Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fame, Fame, Fatal Fame. (Frankly Mr. Shankly)

Whenever I'm telling someone new about my love of The Smiths there is a moment however slight when they pause and stare. At least this is the case with most people who are  somewhat familiar with the band or their flamboyant frontman Morrissey. I can see the wheels in their head turning at that moment wondering about me as if they may have stumbled upon something secret and sordid . Misguided as these assumptions people make may be given that the response is fairly common. Its almost as if these people have never considered that a perfectly straight man can love Morrissey. Well I do - and so I was super excited to hear The Smiths Compete (came out** haha) this week

.  The eight disc box set includes all four of the bands full length albums The Smiths (1984) Meat is Murder, The Queen Is Dead (1986) and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987) ; the live album Rank (1988) ; and three compilations, Hatful of Hollow (1984) The World Won't Listen & Louder Than Bombs (1987).  Literally everything you could possibly want from the band is here remastered.

My favorite is still the self-titled debut - though The Queen is Dead comes in at a close second. I still haven't heard the live album as of yet but it's something I'm looking forward to. The guitar work by Marr is as good as ever and may very well be the element of Smiths tunes that can help it appeal to a wider audience. Still, I understand that Morrissey's singing style and voice will turn many people away from The Smiths even if they don't listen to his ambiguously gay lyrics and start to feel awkward ( I contend this response is more homo than the lyrics to "Hand In Glove") which is fucking classic. There isn't a lot I can do to change those people's minds but for those of you who aren't scared of a such nonsense I strongly recommend this collection. It's very expensive of course so it may be better just to search out the originals - but it's never too late to appreciate a band like The Smiths.

here is one of my faves from the aforementioned The Queen Is Dead "Frankly, Mr Shankly"


Monday, September 19, 2011

Bled Correct (Rife Eyesight)

This is a few weeks overdue and I apologize for that - yet I still think it's worth mentioning here on my blog.  The album I want to tell you about is Cymbals Eat Guitars sophomore release Lenses Alien. The band's debut Why There Are Mountains was a 2009 favorite of mine so naturally the follow up was high on my list for the year. C.E.G. is a very polarizing group for a number of reasons - though it is also for these reasons that I, and those who do appreciate them, like them so much. To start with they use very unconventional song structure that may come across as disorganized or cluttered. Their lo-fi stylings and frequent use of distortion can also turn some people off, and finally their singer ; who admittedly has a silly stage-name (Justin Ferocious) can wail and scream and drag his voice in such a way that some might find themselves cringing. Yet for me these quirks give the band personality - in the same way that I love Stephen Malkmus for writing lyrics that are in way nonsensical and in another totally brilliant I always on edge listening - for the next clever line, or the next unexpected shift in tempo or delicious guitar riff. Lenses Alien is the band's first effort as a signed act, with real label credentials. The label who gave them the chance is Barsuk (probably best known for being the home of Deathcab For Cutie and Mates of State ; though they also carry another personal fave of mine in Ra Ra Riot) The new record was also produced with the help of John Agnello - who if you read my previous entry also did work not only on the new Male Bonding record but also some Archers of Loaf - The Archers of Loaf connection is of particular interest to me because though they are very distinct in their own right - it is part of that past love that I hear echoed in C.E.G. at times It sounds as if Agnello let the band do most all of what they wanted with the recording but still pushed something out that perhaps a bit more refined and polished, for that I am thankful because this was all I really could have hoped for in a sophomore release.

Here I have included the album opener "Rife Eyesight" I considered throwing a different song up yet I think this one shows the band at it's best and also displays all of the qualities I mentioned that can cause people to love them or hate them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's That You Say? (Tame the Sun)

Last week Madden 2012 hit stores and like many others I went out and bought it. Still the music world did not stop kicking.  Quite the opposite really - as I was soon to discover. For starters Male Bonding dropped their sophomore album Endless Now on Sub-Pop.  It was their second release in as many years, as their debut Nothing Hurts came out last year - and was one of my sleeper picks for best debut of the year. Male Bonding is a  fuzz-punk outfit from London. Their melodies are uplifting even when their lyrics are decidedly less so. They also feature a lo-fi production quality that indie aficionados will likely appreciate. Still that said this album does sound cleaner in some respects. The riffs are tighter if only slightly. This is probably  due to the production assistance of John Agnello (who strangely enough also helped on the next album I'm going to talk about) Agnello has been around a long time and has worked with both mainstream successes (Dylan, Alice Cooper, etc) and indie favorites of mine like Archers of Loaf.  My mom made the comment to me that Male Bonding sounds a lot like The Stone Roses - and I am inclined to agree with her (yes, I got my ear for music from my mom, and I am thankful enough to risk sounding like a momma's boy) Here I've posted a live version of the album opener "Tame The Sun".  You can find an album version on youtube but I already posted that on facebook last week so that's why I opted for the live version here.  Also an interesting last thought is that the band's previous tour was with Sub-Pop label-mates Dum Dum Girls (who are also awesome)

Friday, August 26, 2011

In The Darkness, I Know ( A Hole In Your Halo)

Despite my fanaticism when it comes to searching out new and interesting artists I still occasionally come across something new to me ( but not apparently so new) This is the case with Ana Egge.  She is a a folk singer with simple yet poetic phrasing that feels very well constructed and very measured. Her new record Bad Blood (out this week on Ammal Records) is her seventh effort thus far and is co-produced with the steady hand of Steve Earle.  Not being entirely familiar with her previous work it is difficult to judge how much Earle influenced this but it does showcase an ability for storytelling which is very akin to Earle who has recently published his own novel I'll  Never Get Out of this World Alive ; which was released simultaneously with an album of the same name.  A little digging also revealed that Egge's last album Road to My Love (2009) was co-produced with James Mercer of the Shins -- one need only to look at my previous blog post relating to this years Broken Bells EP to know just how I feel about Mercer. It's fair to say I have some listening to do of my own when it comes to Egge's discography, but that is an undertaking I will gladly dive into soon enough.

As for Bad Blood;  Having heard the whole thing on Spinner, I can say that it's full of heart. It's songs often have depressing subject matter that might be described by some as Gothic in feel (the literary sense, not the fashion sense friends) Yet the songs are still somehow uplifting when it's all said and done.  My favorite is unquestionably the title track "Bad Blood" [ which by some cursed logic is not on youtube yet] Another standout is "Evil". What I have for you is the first single, "A Hole In Your Halo" and although it wasn't my first choice of songs to share it does well in showing what this album is all about.

Revel In The Disconnect (Asking Price)

Well it's been a minute folks.. took time away [again] to enjoy my summer. Seeing as the season is good for just about everything BUT music releases I don't feel I truly missed much. (still if you'd like yell at me and tell me how wrong I am in this assessment you can always start your own blog about how I am a lazy good-for-nothing bum)

Anyway, what's finally pulled me from the doldrums is the new album from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Mirror Traffic ; which was released this week on Matador.  If you know me at all you are likely aware of my love for all things Malkmus related - and while nothing can ever really come close to Pavement,  I have had to resign myself to the fact that they will probably never re-convene in full force and drop a new album. (Re-union tours are apparently another matter).  Knowing this is a little easier to take considering Stephen has consistently kept up work with the Jicks. Mirror Traffic is the groups fifth full length album since their debut ;  titled simply Stephen Malkmus (2001), and continuing on with Pig Lib (2003), Face the Truth (2005) and Real Emotional Trash (2008).  While I have liked these albums (Pig Lib in particular) I'd be lying if I said they were what I would call great albums.  Still Stephen remains one of my favorite song writers of all time.  He has always walked the line between incoherence and brilliance for me as a listener, going back even to pre-Pavement days w/ Silver Jews.  I still remember singing "Stereo" at the top of my pre-pubescent  lungs in the back of my mom's Ford Explorer.   

Mirror Traffic might not take me back to the glory days of 1997, but it is quite possibly the best Stephen Malkmus centric project in years and for me a definite step up from the group's last release Real Emotional Trash.  Here is one of the album's slow burners "Asking Price".


Monday, April 4, 2011

Baby, No Ones Honest Anymore (Bloodsucking Whore)

Sometimes just singing a song won't do - Songwriters know that from time to time you simply must wail to get your point across in a  fashion befitting the feeling you've got eating up your insides like an accursed tapeworm. This is a  truth that Ezra Furman is well acquainted with as evidenced by his band's  third full length effort Mysterious Power. Ezra Furman and The Harpoons scored a minor hit amongst indie fans on their last album with the catchy "Take Off Your Sunglasses". As much as I dig that tune I already feel like this new album which hits shelves tomorrow is a fuller, richer, piece of work, than Inside The Human Body. There is an honesty to these songs, sometimes quiet and reserved (  "Mysterious Power", "Fall in Love With My World") and sometimes brash and near scathing ("Bloodsucking Whore") Whichever variety it feels genuine in a way I can't help but appreciate.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Old 97's Rock Mountain Stage (free streaming set list)

The Old 97's are one of my favorite bands period. They are also fantastic live performers so when I saw they played Mountain Stage yesterday I felt like it was a must to post about it. The set list is just a hair over a half hour and features "Champaign, Illinois"  "Every Night Is Friday Night", and "Please Hold On While The Train is Moving" -  standouts from their latest project The Grand Theater Volume One which as the name suggests will be followed by a volume two, surprisingly soon in fact - as Rhett says in the backstage interview, it's currently slated to drop later this year. They didn't  limit themselves to all new stuff though, there are older fan faves  "Won't Be Home" and "Barrier Reef" here too. Although nothing can match seeing these guys live this is still worth a listen, so check it out courtesy of those recently beleaguered OG's of the airwaves NPR.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Greed Meets Hunger (Down Like Me)

Peter Bjorn and John released their latest album Gimme Some this week. Critics are giving the Swedish trio credit for making whistling hip again - this is in reference to the band's biggest hit "Young Folks". Now, I know how these things work as I've been listening to, and reading about music for years - someone says or writes something they think is clever, someone else reads it, or even thinks the same thought, and says or writes it again; And suddenly you can't escape the suggestion when looking at any review. This may seem like something I should let pass, as a small personal annoyance - but the thing is, that song is old - several projects removed in fact, it wasn't even my favorite track on Writer's Block,  and to continue to beat that same drum really does a disservice to a group that has much more to offer than the fond memory of one hit. (Never mind the fact that the true champion of whistling is Andrew Bird - and as far as i'm concerned that is not up for debate) Back to the point though PB&J are not some one trick pony of a band as clearly evidenced on this new album. Here is one of my favorites from Gimme Some, "Down Like Me". My immediate love of this song surely shows my own biases as right from the opening cords, and the first couple lines it feels like Micheal Stipe visited the studio that day - yet I should perhaps mention that another song on the album had me thinking Joe Strummer did the same. Still this drives home my original point Peter Bjorn and John are not a one hit wonder, they are much better than that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Every Martyr in this Jungle (Estate Sale Sign)

It's truly a week for lovers of the lyrical arts - I've already mentioned James Mercer today but the full album I'm most excited for this week  is The Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck. This is almost entirely due to  John Darnielle's songwriting ability ; Just for a bit of perspective he once won a New York state award for lyricism - this in a place that is arguably as close as it gets to a heartland of hip-hop. Some fans of the band have begun to sour toward this cleaner more polished product - yearning instead for the lo-fi sound that they fell in love with on the groups earlier efforts. I'm of a mind that anything new is exciting from these guys, nostalgic or not. Some may also be glad to know this isn't a concept album like 2009's The Life of The World to Come. Here is my early favorite from the album " Estate Sale Sign " undoubtedly the hardest rocking track, in which Darnielle's voice quakes with emotion that only comes from something written and sung from deep deep down in a persons soul.

(this live recording may not be all that kind to your speakers - particularly at the very beginning but I felt that it may also remind some of those listeners who are possibly bellyaching over the studio sound that the live
 experience is something else completely)

The Question is Simple, Why Not Be Smiling? (An Easy Life)

Broken Bells is in some ways almost too awesome to exist. It's the kind of collaboration music nerds like me usually only dream of seeing.  James Mercer (of The Shins) has been one of my favorite songwriters for years, and lately it seems everything Danger Mouse touches turns to gold  - maybe we should start calling him Midas Mouse. Nah, that sounds too much like Modest Mouse. But wait a minute there, maybe I'm on to something!  A musing for another day I suppose. Meyrin Fields, the duo's new EP which drops tomorrow totals only four tracks - yet what it lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality. There's not a stinker here and that is reason to smile Though I'd be fibbing if I said I wouldn't have gladly waited another three months or so for another full album. Here is my early favorite from the EP "An Easy Life".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Wine, No Cheese - But Still A Tasting of... Something (Move On)

I've been told I have taste. I've been told it is good. I've been told it is bad. I've been told it is strange. I'm not one to dwell too much on any one of these opinions but the fact remains that I enjoy sharing music. That is the sole reason this blog exists. Chances are  my posts will be brief but numerous - restricted only by my own personal excitement over bands, albums, tours and everything music related. I will for the most part keep this current, which means I won't be looking backward often. I could wax poetic about my deep love of music till you begged me to stop (or more likely just closed this page) but I will save us both the time and trouble by ending this introduction here... fittingly enough with the help of a song titled "Move On" by Bing Ji Ling (the opener from his new album Shadow To Shine which came out on Tuesday on Tummy Touch .

These Killing Hands (The Tide Pulls from the Moon)

William Fitzsimmons is yet another folk singer with a soft-spoken delivery - still his clever lyrics often impress me which is what I think separates him from what seems to be an overly crowded niche in folk music these days. This is his fifth project and while time will tell whether or not its his best I do feel relatively safe in saying Gold in the Shadow may be his most appealing work to date. Small wonder that when I  brought him up in conversation I  heard that increasingly familiar response "Oh he had a song on Grey's Anatomy!".. Now I've never watched the show, and don't plan on it but it seems someone in their music department deserves some credit for having taste. Here is the new album's lead single "The Tide Pulls from the Moon"

The Drugs in Sweden Must Be A Trip (Would You Say Stop)

Acid House Kings songs can usually be summed up in three words . Sweet. Poppy. and Swedish. They have a jangly sound that makes you think they could sing about anything and it would end up putting a smile on your face. (particularly when Julia Lannerheim sings lead - as she does quite often on their new album Music Sounds Better With You) The band has been going strong since the 90's but Julia didn't join fulltime till 2001 and its a good thing she did because if she hadn't I might never have given them a closer look as anything other than another Swedish pop group on Labrador. Here is the video for the lead single "Would You Say Stop".

Wait For It...Damn Right I Did. (Rotten Apples)

So Voxhaul Broadcast has had a fair amount of indie buzz for a long while now.. I first heard them in 2008 and my Lastfm and Pandora stations have been playing the same two songs for that entire span, and like a good music junkie I kept my ears peeled and what did I hear in 2011? That same efffin' song I been hearing! "Rotten Apples" but now its as the lead single of a full length project. I wanted to be mad, but really I can't muster much rage because the album is pretty damn good. Also calling it Timing Is Everything makes me think they agonized over its release more than anyone else could have though  I haven't decided whether the lyrics of  "Rotten Apples" make the whole situation more or less ironic.