaker"

Photo by Mike Brooks
Vandoliers only formed in 2015 in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. The band members have spent some time in other area punk, folk, and country bands. They've taken all those sounds for the Vandoliers's sound. Their latest single, "Troublemaker," is a raucous country punk tune, played fast and almost out of control. It's a rough edged song, complete with country fiddles, gravelly singing, and a horn section. That's right: This is country punk with horns. The song clocks in at just over three minutes, but it somehow feels shorter than that. "Troublemaker" won't be for most modern country fans, but that's kind of the point.

You can listen to "Troublemaker" below. Forever, Vandoliers's third album and first on Bloodshot Records, will be out February 22. The album can be pre-ordered here. For more on Vandoliers, be sure to check out their website.

Ken's Best of 2018 - #2: Weakened Friends - Common Blah

Weakened Friends have been one of my favorite discoveries since we started this blog, and I feel like I had been waiting ages for them to release a full length. They finally did in October with Common Blah. How great did Common Blah end up being? The song featuring J Mascis on guitar (and how cool is that?) isn't even the best song. Weakened Friends have this great 90's alternative feel that is a snapshot as early 90's post grunge/power pop started to meld into emo. I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again: Weakened Friends are what Weezer should sound like now. It's all fuzzed out and crunchy guitars, self-deprecating lyrics, emotive angst, and quite possibly the catchiest songs you've heard in years. Common Blah is an album I've been waiting years for, and it exceeded every expectation I could have possibly had. Expect huge things from these folks in 2019.

Songs of note: "Blue Again," "Good Friend," "Not Doing Good."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #2: The Beths - Future Me Hates Me

A favorite of both myself and Ken’s this year, The Beths is the alt/indie rock record we deserve this year. I got in on the ground floor with their EP some time ago, having been addicted to “Idea/Intent” for some time, but the full length gives us a band that is loud and confident and providing a fully-polished experience that stayed in near-constant rotation for me. On an album with nearly no filler, you’re simply left with a poppy-sounding rock effort that has so many great layers to it.

The title track is one of the highlights, with a singable chorus and traditional background harmonies. For me, it’s more about songs like “Uptown Girl,” a song that shows a ton of personality in its frantic delivery, and “Whatever,” a rerecording from their EP that shows both how well the band has grown along with how far they’ve come. This should be as addictive to any new listener as it has been for me since its release.

Songs of note: “Uptown Girl,” “Future Me Hates Me,” “Whatever.”

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Freebie: Cold Expectations and Mint Green

This week we bring you a double header for Friday Freebie. Both bands are from the Boston area, both bands are playing a show on March 7 at Once Somerville with one of our favorites The I Want You, and both bands have releases available for free right now on Bandcamp!

Cold Expectaions - Supper Prayers
According to their Bandcamp bio, Cold Expectations took their name by combining songs from Hank Williams and The Rolling Stones. Can you imagine that in your head? Yup, that's basically what Cold Expectations sound like. Track 1 on Supper Prayers is called "Waterin' Down the Whiskey (With Our Tears)" and another called "Lately I've Been Wearin' My Heart On My Sleeve" in case Hank Williams/Rolling Stones hybrid didn't quite explain it enough for you. Although it's not all early country and 60's country rock on Supper Prayers. There is also quite a bit of 90's alternative influence here, but more the 90's alternative that was strongly influenced by country, although no one would ever have admitted that at the time. If you'd like to check out and download Supper Prayers, head over to Cold Expectations's Bandcamp. Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook.

Mint Green - Headspace
To keep my theme of repeating a band's Bandcamp bio, according to theirs Mint Green are "Summery, angsty, alt-rock with punk influence and catchy choruses." No arguments here, as songs like "Holy" are insanely catchy and pop filled, but with harder edged guitars than a typical power pop song. "Holy" even features a hardcore style breakdown, albeit an upbeat, poppy one. It's a really interesting and unique style. Not many bands can bring something new to the genres of power pop or pop punk, but I guess combining the genres and throwing in a wee bit of hardcore will do it. If you'd like to check out and download Headspace, head over to Mint Green's Bandcamp. As always, if you download their music for free be sure to at least follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Ken's Best of 2018 - #3: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Years

Last year Sarah Shook & The Disarmers's Sidelong was my #2 album of the year. This year, their album Years is my #3 album. It says a lot for one artist to land in my top 3 two years in a row, but such is my love of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. Years is a tiny bit more polished than it's predecessor, but ever so slightly. No one out there is doing country punk better than this group nowadays. It's such a raw sound that hearkens back to classic country without being a throwback at all. Normally when a band cleans up their sound and gets a little less raw I'll be that guy and whine and complain. Sure, I missed the rawness of Sidelong on my first listen of Years. But that didn't last long at all. Shook is an amazing songwriter, and with Years that is what shines through. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers are one of the rare bands I root for being as huge as they can be. True country fans will love this, but unfortunately most country fans want to hear songs about not wearing shoes or raps about a pick up truck. For those of us that prefer this sound, Years is basically perfect.

Songs of note: "New Ways to Fail," "The Bottle Never Lets Me Down," "Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don't."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #3: Neko Case - Hell-On

Neko Case has been at it for over two decades now, and continues to put out some incredibly essential music. Her latest, Hell-On, continues with the mood that we’ve become accustomed to – dark and brooding in many ways, but still feeling bright in others. Probably the best effort she has put together since Fox Confessor (and she doesn’t have a bad effort in between), both thematically and musically this just excels on all fronts.

Whether it’s an almost 1960s/70s pop song like “Bad Luck,” or the Crooked Fingers “Sleep All Summer” cover (featuring Eric Bachmann on his own song), the whole album has that sort of strange, otherworldly feel that Case does so well. Maybe the best, most complex track, however, is “Last Lion of Albion,” which is mythical and musically weird and incredibly ambitious. Early in the record, it sets the tone for where we’re headed and really sets us up for one of the best of the year.

Songs of note: “Last Lion of Albion,” “Sleep All Summer,” “Bad Luck,” “Halls of Sarah.”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #4: The Beths - Future Me Hates Me

You know it's a strong year for music when The Beths are my #4 pick of the year. Future Me Hates Me is an absurdly great album, filled with some of the catchiest alternative pop rock songs anyone has heard in years. I've always had a sweet spot for songs that sound sunny and cheerful but are in reality heartbreakingly depressing. This description basically sums up all of Future Me Hates Me. The title track is Beach Boys level upbeat and catchy, but it's called "Future Me Hates Me." Seeing them live back in October only cemented my obsession with The Beths. The album is great. Seeing them live? Next level obsession worthy. My too early prediction for 2019 is that they are going to be the show stealer once the summer festival season starts. Their song "Little Death" just has that large crowd scream along feel to it, and I really want to see fields of people yelling out "I die I die a little death" at the top of their lungs. In fact, Future Me Hates Me coming out in August might be the only reason I didn't place it higher on my top 10, as I've had more times with the three albums ahead of it.

Songs of note: "Future Me Hates Me," "Little Death," "Happy Unhappy."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #4: Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

I realize that I have nothing special to say about Kacey Musgraves that hasn’t already been said, nor do I have anything especially unique to write about Golden Hour than anyone else has. Sometimes, an album simply hits the overall zeitgeist and we see the years of toil and the occasional identity crisis come to fruition in an effort that spans multiple genres and refuses to be pigeonholed. One could have forgiven Musgraves for scaling back and doing a back-to-basics country record given the criticism she has taken over the years; she instead decided to mix it up and acknowledge her roots while doing something a little more risky. It works. It more than works.

Everyone was rightfully thrown off by country disco song “High Horse” (even if it’s still a jam and a half) but the joys of this album come from songs like “Space Cowboy” and “Velvet Elvis,” two examples of which feel like what a modern country song should feel like, as opposed to the stereotypes we’ve all internalized in the mainstream. While artists like Taylor Swift work to shake the country off of their image, Musgraves instead appears to be taking the mantle and using it in a whole different way, and it works better than anyone could have predicted.

Songs of note: “High Horse,” “Velvet Elvis,” “Space Cowboy,” “Golden Hour.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Night Flowers Cover The Pretenders

London's Night Flowers have released a cover of The Pretenders's 1983 Christmas classic "2000 Miles" for charity, however it's also for a personal reason. The band has dedicated the song to the memory of Sandeep "Sonny" Heer. He was a Night Flowers fan that recently passed away. As the band wrote in their press release for the single:

"We’re just a small band - we don’t have many tools at our disposal but what we do have is our love and our music. With this in mind, for Christmas this year we have recorded a cover of The Pretenders 1983 hit ‘2000 Miles’ ourselves, which we would like to dedicate to Sonny’s memory. Any proceeds from the single will be going to CALM, as per his families wishes. More infomation on CALM here - www.thecalmzone.net"

Night Flowers's version of "2000 Miles" is absolutely spot on. The song has a sense of melancholy under normal circumstances, and knowing the meaning behind the cover makes this version devastating. You can listen to it below, and to get your copy of the song head over to the bands's Bandcamp.


Ken's Best of 2018 - #5: Haley Heynderickx - I Need to Start a Garden

I Need to Start a Garden is one of the very rare albums that both Jeff and I included in our top 10 for 2018, so that says huge things about this one. Haley Heynderickx came out of nowhere back in September 2018 with "Oom Sha La La" and I instantly knew I needed to hear more. There aren't a lot of truly unique artists in folk. but Heynderickx is one of the most unique ones. From her odd and interesting way of arranging songs into long epics like "Worth It" to her stunning voice that is just slightly off kilter enough to keep interesting, I Need to Start a Garden is one of the more mesmerizing releases of the year. Take a song like the aforementioned "Oom Sha La La." It starts off as this lovely little pretty song, with the chorus of "Oom sha la la/Oom oom sha la la" just sucking you in, and then the near repeated screaming of "I need to start a garden" kicks in. I'm sure some listeners would be repelled as this can shatter the beauty and pleasantness of the song. But for some of us, it just adds to the song, sucking us in and making us completely obsessed. 

Songs of note: "Worth It," "Untitled God Song," "Oom Sha La La."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #5: Lucy Dacus - Historian

Lucy Dacus is an artist I found with a debut I enjoyed even though we somewhat overlooked it in these parts. When “Night Shift” landed a year ago, anyone who heard it knew we were in for something special, and the full album doesn’t disappoint. Equal parts tender and muscular, Historian provides an album that, instead of being a sophomore slump, shows an artist growing into her own and excelling at what she does best.

The album kicks off with one of the best songs of 2018, “Night Shift,” and never leaves that high. The album is certainly better experienced as a cohesive unit, but it’s hard to find fault in any of these songs. I just wonder when Dacus is going to peak as an artist, as she clearly is far from at her full power.

Songs of note: “Night Shift,” “Addictions.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #6: Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

We've been babbling about our love of Courtney Barnett ever since she covered The Lemonheads's "Being Around" almost five years ago now. 2018 is no exception, and saw the release of Barnett's fantastic album Tell Me How You Really Feel. The new album is a bit more quiet and contemplative than 2015's Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit..., but that quiet brings in a more intense experience on further listens. The album opener, "Hopefulessness," just builds and builds throughout, going from a standard singer/songwriter tune to an indie rock anthem without increasing the tempo. "Need a Little Time" stays quiet throughout (mostly), and shows Barnett moving a bit from the talk-singing she's known for and singing more, quite nicely. Tell Me How You Really Feel showcases Barnett's growth as an artist and songwriter while sticking completely to what we love about her music. 

Songs of note: "Hopefulessness," "Need a Little Time,"  "Nameless, Faceless."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #6: Tiny Stills - Laughing Into the Void

Sometimes an album comes along that just scratches that itch you didn’t know you had. That was my experience with Tiny Stills, a favorite this year that mixed the sort of indie pop with endearing and emotive songwriting that sets the good apart from the great. From the opening track to some of its most mainstream efforts, this album basically succeeded in everything it tried to do.

The album kicks it off with an opening track that namedrops a variety of things before diving into a hooky poppy number. “Let’s Fall in Love” takes its time in taking off and being the song it shows hints of being from the start. Then you have songs like “Colorblind” that are not forging new ground but are not trying to forge new ground either. The straightforward nature of this record is really why it’s such a joy to hear.

I shuffled this between 8/7/6 this year, and ultimately realized that if I can’t find out where it belongs, it probably belongs closer to the front. I assume it will for you, too.

Songs of note: “Colorblind,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “When I’m With You.”

First Listen: New Releases for 7 December

A few new to you, a few new to us...


Artist: Viagra Boys
Album: Street Worms
Quick Description: Oddball (post?)-punk.
Why You Should Listen: Defies expectation but might be your favorite anyway.
Overall Thoughts: When one of your favorite authors with solid music taste tosses out a couple songs you’ve never heard of, you take notice and listen. This is a terrible band name by all accounts, but when you listen to a song like “Sports” you realize you’re hearing something really odd and unique, and realize its brilliance once you get to songs like “Frogstrap.” I hate that I likely missed this one back when it came out because of the band’s name, as this is definitely a solid listen.
Recommendation: Make it a point to listen to this one.


Artist: LP
Album: Heart to Mouth
Quick Description: Ambiguous pop music.
Why You Should Listen: LP is a good pop record that you might miss otherwise.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes the pop stuff can get overlooked when it comes to acts on the fringe trying to break through, and I feel like LP is the type of act that will get overlooked and should not. This album is super catchy with a ton of interesting pieces behind it that surprised me. It’s fun and it’s polished, and pop fans need to give this a listen.
Recommendation: Give it a shot.


Artist: Ice Cube
Album: Everythang's Corrupt
Quick Description: You know Ice Cube.
Why You Should Listen: Guys, it's Ice Cube.
Overall Thoughts: A rap legend in his own right, Ice Cube is back with a solid album. Occasionally dated at times, the highlights more than outweigh any issues I may have had. It kicks off with “Arrest the President,” which is not exactly subtle, and continues along the track of the type of music that made Cube famous. There’s no “Bop Gun” here, but there doesn’t have to be...
Recommendation: ...it’s just a solid rap effort.


Artist: David Benedict
Album: The Golden Angle
Quick Description: Solid instrumental bluegrass.
Why You Should Listen: It's incredibly well done.
Overall Thoughts: Another one we missed, this is high-quality instrumental bluegrass. For whatever reason, I feel like it’s pretty difficult to find solid new instrumental bluegrass (assuming there’s interest in it at all), and this album largely takes the cake. Modern yet classic, this is one that’s worth putting on at your holiday gatherings after you’ve worn out the Christmas music.
Recommendation: Listen to this.

Of note:

* The Bevis Frond - We're Your Friends, Man (A little long, but still largely holds up.)
* Mega Ran - A Very Random Christmas (You didn't know you needed rap music over the Charlie Brown Christmas album until now.)
* 10 Years of Mom+Pop

7 song albums:

* The Dazies - Panic All the Time
* Jasmine Guffond - Degradation Loops

EPs:

* HXXS - MKDRONE
* Underworld - Drift Episode 1

Also out:

* Elephant Gym - Underwater

Monday, December 10, 2018

Mega Ran featuring Nick Norris and DJ Dn3 - "Excelsior"

Photo via Facebook
Being a music blog, we couldn't really immortalize Stan Lee. I grew up as a huge comic book fan, and I always will be. I always Made Mine Marvel, and Stan Lee was a huge hero of mine. We've known his health has been poor for a while, and we knew the day was coming sooner than later, but losing Stan earlier this month hit incredibly hard.

Nerdcore rapper Mega Ran, Nick Norris, and DJ Dn3 have joined together to immortalize Stan "The Man" Lee in song. What's truly great about "Excelsior" is that it's not just about Stan Lee's creations but it's about Stan the human being. It goes over his entire life and career, and gets into why Stan made such a connection with his fans. It's a tribute to a man who impacted so many of our lives, why and how he did, and is a testament to fandom in general. Warning to all of us truly affected by Stan's death: It ends with a sample of Stan's final message to his fans, so be prepared for it to get quite dusty where you are.

You can listen to "Excelsior" below. For more on Mega Ran, be sure to check out his website.

Ken's Best of 2018 - #7: Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers - Bought to Rot

While I've always had an appreciation for Against Me!, I never would have considered myself a fan. When I first heard that Laura Jane Grace was releasing a solo album, I was more intrigued that it would be on Bloodshot Records since I've been a huge fan of their output, but Laura Jane Grace seemed heavier than their typical output. I assumed Bought to Rot would be the typical punk singer goes country/folk kind of album.

I was wrong. Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers have released one of the louder punk records of the year, despite still being a roots based album. Bought to Rot bounces between more laid back singer/songwriter style songs and some straight out thrash ones. The back and forth of this album is strongest in the difference between "Valeria Golino" and "The Apology Song," which close the album out back to back. "Valeria Golino" is a loud thrash song that builds and builds tension before erupting, while "The Apology Song" is a rambling near-folk song. You even get an almost novelty song with "I Hate Chicago," a song about how much Grace hates Chicago until she finally breaks down at the end and admits it's because of her divorce.

Songs of note: "Amsterdam Hotel Room," "Manic Depression," "Valeria Golino."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #7: Illuminati Hotties - Kiss Yr Frenemies

Illuminati Hotties has the best band name in the world right now. It doesn't hurt that the debut from the Sarah Tudzin-led project (Tudzin has production credits ranging from Macklemore to Hamilton) is one of the most refreshingly fun listens of the year. “(You’re Better) Than Ever,” the song that got me interested in the act, is a perfect blend of indie and pop and punk, and songs like "Cuff" and "Pressed 2 Death" show a range of ideas that even the most popular acts fail to replicate.

This is a crazy fun record, perhaps moreso than anything else out this year. It catches a lot of the current millennial zeitgeist without being completely cringey, and the result is a listen that I continually went back to since its release. As someone addicted to alt-rock styles and who doesn't mind a good laugh now and again in his music? This absolutely works.

Songs of note: "(You're Better) Than Ever," "Pressed 2 Death," "Paying Off the Happiness."



Friday, December 7, 2018

Forgotten Fridays: Schtum - Grow

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

This might be the most forgotten release we've done on Forgotten Fridays. Schtum have virtually no web presence. No Facebook, Twitter, or even Wikipedia page. The most I can find about them is that they were from Northern Ireland, were managed by Paul McLoone of The Undertones, and broke up while touring America. That's it. I've been able to find more about singer Christian McNeil, so apparently moved out to the Boston area and sang with Sea Monsters and Orchestra Morphine, even winning a Boston Music Award for Best Male Vocalist in 2011.

I remember Schtum's "Skydiver" being played a bunch on the Boston meathead radio station back in 1996, and the video being played on a local video show a lot. I haven't listened to anything of theirs in over twenty years. I was shocked at how weird this album is. I remember it being loud alternative rock, but Grow is quirky without being twee. McNeil's vocals and delivery are a weird combination of G. Love, Mike Doughty back in his Soul Coughing days, and John Doe of X. Schtum are quite a bit different from anything else I remember from that day, since most bands weren't combining G. Love with post grunge hard rock. Grow isn't all hard rock. Songs like "Follow (1989)" are almost downright Britpop. It's worth a listen, though. Even if you don't remember ever hearing "Skydiver."

Ken's Best of 2018 - #8: Superchunk - What a Time to Be Alive

2018 has been a great year for new albums from some of our favorites from the 80's and 90's. We've seen good to great alums from J Mascis, Belly, Jon Spencer, Cypress Hill, Poster Children, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Buffalo Tom, and more, but the one that I keep going back to the most has been Superchunk's What a Time to Be Alive. While most of their peers have released more mellow music as they've aged, Superchunk have gotten louder and angrier in 2018, presumably amped up by the current political climate. You get these intense changes between songs like when the hard, angry rocker "Lost My Mind" goes into the much more upbeat and poppy "Break the Glass." It's increasingly rare to have a band that has been around for over twenty years to release an album that you not only love, but doesn't make you jsut want to go back and listen to their releases from your youth. It's such a great, solid album that Stephin Merritt and Katie Crutchfield guesting on "Erasure" is one of the least interesting aspects. This completely stands up with Superchunk's entire catalog.

Songs of note: "What a Time to Be Alive," "Break the Glass," "Reagan Youth."


Jeff's Best of 2018 - #8: Tomberlin - At Weddings

Sarah Rose Tomberlin's debut album is a record I have no recollection of learning about, yet find it to be one of the more endearing and sticky listens of the year. Getting a lot of (IMO wrong) comparisons to Bon Iver, this sleepy-yet-sneaky folk record kicks right off with a great song and continues with a quiet and introspective intensity that has some haunting instrumentation and vocals to go along with the compelling lyrics. In many ways, it's the total package - it succeeds in being an accessible folk record while seemingly defying what you expect from it over and over. It was so sneaky that I barely mentioned it upon release (10 August alone saw the release of three of my top ten albums this year), but it really shouldn't be overshadowed more than it already has.

The leadoff track, "Any Other Way," starts off with a gentle-yet-firm burst of chords before launching into the vocals, setting the tone for the entire album. It is best, in many ways, when it stays in its established lanes, but then there are songs like the closer, "Self Help," that provide an extra air of mystery while being completely different. This is what sets Tomberlin apart from her peers - it's an album that feels heavy and important, with lots to say, and yet still provides a lot of compelling moments throughout its runtime.

Songs of note: "Any Other Way," "Self Help," "I'm Not Scared."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #9: Caroline Rose - LONER

I know Jeff couldn't get into LONER when it was released way back in February, but he's wrong about this one. While LONER is quite different to Caroline Rose's 2014 release I Will Not Be Afraid, the more I've been listening to both the less it feels like an abrupt change. No one can deny that LONER is far more synth heavy (her live show features three members playing synths during some songs), but both albums are incredibly pop heavy and fun. LONER just wears its fun on its sleeve a bit more. Ok... a LOT more. But these songs are so incredibly well written and all eleven songs have been stuck inside of my brain multiple times in the past ten months. If I Will Not Be Afraid was all about twang and LONER is all about synths (sonically at least, for both), I don't think anyone has even the slightest idea of what we should expect out of Rose in the future.

Songs of note: "Money," Soul No. 5," "Getting To Me."


Jeff's Best of 2018 - #9: SOPHIE - OIL OF EVERY PEARL'S UN-INSIDES

Even though I've accepted the mantle as the resident pop music fan in these parts, listening to SOPHIE was mandatory even if I wasn't so into the genre. SOPHIE's genius is in deconstructing the expectations of what comes from pop music into its requisite parts and making an album that is as confusing as it is revolutionary. While some artists go fully into making weird, impenetrable electronic music and others (like Sia or Charli XCX) keep what might be their more strange instincts in check while producing radio-friendly hits, SOPHIE successfully straddles that line and instead creates something both with parts you'll grasp and parts that leave more questions than answers.

No song does this better than "Faceshopping," which has a standard throughline to follow and a beat you can (mostly) keep up with, and is yet still as weird and absurd as anything else on the album. While it is not the strangest, or the most pop, or the most interesting, or the most endearing release of the year, its overall impact and how well it moves from idea to idea in its execution makes it one not to miss in 2018.

Songs of note: "Faceshopping," "Ponyboy," "Whole New World/Pretend World."

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #10: Salem Wolves - Shake

I've been fairly gushing in my adoration for Salem Wolves pretty much since we started If It's Too Loud... Shake could have been the kiss of death for me with the band. It's definitely more mainstream and almost pop sounding than their previous releases. But Shake ended up working for me and is one of my favorite releases of the year. It's big, loud garage rock, but as loud and as harsh as it is, there are amazing songs and harmonies here. Part of the reason is that singer Gray Bouchard is secretly a crooner despite this being a full out rock album. This album has the crossover appeal of a band like The Hives without changing too much around. I'm still shocked no one has used "B.D.F." in a commercial. This has me waiting to hear what's next, which could be even more different since Harrison, the bass player, is leaving the band and is being replaced by Cat Verlicco of The Knock Ups.

Songs of note: "Die Like Dogs," "B.D.F.," "Shake."


Jeff's Best of 2018 - #10: Haley Heyndrickx - I Need to Start a Garden

It's that time again where we arbitrarily decide what the ten or so best records of the year are. I'm kicking my list off with Haley Heyndrickx's I Need to Start a Garden. A folk record at heart, this has a little more oomph behind it than you'd initially think it would. My favorite song, "Oom Sha La La," shows (and releases) a bit of the grit and passion that feels held back throughout the affair, making the entire listen not only a great one, but slightly uncomfortable as if you're waiting for that tipping point to happen. In a year with a lot of really superlative folk efforts, it's that added bit of something that sets I Need to Start a Garden apart.

Heyndrickx collaborated on a second album that's worth hearing, but, of all the debuts from this year, this is probably the one I'm most excited to hear about what's coming next. It's a testament to the strength of this new voice on the scene.

Songs of note: "Oom Sha La La," "Untitled God Song," "The Bug Collector."