Monday, February 22, 2010

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
Rough Trade, 1980 (Domino Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
Price: $18

I am always amazed that this came out in 1980, because it still sounds so goddamned fresh. Maybe that's the way of timeless things. This record turned THIRTY this month. THIRTY YEARS OLD! And it's still one of the most unique records out there. Bass, clicks/whistles, scattered guitars, gnarly synths, borderline corny drum machine beats from the Moxham brothers and the lovely, unadorned vocals of Alison Statton. It's amazing how a record so sparse can sound so epic. And poppy, too! Melodies on “Include Me Out” and “Eating Noddemix” get lodged in your brain. Honestly, I feel like there are a million bands out there trying to do this and you know what, no one can. Not at all. Lawrence's own Fortuning had a very VERY clear Young Marble Giants jones, and though they soldiered on with the noblest of efforts, they underestimated that you need to have someone with a decent voice if you're going to pull off this spare new wavey pop stuff. Alison Statton doesn't sound classically trained by any means, but there's a big difference between not being a “real” singer and being tone deaf. Maybe that's the big irony, that all the great singers in the world aren't real singers, but since that is true, real singers are now people who don't spend hours learning octaves or whatever. What's that Silver Jews line, “All my favorite singers couldn't sing.” Anyway, off track, this is a masterpiece if only because no one has been able to replicate this sound but many have tried and Young Marble Giants are still influencing the pants off of countless young bands.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
Matador, 2006
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2006
Price: $20

Despite coming out four years ago, this record looks, feels, and sounds like something from Yo La Tengo's heyday in the mid 90s. Or maybe their heyday never ended and it's an ongoing process. Last year's Popular Songs proved this. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, which is maybe one of the best album titles ever, starts with a repetitive, krauty 10 minute jam that recalls a band of twentysomethings, not fortysomethings. I guess if you're young at heart, right? Anyway, I often think this record is way too long but all of the songs are good so I can't gripe too much. It's got the badass noise-rock jams, goofy perfect pop like “Beanbag Chair” and just plain goofy like “Mr. Tough” yet these songs are infinitly listenable. There's the sweet sensitive stuff, like the gorgeous “Black Flowers” and classic sad stuff like the Georgia sung “I Feel Like Going Home.” There's sexy jams like “The Room Got Heavy” and well, that's the first half of the album. The second half is where I kind of stop paying attention, but I think I'll just leave the second disc on the turntable for a while and listen to it until the record gets rounded out. Same thing happened with Wilco's Being There, in which the second disco worked its way into my heart a good couple of years after the first blew my mind. But yeah, there's so much going on here and so much diversity that it's hard to call this anything but real fuckin' good.

Cool acoustic vid of "Pass the Hatchet I Think I'm Goodkind"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

Yo La Tengo – And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Matador, 2000
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2006
Price: $20

On any given day this is my favorite Yo La Tengo album. 13 years after the primordial New Wave Hot Dogs, this finds the band becoming even more comfortable with themselves. In a world where hype is king and the bands you love start sucking on a prety constant basis, Yo La Tengo is, well, a constant. I really don't think they've put out a bad record. I mean, Summer Sun wasn't that well received but I think it's great (“Season of the Shark” and “Little Eyes” totally sell that thing though). This isn't as noisy or upbeat-summertime-pop as I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One but the subtlties, the gorgeous downbeat nature of it all. If I had to peg it, this is my #1 record to listen to on summer nights. Notably, long drives on summer nights.

I mean, there's just such a transcendent beauty to all of this. Tracks like “Our Way to Fall” and “Last Days of Disco” recall nostalgia but also a sense of serenity. The percussion is airy, the guitars sort of floating in space. The songs drift along and the record is a tonal masterpiece. One that is throughly consistent. Well, consistent in the way it moves. That's not to say that all the songs are these slow, gorgeous ballads. There's their cover of “You Can Have it All,” which is pretty much destined for any mixtape ever, and the one standout noise-rock jam on the record, the sublime “Cherry Chapstick.” Ung, every fucking song on this record is so fucking good I don't even know how to express the wonderful feelings I get listening to this record. “Tears are in Your Eyes” is on right now and I'm thinking this is the saddest song I've ever heard. And I mean that in a good way. It takes a lot to write a song that's truly sad and makes your heart feel strained, like it's being squeezed. In closing, I'll state that I'm amazed that this is ten years old. It sounds so fresh, so classic!

Camp Yo La Tengo style!!

Yo La Tengo - New Wave Hot Dogs

Yo La Tengo – New Wave Hot Dogs
Coyote/Twintone, 1987
Acquired: Uncommon Objects, Austin, TX, Used, 2008
Price: $25

I didn't know if this was worth $25 but didn't want to take the chance that I was missing out on a steal. I think $25 is a damn good price for Yo La Tengo's second full length. And record geek bullshit aside, it's a damn good record! Jangly, almost slightly twangy Ira & co. with a lot of punk spirit! Lots of noisy guitar solo breakdowns that would become subdued on later records and then return in full force. Although I guess you could argue that the noisy guitar freakouts are a YLT staple and that they never left. I just saw them at the Granada a few weeks ago and the guitar freakouts were rampant to the point of near annoyance. This record is pre-McNew on bass and slightly ballsier. AND Chris FUCKING Stamey plays guitar on the track “No Water,” which was probably pretty rad for them. It's a pretty noise-rocky effort with hints of the tenderness (see: the standout, and slightly alt-country tinged “Lost in Bessemer”) that would eventually shape such masterpieces as I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

Here's "Did I Tell You," which I'm pretty sure they played at the Granada last month!

Monday, February 1, 2010

End of X

A through W=$2397
A through W + X =$2411

Almost there! In honor of the Xs being over, check out the latest Xiu Xiu video for the title track off of Dear God, I Hate Myself. Be warned, it involves lots of...vomiting. I'm not even kidding. Very fitting, though!

XTC - Skylarking

XTC – Skylarking
Geffen, 1986
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

This had been sitting in the new arrivals bin (the second one, the one that was closest to the door and never seemed to be weeded out) for what seemed like months. As if the staff knew this record was fucking awesome and for $6, a total steal. In fact, when I bought it I remember whoever sold it to me commenting on how good it was. And they were right, this album is pretty awesome mid-80s british psych-pop. It's got some of the cheesy trappings that almost every 80s pop record has, but the melodies are so fucking excellent and the arrangements so wonderful that it doesn't really matter. Currently, it's the middle of winter and overcast and I can still see dirty snow on the roadsides out my window, but this is helping “the sunshine come through.” A summer record if there ever was one, I cannot wait til the end of May when I can tote “Grass” along with me wherever I go. The b-side gets a little corny (see: “The Man Who Sailed Around his Soul”) and isn't nearly as immediately classic as the a-side, but this Todd Rundgren produced batch of pop songs is definitely worth having. To it's credit, the b-side has their biggest hit, from this album at least, the terriffic athiestic “Dear God,” which is a perfect late-album jam!

Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles

Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles
Free Porcupine Society/5 Rue Christine, 2004
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $8

I remember reviewing this for Punk United when indie rock was pretty much occupying the role punk had played for the last few years. I'd heard Fabulous Muscles, along with a handful of staples (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, etc) and I don't know how but this record really clicked with me. It's weird, a little deranged, and pretty sad. But it sounds gorgeous, and the sounds Jamie Stewart makes when he throws a record together are still unrivaled. Even now, he's still kicking ass. His latest, Dear God, I Hate Myself illustrates a move towards poppier jams without sacrificing any of the trademarks that make a Xiu Xiu record worth listening to. This is his masterpiece, though. This is the one people are going to look back on (ok, maybe Knife Play too). “I Luv the Valley OH!” is sung with such a primal, uneasey yelp that it's hard not to get emotional, even if you don't know what you're getting emotional about. Despite the weirdness of some of the jams (i.e. the spoken-word “Support Our Troops in Iraq OH!” which was recorded at the onset of the Iraq War and has proven to be a little prescient, at least in isolated cases), there's a pop structure that grounds most of them, or makes them highly listenable. The title track, which is ostensibly about a gay man getting beaten to death by his lover but still loving him, and the soaring, epic “Clowne Towne,”both work past their subject matter and are catchy, and maybe that's the point. Like “here's a pop song, and it's a pop song about rape. How do you feel about that?” (see: “Nieces Pieces”).

End of W

A through V=$2320
A through V+W=$2397

It's been a whole year, which makes this the blog I've stuck with the longest defeating my previous record of...two weeks. Something like that! And what a year it's been! Starting this thing ended up being one of the best things I ever did and helped secure my freelancing gig at the Pitch (check out my very first feature from this week's issue!) and kept me writing all year. Even if it's just writing bullshit, it's writing and this blog has provided an excellent outlet for rants, raves, and blind praise. If I don't drain the enthusiasm from myself, Jenny has to deal with it and will just ignore me (unless I'm talking about the Hold Steady). This blog has become a retreat from writing for publication which requires proper grammar, well thought out witticisms, and snappy closing lines. It's fun in its own right, but often draning. This is easy.

I have something like 17 more LPs left. Actually, there are about six I got for Christmas that I haven't listened to and am saving until I finish the collection proper as a sort of reward and incentive to finish. I've all but quit buying records. Mostly because this blog made me realize how much money I wasted. Yet my record collection is my most prized possession, and the one material thing I would attempt to haul out of our apartment if it were burning down. I actually kind of want to make a crate of my top 30 records and keep them there, just in case.

There are a couple of pretty expensive records in there that I got for free, which is nice. Almost done with the LPS then it's on to the massive collection of 7"s I amassed a couple years ago from the shotgun room at Love Garden. I picked out some gems, but I never quite weeded through the whole thing so this is a perfect excuse!

The Wrens - The Meadowlands

The Wrens – The Meadowlands
Absolutely Kosher, 2003
Acquired: Christmas Gift, New, 2006
Price: $0

I've never listened to this record while I was in a happy, stable relationship. I listened to it the other day, on Jenny and I's one year anniversary and it sounded so foreign to me. I listened to it probably 100 times during 2008 but since then, bunco. Shit, I even saw the Wrens play this year at SXSW and I still didn't listen to this when I got home. Although, I will say, those guys rock out harder than bands half their age. Kevin Whelan jumped off of a five foot tall amp! It was nuts! But anyway, this is one of my ultimate break-up records. One that gets everything right and captures exactly what it feels like to get your heart broken and one that makes you realize how much it fucking sucks and naturally, the futility of it all. Just listen to “She Sends Kisses,” the sad sordid history of the relationship in question. This won't be a very effective critique of the record because it's like a drinking buddy at this point. I mean, I long to write a song as sharp as “Ex-Girl Collection,” which would easily find its way into my top 10 of the 00s. “Is this how men mark time?/ In relationships?” Um, yes sir, it is. The second side of disc 2 has a handful of b-sides that are a little hit or miss, if only because they don't really sound thematically or sonically linked to the preceding album. They're good, but I wish they'd put the precursor to “Boys You Won't,” the awesome “Miss Me,” on there too. I wrote a very similar paragraph about this on my best of the decade list, which had the Meadowlands coming in at #4 and really, I always say the same things. I unabashedly love this record.

Here's a photo of the Wrens I snapped at SXSW:


AND, awesome video for "Everyone Chooses Sides"

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
SubPop, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $14

Well, despite the odds, Wolf Parade's sophomore LP was just as good as their debut. Ok, so that's questionable, but I thought it was pretty fucking rad. For a band who could have so easily remade their first record and made something that was pretty good, they went in another direction and made an album that was pretty great. Darker, longer songs, culminating in Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner's first collaboration, the terrific “Kissing the Beehive,” make this one pretty memorable for me. It feels like everything Boeckner was learning in Handsome Furs and everything Krug had learned in Sunset Rubdown coming together and improving the quality and scope of their potentially flash-in-the-pan band dramatically. I think this album's quality is justified by how good 2009's Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown records were. Easily the best record either side project has produced (definitely for the Furs, I'm still up in the air on whether Dragonslayer is better than Random Spirit Lover, so maybe not "easily"), we can only assume that the next Wolf Parade record is going to be either a goddamned masterpiece or a muddled failure that will result in both songwriters going their separate ways, most likely for the better. But when they come together, they really know how to play off of each other's strengths and make a solid fuckin' record!

Here's an awesome live version of "Kissing the Beehive," which I think would have made a better album title had it not been potentially copyright infringing!