Saturday, October 31, 2009

Silver Jews - Starlite Walker

Silver Jews – Starlite Walker
Drag City, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $12

At the height of my Silver Jews fandom (late 2007), I decided that I had to own all of David Berman's records on vinyl (with the exception of the unlistenable Arizona Record and the far too expensive Tennessee EP). This is Berman's first release and the first that doesn't sound like ass. The Dylan influence hasn't worn off yet, but regardless, it's a damn fine record that took me a long time to get into. “Advice to the Graduate” is the best song about graduating ever (even better than Vitaman C's!) and “Trains Across the Sea” is another early gem. Here he's got Pavement bros Stephen Malkmus working bass and guitars and Bob Nastanovich on drums. The line-up rotates from record to record, Malkmus would make a habit of appearing on every other Silver Jews record (his appearance is integral to Berman's masterful 3rd record American Water). Anyway, here he doesn't yet have a grip on what Silver Jews is, but it's all there. It's piecing itself together, and it kind of sounds like Berman trying to work his poetry into songs. By his second record, The Natural Bridge, he'd mastered it. This one has some amazing lines though. Who else could write something like “On the last day of your life/ Don't forget to die”? Or maybe I'm just letting my unabashed fanboydom of Berman to get in the way of how I analyze his records. He might be my favorite songwriter, I don't know. He is one of the greats though, and I'm really interested to see how time treats him. Though he could easily just sing his songs over an acoustic guitar and call it a day, he goes a little out there and Malkmus' guitar sound is kind of a perfect compliment to these tunes. It gives them slightly jammy quality, and does it in a way that never becomes overwrought or boring (like on Malkypoo's latest solo record). The Malky vocal harmonies, as always, are totally great too. Overall, this is the loosest of David Berman's endeavors. Also, check out “New Orleans” because it's a perfect example of this looseness, and it's one of the highlights of the record. Granted, Berman is always more on when he tightens things up (see the weirdness of the free jazz/free verse recicitation of “The Country Diary of a Subway Conductor,” which aside the words on the lyrics sheet and it's reference to Robert Bresson, is actually a little unlistenable).

Seam - Are You Driving Me Crazy?

Seam – Are You Driving Me Crazy?
Touch and Go, 1995
Acquired: Lawrence Antique Mall, Used, 2006
Price: $5

Seam formed in Chapel Hill, NC right around the time Superchunk put out No Pocky for Kitty. They are probably best known as “the band Mac from Superchunk played drums with on their first record.” Mac left (for good reason, as I don't know what I'd do without Superchunk) and on Seam's third record, Are You Driving Me Crazy?, Seam bandleader Sooyoung Park has hired a completely new group of musicians and they deliver some mighty fine post-rock inspired college rock. Well goddamnit. After peeking through Allmusic I've found discovered some things that make this sound make absolute sense. SO, a brief history. Park and original Seam bassist Lexi Mitchell were both members of Bitch Magnet, which was one of David Grubb's post Squirrel Bait post-hardcore bands. Hence, we get a little bit of a Slinty vibe, but just a little. Fucking indie rock family tree. One of the songs on the b-side sounds a hell of a lot like Neil Young's “Cortez the Killer,” but it's slightly off. Another song does the same guitar breakdown in the chorus as Boo and Boo Too's “Ripper's Hell,” although I know they've never heard this song. The second to last song on the record, “Sometimes I Forget” is a gorgeous little downtempo sad bastard song and I love it. It's actually quite emo, very Sunny Day Real Estate. Dig it.

Don't know why there's a picture of a tooth, but here's "Sometimes I Forget:"

The S.F. Seals - Nowhere

The S.F. Seals – Nowhere
Matador, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden Blowout Location, Used, 2009
Price: $2.50

I am aware of Barbara Manning through some strange avenues. Not really strange, but I've only heard her doing weird one off things and thought she had a great voice. A classic indie-pop voice. You know, not a trained singer or anything like that but a great singer because of this. I first heard her on Stephin Merritt's 6ths record Wasp's Nest, which was essentially the Magnetic Fields but Merritt assigned the singing to guest musicians. She sings the opening track, “San Diego Zoo.” Strangely, that record has become my go-to for when Jenny asks me to put on music when we have company over. Although this is mostly due to the fact that it's in the CD player and I'm too lazy to think of something else. The other place I've heard her is on the 20 Years of Merge covers record where she sings one of my absolute favorite Portastatic songs, “Through with People,” and totally makes it work. Anyway, how about the S.F. Seals. They're great! This record, at least. It's a really fantastic indiepop record. Barbara Manning kind of seems like Mary Lou Lord but instead of being kind of lame she's totally fucking cool as shit. I mean, she covers the Holy Modal Rounders (“Janine's Dream”) and it's fucking weird and awesome. She also covers Bad Finger and makes it awesome a la Nilsson. Man, I am really, really loving this record! Opener “Back Again” is the obvious jam, super super solid, but side two opener “Day 12” exemplifies the jangly, ramshackle indie rock I love. The bass sounds like it's being played by someone who doesn't really play bass, which I love, and there's a really rickety solo right in the middle and it's all great because it's carried by a really terrific guitar sound and Manning's excellent mid-90s vocal line. They also cover a Flying Nun Records band that I have never heard of. Maybe the only Flying Nun band I haven't heard of, Goblin Mix. And you know what's awesome? Whenever someone covers a Flying Nun song it always sounds like it's from New Zealand, even if the singer is America, British, whatever. There's something beautiful about a nation creating a defining sound. And there's something cooler about a nation who not only funds cool records, but allows that to be a sort of mainstream thing. This record makes me want to listen to Manning's former band, World of Pooh, and all of her solo stuff. She's got some Liz Phair in her, but again, she's way more legit. Honestly, anyone who can pull off a Badfinger cover is awesome. Her version of “Baby Blue” is so amazing because not only do they play it like an indie-rock song, but halfway through they bust out a guitar solo and start singing from the 70s. Actually, maybe Badfinger is just awesome and I need to listen to them. ANYWAY, this is an excellent record. The droney, completely unlike anything elseon the record “Demons on the Corners” is perfect for the Halloween mix I'm making to scare children, assuming we get trick or treaters this evening. I realllllly hope we do because I really want the Misfits to be playing full blast. We even have a skull on the front porch so people know we're legit. I stole it at a party last night and carried it home like a bowling ball. It is cool, and it's surrounded by indian corn, carnival squash, and candles. Anyway (for real this time), Barbara Manning gets an A in my book.

Here's Manning singing with the 6ths. It's pretty great.

End of R


Finally passed the $2000 mark. Approaching the record collection being worth an entire semester's tuition at KU...and more than 6 months rent. It's really depressing. But alas, I will soldier on. Happy Hallowwen! Ghouls night out!

Rodan - Rusty

Rodan – Rusty
Quarterstick, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $8

Purchased at the peak of my I-just-realized-how-fucking-good-Spiderland-is phase, this is one of the many Slint knock-offs from the mid-90s. Regardless, I love these bands and their math rock. Rodan were also from Louisville and formed the year after Slint's demise. They're notable for having Tara Jane O'Neil on bass here. She went on to put some really good solo records out on K and occasionally performs with K's elite. For instance, I saw her play guitar in Mirah's band at SXSW this year and that was pretty rad. That aside, this record is a little too post-rocky for my taste. You know, the 7 minute songs all based around the build, or maybe that's just the longer song since “Shiner,” which follows directly after the slow-buildy “Bible Silver Corner,” fucking slays. “Shiner” sounds remarkably Shellac-y, which might make sense since the record was produced by Shellac bassist Bob “Rusty” Weston. Yes, the record is named after him, which is an unbelievably cool tribute. I actually really love the way this record runs from serenity to hardcore to almost sludgy metal and back again. Makes me want to do some equations, and reminds me of the time I did algebra homework while listening to math rock. The only real flaw with Rodan is that they seem far too indebted to Slint. The epic “The Everyday World of Bodies” sounds exactly like “Good Morning, Captain,” and it's not that it's a bad song. It's kind of awesome, and the female vocal harmonies really make it about halfway through, but sonically it's the same. Regardless, it's still a good record!

Here's "Shiner"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rites of Spring - Rites of Spring

Rites of Spring – Rites of Spring
Dischord, 1985
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $7

Apparently emo was born the same year as me. That's a lie, I don't know shit about emo really, other than it seemed to come in waves and Rites of Spring and Embrace are always touted as the progenitors of the pseudo-genre. And when I first heard this in high school, I was half expecting it to sound like Thursday or something like that. I knew Ian MacKaye was somehow associated (he produced the record and put it out on Dischord, and the band later morphed with MacKaye to form Fugazi) and that was enough for me, as MacKaye is my favorite Ian of all time (Followed by: 2.) Ian Curtis 3.) Ian McKellan 4.) Ian Holm 5.) Ian Brown). Anyway, it's obvious why this is a classic. It sounds like you can reach out and touch the music (that sounds really lame). That is, there's a tactile quality to it. Like reading a book or something. Guy Picciotto's vocals sound so fucking good and completely envelop you. Brendan Canty's drums are at times restrained and at times fucking insane, which makes “End on End” one of the rawest, most unhinged (yet flawlessly constructed) pieces of music I've ever heard. The guitars wail without ever getting wanky, it's a pretty excellent record and I definitely wish I'd paid more attention to it when I was 18. “Post-Hardcore” is a better tag, I like it, although it's really terrible that all those awful screamo bands kind of rose from this. Yes, Picciotto is kind of screaming but it's really more of a shout. Like hardcore a little slower, still punk rock though unlike those pussies who later came along and sang lines for all the girls I liked to write on their Xanga pages.

Here's the motherfucking jam, "For Want Of," live:

The Replacements - Alex Chilton 12"

The Replacements – Alex Chilton 12"
Sire, 1987
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $4

Purchased on a fanatical whim, I really have no use for this. But I thought the cover art was cool and it was only $4 so I bought it. Maybe to give away as a gift someday, I'm not sure. Essentially, it's my favorite song of all time. It trounces everything else, and I've probably listened to it a couple hundred times and it never gets old. It's a perfect summertime jam, and also plays up music references, which I have a soft spot for. Writing an ode to your favorite songwriter is the best sort of review you could ever do. It's a way to give back! To express your admiration while using his influence to create something new. It has the same version of the song on both sides, which reminds me of my cassette copy of Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown EP, which had the same four songs on both sides and played on an endless loop on my drives from home to work to home to work, etc. An endless loop of “Alex Chilton.” I could live with that. Actually, it would probably be like that SNL short where Willem Dafoe gets “Private Eyes” implanted in his brain and then goes insane.

The Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me

The Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me
Sire, 1987
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

Did you know that Alex Chilton plays guitar on “Can't Hardly Wait.” I'm amazed at how little I know about this record. For instance, I didn't know that it was after Tim and I didn't know it was their SECOND record on a major. I also realize I've never really listened to this record all the way through. I know about ¾ of the songs but I've probably only listened to this all the way through something like 4 or 5 times. I specifically listening to this and Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak back to back to back to back with Spacek on the way to Austin the first time in 08. I should also note that “Alex Chilton” is my favorite song of all time, and the chorus served as my ringtone for three years until a few weeks ago when I got my phone replaced and they wouldn't give me my old ringtones so I've simply refused to shell out 3 bucks to buy it for a THIRD time. Even though I owned this album, I bought the “Alex Chilton” 12” single even though that was the only song on it. Anyway. This record is loaded with jams, even though a few of the tracks sound a little too “hard rock” or fucking weird (there's a cliched 80's mainstream sax solo in here somewhere). But mostly, just jams. “Can't Hardly Wait,” “Alex Chilton,” “I.O.U.,” “I Don't Know,” and the ever lovely and beer stained blues “Skyway” offers, which I interchange with “Here Comes the Regular” when I feel like trash. Wish I had Let it Be, though.

Oh how far you've come, Placemats!

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians

Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians
Warner Bros., 1978
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $5

Ooooooo minimalism! No doubt discovered after reading that Sufjan Stevens employed minimalism a lot on Illinois. This record is quite hypnotic. Lots of repetition, which apparently minimalism is all about, I still really have no idea what it is. My favorite aspect of this record is that it sounds a little electronic, though everything is acoustic. Usually I get bored with this modern classical stuff but this is really engaging. There's a steady pulse that runs all the way through the piece. It's fine, I guess, but not something I'd put on unless I wanted to be a total dick or something. It actually soundtracked an argument Jenny and I just had, and mid-fight she told me how terrible this record was. It was getting on my nerves too. So yeah: Music for 18 Musicians = Music to make Domestic Arguments even Uglier than they have to be. But in all seriousness, this just went on the “get rid of” stack. I have no use for this and I have it on my iTunes if I ever need to listen to it. Wow, it's a bunch of pianos and marimbas, good for you! Is it hypnotic? Yes, yes it is. Do I make any sort of connection with this record? No, no I don't. Goodbye. Today begins the great purge. Ridding myself of records I have no use for, which is a lot of them! Here's to paying the rent!

Otis Redding - The Best of Otis Redding

Otis Redding – The Best Of Otis Redding
Atlantic, 1984
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $5

For the most part, Otis Redding just makes me sad. When I foolishly put on Otis Redding when I really am sad, it makes me absolutely miserable, which is sad, because I really love his voice. Like a grittier Otis Redding if you can call his voice gritty, you really can't. It's more raw, I guess, which I like. This is a pretty decent Best Of. It's got his version of “My Girl,” the surprisingly upbeat “Mr. Pitiful” (surprising given the title, that is), his cover of the Stones“(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” “Try a Little Tenderness” and of course “(Sitting on) the Dock of the Bay.” But there are a few stinkers, like “Love Man.” Actually, that's the only song that really sucks on this Best Of. OH! Fuck! Just looked at Allmusic to check the date on this one and they define his vocals as gritty too! “Dock of the Bay” has always been one of the most moving songs I've ever heard and you know what, it skips! Great. I bought it specifically for that song and it skips! Figures.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jay Reatard - Matador Singles '08

Jay Reatard – Matador Singles '08
Matador, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $12

I've been debating selling this, since I own the first four singles that comprise this compilation. Honestly, the only reason I bought this was to have “No Time,” which is an amazing tune and the whole Jay Reatard 7” craze was well underway and as a means of creating hype Matador pressed fewer and fewer 7”s, that people camped out for and then sold for five times the value. Bullshit if you ask me. Kelly at Love Garden told me all about that and then how this was coming out, and then I quit caring about getting the singles. Then I bought this for some reason even though the only good song I don't have on it is “No Time.” I guess there might be a couple that are pretty good, but that one is amazing. Unlike the rest of the songs, which sound the exact same with the exception of having really excellent melodies, it's really sad and surprisingly pretty. It sounds like a perfect B-Side or something. 2009 has been the year of me not giving a shit about Jay Reatard. I like a few of these songs still, but for the most part it all sounds the fucking same, and not in that good Ramones way. Maybe I'm being influenced by his new LP, which is pretty boring. This is way better than that, and tunes like “See/Saw,” “Always Wanting More,” “An Ugly Death,” and of course “No Time” are absolutely fantastic, but really that's all I need. “Screaming Hand,” “Painted Shut,” “You Mean Nothing to Me,” and most of the rest are a snooze. “You Were Sleeping” and “I'm Watching You” are promising, and the cover of Deerhunter's “Flourescent Grey” is pretty good, although Deerhunter has become pretty boring to me lately as well. I can't decide whether or not to put this on the “sell these” pile or not. Because honestly, when am I ever going to listen to this again? It may seem kind of shallow, but another reason I wanna get rid of this is due to the twitter post he put up after his band quit on him, probably for good reason because he came off as a fucking asshole. That and this kind of represents the fetishizing of music. Maybe it was all Matador's idea, but it was a stupid one.

The Ramones - Road to Ruin

The Ramones – Road To Ruin
Sire, 1978
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

It just wouldn't be a proper record collection without some Ramones. I always have my eyes peeled, and this was the first one I saw for a reasonable price. My interest was particularly piqued because I never really spent that much time with this one in my initial punk rock days. It's their fourth album and the only thing that has really changed is that the production is better and there's more of a variance in tempo. Opener “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do” is fucking EPIC, and I never thought I'd ever say that the Ramones were epic. It's like what pop music should sound like, you know? It's huge, but this hugeness is warranted because the melody is excellent. The question is this: Why the FUCK don't I own the first three Ramones records/What is my fucking problem? Not only would I listen to them, but they're something I want my kids to find someday.
“What's this daddy?”
“Oh, sit right back young lassie and I'll tell you a tale,” I'll say, a la the Love Garden promo on KJHK. It will be a glorious day. I mean, I won't be one of those asshole parents who dresses their kid up like a punk rocker, giving the little fellow a mohawk before he can even sing along to even the most rudimentary Ramones jams. But still, I secretly want them to be ingrained with great taste from an early age. I have this fantasy about my kids being music snobs, or at least one of them, and ME not understanding modern music and Animal Collective sounding “Safe” and Radiohead being like Phil Collins. Yet the Ramones will always be timeless, that's their schtick. Road To Ruin will always sound good, even if you're listening to it 100 years from now. One of the coolest things about this record is that it came out only two years after their self-titled debut and it's so different. Well, in the way that a Ramones record can be considered different from another since their other schtick is that they always sound like the Ramones. I mean, how punk rock is it to have Joey Ramone croon a Sonny Bono song over a girl group beat? It's fucking punk rock as hell! In a time where everything is kind of fucked, “I Wanna Be Sedated” resonates with me like it never has before. It feels way more apt for this than any of the TV shows or teen movies it gets dumped into. It's really weird how the Ramones are the touchstone for like, being “Edgy.” I mean that in the sense of television and fashion and movies. You know, like, some movie star wearing a Ramones shirt. Suddenly they're all edgy, and I think it's really stupid. Like, some Ramones shirt they ripped the sleeves off of to be even MORE edgy and I bet they couldn't even know a single song outside of “Blitzkrieg Bop” or “I Wanna be Sedated.” Somehow, these ugly dudes became fashion icons. Go figure.

Radiohead - In Rainbows

Radiohead – In Rainbows
TBD, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $20

While I've never been much of a Radiohead geek, I felt compelled to buy this. You know why? The beautiful cover art. I was like “This is what a record should look like, and I need to have this in my collection.” I hadn't listened In Rainbows much before buying it, and figured I would do all that listening on vinyl. I never did. Mostly because I'm pretty sure I bought this because I figured some day it would be worth some money. At the same time, I still give this some play every now and then because I think it's a pretty damn fine record. This record is often overshadowed by its genius distribution model, in which Radiohead leaked the album themselves. Maybe because the record isn't as great as everyone says it is. Yeah, it's their record most akin to OK Computer but at the end of the day I just think it's really, really good. Not great, even. It sounds like Radiohead being Radiohead and the highlights for me are the quieter moments. Like “All I Need” and “Nude” (itself a byproduct of the OK Computer era). Overall though I feel like there's too much seriousness for me to ever feel attached to Radiohead. They're this juggernaut of authenticity, this beacon of “this is good music,” and I always just get the feeling that Thom Yorke is a total asshole every time I read or see an interview with him. But those are all personal reasons. I tend to have a time with music that takes itself too seriously. I guess I just feel that sometimes critics can be yesmen. Or they can be deliberate party poopers. But with Radiohead, no one really dares criticize. It's always universal acclaim, you know. And maybe it's because they really are the best band in the world. Or maybe it's just because everyone THINKS they're the best band in the world. That they're the new Beatles. And they ARE the new Beatles because what other band has gone through such stylistic changes in their run and still churned out mighty fine records? And now it's coming across like I don't even enjoy this record but I do! It's on and I didn't even turn it off when Jenny started complaining about how she hates Radiohead! It's a beautiful record, and maybe even a great one, I'm just not sure yet.

Look! Topical!

End of P


Next up is R because I don't have any Queen records. I would really like to own Quasi's R&B Transmogrification or Featuring:Birds, but I don't. P renewed my love for Palace Music and Portastatic and made me realize that I fucking hate the Police. I realize now, though, that every girl I've seriously dated has liked the Police. This is interesting to me. I ate the rest of that candy from the last "End of" post and I still feel ill. Jenny saw this and we had this conversation:

"You don't know I like the Police."
"Of course you do."
"No, you don't."
"Yes you do."
"I like Sting" *Starts singing "Every Breath You Take"*
"That's the Police."
"No it isn't."
"Yes, it is." *Gets up, grabs Synchronicity from the "get rid of" stack and puts the song on*
*Jenny sings along to it*

Portastatic - Slow Note From a Sinking Ship

Portastatic – Slow Note From a Sinking Ship
Merge, 1995
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $5

Though generally quieter than Supechunk, Mac hits some pretty awesome upbeat Superchunk-esque moments here. “San Andreas” is a total jam that I first heard on the Some Small History comp that came out last year, and it's good to have it here on vinyl. It's not the best Portastatic record, but it's good nonetheless. It's a little forgettable, and I think that's why there were like 8 copies at Love Garden before they moved. Oh, “Skinny Glasses Girl” rules too, also first heard on Some Small History. Basically, I have a serious Mac MacCaughan crush. I want to be him, I want to write songs like him and and sing all those great deadpan melodies. Like, “In the Manner of Anne Frank” is such a perfect, quiet indie-pop song straight outta the bedroom, dubbed to a four track. There's something beautiful about that.

Also: Young Mac + mid-90s + Videotape = Video for "San Andreas." It is amazing.

The Police - Synchronicity

The Police – Synchronicity
A&M, 1983
Acquired: My Parents' Basement, Used, 2005
Price: $0

I don't know why I have this in my collection proper. This copy belonged to my parents, which means it cracks and skips throughout and given that I haven't ever really liked anything Sting has ever been a part of (I tend to hate bands that have members with idiotic names. I also despise U2 doubly, for both Bono and the absolutely un-understandable The Edge. Who the fuck names themselves The Edge. Does he know how stupid that is?). I honestly do not give a fuck about this record. Not one single fuck. I think it is corny and I don't want to have anything to do with it and will put it aside with the records destined for the dustbin. As Ice Cube once said, wisely, in a rare bit of music criticism during his time with N.W.A., “Fuck the Police.” I don't really even have any critical comments about this record, I just hate listening to it and it makes me immediately want to listen to something else.

The Plimsouls - Everywhere at Once

The Plimsouls – Everywhere at Once
Geffen, 1983
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

The Plimsouls are Peter Case's post Nerves band and they're not nearly as good as the Nerves. They're a little more dated, a little bit too 80s, where the Nerves are kind of timeless. It very much has that new wave vibe that was kind of like a plague. Everyone was doing it. It's like how now everyone sings like that guy from Nickelback who in turn sings like that guy from Creed. I'm keen to this band because of Justin Brown. I can't tell you how many bands I discovered while he and Cyrus were doing their 5 day freeform marathon on KJHK a couple years ago. It was amazing. I was helping Nate M. with a documentary about it, which reminds me that I need to mail him the tapes so he can edit it. I never did because the other guy we were working with was a total tool and I'm pretty sure he stole the first tape, which made starting the editing process really hard. Anyway, Justin and I would talk about music and he'd be like “You haven't heard the Plimsouls? Check this out.” The second side is better than the first and features their best known track “A Million Miles Away,” which was also featured on the excellent Valley Girl soundtrack. It's catchy and has almost a Replacements-esque Minneapolis sound tied with the kind of hooks that would be present throughout the late 80s. It also sounds like the Ataris ripped this song off A LOT on their major label debut, in particular their single “In this Diary.” I remember it vividly, soundtracking my junior year of high school, they totally copped this. It has a pretty awesome guitar solo in the middle of it, too. Nothing flashy, just a nice little break that transitions into an awesome little lead riff. I wish this was raw like the Nerves. It's a little polished for my taste. “I'll Get Lucky” comes close, but it's got this sheen on it in the drums and the guitar tones that makes it a little too mainstream sounding.

OK, this is pretty much the best thing I have ever found on youtube. Seriously, check this out!

Pixies - Doolittle

Pixies – Doolittle
4AD, 1989
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $10

Anyone who tells you they don't like this record is full of shit. Hell, anyone who says this is overrated is even more full of shit. Every song is a total fucking jam, and there's really not much more to say than that. It's a record everyone should own and pull out from time to time. Pixies in my book are the very essence of a band. Four people bringing what they have to the table. Though Black Francis is the bandleader, it sounds like a collaboration. Everyone shines on their own. Although, if it weren't for Kim Deal this record would fall apart. Her harmonies and bass lines are usually my favorite part of this record. “Hey” is my absolute favorite song to hear on KJHK to the point where, if I don't hear that song once every couple of weeks I start to worry. It kind of exemplifies college rock. Actually, all the hits on this record exemplify everything that is good about college rock, which is basically not really giving a fuck and writing amazing jams. “Debaser,” “Gouge Away,” “Tame,” “I Bleed,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Here Comes Your Man,” all of 'em. I was playing this while Jenny was vaccuming up all the dog hair in the living room and I would serenade her with “Wave of Mutilation” and she sang “Monkey Gone to Heaven” at top volume. It was a good time. Anyway, I'm usually not one for judgment, but if you don't like this record there is something wrong with you. Fun story, though. My dad saw part of the Pixies documentary on some TV station they have back home because they have super-cable, and he thought they were so cool. I think he liked the music, which is bizarre because he hates everything but classic rock, the Dixie Chicks, and Taylor Swift, but he thought that a band fronted by a fat dude and a "not great looking chick" could get popular was bizarre to him. I think he watched the whole thing, too. It was weird. But kind of cool. Man, this album kicks ass. I shouldn't neglect it like this. You know what's awesome? "Mr. Grieves." I heard someone say it sucked, and that TV on the Radio's acapella version was better, but I think they're equally rad. TV on the Radio's version is fucking insanely good. So good. But the Pixies version is just so insanely fun. Like jump around the room and kick shit over fun.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Capitol, 1975
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2007
Price: $2

I generally find Pink Floyd fans to be obnoxious. They tend to represent this fleet of young men who have just copied their dad's taste in music. It's an interesting phenomenon. They tend to smoke a lot of weed and usually can't tell me why they like Floyd beyond it being “fucking cool.” These young men also wear Led Zeppelin shirts and tend to look like they could be in the Marines. They also probably like the Beatles, Steely Dan, and the Eagles. I know I'm being judgmental, so I will say I like these dudes way better than the dudes listening to modern rock. The dudes who like Kings of Leon or whatever, fuck those guys, because at least Pink Floyd is fucking good. Yes, this is coming off as incredibly snobby, and I think my main problem is just casual music listening in general. Again, a very snobby view, but I have this wild notion that if people knew why they liked what they like, or at least gave a passing thought to it once and a while, music might get better. People could realize that modern rock is a load of bullshit and maybe radio would try harder. But then again, have people ever thought about why they like music? That's why pop music is so successful. You don't have to think about it. You hear a catchy melody and it gets stuck in your head and it sells records. It's just pleasant to listen to music. No one cares about Phil Spector developing the “wall of sound” technique or anything, it just sounds good. Anyway, I think this record is amazing. When I was in high school I had it on cassette tape and it was in my car stereo for a good couple of months until my dad came one day around Christmas while I was in class and had a CD player put in. After school, I was pissed because I couldn't listen to my Wish You Were Here cassette, and I went out and got it on CD. As an album, it's one of the more scathing critiques on the music industry, and I don't think casual fans know this. Or know that “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is about Syd Barrett's decline into drugs and departure from the band a few years before this was recorded. The guitars sound fucking sad as hell and the solos wail without being flashy. The synthesizers are actually rather refined for 1975. I mean, it sounds a little like the score for Blade Runner but the way it blends in with the guitars is really beautiful and surprisingly not cheesy or dated. However, the real reason this album is amazing is the title track. It's one of my favorite compositions of all time. Instantly memorable, sad as hell, and played with such passion. David Gilmour sounds absolutely fucking weary, and it's that sound of his voice that the whole record is supposed to feel like tonally. It's sort of the ultimate song for everyone you've ever lost in any sense of the word. The people who once inhabited your life and are have been phased out or simply vanished. Anyway, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9” seems to be where modern stoner rock came from, and I can't really think of any other bands off the top of my head who would cite Floyd as a direct influence. I'm sure there are myriad. Like Radiohead, that kind of epic scope, that brilliant ear for composition. The Mars Volta, obviously, but got pretty awful after their first record. Regardless, this is a gem.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Phosphorescent - Pride

Phosphorescent – Pride
Dead Oceans, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
Price: $14

Phosphorescent bandleader Matthew Houck is probably the nicest musician I ever met (he was super sweet to me when I asked for a station ID and seemed to really appreciate my liking his music). The first year I went to SXSW in 2008, I ended up seeing Phosphorescent three times or so. I saw them the first afternoon and then later that night when I went to see Shearwater. I had planned on missing Phosphorescent, as I'd seen them earlier (and seen them the week before in Lawrence), but I'm really, really glad I showed up when I did. They'd only just started, and were layign into “My Dove, My Lamb,” my absolute favorite song from Pride. I never thought I'd get to see them play it, because it's so long and all, but it was spectacular, all bathed in blue light at dusk. Perfect. They also played “Wolves” and “A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise,” which sounded even better than they do on the record. On top of that was a cover of Leonard Cohen's “Memories,” which absolutely broke my heart and I regret not buying Houck a beer after that. I listened to the original when I got back to Lawrence, and it was kind of schmaltzy. Their version though, fuck, I've spent the last two years trying to find a bootleg of it. I really think this record is a sort of masterpiece. I've been following them since midway through college when Chris C hipped me to Aw Come Aw Wry. In fact, when I saw them in Lawrence I shouted for “I Am a Full Grown Man” when they asked what we wanted to hear and they played it and it was amazing. They played it that night in Austin too, at the Mohawk, which may just be my favorite venue ever. BUT, this record rules. It came out on Dead Oceans records when I thought they were unfallible. They're still a really fucking excellent label and they've only put out a couple of bad records. This is a great one, though.

Pavement - Brighten the Corners

Pavement – Brighten the Corners
Matador, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $10

I always cited this as my favorite Pavement record because I was never a Pavement geek and this had the catchiest songs. Later on, after GBV had taught me to appreciate the tender ways of the lo-fi persuasion, I learned to love Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. I still think I might like this one the best though. I also realized that I have had this misfiled, and that it comes AFTER Wowee Zowee! I do not know how I overlooked this. Sonically it makes sense but HOW DID I OVERLOOK THIS. Ok, now that that is out of the way, this has so many jams on it. The one-two of “Stereo” and “Shady Lane” (which I had an obsession with for a good year and a half in the mid 00s). Then there's the one great song Spiral Stairs wrote, “Date W/ Ikea,” which yes, is an utter jam and a welcome reprieve from Malkmus. Not that I don't like Malkmus, that would be stupid. In fact, I'm wearing a Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks T-shirt as I type this, but yeah, I like that song. Ok. “Type Slowly” is great too, and that's really where this line gets drawn and I can't remember the rest of the record so maybe I don't like this one that much. I do, just yeah, I don't know. I'm not a Pavement nut. Tom K could tell you all about this record, and I like that. I just think it sounds nice, which actually might come off as kind of damnit. Not as adventurous as previous endeavors, but you know, it has “Shady Lane” on it which is one of the best songs ever so there...although with this listen, it does sound just a LITTLE slight. MAN I'm feeling disaffected tonight! Basically, this is a great record by anyone else's standards but since it's Pavement this has to seem a little SLIGHT because they're known for being great and you have to rank records by a particular great band so you know which ones to give to people when you're going to get them into a band. I'd probably just make a mix, although I'd pry tell someone to start with Crooked Rain just cuz it's considered their masterpiece and for good reason, cuz it balances the lo-fi with the hi-fi, etc. Anyway. It's not even considered a lesser work though, I don't think any of their records are. Maybe Terror Twilight, which I've never listened to, but just because it was last. It happens with every great band pretty much. Their last record is always not as great as anything else they put out, or maybe people just think that so it doesn't hurt so bad. At least it's better than Wowee Zowee!

Also, one of the best music videos ever:

Pavement - Wowee Zowee

Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Matador, 1995
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $12

Oh man! INDIE FUCKING ROCK. I don't know why I bought this. I must have had a lot of student loans, seems like something I would buy with $5000 in the bank. I don't know WHY I've ignored this record either, because I really like Pavement. I do dig the cool Steve Keene cover art, and the gatefold is pretty rad, featuring a piece of writing entitled “Dick-Sucking Fool at Pussy-Licking School.” According to Malkmus, this record is different or “more experimental” than Crooked Rain due to “excessive marijuana consumption.” I don't smoke weed regularly, or at all even, but I think that is pretty funny because I can't do anything when I'm high, much less write songs. I've tried. We used to smoke every once and a while during Kite Tails recording sessions but that usually meant the end of the recording and playing and just relaxing. Malkmus seems like the kind of guy who would write awesome shit while stoned. This record is pretty fucking rad. It's got “Rattled By the Rush” and “Grounded.” Boo and Boo Too used to cover “Grounded” but I don't think they'd ever play it again and if they did it probably wouldn't work. I think I saw the Dactyls cover it too, one time, and it was pretty rad, yet despite their best intentions, the Dactyls will always kind of seem like a Pavement tribute band. Enjoyable, sure, but every time I see them opening for some band I'm like “Oh yeah, Pavement Tribute band.” Local music aside, oh yeah, this record. It's cool, I guess. I don't know why I do these write ups at 4 AM when I'm drained, because I can't think of anything to say about this other than that “Grounded” is a monster jam and that there's a wizard on the back saying “Pavement is Rad.” I guess I'll just note the songs that are rad as I listen. “Serpentine Pad,” that song is fucking rad as hell, and is a nice follow up to the high they hit with “Grounded.” “Father to a Sister of Thought” was apparently a single, and it's compared to “Range Life” because of “alt-country” elements which basically means the way the guitar is strummed and the lap steel. It is nowhere near as engaging as “Range Life” and kind of boring. The second side was pretty forgettable except for “AT&T,” which was pretty good. Annoyingly, this is on 2XLP but only has three sides. Yeah, I know it's a reissue and all, but if it's a reissue shouldn't there be some B-sides tacked on that fourth side or something? I mean, c'mon! It's just dead wax and you could have probably just saved money by putting it all one one record without sacrificing too much in the sound quality. It's just gonna make moving all of my records that much harder. JEEZ Pavement and Matador, you should have thought of that! I think listening to the third side I know I'm probably not meant for Pavement superfandom. It's all good, I just don't feel like any of it demands my attention and none of it is making me say “fuck yes, this is great!”

Panda Bear - Person Pitch

Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Paw Tracks, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
Price: $18

This is the record of 2007. Not my favorite record, but the one people will remember 2007 for. It's just a fact, pretty much. And I don't know how I feel about that. Person Pitch spawned legions of copycats, and it made weeding through CDs at music staff kind of a pain because every other CD you were putting “RIYL: Panda Bear, Animal Collective.” I can't really fault Noah Lennox here though, it's not his fault. He made a really excellent, gorgeous, inventive album that was still basically a summertime pop record and everyone thought it was hot shit and wanted to be the next Panda Bear. I remember Drew from Baby Birds accosting me at some party because of the review I wrote of their latest record for KJ. In particular, he took offense to the fact that I slighted it because it sounded like a Person Pitch rip-off. I didn't even say it that way! I was nice about it, because I generally liked that record, but he got all upset and I told him that if he didn't want people to compare Baby Birds to Panda Bear they should stop sounding like Panda Bear. Every review I've read of that album namedrops Panda Bear, it's just how it goes. Anyway, it's everywhere. And now that Animal Collective have released thee album of 2009 (not just according to Pitchfork, but everyone, people are gaga for that thing and rightly so, it's damn good) they've cornered the music market of the late 00s. Everyone wants to have that sound collagey background noise, the tribal drum beats, the echoy vocals with the reverb and the bright guitar lines. Lately, the lo-fi garage revival thing and “glo-fi” have become thee It thing, but still bands insist on doing this Animal Collective/ Panda Bear thing. It's natural, I guess. I think I'm just jaded because I had to listen to so many copycats after this came out. Bitching aside, I love this record all around. I'm not obsessive about it, but I love hearing it when it's on or on the radio. I love the album art, I love the design, I love the package. I love that I was drawn to it at the record store, like I knew I had to have it on vinyl because that was the proper medium. Or something like that. I like that I have no desire to see Panda Bear (or Animal Collective for that matter) live, because I know it would be boring as fuck. And I don't need to see them live, the records are good enough. Sound documents of a time and a place. Best of all, two years later this album still feels ahead of its time. Oh, and because it's required. BRIAN WILSON, BEACH BOYS.

Palace Music - Arise Therefore

Palace Music – Arise Therefore
Drag City, 1996
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $9

I'd really like to know the percentage of records I own that Steve Albini has produced or mixed or engineered. I bet it's something like 5%. I feel like I end up mentioning his name a lot in these write-ups. Anyway, he's pretty versatile. Sure, he can do noise rock like nobody's business but as we've seen with Joanna Newsom's Ys he can do the serene shit too. This record sounds fucking fantastic, and I really haven't ever listened to it. That makes me a dumbass, because this is one of the best Will Oldham records I've heard. It's got “A Sucker's Evening,” which is referenced in Jeffrey Lewis' “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.” The reference is something like “Even though he did hold my hands and fuck me like Will sings on 'A Sucker's Evening.'” The corresponding line is: “Make a noise, crack a glass/ I'll hold his arms, you fuck him/ Fuck him with something/ The fuck—he deserves it.” There's something really twisted and kind of funny about that. Fucking the fuck, etc. It's a weird song, kind of creepy with the looping guitar bit playing in the background with little else. The title track is one of my favorite Oldham songs I've ever heard. It's got the same looping guitar lilt as “A Sucker's Evening” but it's much more uplifting, less dark and creepy, brighter. Like the kind of brightness he wouldn't really get to again until Lie Down in the Light. Well, just that song. The rest is pretty somber, but ultimately lovely despite featuring some of his weirdest lyrics. Maybe not weird, but creepy. I mean, one of the songs is titled “You Have Cum in Your Hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out.” The record features piano/organ work by Squirrel Bait/Gastr Del Sol's David Grubbs, which is pretty rad. Well, I just think it's rad because I really like band family trees. How Oldham is tied to the Squirrel Bait/Slint boys because they're both from Louisville and how Oldham took the cover photograph for Spiderland etc, etc. Geek shit. I keep saying over and over “This record is so good” and Jenny, who is a much bigger Will Oldham fan than I, agrees. Man, this record IS fucking good. No frills or strings or hidden fees, just some straight up Oldham playin' the creepy uncle who sings the most beautiful songs. Just reading the thank you list is enough to prove this record is legit. It features David Berman, Bill Callahan, and David Pajo to name a few. Good company.

Here's the Jeff Lewis video. It's great.

Palace Music - Viva Last Blues

Palace Music – Viva Last Blues
Drag City, 1995
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $6

“If I could fuck a mountain/ Lord I would fuck a mountain,” Oldham sings on “The Mountain Low.” Hell yes. That was my introduction to Will Oldham. Viva Last Blues showed up even before I See A Darkness or any of the other Bonnie “Prince” Billy albums. I got it in the dorms freshman year, and this song was always a favorite of mine. There's lots of talk of fucking things on this record. Death, mountains, men, women, who knows. They all gets fucked. Though this record is best known for the sublime “New Partner,” my favorite song (tied with “The Mountain Low”) is “Work Hard/Play Hard,” the Neil Young-esque rocker. Actually, listening to “New Partner” again is making me think that's the monster jam here. Oldham rarely ever lets himself be that fragile. Usually he's too busy bein' weird. I'm sorry I mention Oldham's weirdness so much, but I think it's just what I think when I see a picture of him in red long johns or the occasional creepy smile. He's mellowed in the past few years, and I like his sense of humor but ultimately if you sing about fucking mountains, you have to admit your are a little weird. I say the same thing about Drakkar Sauna. They're weird, there's no way around it, but they're fucking great. BUT IN A GOOD WAY. Anyway, people love this album apparently. It's pretty good, pretty damn fine. I like Arise Therefore better though.

Please watch this. It's self-explanatory. Just watch it, and your life will become much better:

Palace Brothers - There is No One What Will Take Care Of You

Palace Brothers – There is No One What Will Take Care of You
Drag City, 1993
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $7

It is amazing how many Will Oldham records I own. I have like, 7 of them and I don't even really listen to Will Oldham that much. Regardless, they're all pretty fucking good and deserve more play. This is his first, released under the Palace Brothers moniker. This is a little more ramshackle than most Oldham records, and though produced by Steve Albini, it sounds a little off. Regardless, it's still pretty fucking good. It's got some pretty excellent jams on it, too. Such as “Idle Hands are the Devil's Playthings” and “(I Was Drunk at the) Pulpit.” He's from Kentucky, so the Appalachian Folk thing comes pretty naturally, but Oldham's always done an excellent job of running it through his own filter. He's always been a folk singer, but on his own terms. His own, weirdass terms. This record definitely has some Woody Guthrie in it, though, which is absent from the rest of his releases (Peep “Pulpit”). He sounds raw here, yet ready to become the creepy uncle of indie rock.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

End of O


I really feel like I could write some sort of critical analysis on Okkervil River, but it would take too much time. Writing those entries even got to be a pain in the ass because I just want to gab and gab and gab and then go off topic. Anyway, we have a lull until RST, which will be insane. Excited for a lot of stuff coming up! A couple of Palace/Palace Brothers records I never listened to, so there's that. Halloween is getting closer and Jenny and I have our fingers crossed that we'll get trick or treaters so I can not only have my Misfits record playing the whole time, but to also indulge in dad-like activities. Other activities I've been partaking in that are very dad-like are taking the dog on long walks, cooking meals that are very simple and hearty, preparing myself to yearn for the days when it's dad's turn to cook because his food is so bomb ass. Not like Jenny's pregnant or anything like that, but sine I've moved to the southern side of Tennessee to this quiet little neighborhood with lovely trees and fewer parties, I've been feeling more like a grown up. Other things that make me feel grown up are trying to figure out how to pay the rent, going to the grocery store and buying things that are not junk, and making coffee with the french press thing because it's more fun despite being incredibly wasteful.

I've been listening to the Dark Was the Night compilation from earlier this year and it is really, really good and eclectic. I'm half tempted to pick it up if this library job thing pans out (although the way my life works, I probably can't even get a job that I've already held and know EXACTLY how to do and am very efficient at). After I pay the rent, of course. It's a little hit or miss, but it's got some really incredible jams on it. The Bon Iver track, "Brackett, WI," could possibly be amongst my top 2 favorite Bon Iver tunes. The National's "So Far Around the Bend" is also fantastic, as is Bryce Dessner's collaboration w/ Antony, "I Was Young When I Left Home." I even like the Kevin Drew track "Love vs. Porn" and I absolutely hated his solo record and have a hard time understanding why people are gaga over Broken Social Scene. On the other hand, the Spoon track is godawful, the Sufjan Stevens song is overlong and borders on unlistenable (ok, that might be a little drastic). The Buck 65 song that uses the Sufjan backing track is also lame and if they wanted a token rapper, they shoulda got someone rad like Cadence Weapon or Busdriver (although this might just be my opinion that the amount of white rappers getting popular indicates another genre takeover ala Rock N Roll). The Grizzly Bear track is pretty good, but pretty boring, but I've been having a hard time with them lately, given that I feel like Veckatimest has been overrated because all the people giving it the most glowing reviews contributed to the hype surrounding it. BUT, it's mostly pretty great. The Decemberists song is the best thing they've done in a long time, and the new stuff from Yeasayer and Yo La Tengo sounds damn good. Not to mention the Dirty Projectors/David Byrne collaboration, which is also rad.

Last thing, back to Halloween, my mom gave me a big bucket of candy when I went home for dinner on Sunday (partly to get out of Lawrence, mostly because I am still a little boy). Geez mom. You know what happened? I ate half the bucket already. As if I weren't feeling enough like a fatty, there are scattered wrappers everywhere. It's all my favorite candy, too, which is how she traps me. Mike and Ikes, Starbursts, Skittles, York Peppermint Patties, and flavored Tootsie Rolls. It's pure evil. Although the York Peppermint Patties have ORANGE filling and are shaped like pumpkins, which is rad.

Oh goddamnit. You know what happened? As I was taking this I realized I had another Kit Kat left. I THOUGHT I HAD EATEN IT, so guess what i'm doing right now. Yep, just ate it. So good. They're orange too! Anyway, Halloween makes me act like a fat kid and hopefully this Halloween I'll get to be not only a fat kid, but a drunk kid too. I basically quit drinking a month or two ago, first as a means of saving money then later as a means of not continuing down a path towards alcoholism and not ingesting all those calories, etc. And it's been part of my "Ian be a fucking adult" program, but man, Halloween, gonna cut loose! Hopefully...just need a good costume. Really wanna be Sherman from Peabody & Sherman but afraid it'll be too cold. Jenny's gonna be an owl, I think. I wanna be the boy from the Tootsie Pop commercial but he's so non-descript! Let me know if you think of anything that compliments on owl

Jim O'Rourke - Eureka

Jim O'Rourke – Eureka
Drag City, 1999
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $8

I love this record just as much as Bad Timing. Somehow, I've only now noticed that there was a poster hidden in the sleeve! It features a young boy, standing bareass naked in a field before a pair of numchucks, a red bicycle, and the upper half of Bruce Lee in the clouds. It's pretty insane looking. I love it. I love the art for this one too. It features a fat, balding cartoon man fellating himself with a stuffed bunny. Wilco's Glenn Kotchke (though this was before he joined Wilco) plays drums on this record, and he's a pretty excellent drummer so all the percussion here is way good. Unlike Bad Timing, Eureka is much more song oriented. That is, there are 8 tracks instead of 4 and most of them have vocals. Musically, though, it's not that much different from Bad Timing. There's lots of minimalistic guitar fingerpicking stuff, but the tunes are more melody based. It tapers off a little at the end but for the most part it's a super solid listen and a record that tends to get a lot of play when I want something that's good but not going to be too distracting. That's a compliment, by the way.

Jim O'Rourke - Bad Timing

Jim O'Rourke – Bad Timing
Drag City, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $9

Two acoustic guitar-based instrumental records in a row! This one, however, is one of my most-played. I don't know why, but once I bought this I ended up listening to it every night before bed. I guess because it's really relaxing. At the same time, what O'Rourke (of mixing other people's records, Sonic Youth, and making Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot totally rad fame) is doing here is deceptively experimental. This doesn't really sound like anything else. There are four tracks and they're all about ten minutes long, and they never seem to get old. I'll listen to this record over and over because it not only helps me concentrate on stuff (I listened to it persistently when I needed to do homework) but it's just plain fucking good. My interest was first piqued when I read that Jeff Tweedy would listen to this constantly while driving around and smoking cigarettes on little breaks from recording YHF. I didn't know what to expect from this, given that O'Rourke is known for being a fucking weirdo. With his music, that is. I mean, I got a CD at KJ as assistant Music Director that featured him with Carlos Giffoni and Merzbow and it was a really abrasive hour long noise track. And then there's this. It's serene and organic. It builds and ebbs and flows. It seems like this is O'Rourke showing everyone that he's not only a fantastic guitarist, but that he can make more traditional music in addition to his experimental stuff. His latest record, The Visitor, is like a return to Bad Timing. It's one long 40 minute track and it's mostly based around acoustic guitar. And it's really good. Go figure.

Will Oldham - Ode Music

Will Oldham – Ode Music
Drag City, 2000
Acquired: Lawrence Antique Mall, Used, 2007
Price: $5

This is Oldham's soundtrack to Kelly Reichardt's film Ode. Kelly Reichardt is pretty awesome. She's responsible for the quiet, yet excellent Old Joy, which stars Oldham, and more recently Wendy and Lucy, which was one of my favorite films of 2008. So good. She's great, and has her own style. Very quiet, very meditative, very beautiful. Yeah. These are all acoustic instrumentals and they're great for background music. Another cool thing about this record is that the cover was painted by film director Todd Haynes, who has done such rad shit as Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, and I'm Not There. Basically, this record has a lot of rad stuff going for it. The back even has a little note that says “All instrumental or 'silent' music,” which is kind of funny. The songs are all repetitive, but not in a bad way. It's actually quite relaxing. It feels like film music!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
Jagjaguar, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $14

I think I like this one as much as The Stage Names now. At first I thought the songs were a little non-descript but then they grew on me. Really, this record is all about the lyrical themes that Sheff brought up on The Stage Names, and how Sheff explores these and actually writes some better songs. Lyrically, “On Tour With Zykos” is one of his best songs ever. It's a story told from a groupie's point of view, her life, her job, the boring shit she does unless some touring band is in town, and it creates a sympathetic character of her. She's attractive, constantly getting hit on by guys but can't make a real connection with anyone in her town. She might connect with the guys in the bands, but they've gotta hit the road the next morning so it doesn't matter. She resigns herself to staying in, smoking pot and watching TV movies. They tell her she matters but she knows they don't mean it. “Starry Stairs” is the second song Sheff has written about porn star Savannah and it's so much better than the maudlin “Savannah Says.” It's actually one of my favorite songs on the record. Originally released as a B-side for The Stage Names, here they add sleighbells and make it sort of a Christmas song. It's quite like “On Tour with Zykos,” in that it's about a woman who gets attention from dudes but it's always the wrong kind of attention. The attention she gets isn't for her, but her persona, and ultimately it's about her balancing the two until she can't. The end of her story, which isn't in the song, is that she's in a car accident and her face is ruined. Instead of calling for help she commits suicide, as her persona has become who she is. It's like a greek myth...with porn. There are more characters here. “Lost Coastlines” feels like a send off for Jonathan Meiburg, who announced he was leaving the band after this record to focus on Shearwater. It's a duet between he and Sheff and it's fantastic. “Singer Songwriter” is the song I always wanted to hear about how these seemingly boring songwriters are able to record records. The answer: They've got rich parents. “And you're quick to betray with one well-turned-out wave of your hand, that you come from wealth,” he sings. We've seen it all before. Again, it's a song about constructing a persona. This guy can have whatever he wants and he wants to be a singer songwriter so ok, he can do that. He can act the part. He can buy the right records and buy the right books, he can make himself cool because he can afford to construct himself as someone who is cool. It's about people who are really fucking pretentious, basically, without having anything to be pretentious about. The songs here are more subtle, melody wise, but the writing is better.

One of the promotional tools for this record was the band getting their friends (from other bands) to cover songs on The Stand Ins, effectively standing in for the band and making everything oh so meta. Lawrencian Jordan Geiger (of Hospital Ships/ Minus Story) does a version of "Bruce Wayne Campbell," the last song on the record. I like to think that Sheff and Geiger first met that time I saw Minus Story open for Okkervil River in 2003. Geiger later sang on their song "A Favor" from the Sleep to Wake Up Songs EP. So this is cool.

Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Okkervil River – The Stage Names
Jagjaguar, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
Price: $14

If Black Sheep Boy is where Okkervil River figured out the perfect formula for their music, The Stage Names is where they perfect it. This is a masterpiece. Will Sheff's songwriting is at its absolute best, the melodies are catchier, the textures richer, etc. Everything is improved. On top of that, it's loaded with pop culture and music references (which I love). Just look at “Plus Ones.” In anyone else's hands this might come off as hokey or perhaps snooty. Perhaps “look at how clever I am, I took a bunch of songs with numbers in the titles and added one.” It never seems like that, it feels really heartfelt, and it's at the same time amusing and very affecting. Like John Darnielle, Sheff is a master in the art of the story song. The songs here often focus on specific characters. Dudes in bands, poets, and porn stars. Whatever it may be, he's got a knack for writing from someone else's perspective. Actually, what I just said is a trait for any decent writer. He's someone who will probably end up publishing a novel or something, and I will gladly read it because he's excellent. Easily one of my top 5 favorite songwriters. This isn't a perfect record, not like Black Sheep Boy was, but it's a better record, if that makes any sense. The only flaw I find is “Savannah Smiles,” which is pretty much a drag and has never grown on me and I wish they'd replaced it with say, “On Tour With Zykos,” which was later released on The Stand Ins. That song achieves the really quiet sadness just right, where as “Savannah Smiles” is a song I usually skip. It's sappy, maudlin, and yeah, a drag mostly. But the rest of the songs make up for it and then some. It's emotionally devastating, powerful enough to make one weak at the knees. Where Black Sheep Boy stewed in misery, The Stage Names is rather defiant. The songs are almost always jaunty and upbeat and tend to occasionally kick a little ass in a classic rock and roll style. And when Sheff & Co. bring it down a notch, on tunes like “A Girl in Port” and “Title Track,” they totally kill it, bringing out the most powerful stuff of the record (with the exception of “Savannah Smiles”). I can't really tell if Okkervil River has plateaued yet. I keep thinking they have and they keep putting out better records.

Here's the really good video for "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe."

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy

Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
Jagjaguar, 2005
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
Price: $14

This is another super important record for the year of 2008. Like Dear You and The Meadowlands, this record was used to sum up my life to the moment, most importantly the misery. Will Sheff based the album around a Tim Hardin song of the same name, and creates a character out of the black sheep boy. I never really pieced together the whole story, just the sad parts. However, this is pretty much a perfecta album. Every song works and on top of that, every song is excellent. It's completely cohesive and represents another step forward for Okkervil River. I think this is where they really plateau. It's peppered with a couple of jaunty, upbeat rockers (“Black,” “The Latest Toughs,” the title track) which are just enough to balance the slow sad songs. These, along with the high points of “For Real” and “So Come Back, I am Waiting” are where the ever bottled up Sheff lets loose. He has great restraint over his voice on the slower songs but when he finally gets to let loose, it's something of an emotional triumph. If you can call that kind of pain and misery a triumph. I remember seeing Okkervil River at the Jackpot when they were touring in support of this record and noticed Sheff walking around the venue on his cell phone for a good thirty minutes before they were to go on. When he got up on stage he announced that the woman he loved had just told him she never wanted to see him again and proceeded to bleed on stage. Well, pretty much. It was an amazing show, the best time I've ever seen them. Actually, that's a lie. Second best. The best was at SXSW 2008 with them playing to 500-1000 people at Stubbs, their last show with guitarist Brian Cassidy. That one was intense. But anyway, I've listened to this record a bunch of times, more than most records in my collection. I'd put side-two on before bed a lot, waiting for the three songs at the very end of the record that make up one of the saddest collections of songs I've ever heard. “Song of our So-Called Friend” laments, “So Come Back, I am Waiting” spills everything on the floor and pleads for someone to come back home, “A Glow” is a conclusion finally reached after years of pain. Etc. It's a record full of pain, and basically it's perfect if you're feeling miserable.

Okkervil River - Down the River of Golden Dreams

Okkervil River – Down the River of Golden Dreams
Jagjaguar, 2003
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $12

Another step towards Okkervil River finding their sound. The second album improves on the first by dropping the mandolin and focusing on being a literary indie-rock band. Basically. “The War Criminal Rises to Speak” is not only one of the best songs on this record, but it's the next step in Sheff's songwriting process. It correlates with the narrative structure of “Westfall,” this time focusing on a newspaper article about a lieutenant in some foreign army that killed a village of kids. Sheff then ponders this and finds a way to humanize the villain. Not in a way that like, shines a positive light on him, but looking at him as a human being, etc. Black Sheep Boy is haunted by killers, and The Stage Names and The Stand Ins do nothing but focus on characters. Maybe that's what I mean: Will Sheff is amazing at writing songs about characters, that's his thing, and he does it better than anyone writing songs right now. As for the record as a whole, it has better songs, the band has started to figure itself out, and it's an overall more satisfying listen. “It Ends With a Fall,” “The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion,” “Dead Faces,” “Maine Island Lovers” (which is pretty slow but lyrically is pretty excellent) and “Seas Too Far to Reach.” Oops, spoke too soon. The mandolin shows up again on the forgettable “Yellow.” But overall, this one is a winner. Not an amazing album, but it's got some amazing songs.

Okkervil River - Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See

Okkervil River – Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See
Jagjaguar, 2002
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $12

Okkervil River's first album. And it's pretty fucking good and totally makes sense that they would refine their self and put out a couple of masterpieces later in the decade. Actually, not a couple, a few. This band just keeps getting better, and this got them off to a great start. It was also the first Okkervil River record I heard. I saw them open for John Vanderslice at the Bottleneck in 2003 with my sister. The show took forever cuz Minus Story took forever to set-up, but it was worth it. Okkervil River played to basically no one and Will Sheff was going crazy, standing on the bass drum, almost falling off it, etc. I downloaded this record and the one they were touring in support of, Down the River of Golden Dreams, when I got home. It's got some pretty immediate stand outs. Opener “Red” is still one of my favorite songs of theirs and “Kansas City” I love for obvious reasons. Upon recent listens I've paid more attention to the lyrics. “Westfall” is pretty amazing and foreshadows the narrative structure of a couple of songs on Down the River. This record is actually pretty ambitious. They get Daniel Johnston to sing on “Happy Hearts,” however the song suffers a little bit. I always wondered why he was singing so funny. The B-Side kind of falls apart. “Dead Dog Song” is a mandolin-heavy attempt at a sort of old folkie stomp, however, “Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas” is a gem. Overall it's an incredibly solid debut.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Polyvinyl, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $12

This is a sonic return to Satanic Panic in the Attic and treads on uncharted thematic territory for Of Montreal. That is, this record is fucking depressing. It's also my favorite record Kevin Barnes has produced. The single “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” sums up this record pretty well: It captures the pop-concept perfectly, that is, singing misery over upbeat melodies and bright arrangements. I could probably write an essay about this record. There are so many things going on. It is a concept album not just about a divorce, but about Kevin Barnes transformation into the mythical sex-funk trannie singer Georgie Fruit. The transition happens after “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” in which having purged all of this information he has a mental breakdown of sorts as a coping mechanism. Or that's how I read it. How could he not. “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” the 12 minute centerpiece of Hissing Fauna is one of the rawest things I've ever heard, emotion spewing wise. It's an ultimate break-up song of sorts. The double LP actually includes the Icons, Abstract Thee EP on the fourth side, which is allegedly 4 songs that precede “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” but were cut for the sake of the album's flow. This is a good thing, because the sequencing on this record is fucking jawdropping. The flow, especially on the second half of the record, is constructed like one long piece featuring a series of movements. The last four songs are strung together, the most potent pairing being the insanely catchy single “She's a Rejecter” with the catharsis of “We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling.” It's as if Georgie Fruit is subdued (perhaps do to a chemical reaction hinted at in “Heimdalsgate”) and Kevin Barnes is commenting on “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” seeing the brighter side of things...kind of. “Sometimes we're not legible/ But we're the same strange animal,” Barnes sings. He follows that in the next verse with “We won't let it end in disaster/ You are my twin, no I will never go there,” referencing The Sunlandic Twins (as the Sunlandic Twins are Kevin and his wife Nina, I guess). Man, this is a hard record to write about. So much is going on and this record is so important to me. One of my ultimate, go-to records for heartache. I think the reason Barnes cut the 4 songs on the 4th side is because they're too happy. It throws off the record. “Du Og Meg” is a love song that tells of he and his wife's first meeting. Their meeting is also mentioned in “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” (“I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met/ Who could appreciate George Bataille/ Standing at a Swedish festival/ Discussing “Story of the Eye”), but this version, with this triumphant horns, is just too fucking happy. “No Conclusion,” however, is a fuckin' downer. It's the pit of hopelessness. It doesn't work quite as well as “Grotesque Animal,” but it's full of good sad-bastardy lines like “I'm allergic to the world when we're separated” and “I never, ever, ever wanted to write this song/ I always thought things would change somehow.” It's pretty good, actually, and sad as hell. Imagine “Grotesque Animal” but about suicidal thoughts (turning to meta-suicidal thoughts) in traditional upbeat Of Montreal style. OK. Done writing about this.


And because I'm a glutton for punishment. Although turning it into an emo song isn't THAT farfetched: