Wednesday, June 30, 2010

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Secret of Elena's Tomb

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – The Secret of Elena's Tomb EP
Interscope, 2003
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $3

I've never really understood what the big fucking deal about this band was, other than that their band name is fucking amazing. I mean, some bands take the “let's have a really overlong band name” thing too far (to the point where it ends up with some stupid abbreviation or sounds more like an album title than a band name) but I've always liked And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, although mostly because I can just call them Trail of Dead and it's still cool. But otherwise, they just sound like every other band that was trying to get popular but NOT be the Strokes or the Whatevers in the early 00s. There's a certain artfulness to it, this EP followed their breakthrough LP Source Tags & Codes and it's got a reverence for Slint and all those wonderful mid-90s post-rock/math rock bands. But at the same time, it's hard to find anything really TOO original about it. Sure, the band is tight, they're on their game but their game has never clicked with me. I said that already. Maybe I just tried too hard to like them and this was the consequence. I mean, I REALLY like a couple of tracks on this record, but I know I only like them because they're capturing the tone of Spiderland and not because they're real testaments to originality. Like opener “Mach Schau,” which just sounds like Slint blended together with like, Iggy Pop or something. But Source Tags is one of those albums that is SO highly acclaimed, that I'm surely missing something and it's only a matter of time before I like it. I mean, I'm not saying I'm gonna LOVE it or anything like that, but my judgment feels a little bit premature at the moment. However, in terms of judging The Secret of Elena's Tomb, I can say that while it doesn't sound dated yet, it probably will in five years or so. To end on a positive note, I will say that I've always appreciated the musicianship. It's the same way I appreciate what Broken Social Scene do, despite not really liking their music.

"All Saints Day" is a jam, though, in a sort of hazy mid-90s alternative rock radio way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy

Eels – Daisies of the Galaxy
Bong Load Records,
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $4

Working at HPB has taught me the value of discovering music. I never really got to do it the old fashioned way, as I reached the age where I realized music was cool and exciting right as Napster was taking off. Occasionally in high school, I would buy CDs, I'd even avoid leaks on Kazaa! But after that, I never much saw the point in buying CDs, only vinyl. But the internet had ruined me. Everything I bought had to be test driven before I could pony up the cash and actually own it. I read all the blogs, followed all the trends, tried to separate the wheat from the chaff on my own but there was just too much! I worked at KJ for three years, two of which I was running or assistant running the music department. This created a sort of detachment between me and music. There was always a criteria, a report card, whatever. Something I would go through to deduce whether or not an album was any good. I had to, I was reviewing 8 or more records a week and while gut instinct was a huge part of it, a lot of it involved trying to please promoters by getting stuff added (which basically just involved developing a mentality of say, listening to your friend's band). Anyway, there was a point. Oh yeah, the point was that when I graduated and couldn't work at KJHK anymore, I started to love music again. It became less of a job and I remembered why I joined in the first place. Not to say that the time I spent there was bad. It was pretty much the only real education I got in college and it's what ended up landing me a job doing music writing for money. But now I love music again! I am aloof about what's hip and hot and new and it's fucking amazing. I've spent the summer listening to nothing but records I actually own, pick up at the store, or CDs I pick up at the store to listen to in the car. It's the summer of Teenage Fanclub, the Replacements, Husker Du, Pavement and Fugazi. Five bands I should have been obsessed with in college and am only now seeing their inner truth or whatever.

But this isn't about those bands, this is about Eels and Daisies of the Galaxy, which is a record I'd never heard and because I like Eels and Electro-Shock Blues, and knew this was supposed to be good from someone who told me that, I grabbed it. And I'm listening to it right now and it's really fucking good. Mark Everett's voice is one of those rare things in modern American music. That is, he's got so much soul. It's raspy, deep, exhausted. It's the kind of voice that made me check to see if he'd committed suicide because it was so solemn (see also: Nick Drake, Elliott Smith). But then again, that tragedy is all over Electro-Shock Blues and this is well, still a pretty sad record. It sounds like he's getting better, it's a little brighter. It's all kind of summed up on the excellent “It's a Motherfucker.” “It's a motherfucker/ Getting through Sunday,” he sings. That's it, right there. In my head right now, this is like what Why?'s Alopecia is to Elephant Eyelash (or even what Alopecia is to Eskimo Snow). The step back and the analysis of the situation, opposed to being trapped in the middle of it. There's a certain clarity present here, one you don't get on those really intense masterpiece albums, although that would be taking this one out of masterpiece running (assuming one artist can have more than one). But E got his right off the bat, but goddamn, this is a great record. OK, definitely not a masterpiece but a great record, it's settled. Beautiful and sad, full of really beautifully placed strings and sad horns (see the two perfectly combined in “Wooden Nickels”). The only thing that really puzzles me is WHY the single is a hidden track? I mean, I was like “Ok, I've heard 'It's a Motherfucker'” and then at the very end it's like “OH THERE'S THAT SONG I'VE HEARD IN A MILLION MOVIES OR WHATEVER.” Interesting move, Mr. E. Interesting move. Also, Adrian Tomine art all over this thing, so there's another win there.

"Wooden Nickels"

Wooden Eels


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Autoclave - Go Far 7"

Autoclave – Go Far 7”
Dischord/K (Diskord), 1991
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2010
Price: $3

This 7” had everything going for it when I picked it up. All girl group from on Dischord AND K ft/ the totally awesome Mary Timony. It's a perfect storm of things that I love. On the music front, it's a surprisingly angular mix of mathy yet pop tinged post-punk. Me likey. The short lived group only put out one LP that features all three songs on this 7”. “Go Far” and “It's Not Real Life” are both good, but the real winner here is the B-side “I'll Take You Down.” There's something they're doing with the guitars on that one that wins my thumbs up. It sounds raw, bedroom style. The sort of song you would hear on the radio and say “this sounds like great early 90s alternative rock!”

Here's "I'll Take You Down."

Buckingham Nicks - Buckingham Nicks

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks
Polydor, 1973
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $7.50

I don't listen to Fleetwood Mac. I never have, and the only reason I've ever considered giving them a chance is because Jenny is obsessed with Stevie Nicks. I saw this, Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham's first album PRE-Fleetwood Mac at the store and I was like “Yes, Jenny will like this.” And it's not bad! I'm surprised at how much I like Stevie Nicks' voice. Lindsey Buckingham mostly just sounds like a Cat Stevens knock off, but Stevie's songs are fucking great! “Long Distance Winner” and “Crying in the Night” are great and I can see Neko Case listening to these songs as a young lass and picking up a thing or two. Granted, Neko's voice is a bit heartier, a bit more soulful, but there's something emotionally devastating about Nicks' vocals. Apparently this album is a bit hard to track down and never had a proper CD release, so I'm pretty glad I picked it up (thanks to the kind of weird cover featuring a naked Nicks w/ side boob looking all mysterious beautiful and Buckingham with...a fucking incredible mane and moustache/chesthair combo). Plus it's in fantastic shape, so it's a whim that paid off! It is a bit “generic 70s rock” but I think you can clearly tell that these two are bound for greatness, or at least epic fame.