Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand: The Director's Cut

Guided by Voices – Bee Thousand: The Director’s Cut

Scat, 2004

Acquired: Gift from ex-girlfriend, New, 2005

Price: Free

All I can say is thank GOD they reworked Bee Thousand into what it is today. Actually, that sentence may lead you to believe I like this. I don’t, not really. All of the pieces are there (with a bunch of extras) but it’s so scattered. It’s an interesting document with some excellent b-sides, such as “Postal Blowfish,” “Why Did You Land,” “Do the Earth,” and an early version of “Shocker in Gloomtown.” I guess this was put together to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Bee Thousand and it’s got a nice little essay and photos of discarded sequencings for the record. Apparently, GBV were forced to put every song from Bee Thousand on the collection (most of which are found on disc 3) which I guess they initially didn’t want to do. Thank god they did though, because this is way WAY too scattered and there are too many duds. However, Tobin Sprout’s “Scissors” just came on and I completely forgot about this song. So fucking good! SO GOOD! The story behind my owning it is a good one, because it was given to me by the girl that got me into Guided by Voices. Our whole relationship, which lasted from two weeks after Freshman year of college to the last week of freshman year of college, was mostly founded on mutual appreciation. I remember falling in love with her one night when we left some boring school-organized event to watch the movie Z. Anyway, she owned copies of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes and made me burn them. I’d known of GBV before, had liked a handful of selected tracks, but she was the first person that got me to listen to the records all the way through. To this day, Schyler is the only ex I’ve ever had that hasn’t left me spurned and was the only one I was able to remain good friends with post-break-up, despite the fact that I haven’t seen her in like, three or four years. Anyway, I will be eternally grateful. HOT FREAKS!

Guided by Voices - Propeller

Guided by Voices – Propeller

Scat, 1992 (Re-issue)

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007

Price: $14

Given that I will never, ever be able to a.) find or b.) afford an original pressing of this record (run in a batch of 500 with hand-made band-made cover art), I was perfectly fine for settling with this reissue. Despite awesome cover art, this is the first GREAT GBV record. Everything before this pretty much sucks in comparison, and it’s the record that shows a very clear path that Pollard & co. are about to walk down. Opener “Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox” is easily one of the greatest statements made in rock and roll by anyone ever, and the track that establishes GBV as something more than a bunch of dudes in their 30s fucking around in a garage. It hints at the greatness to come two albums later with Bee Thousand, featuring massive jams, filler tunes (that are still really good), and slower sensitive sounding songs (“Red Gas Circle”). However, this record is mostly jams (at least compared to Vampire on Titus and really, I don’t know why this album doesn’t have more acclaim than it already was. Hits like “Exit Flagger,” “14 Cheerleader Coldfront,” “Some Drilling Implied,” “On the Tundra,” “Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy” and even the fucking weird “Weedking” make this an early masterpiece, the first of four in the GBV canon. I also have a habit of singing lines from “Some Drilling Implied” at random, often inappropriate moments. “So take me to the pilot light/ And sing me to SLEEP/ YOU FANTASY CREEP!”

Guided by Voices - An Earful o'Wax

Guided by Voices – An Earful O’Wax

Get Happy!! Records, 1993

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $12

My obsession with GBV, if you know me you will know, runs long and deep. So, as I’m preparing to move out of this house, it’s quite appropriate that the last records I will cover at this station (i.e. the one with the bed and the Down by Law poster and the red walls) are my GBV records. Fact: I have closed 75% of the semester-end radio shows I’ve had in the last 3 years with a Guided by Voices set stretching 20 minutes to 2 hours. I’m sure the last song I want to hear before I die is “Don’t Stop Now.” Anyway, unlike the compilation rule I made for Bob Dylan, in which comps go at the end, given that this is sort of a best-of their early stuff pre-Propeller, it should come first. The first time I ever seriously listened to anything pre-Propeller was when Chris Clark forced me to listen to “Liar’s Tale” and “Crutch Came Slinking” because he has the box-set of their first five albums (and, I might add, is in a completely dilapidated state and makes me cry every time I see the discs lying about on his floor). Anyway, a whole new world opened up. Bob Pollard hasn’t quite found his footing, but he’s got some goddamned jams. “Liar’s Tale” is on this one, thank god. As are other jams like “Sometimes I Cry,” “Pendulum,” “Captain’s Dead,” “The Great Blake Street Canoe Race” and “Navigating Flood Regions.” Apparently, this record (which was only released in Germany) was a hot item when it came out, as the first five GBV records were not yet available. It’s missing most of my favorite early GBV tracks, like “Drinker’s Peace,” “Trap Soul Door,” “Crutch Came Slinking,” “Blatant Doom Trip,” and the gorgeous (yes, gorgeous) “Paper Girl.” Sad. But oh well, there are a few jams on here, and a few I never knew existed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Great Lakes - Great Lakes

Great Lakes – Great Lakes


Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $5

There is one Great Lakes song that I really fucking love. It’s called “Farther,” and it is not on this record. But of course, this record is still good, or I think it is because I still have a penchant for anything with the little Elephant 6 logo on the back. This is mostly known as “the band that has the drummer from Of Montreal in it,” despite the fact that they sound most like the Apples in Stereo. For the rest of this review I just want to write NEO-PSYCH-POP over and over and over again. But I won’t, because you see that and you’re like OH this sounds like a bunch of other random bands on Elephant 6 that all sound like the Apples in Stereo (this is pry a lie, because I think they might be the only E6 band that sounds a lot like the Apples. But it’s fun, and it’s nice and I can listen to it just fine, although I am kind of wondering which record is up next because it’s getting a little old.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Galaxie 500 - This is Our Music

Galaxie 500 – This is Our Music

Rough Trade, 1990

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $20

This is one of those milestone records for me, in multiple ways. First, there’s the fact that this is my favorite Galaxie 500 record (thought all three are fucking phenomenal and I’ve only recently discovered the hidden joys of Today. Their version of “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste” is now one of my favorite songs of all time) and I listen to “Fourth of July” every Fourth of July. In fact, I love this record so much that on the Fourth of July, 2008, I slapped Chris Clark in the face because he said he’d never really got into them. I was drunk, very drunk, and wearing my Galaxie 500 shirt (because I am a massive geek) and yeah, we were just sitting on some gravel drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and watching people play with sparklers and I just drunkenly slapped him. I meant for it to be a playful slap but of course, I hit him as hard as I possibly could and felt really, really, reallllllllllyyyyyyyyyy bad about it. It’s still a story Chris and I tell people when we start talking about music and obsession with music. Anyway, yeah. This also has “Way Up High” and “Listen, the Snow is Falling” (which is my all-time go-to jam whenever it starts to snow in the wintertime). It’s an old radio station copy (from some radio station I’ve never heard of and really, this is exactly the kind of copy of this record I want to own. The cover is worn and loved, but the vinyl is a pretty solid VG+ and it sounds fucking amazing. Although, I just noticed that Damon looks like a fucking creepster on the cover, and even after noticing this it’s still one of my favorite record covers of all time (at least in terms of graphic design, holy shit). PLUS, produced by Kramer who went on to produce Low who initially got me into Galaxie 500. Win. Win win win. Gush gush gush.

End of F

(A+B+C+D+E) = $764
F = $12
(A+B+C+D+E)+F = $776

At the moment I am frantically moving things out of my apartment and over to Jenny's house. I'm kind of amazed with how awesome I am at moving shit on my own, because I moved every single bookshelf (with the exception of the one that holds all of my records) out of my house tonight. There were five total, including a big tall one that really requires two people to move. I will move out of this house piece by piece until this house is empty. I'm finding a lot of stuff that belongs to other people that I haven't given back yet, mostly because I haven't seen those people in a long time, they've moved away, or we do not talk anymore. Regardless, there are no books in this house anymore, which is kind of awesome. My personal CD collection (which mostly consists of duplicate copies of promo CDs I got at KJ or stuff I got from SubPop when I was writing for PunkUnited) is gone too, as are all of my DVDs. It feels good. Before I leave the house tonight, everything that is mine in the kitchen will be gone too, as will all of the toilet paper and paper towels. It's a nice transition, really, given that it's the first time I've lived with a significant other and I'm kind of approaching it in the style of buying a goldfish. You take it home and you keep it in its little bag and eventually the water warms up and it can swim freely, having adjusted to it. Before I know it all that will be left is my record collection and then nothing. GREAT. But I hate moving and have been listening to Jeffrey Lewis' song "Moving" on repeat, as I do at the end of every July. Now, onto more cleaning.

Abe Froman - Abe Froman

Abe Froman – Abe Froman

Plan-It-X, 2001

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $6

So, first and foremost, this is a glaring filing error. In the real world, this should be the first record in my collection, as the name of the band is the name of a fictional character (the sausage king of Chicago from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off). Yet when I organized all of my records I somehow filed this under F for Froman. Doesn’t really matter though. This record is pretty fucking awesome and I am 95% sure that 99% of anyone that likes independent music has never ever heard this record. Probably because it’s way out of print, but it’s super awesome. I mean, it’s nothing spectacular, but it features the awesome Erin Tobey (whose excellent solo LP I will cover later on) and the awesome Matty Pop Chart. And it’s all short, fast, loud and screamy punk rock. It’s a super solid record for what it is (a record recorded in a basement by a bunch of punk ass kids) and I’m glad I bought it at Love Garden. Although, when I did I thought I’d never see it anywhere again and I couldn’t find it online so I just grabbed it, and just today I was in there and saw ANOTHER copy of it. What the hell? Maybe my percentage is wrong, because somehow two copies of this record ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.

The For Carnation - The For Carnation

The For Carnation – The For Carnation

Touch and Go, 2000

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $5

This is the post-Slint project of frontman Brian McMahan and guitarist David Pajo and it sounds a lot like Slint, although it’s much more straight forward and not nearly as awesome as Spiderland. But, during my post-rock/math-rock phase a couple of years ago, I thought this album was the shit. Right now, I think it’s a decent record but it mostly just makes me want to listen to Spiderland, and I’ve been researching Slint while listening to this. It’s an album to ignore rather than one to drool over. It’s perfectly fine, it’s just a little boring.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fiery Furnaces - "Single Again" 12"

The Fiery Furnaces – “Single Again” 12”

Rough Trade, 2004

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $1

I picked this up when I went on a mad spree of going through all of the Alternative 7-inch records at Love Garden. Each one was 25 cents and I ended up spending $35 and coming home with some fucking amazing records. I grabbed this mostly because it had “Here Comes the Summer” on the B-side, which might be my favorite Fiery Furnaces song (and it is NOT an Undertones cover. Ironically, I have the Undertones “Here Comes the Summer” on 7” though). Ok, it probably is. “Single Again” is a jam, but I think they’re at their best when they’re doing upbeat art-pop songs you can shake your ass to.

End of E

A+B+C+D = $740
E = $24
(A+B+C+D)+E = $764

F is super short, but G is full of amazing and expensive records!

Electrelane - No Shouts No Calls

Electrelane – No Shouts No Calls

Too Pure, 2007

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007

Price: $14

Despite the fact that this is a Double LP, and that I typically hate dealing with Double LPs, I feel like this is the one Double LP I own that doesn’t bother me because, thought No Shouts No Calls has terrific flow and is a joy to listen to when I throw the CD in my car, when I pull out the beautiful, glossy LP and place those perfectly heavy slabs onto the turntable, I just want to sit, patiently listen, and flip the discs when I am required to. This is what siren songs sound like, I think. That is, I would drive my ship into the rocks for this lovely, lovely music. The Krautrock influence of their earlier records has been smoothed out, and though it’s still there a little bit in the keyboards and the basslines, it’s basically just mellow pop bliss. Despite the fact that it’s just plain beautiful, there’s a certain complexity to these songs that rewards upon close listening. Although I rarely ever listen closely, I’m too transfixed on how good it sounds, which I guess is why this is sort of a perfect record. There is lots of super cool stuff going on but the most important thing is that all you can really do is listen to it and enjoy. Plus, Disc 1 Side A is easily the most solid side of any Double LP I own with “The Greater Times,” “To the East,” and “After the Call.” Oof. Love it.

Eat Skull - Sick to Death

Eat Skull – Sick to Death

Siltbreeze, 2008

Acquired: Eat Skull show at the Replay, New, 2008

Price: $10

I don’t even know why I went to see Eat Skull, but somehow, that night, I ended up at the Replay. I think I was meeting some girl, or something, but ended up talking to Justin Brown most of the time who told me this was his “Record of the Year” so I figured the band must be good (given that Justin seamlessly took over Alternative Flashback for Gabe and gave me another year of obsessive band-looking-up and discovery). They were good, of course, but mostly they were fucking loud, which made them incredibly good and I kept grabbing Drew’s arm (I was drunk by the time they played) and saying “I can’t believe how fucking good these guys are.” I think they’re among the best of the lo-fi “shitgaze” thing that everyone is doing right now. It doesn’t all sound like the same song fourteen time, and has a great little ebb and flow. This also has some of my favorite album art of 2008! Also, my girlfriend is trying to take a nap right now and asked if I was “trying to wake her up.” I had to say, “No baby, I’ve gotta work through this record collection, and the rules is the rules,” even though I wished I could put on the Electrelane record right next to Eat Skull, which is perfect nap music.

End of D

A+B+C = $541
D = $199
(A+B+C)+D = $740

Goddamn that's a lot of money for four letters. Although, A through D comprises 1/5 of my LPs, so it makes a little sense. I'm incredibly excited to be done with Bob Dylan, and I have recently undertaken another D: Drywalling a fist-shaped hole in my bathroom wall. Did I create this hole? Yes. Was it over a year ago, sometime last summer or spring when I was indulging in my habit of punching at the wall above the toilet while drunk and taking a piss? Yes. There are consequences to drunkenly thinking "I wonder if I can punch a hole through this wall if I hit it just hard enough with my top knuckles." That consequence is buying a drywall repair kit from Ace Hardware and trying to figure out how to patch a hole in your wall when you are not handymanesque in the least. Anyway, there are only two entries for E and only a few for F, so it looks like the variety of is going to be picking up!

Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

Columbia, 1967

Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2007

Price: $4

Though this project is both alphabetical and chronological, greatest hits collections are placed after all of a given artists LPs. So, here we return to Highway 61/Blonde on Blonde Dylan. Really, I only own this because I haven’t found a decent/affordable used copy of Blonde on Blonde. Actually, that’s a complete lie because the only Blonde on Blonde song I like on this collection is “I Want You,” and that’s my least favorite of my favorites. Really, I own this because it has “Positively 4th Street” on it, which is pretty much one of the greatest Dylan songs ever and a wonderfully spiteful companion piece to “Like a Rolling Stone.” The rest is mostly a surrogate for Bringing it All Back Home, which I should have bought at Love Garden when I had a chance one day but decided $7 was too much (and I hadn’t yet gone through my Bob Dylan phase). But yeah, worth owning for “Positively 4th Street.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bob Dylan - Desire

Bob Dylan – Desire

Columbia, 1976

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $7

Well, I’m pretty much sick of listening to Bob Dylan. It doesn’t help that I’m packing shit up to move out of my house and it’s goddamned sweltering (and at 10 PM no less!). But yeah, this is the last great Bob Dylan record before he started making mostly shit for the next thirty years. He’s got some OK stuff after this but nothing great. Actually, I don’t even like this record that much. I think “Hurricane” is an admirable return to the topical songwriting of his youth but man, is that shit played out. And I’m sick of calling KJHK DJs a minute into the song telling them to turn it off because it’s a DNP. “Joey” is one of Dylan’s few missteps when it comes to long songs, and it’s just really fucking boring. “Isis” is alright, but again, too long. AND SO IS “Black Diamond Bay!” Oof. “Sara,” on the other hand, is an incredibly heartbreaking companion piece to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” (in a way). “Oh, Sister” and “One More Cup of Coffee” are also solid jams, but mostly, I don’t know why I bought this. But yeah, this shit is overrated. It’s still goddamned good, but yeah. I’m only halfway through “Joey” now. Kill me.

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

Columbia, 1975

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $7

I pretty much half-fell in love with my girlfriend months and moths ago when she told me Blood on the Tracks was her favorite Dylan record and that “Tangled Up in Blue” was one of her favorite songs of all time. It all seemed very ironic, because I’d spent the entire last year listening to this record, as I was going through a pretty sinister break-up. I ran a gamut of emotions and there was always a song to match it. When I was sad and longing there was “Simple Twist of Fate” and “If You See Her, Say Hello,” but most of the time I was jamming “Idiot Wind.” Anyway, personally, this is my favorite break-up record ever and one I will always have waiting in the wings. Oh, and once I was in Chicago staying with a friend of a friend and he played a really weird version of “Simple Twist of Fate” on acoustic guitar and then forced us to take shots of Evan Williams, so I guess I associate that with this record.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

Columbia, 1965

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $4

I think my newfound boredom with Freewheelin’ stems from the two weeks I spent dutifully analyzing Highway 61 Revisited for a paper I wrote for my Pop Culture of the 1960s class last semester. I chose the topic mid-semester because I knew it would be an excuse to read up on and listen to tons of Dylan and pass it off as schoolwork. Ultimately, I felt it was one of the worst papers I’d ever written. I had set a goal for myself at the end of that semsester: That the last three papers I would ever have to write for college would be not only the worst papers I’d ever written, but they would become progressively worse. I think the absolute worst was the one I wrote for Film Criticism class, which I think was about Holocaust movies and ended up being, in my mind, one of the best papers I’d ever written (second only to the 25 page tome I wrote about Afro-Punk for Popular Black Music two years ago, but only because I legitimately worked hard on that one and didn’t bullshit at all). Anyway, the Dylan paper was better than I thought, or my TA was just a moron (which I think he might have been, but I’m not sure) because he gave me a 93% on it. “Nicely done, Mr. Hrabe,” the comments at the end read. “You have a clear passion for the topic, which good[sic]. Great sense of focus. Well-structured. Good use of lyrics as evidence. A pleasure to read.” I only cite this because this was one of my crowning achievements and made me feel like I’d really earned my PHD in Bullshit. Anway, in the process of writing that awful paper I had to pick quotes out of books about Highway 61 and Dylan and ended up getting caught up for hours just reading. There was this one book about the recording of the record that was absolutely fascinating and made me fall in love with the record again. Anecdotal things like how Dylan randomly grabbed the whistle from some other dude at the session and played it during the opening of the title track. How the excellent B-side “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” took them forever to record and never quite sounded right. How “Desolation Row,” the only song that I can really consider Dylan a poet, had a full band version until he brought in some rad sort of famous dude to record that Mexican-sounding guitar and how it’s now a masterpiece. How Columbia was aghast at “Like a Rolling Stone” and, since management had recently been shook up, they wanted to split the song and release part 1 on side A and part 2 on side B and how some Dylan’s biggest supporter at Columbia leaked the song to the radio and thus forced the label to let him have his way. Anyway, this and Blood on the Tracks are the only two Dylan records I can listen to all the way through and I think this is easily his masterpiece. It’s earth-shattering and still sounds totally fresh. It’s one of the few records that has absolutely ZERO duds. Every track is a jam and it’s always a pleasure to put this one the turntable (earning it the title of the second-most played record in my collection). Despite being the greatest song of all time, “Like a Rolling Stone” never gets old and I think that’s why it’s the greatest song of all time. It’s always potent and I always (always) sing along even though I mix up the words most of the time. Anyway, I could have probably submitted this word vomit to that class (after dropping in random quotes from 8 sources) and still gotten an A. This record’s real good.

Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1963 (Re-issue)

Acquired: insound.com, New, 2008

Price: $21

At first I wondered why in the hell I bought a re-issue of this record and then I realized that I bought it last August when I got my student loans, which used to be the time of the yeah in which I’d splurge and spend about $100 on records. Stupid, stupid me. Especially for buying this because, well, it’s beautiful and it sounds great but there are just certain records I want to have original copies of. Ok, not originals really, if I can, sure, but like, I want a copy of this record that I found at a garage sale. It doesn’t really matter, it’s still a great record that I’ve heard way too many times and listening to it now is kind of a drag. I think it’s because it’s before he really perfected the art of the “long song” and there are a handful on here. Actually, there are only two over six minutes and both of those are perfect (“Talkin’ World War III Blues” and “A Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall”) but other tunes like “I Shall Be Free” and “Masters of War” kind of drone on too long. “Bob Dylan’s Dream” comes kind of close, but that one really works for me. Maybe it’s just listening to it right now that’s causing me to go after Freewheelin’. It’s Dylan’s first record of original material and it’s heralded as one of the better records ever released, but like his self-titled debut, I think I just don’t care that much about this record because I know what comes next is even better. That is, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks. And for some reason I don’t own a copy of Blonde on Blonde, which is a shame. Anyway, the record just ended. I will say, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Girl From the North Country” are pretty much destructively good. The classics, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall,” are jams, of course (although I have heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” so many times I hate it). However, I never noticed that there are about six songs on this record that I would just assume skip.

Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1962 (later pressing)

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $10

There’s a point during the opening track, “You’re No Good,” where Bob Dylan kind of giggles. This leads me to deduce that this track was recorded live (in the studio sense) and in one take, which is awesome. I say “Shit, this is really good.” Jenny says, “Damn right it is.” The thing about Bob Dylan’s debut LP is that it’s always going to be overshadowed by every record he makes until he makes Self-Portrait. Well, probably. It’s just a little sad, because it’s really, really fucking good. Granted, he only contributes two originals (the excellent “Talkin’ New York,” which plays like a sarcastic play on some kid from Minnesota movin’ to the city via aping Woody Guthrie and “Song to Woody,” which just makes me adore Bob Dylan because I have a thing for songwriters who are deeply indebted to other songwriters to the point of writing songs about them). It doesn’t have the swagger that he picks up around Another Side of Bob Dylan, but it’s exactly what Dylan wanted to be in 1962, which is to say Woody Guthrie, or a folk singer almost as good as Woody Guthrie. It’s really hard to view this record without bias because, goddamn, I know his next six records are going to be fucking masterpieces. I can’t even get to the point where I try to think “Well, what if this was some rare folk record put out by some guy named Bob Dylan, who never put out another record.” I can’t because it’s Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan is just unfuckwithable. But, listening to this while taking every other Bob Dylan record into context, it’s still really good. I like it more than John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline but not more than Blood on the Tracks or Desire. But what the fuck am I talking about? This is where homeboy started out and like a lot of debut LPs from future superstars, it’s not brilliant but the amount of promise held within it is unfathomable. Or maybe it is fathomable. Maybe if I said that in 1962 it would be unfathomable until it became fathomable. I don’t know. It’s a bunch of old folk standards sung by a dude who can’t really sing but that’s what makes him a great singer and there’s a passion in the way he sings these songs that makes him unfuckwithable. I always wonder if I would have thought Dylan was really annoying if I were a music critic forty-seven years ago. At this point, I listen to so many singer-songwriter records through music staff at KJ that it’s possible I could have passed on this, although I think forty-seven years ago this would have been pretty rad and I like to think I would have liked it. Now everyone just wants to be the next Bob Dylan, and it’s boring as shit. Actually, the last track on Side A and the first few tracks on Side B (including "House of the Rising Sun") kind of sound like he's trying way too hard and, as a result, kinda suck.

Dub Narcotic Sound System w/ Lois - Ship to Shore EP

Dub Narcotic Sound System/Lois – Ship to Shore

K, 1996

Acquired: Lawrence Antique Mall, Used, 2007

Price: $3

This is apparently a Dub Narcotic remix EP, but I was very confused because it features Lois Maffeo on the A-Side and on the B-Side it reads “Lois with Dub Narcotic Sound System.” Hence, I had a filing dilemma. For a project that relies on alphabetizing, this seemed like an important issue. Ultimately, the Dub Narcotic remixes are on side A and this little EP is listed under Dub Narcotic on All Music, so yeah, they win out. I should note that I have never really listened to Dub Narcotic Sound System, despite my rabid fanboy-ness for every other Calvin Johnston project (Beat Happening, the Halo Benders (who we will get to later in this project, with a funny story), The Go Team, and his solo stuff). I think I tried listening to Out of Your Mind once and it never stuck. Maybe I need to give it another listen, but not based on their remixes on this EP, because they’re not very good. I love Lois (Strumpet, in particular, which I own), but goddamn, these remixes scream mid-90s trip-hop or something. I would like to hear the original version of “Ship to Shore,” but only if Calvin is singing it (i.e. I need to download Boot Party). Seriously, though, the “Ship Shape Remix” fucking blows. As a matter of fact, I’m turning it over right now because I can’t tolerate it and my girlfriend is annoyed by it. The Lois side of things is a little better, but not as much as I’d hoped. Seriously, Lois sounds like an off-brand Liz Phair or maybe someone striving for a spot in Lilith Fair. Or at least that’s what I get when I hear “Rougher.” Ung, no wonder this was only three bucks, although it could be worse. After peeling off the tag from the Antique Mall, I noticed that the original buyer had picked it up at Love Garden for four. And I’ll probably end up selling it back for one. Oof.

Nick Drake - Bryter Layter

Nick Drake – Bryter Layter

Island, 1970 (re-issue on Simply Vinyl)

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $16

Once this was the Nick Drake album I paid the least attention to and since I’ve owned it on vinyl it’s moved its way into the position of most played. This is the record best suited for driving through the country (despite the fact that the first time I heard “Pink Moon” was in a car commercial (or myriad car commercials). Five Leaves Left is best suited for staying home and contemplating ingesting anti-depressants). THE record. Even sitting at my computer right now, I’m imagining myself with sunglasses and the windows down and this blaring out of the stereo while driving through the pastures and fields of the north country. Though Pink Moon is gorgeous as a guitar-and-voice record, Bryter Layter is a motherfucking masterpiece of British folk and I’m pretty sure it’s his best album. Not only is Drake one of the most extraordinary guitarists of all time, BUT he got John Cale to play on the two best songs (“Fly” and “Northern Sky”), in addition to members of the Beach Boys and Fairport Convention. Bryter Layter is a perfect storm. A great set of musicians backing a genius putting on his absolute best. I’ve also realized that this project is really fun when my girlfriend is in the room because a.) she will tell me if she likes the record or not (i.e. she really liked the Double record) and b.) she will sing along if she knows the songs (like this record).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Double - Loose in the Air

The Double – Loose in the Air

Matador, 2005

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $7

I probably payed too much for this record. In my head, it should have only been $5 because I was basically buying it for one song (“Idiocy”) and a single typically costs $5. But I guess it’s worth paying an extra two bucks to get a record I’ve never listened to. Maybe there are more jams that justify this. Upon listening to Loose in the Air, I think it was totally worth $7. It’s a really, really solid indie-rock record when every other indie-rock record is trying to do something weird or different or something with more banjos. They’re not a great band, but they’re a really good band (reminiscent of the late Oxford Collapse, who never made a record I loved but always made records I liked, which is an excellent quality to possess sometimes). Apparently, John Darnielle loves this band which means that I should love them too. Not really, but most of the time he’s right (he’s my favorite and most trusted music critic). “Idiocy” is a PERFECT pop song that no one has really heard. It is perfect because it fits into my guidelines of a perfect song. That is, the verses are as catchy as choruses and the choruses are pretty much super-choruses. This is a rare thing to achieve. The New Pornographers (who played the same night as the Double in Lawrence and, following their show, went over and saw their set at the Jackpot) come close to this with most of their jams, but the closest they got was with the b-side “Graceland” (not a Paul Simon cover). “Idiocy” is better than that song, though. The rest of the album I can pretty much take or leave. It’s not bad, but I don’t see myself falling in love with it. It’s very “it’s not you, it’s me.” At the same time, it’s really fucking good. Flecks of Interpol and the Go-Betweens are strewn throughout, but mostly they sound like an indie-rock band on Matador Records.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Do Make Say Think - Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead

Do Make Say Think – Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead

Constellation, 2000

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2005

Price: $6

I bought this based on the fact that I completely loved one track off of Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn. Saw this at Love Garden one day and, since it was cheap, bought it. Basically, it sounds like a “post-rock” record, and I really don’t have the patience for that kind of music. Sure, I have all of the Godspeed albums on my computer, but I just don’t have the patience the drawn out, drone and build of most of this music. Not that I don’t think it’s good, I think Do Make Say Think are an excellent band, just not one I could listen to forever and ever. I do, however, like them more than Broken Social Scene (which Charles Spearin is involved with). Somehow, when it comes to Broken Social Scene, the parts are always better than the whole (at least for me). Do Make Say Think, Feist, Emily Haines/Metric, the Weakerthans, Stars. All of these bands and artists are actually pretty awesome, yet when they collaborate with BSS, I just can’t get behind it. Maybe one of these days I’ll have some sort of BSS revelation and be absolutely batshit crazy in love with them like everyone else seems to be, but for now I’d rather listen to the side projects. Anyway, Goodbye Enemy Airship is a good album, but it’s an easy album to ignore. It’s perfect background music or napping music.

Dis- - The Historically Troubled Third Album

Dis- – The Historically Troubled Third Album

My Pal God, 1996

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $5

I heard Dis- on the radio (played by the excellent Justin Brown when he hosted Alternative Flashback on KJHK) at the height of my post-hardcore/math-rock phase a couple years ago. Somehow, I’d realized why Slint’s Spiderland was brilliant and then all of those bands that sounded like Slint were totally awesome. I found this at Love Garden one day and quickly scooped it up. At first I thought the title was just tongue and cheek (and one of the better album titles I’ve ever come across) but apparently, during recording (with Steve Albini!) the band basically fell apart. This is their last album. A poetic indie rock casualty. Too bad, because this is their best record and, as a song title geek, I can honestly say it has some of the best song titles I’ve ever seen. “Please Stop Blaming Your Personal Problems on Films,” “Suddenly Everyone’s a Smoker,” “You May Get All the Ladies but I Got My Shit Together,” and “The Day We Danced in Your Swimsuit.” To paraphrase Bob Pollard, with titles like that, the songs HAVE to be good. And they are. They’re more upbeat than Slint or June of 44. I think they’re more like Chavez, full of energy and mathy breakdowns and ultimately, it’s one of the more fun mid-90s math rock records you can listen to. I am also fairly certain that I am the only person in the world right now listening to this record.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

Dirty Projectors – Rise Above

Dead Oceans, 2007

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007

Price: $14

Upon learning that some band was re-making Black Flag’s Damaged from memory, I kind of flipped my shit. I remember this distinctly, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a record since. It’s kind of funny that it took covering Black Flag to push Dirty Projectors into the realm of “their next album is going to be a fucking masterpiece” territory. It’s something that I knew in 2007 and as soon as I heard Bitte Orca I knew I was right because goddamn, that record might just be my favorite album of 2009. Somehow, the songs on Rise Above sound like sex jams. I don’t know why, but I distinctly remember having sex to this album numerous times after I got it. It suddenly became my go-to record to bang to, and really, I don’t know how this happened. It’s experimental indie-rock covers/reworkings of punk rock songs that kind of sounds like R&B. I think the album’s greatest strength is that it completely manages to avoid being a novelty and instead comes off as the most original covers record of all time (in my head, at least). There’s something amazing about their version of “Six Pack” that I can’t really explain. Also with Dave Longstreth delivering the opening lines of “Police Story (“This fucking city is run by pigs”) with such conviction that it somehow, I don’t know how, makes me like this version of the song better than the original (although I belong to the camp that thinks Rollins (despite my adoration of the man) kinda ruined Black Flag). Ok, I don’t like it as much as the original. BUT IT’S REAL GOOD!

Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams

Merge, 2008

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008

Price: $20

I don’t think Dan Bejar can make a bad record. I just don’t. Maybe it’s the unbridled fan boy inside of me, but everything since City of Daughters has been a gem. Trouble in Dreams is fairly straight forward but it still feels like the logical follow up to the pretty much awesomely unhinged Destroyer’s Rubies. It has a couple of clear-cut pop jams (“Dark Leaves Form a Thread” and “Rivers”). It has a couple of beautiful ballads (“Foam Hands” (which almost made me cry the first time I heard it) and “Blue Flower/Blue Flame”). It has a really long, fucking weird song in the middle (“Shooting Rockets” is Trouble in Dreams’ “Looters’ Follies”). It has a fucking amazing, epic closer (“Libby’s First Sunrise”). The solo-electric videos of Bejar playing “Foam Hands” and “Rivers” at the Sled Island Festival blew my mind when I saw them months and months before the record came out. “Foam Hands” is incredibly simple but it might be Bejar’s most affecting song to date. “Shooting Rockets” is a reworking of a track from the first Swan Lake record, and it’s the one where the influence of Carey Mercer is most evident. Actually, one of the most interesting things about Swan Lake has been watching Bejar, Mercer, and Spencer Krug influence one another. For instance, Sunset Rubdown’s absolutely fantastic Random Spirit Lover had Mercer-esque sonic flourishes and Bejar-esque lyricisms. Krug’s mastery of pop-song craft seems to have influenced on Bejar on “Dark Leaves Form a Thread” and “Introducing Angels.” Anyway, it’s just fun to watch. Trouble in Dreams has elements of every other Destroyer record and I think that’s why I like it so much. At the same time it’s really fresh. I spent a good three months with it and every couple weeks I had a new favorite song (before settling on “Libby’s First Sunrise,” mostly for the synesthetic quality) and I’m sure now that I’m re-listening to it, I’ll have a new favorite soon enough.

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies

Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies

Merge/Scratch, 2006

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2006

Price: $19

My favorite Destroyer anecdote (yes, I have a favorite Destroyer anecdote) is the one where I’m playing “Rubies” on the radio (radio edited, of course) and an old woman call up and tells me why she really, really likes that song. “That Destroyer is quite literate,” she says. I tell her that’s one of my favorite things about Destroyer. Dan Bejar has long been one of my favorite lyricists. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about half the time, but the fact that he can string together a handful of words and come up with something like “You disrupt the world’s disorder just by virtue of your grace” or “I was good with names, I had a way with faces/ I was a dominant theme in a number of places.” There’s something about the musicality of his word choices that tends to overshadow the musicianship, which I should mention is fucking top notch. On Rubies I’m pretty sure it’s most of the dudes that played on This Night, yet where that record was full of space, Rubies blends in some of the explosive pop-song aesthetic of Streethawk: A Seduction and Thief. Bejar’s career might be my favorite to track. The one that brings me the most glee upon a new release. Also, what the fuck is a jewel-encrusted roan?