Friday, August 30, 2013

The Go-Betweens - Metal and Shells

The Go-Betweens – Metal and Shells
PVC Records, 1985
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $5

I’ve been on the hunt for Go-Betweens records since I fell in love with the band a few years back. I had literally never seen one til I was cleaning up the LP room at HPB St. Paul and stumbled across this best of, already priced and ready for me to take home. I just had to glance at the track list on the back to know this was exactly the Go-Betweens record I needed in my collection. Though this comp precedes my favorite Go-Betweens record—1988’s 16 Lovers Lane—it kicks off with two of my absolute favorite tracks: “Part Company” and “Bachelor Kisses.” I love “Part Company” so much I referenced it in the best song I ever wrote. “I know you heard that song by the Go-Betweens/The one that referenced ‘her handwriting’/I think you should have agreed to part company.” While I’m wholly embarrassed by most of the songs I wrote with the Kite Tails, I’m still really proud of that one. Probably because it was the only song that broke from the standard break-up fare and admitted my own faults (which of course is necessary for any good break-up song with any depth). It was a Trembling Blue Stars song that led me to “Part Company” that led me to Spring Hill Fair which is now a record I probably don’t need to own since this compilation features 7 of the 10 songs featured on that album (I’ll still buy it the first chance I get though, because of course I will). Metal and Shells also features their best known track “Cattle and Cane” which is pretty much one of thee landmarks for that magnificent period of Australian indie rock in the 80s and 90s. My love for Australian rock music from that period has been well documented on this blog, and as long as I keep digging up great records by the Go-Betweens and the Church and the like it’s honestly never going to stop. There’s something quirky about how they do it, I can’t ever put a finger on it but there’s something distinctly Australian and distinctly great about the Aussie rockers. The Go-Betweens not only carved out their own unique sound, but their lyrics were some of the best you’re going to find on any continent in the 80s. Lines like “That’s her handwriting/ That’s the way she writes/ From the first letter I got to this, her Bill of Rights” and “Don’t believe what you’ve heard/ Faithful’s not a bad word” have a poetry to them that inhabits the songs of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Though the content is great, it’s the way the words flow and feel so at home in these songs that makes them great. Each song is a cohesive little unit that I could listen to a thousand times and, now that I have this record, probably will listen to a thousand times.

"Part Company"

"Bachelor Kisses"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Richard Franecki - "She Just Goes a Little Mad Sometimes" 7"

Richard Franecki – “She Just Goes a Little Mad Sometimes” 7”
Stomach Ache Records, ~1994-1995 
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25
Though released on a Mexican record label, Richard Franecki’s contact information is for a PO Box in Milwaukee. The little Love Garden-affixed sticker on the sleeve reads “Founder of Vocokesh (ref: one of the best tracks on the DRAG CITY comp).” I’m positive the Drag City compilation referenced is the Hey Drag City comp which I swear to God I found a copy of when I was cleaning out the record room at Half Price Books St. Paul the other day. I know I saw it, and I hope I attached my name to the sleeve because now I wanna take it home. It feels like fate. Plus it has tracks from Silver Jews, Smog, Pavement, Red Red Meat, and Palace Brothers. And of course Vocokesh. I can’t find any information that has a release date for this 7”, but Hey Drag City came out in 1994 and the single released directly after this one on Stomach Ache came out in 1995 so I think one of those years is probably accurate. And now I can’t stop thinking “Shit, I better go find that Hey Drag City comp tomorrow because I WANT IT.” All of that nonsense aside, Richard Franecki’s 7” is weird. It’s funny, as I was typing that Jenny said, “This is weird.” It is! It’s really weird, almost sound collage-y despite clearly being constructed of guitars and unsettling synthesizers. The b-side “Its Not as Though Shes Some Sort of Raving Thing” (great song title by the way) is like mid-tempo industrial music for a horror movie. Actually, so does “She Just Goes a Little Mad Sometimes,” but with a weird space-age synthesizer dropped in here and there. The percussion sounds like it’s coming up from the bottom of the well in that movie The Ring. I really can’t think of something else that sounds like this. Apparently Franecki’s former band F/I split up because they wanted to move in a more “song-oriented direction” and that is how Vocokesh came about (apparently the band’s sound is a blend of industrial and space rock). On these two songs you can clearly tell this is a guy who’s main musical interest is to dabble in the haunting and the abstract, and while this isn’t the sort of stuff I will put on every day, I’ve listened to this 7” 3 times in a row and can see something beautiful lurking beneath the discord.

Here's a Vocokesh track in lieu of a Franecki number.

Note: I’m a sucker for great band names, and the catalog insert for Stomach Ache Records is chock full of them! In addition to notables such as Palace Brothers, Sun City Girls, Gastr Del Sol, and Thurston Moore, we’ve got releases from Bong Trauma, The Bring Downzz, Steeplesnakes, Kill Everyone Now, Masonic Youth, Pork Queen, Pee 69, and really the list just goes on and on.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ford - "Vicodin"/"Primary Flirtation" 7"

Ford – “Vicodin”/ “Primary Filtration” 7”
Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Price: $1
I bought this because there was something in the notes on the back of the sleeve that said, “This is for Ian!” And I was like “IT WAS MEANT TO BE!” So I took it home, put it on top of my 7”s at the bottom of my then record shelf and went out to dinner with Jenny. When I came back, Panda had devoured half the sleeve. He had never done anything like that before and hasn’t touched my records since, so I can only assume it was a combination of him knowing that I thought this record was in some way special and revenge for us going out and leaving him alone. He’s older now, and much wiser (or just chews on the Kong and four chewed-up tennis balls that litter our apartment and doesn’t have time to bother with destroying the things I love). The wax escaped relatively unscathed. There’s a little tooth mark right at the beginning but the tracks play through fine. Which is great! Because I’ve been writing-up a string of all-girl punk bands recently and Ford fit right in! Ford sound very much their era—1992—with a dusting of grunge and a Breeders badge on denim jacket. I loved playing stuff like this on Alternative Flashback because one of my favorite aspects of the early-mid 90s post-grunge boom was the sheer number of alternative rock bands that came out of the woodwork to have record deals handed to them. Though SFTRI was an indie, there were so many bands signed to majors who made an album and were promptly dropped as grunge withered. The bands that stuck around seemed to be the bands that could churn out a radio single (Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, Everclear, and any number of Dishwallas*). At our old house in Lawrence, there was a chart written on a wall in sharpie in the basement for the band Stick (nee Kill Whitey). It chronicled every show they played and the last entry was SIGNED TO ARISTA RECORDS! It struck me that the post-grunge buy-up of little bands was so vast I was living in a place that once housed one of these bands (and, according to our landlord, the pet pig of one of the band members' girlfriends, which was often leashed to the clothesline in the backyard). The saddest thing is that there was so much great music that just vanished into the ether. While these bands weren’t making stuff that was commercially viable, a lot of them were making really good alt-rock. So much of my 7-inch collection is comprised of bands that reside in this mid-90s alt-rock ghetto. I’m listening to this Ford 7” and thinking that I’m probably the only person on the planet listening to these songs right now, and probably the only person on the planet that has listened to these songs in the last month. I feel like staring down into the abyss and saying “Hey! This record is really good! I know you all probably have lives and jobs and kids and stuff at this point but I’m listening to this record you made in 1992 and this is really good!” There was a photo of the band on the back cover that is lost forever and I know that was the selling point. These girls looked so COOL. That effortless cool that indie bands have a hard time finding because they want too much glory. There’s a certain cool that came with “We just have a band because it’s fun.”

Note: I found the back cover on Discogs! The picture of the girls is just as cool as I remember and the note was “thanks ian.” I remember thinking “how did they know I was gonna buy this 7”?

*It is not my intention to shittalk those bands who were fortunate enough to avoid the major label axe that beheaded so many little bands in the early 90s. I went to karaoke a few months ago and spent an hour deciding on whether or not to sing those four songs linked above. No joke. That stuff is basically the sound of my childhood and I have a deep affection for that glossy "alternative" rock)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bright Eyes/Neva Dinova - One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels

Bright Eyes/ Neva Dinova – One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels
Crank!, 2004
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $3

Saddle Creek recently rereleased this split between BrightEyes and Neva Dinova in 2010 with four additional songs but to be honest, I never listened to those extra songs. I just didn’t care. As far as I’m concerned this split has six songs because this split only had six songs when I played it to death upon its original release in 2004. Like every 17 year old in 2003, I had a deep affinity for Bright Eyes and all things Saddle Creek and, when I found out he was releasing a split with another Omaha band I’d never heard of, Neva Dinova, I immediately tracked down their eponymous debut LP and fell for it hard. While I spent the better part of my late teenage years and twenties bitching about the Midwest, I now realize how fiercely I love this place and I’ll tell you what, none of these hotshot New York City can make stuff as down to earth as folks from the Midwest. So listening to this is like slipping on an old t-shirt that has the perfect fit from being worn 100,000 times. I know these songs beat for beat and they sound as good at 27 as they did at 18. Naturally, as a sort of super fan, I’m partial to the Conor Oberst written tracks, but all six of them are mighty fine. There’s a looseness to this that you often find when two bands that really like each other get together and put something to tape. Oberst even went on record saying this was his favorite album to record, and there’s a joy that comes through on these songs that makes them special. “Black Comedy” is one of the purest distillations of Bright Eyes that you will ever hear and “I’ll Be Your Friend” is probably the most uncharacteristically upbeat Bright Eyes songs Oberst ever recorded, and there’s a crazy saxophone part that just pushes that song into the realm of total bliss. Neva Dinova contributes these wonderfully downtrodden songs that are both sad and intensely pleasant. Frontman Jake Bellows has a smooth and soulful delivery that seemed to fade on later Neva Dinova releases but his vocals on these songs hit the sweet spot. His vocals on “Get Back” turn my backbone into butter. The split’s highlight though is the closing track “Spring Cleaning,” which was written by Oberst but performed by Neva Dinova. Bellows vocals sell that song in a way that Oberst’s wouldn’t have. There’s a sweet-sadness to that track that is so perfectly suited to the Neva Dinova frontman. And it’s probably one of the best songs Oberst has ever written (although to be fair, he’s written so many great ones I’ve lost count and am probably speaking in hyperbole). Really though, I think the songwriting gets a boost from Bellows’ delivery. It shows how these two bands brought out the best in each other, and though both bands went off in different directions after this, this split remains a beautiful portrait of a time and a place in Middle America where the songs were good and pure and honest.

"Spring Cleaning" (Note: What I said about Oberst's voice not best suiting the song is easily debatable, as this live performance probably dictates, although I prefer the Bellows version. Still, it's a gorgeous song no matter which way you cut it)

"Black Comedy"

"Get Back" 

"I'll Be Your Friend"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flop - "Anne" 7"

Flop – “Anne” 7”
Frontier/Insipid, 1993
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25
One of my favorite DJs at KJHK was a guy named Justin Brown. I ended up taking over Alternative Flashback for him when he graduated. I remember him playing this song “Anne” and raving about Flop’s album The Fall of the Mopsqueezer. Something about that album title stuck in my head (probably because it’s a fucking great album title). SO, I heard that song and I was like “Hey alright this song is pretty groovy!” and then months later I found it on 7” in the Love Garden Shotgun Room! Sitting down with the track, I became obsessed and played it on probably half of my Alternative Flashback shows. It just so perfectly encapsulates everything that was good and holy about that early 90s alternative rock. Hailing from Seattle, it’s amazing that their sound isn’t more mired in grunge. I didn’t think I could love this band more than I already do until I read this bit on their Wikipedia page: “Never intending to actually become a real band, they toyed with many self-deprecating names including ‘Butt Sweat and Tears’ and ‘The Value Village People.’ Eventually however they lied their way into a show and needed an official name and inspired by a headline for a review of a local play in the newspaper ‘Resounding Flop” was shortened to ‘Flop’ and the band was born.” Mythmaking at its finest! They’re like the Undertones with a greater reverence for pop bliss. “I Told a Lie” sounds like an Exploding Hearts b-side, if that helps to convey the sense of glee these guys exude (frontman Rusty Willoughby’s other band was called Pure Joy, so it all makes sense). These guys are just a lot of fun, but I’m partial to bands who start out as a joke and not giving a shit, discover they really have something going, and end up channeling that not-giving-a-shit attitude into pure, perfect, and more than a little ramshackle pop songs.

The amazing video for "Anne" has that same VHS sheen as my memories of the early 90s.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gut Feeling: Hospital Ships - Destruction In Yr Soul

Hospital Ships – Destruction in Yr Soul
Graveface, 2013
In March of 2004, during my senior year of high school, I drove to Lawrence with my sister to see John Vanderslice. I can’t remember why my sister went with me, we never really hang out, but it was nice. It was an infinitely-late-for-a-school-night show at the Bottleneck and when we got there the opening band, Minus Story, was having a hell of a time getting set up. At this point in my youth I had been to maybe five shows on my own or with friends. It was still very new experience (my mother flat-out refused to let me go to KC or Lawrence until I was 18, and because of Catholic guilt, I mostly obeyed…mostly). “That band has TWO drumsets! Isn’t that wild!” I remember thinking. There were 8 people on stage (I’m sure it was fewer but it felt like there were 8 people on stage) and when the band finally played I experienced a very intense excitement. I’d just committed to KU a few days before and was moving up to Lawrence in the fall and here was a Lawrence band and they were weird and great and I’d go to the Bottleneck and see them all the time (although I think at that time Minus Story might still have been hailing from Boonville, MO but they might as well have been from Lawrence considering they were on almost every bill for every show I saw Freshman year). The next band was Okkervil River, who totally blew me away as they played to the 8 people who’d come out for JV. Okkervil River right when their second album Down the River of Golden Dreams came out and look at them now! And they’re one of my favorite bands! I always felt like that show was mythical. I loved JV and wanted to go, but it was gonna go way late and I had to get up way early the next day but I went anyway.

Now it’s almost ten years later and I’m listening to Hospital Ships frontman Jordan Geiger’s third album under the Hospital Ships moniker and I’m giddily thinking that I couldn’t possibly be more over the moon about this record. I was over moon about the last one, too. And when Hospital Ships’ debut Oh, Ramona came out the same time as Rooftop Vigilantes Carrot Atlas (both bands were inexplicably featured on Stereogum) it seemed to herald a new wave of local music. To watch a band grow by leaps and bounds over the span of three albums is a marvelous, marvelous thing. There is nothing more satisfying than having a set of expectations for the next album only to find that the band has exceeded them. Jordan Geiger has grown Hospital Ships into a full band and is making his best music yet. Everything on Destruction in Yr Soul clicks. Though Geiger’s voice seems particularly well suited for sadness, he has a gift for brightening up the elements around him. The band finally feels like it’s outgrown its bedroom origins. You can almost hear wizard-esque producer John Congleton coaxing the band out of its shell and into this big place of absolute potential. The album is monumentally bigger in scope than its predecessors, but feels like an entirely different animal. The songs roam these big sonic landscapes and while they have free reign to move around, they feel meticulously directed and lovingly crafted. Mostly, Destruction in Yr Soul makes me antsier than ever to move back to Lawrence, set down my roots, and enjoy this hearty Midwestern indie rock on a regular basis.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Flaspar - Quadruple Trouble 7"

Flaspar – Quadruple Trouble 7”
Natrix Natrix, 2006
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $1
In which a Las Vegas band unleashes four different versions of their single “Double Trouble.” I’d applaud them for the clever title, but four versions of “Double Trouble” should be called Octuple Trouble, right? RIGHT?! Anyway, I’m not here to nitpick album titles (at least not today), I’m here to nitpick “Double Trouble.” To the band’s credit, they moved out of the desert to Portland. I can only presume the Killers ran them out of town so they could have sole claim over that bizarre and terrible place. Flaspar themselves fell victim to the mid-00s dance-punk phase that ruined the rhythm section of many a band from roughly 2002-2007. Or maybe it’s just not my thing, but either way those dance-punk drumbeats are the cheesy sax solo of the 00s. The trouble with putting four versions of the same song on a 7” is that if the song isn’t inspiring enough and the remixes aren’t diverse enough, you’re pretty much digging your own grave. Which is pretty much exactly what Flaspar did here. “Double Trouble” ain’t no “Mr. Brightside,” but it’s serviceable. It plays with those neo-soul vocals Of Montreal were rocking in 2006 and if you can ignore the now dated-sounding drums the song is kind of groovy. I wouldn’t call in requesting it, but I probably wouldn’t change the station if it came on the radio. The “Problem Solver” remix pretty much sounds exactly like the original except those awful drums are pushed front and center (at least it’s mercifully short). The “Need More Confusion” remix beefs the thing up with dirty synthesizers and pitch shifts the vocals so the singer sounds like an 8-year-old Japanese girl. The “Extended Instrumental” remix does a minimalist stripping down of “Double Trouble” and is nothing but drums and a synthesized melody that sounds like the last words of a dying computer. In the background an electric guitar solo wails and wails underneath the hauntingly bad drums. It’s not even the drummer’s fault! There’s just something about that drum sound that makes me queasy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Iron Frenzy - Miniature Golf Courses of America Present... 7"

Five Iron Frenzy – Miniature Golf Courses of America Present Five Iron Frenzy 7"
Asian Man Records, 1997
Acquired: Asian Man Records Mail Order, New, 2002
Price: ~$.25
Enter the Late 1990s Ska-Punk Octagon, where a band with a “Christian Message” sounds just like any other ska-punk band founded by band geeks. There’s just something so wholesome and unthreatening about ska-punk, so I’m surprised there aren’t more Christian ska-punk bands. At least here Five Iron Frenzy don’t feel the need to shoehorn their faith into their songs (unlike say, Relient K) henceforth the music is enjoyable rather than irksome. It helps that the 7” kicks off with a cover of Abba’s “Mama Mia,” which, you know, is a rock solid jam no matter who’s playing it. It works surprisingly well with the horn section! The two original tracks—“Arnold, and Willis, and Mr. Drummond” and “Handbook For the Sellout—aren’t exclusive to the 7” and don’t really offer much in the way of originality. But that’s ska-punk, isn’t it? You know what you’re getting into and the genre is best suited for venues packed with young people skanking the night away.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fire in the Kitchen - Glow EP

Fire in the Kitchen – Glow EP
Walt Records, 1993
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25

Fire in the Kitchen is a mystery. I can barely find any information about them on the internet, and the blurb for this 2x7” on the little mail-order insert reads: “Out of Winter’s laboring pain comes this four song EP from NYC’s reclusive guitar outfit. The most recent recordings from this quartet of tall, skinny, well read individuals.” The mail-order insert also advertises the early Mountain Goats cassettes on Shrimper and 7”s by Versus, Nothing Painted Blue, and Sebadoh. The insert boasts “Book prepared by MAIL-ORDER MEN, Not by College Professors” for a reason that may or may not be an inside joke. Other than Fire in the Kitchen being from NYC, Discogs informs me that they released two additional 7”s, a full-length (1990’s Theory of Everything) and a compilation. I am dismayed because Glow is absolutely fantastic. It’s an inspired blend of chiming college rock, proto-math rock, a dusting of post-punk and some surprisingly tuneful melodies. It looks like the guys in the band didn’t do much after Fire in the Kitchen, which is heartbreaking because this is the sort of bread-and-butter early-to-mid-90s indie rock that I could listen to all goddamn day. Sometimes it feels like bands go out of their way to maintain a false sense of mystery when there are tons and tons of bands just like this that had a few releases in the 90s and dropped off the face of the earth.

I couldn't track down any samples, but you can acquire Fire in the Kitchen's 3 EPs and their teriffic full length Theory of Everything over at Wilfully Obscure.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finally Punk - "Hypertension" 7"

Finally Punk – Hypertension EP
M’lady’s Records, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $5
On a deep personal level, I think $5 is too much for a 7”. I know cost-of-goods has gone up and all, and I’m not arguing the actual pricing of the thing, but unless I have a very good reason I can’t bring myself to pay $5 for two songs when I can just buy the record for $15-18, no matter how much fun I think 7”s are. What is my ideal price for a 7”? $3-4. Even $4 gives the illusion that you are getting a deal. I’m only making this point because this was one of the few new 7”s I ever bought and I legitimately cannot remember why I bought it. Something struck me that day as I was browsing the new 7”s at the old upstairs Love Garden. It’s weird how well I remember buying this, but only bits and pieces. Had I just wanted to buy something and asked for a recommendation? Was I under the requisite $8 you must spend to use a credit card and in need of padding my bill? I forget the important details, but I do remember immediately taking it home, throwing it on my turntable and then never listening to it again until this afternoon.

This time around, I’m not giving it the old cursory listen. I’ve listened to it about five times trying to find something about this scrappy all-girl punk band from Austin special. All I can think about is that wave of all-girl punk bands that bubbled up until Best Coast crawled out and started putting their songs in Old Navy commercials. I feel like there were a ton of all-girl punk bands when I went to SXSW in ’08 and ’09. I remember seeing Mika Miko like three times. It was really refreshing to see the ghost of Bikini Kill haunting college radio. All-girl bands are important to a healthy musical economy. Finally Punk’s Hypertension EP is shouty art-punk that is all sharp edges and disjointed songs. It’s a bit outside of my realm of enjoyability, but these noisy punk bands tend to really shine in a live setting. Plus the songs are all like, a minute or so long which earns a thumbs up in my book. We should all mourn the day punk bands started making songs that were over five minutes long (The Decline being the exception).

"Hypertension"(Note: Finally Punk compiled their first three EPs into an album called Casual Goths, which I should not is a fantastic record title).

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fifth Column - "Donna"/ "All Women Are Bitches" 7"

Fifth Column – “Donna”/ “All Women Are Bitches” 7”
K Records, 1992
Acquired: K Records Mail Order, New, 2008
Price: ~$1
The all-girl indie-pop movement from 1990s Canada is one of my favorite things ever. Cub, Maow, Fifth Column, they know how to write some catchy fucking songs in ways that American groups can’t even handle. “Donna” is a straight-up little rough-edged indie pop gem and “All Women Are Bitches” is a gritty track that sounds like the Breeders on steroids. Funny how a band can lure you in with a charming DIY pop song and then try to bite your face off. Effectively, Fifth Column use “All Women Are Bitches” to attack the patriarchy with wit, which is really the most effective way to attack the patriarchy. It’s playful and sneering at the same time. This is some legit, OG Riot Grrrl business right here and another reason to be thankful that our neighbors to the North continually shower us with jams.


"All Women Are Bitches"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Field Music - "If Only the Moon Were Up" 7"

Field Music – “If Only the Moon Were Up” 7”
Memphis Industries, 2005
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $1
Years back I reviewed Field Music’s sophomore LP Tones of Town and despite thinking it was just “pretty good” for some reason I very clearly remember listening to it a dozen times and writing the review. Even though I can’t remember what the album sounds like. Not at all. I do the same thing with Broken Social Scene: a band I like when I’m listening to but can’t think of a single defining trait that makes their music memorable. For a long time I used to vilify this sort of music. “Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” (I think that’s seriously the second time I’ve used that Macbeth quote this week what the fuck?). I’ve never reviled Field Music, though, despite not being able to hum a melody from any of their songs. I think it’s because I remember their songs being immaculately crafted. British brothers David and Peter Brewis gave me the impression that they know exactly what the fuck they are doing.

“If Only the Moon Were Up” was the third single from their eponymous first album and it’s good enough to give me the impression that that album is really good. There were two songs more single worthy than this one? Fantastic. Right up front it’s got that angular guitar sound that sort of ruled Britain’s guitar rock from the mid 00s (Think Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand), but then it blossoms into this beautiful piece of tuneful throwback British pop that is rather Kinks-y with an XTC patch sewn on its shoulder. The B-Side, “I’m Tired,” is a quiet little tune anchored by acoustic strums and a tastefully synthesized drum beat (that really, might just have some effects on it because Peter Brewis is a very good drummer). Some strings are subtly filtered in for the chorus and every time I listen to the song I have to remind myself that this is a b-side. This is a brilliant little melancholy pop song that didn’t make the cut. Craftsmanship, goddamnit. Field Music have it in spades.

Note: I never got around to Field Music’s latest, Plumb, but my music nerd brother-in-arms Cameron Hawk over at Record Geek Heaven went gaga for it last year and the strength of this single is making me think I need to get around to that one.

"If Only the Moon Were Up" 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies

New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies
Factory, 1983
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $4
Peter Saville said he chose the romantic portrait of flowers for the cover of Power, Corruption & Lies because it represented a sort of seduction. A way the elements of the album’s title “infiltrate our lives” via seduction. It was actually his girlfriend jokingly asking if he was going to use the painting as the album’s cover when he bought a postcard of Henri Fantin-Latour’s “A Basket of Roses” at the National Gallery in London. It is a seductive album cover. The mash-up of the classical with the color-coded typography has always been eye-catching. I have a little Steve Keene painting of it that I bought from some vendor at SXSW for the same reason I bought the album at work a few days ago. It is iconic, and it represents something: my favorite New Order record. The first one I listened to after being enamored with a best-of burnt by a friend in high school. I was baffled. It was nothing like the singles! It was dark and twisty, and at that point I hadn’t even discovered Joy Division yet. Listening to it now after years of trying to decode the album’s particular magic, I realize there are still things I’m going to be discovering years from now. Like “Your Silent Face,” which I sort of latched onto the first time I listened to Power, Corruption & Lies in its entirety for the first time years back. I did that because the only song I knew was the mighty (and seductive) “Age of Consent” and was feeling a bit out of my depth in the dance music injected post-punk. Things are better now; I am better equipped to handle such things. But I still love “Your Silent Face.” I love how the synthesizers sound wholly inorganic yet convey this warm, emotional resonance. On the whole, Power, Corruption & Lies is a weird masterwork and a great example of how great things can be born from tragedy.

"Age of Consent"

"Your Silent Face"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Few - "Rollin' Like the Tide"

The Few – “Rollin’ Like the Tide”
K Records, 1987
Acquired: K Records Mail Order, new, 2008
Price:  ~$1
Featuring future members of Pounding Serfs and Gravel, The Few’s “Rollin’ Like the Tide” 7” was one of the first releases in K Records’ International Pop Underground series. The music is pretty basic throwback folk-pop with a dreamy vibe and ramshackle production, but more important was the scene the Few came out of, which unshackled indie DIY music from the punk rock overlords. That was one of the things that drew me to K Records: They were like punks who were sensitive and liked pop music. JUST LIKE ME! The Few were the first band from Anacortes, WA to record for K, kickstarting K’s long illustrious history with the San Juan Islands (which spawned the likes of Phil Elverum of the Microphones and Mount Eerie, Karl Blau, D+ (which is basically just Phil and Karl and Beat Happening guitarist Bret Lunsford), and Burl Ives. Now I’m imagining the Dub Narcotic remix the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer soundtrack oh please, can I have that?). I’ve always held a very firm jealousy towards those dudes from Anacortes. It’s the sort of idyllic place I would love to disappear to. I mean, just look!

You can check out the song in all its hazy glory here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Serengeti - The Kenny Dennis LP

Serengeti – The Kenny Dennis LP
Anticon, 2013

Kenny Dennis returns for his finest hour. I don’t know what other people think of the walking, rapping Chicago stereotype for which Serengeti mastermind David Cohn has been crafting a mythology since 2006, but I think the whole Kenny Dennis is brilliant. The Kenny Dennis LP might read as a joke-rap record if it wasn’t so flat-out good. Sure it’s funny, and the skits provided by WorkaholicsAnders Holm (who effectively weaves himself into the wonderfully expansive Kenny Dennis story over the course of the record) are literally knee-slappingly funny (I always slap with my left hand, and I always knock my knee with my wedding ring, and it hurts, and for some reason I cannot train myself to not do this when I find something particularly hilarious). But the beats courtesy of Odd Nosdam are great and varied, loaded with weird synthesizers and drums that often sound like they’re cut from a dusty vintage rap album and ground into something off-kilter and fresh. It’s all off the wall, for sure, but what makes The Kenny Dennis LP special, and the whole expansive Kenny Dennis mythology special, is that there is just so much heart embedded in it.
Geti could have just left it at “Dennehy” and everyone would have been fine with that. If you haven’t seen the video or heard the song, please do yourself a favor and check it out right now. You’ve gotta think it’s at least a little funny. Things got out of hand quickly. In addition to churning out great hip-hop records not rapped in the voice of Kenny Dennis (2011’s Family & Friends is easily Geti’s masterpiece full of the wit and keenly observed heartbreak that makes his albums such a pleasure), Kenny Dennis remains a constant presence in Geti’s prolific output. He even went so far as to construct an entire album in Kenny Dennis’ rap group from the 90s The Grimm Teachaz. That’s how deep this shit is. And it’s great. It’s fun, and a shot in the arm to a music world where everything has to be oh so serious to be taken seriously.

It’s Cohn’s attention to detail and knack for emotional resonance (especially in comical situations) that kills me though. “Kenny and Jueles” does this best, as Kenny bemoans the fact that Jueles wasn’t even excited when he crushed Nitro on American Gladiators only to find out she was too proud to say anything out loud. And then they play competitive Scrabble with their neighbors and Jueles drinks hot toddies and Kenny drinks O’Douls, naturally. The skits from Ders really let you know the kind of guy Kenny Dennis is. He’s the guy who would see a poor kid eyeing a laser tag set he couldn’t afford and buy the kid a shower radio. A guy who would take the kid on stage at a Grimm Teachaz show in Chicago on his birthday and introduce him to Bo Jackson’s wife. A guy whose fued with Shaq is still messing with his life. A guy who can’t even handle a visit to LA because he’s so entrenched in his blue-collar existence in Chicago (Kenny finds fault with LA’s lack of a grid-system and its dry heat). See, it’s all kind of silly, but Serengeti’s Kenny Dennis is involving in the same way Hold Steady albums are involving. You get to know the characters because the characters are so rich and sure you start out pointing and laughing but then you’re rooting for Kenny. At first he sounds insane, until you realize he’s a man who knows what he wants and you can respect that. And then you realize that maybe Kenny Dennis is the smartest guy in the room.

"Directions" - The beat on this one, holy shit. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fever Ray - "If I Had a Heart" 7"

Fever Ray – “If I Had a Heart” 7”
Rabid, 2009
Acquired: KJHK Music Staff, New, 2009
Price: $0
I had never heard this song until I watched A&E’s terrific new show “Vikings,” for which “If I Had a Heart” serves as the theme song. It’s sort of perfect. It has the sort of brooding you’d expect people with Viking blood. It’s dark and spooky and deeply satisfying. It’s like a pop single designated for 45 RPM and played at 33 1/3 instead. Which is about what you would expect from The Knife singer Karin Andersson. The Knife make the sort of dark, tuneful electronica that even I—a safe, boring, indie-rock nerd—can get down on. Fever Ray takes the darkness to a new level though. “If I Had a Heart” throbs. The deep organs, the hypnotic orchestral synth loop, the disembodied vocals, and the lyrics meditating on greed and power blend into a truly haunting final product. The sort of thing the music supervisor on “Breaking Bad” might hear and assign to one of the show's morally conflicted characters. The Fuck Buttons remix on the b-side brightens things up with some glossy synthesizers and turns the mournful wailing into an ethereal, almost angelic chorus. An insistent drum machine beat stabs at you the whole time pushing the hypnotic qualities of the original into more deliberate territory and the vocals are pitch shifted back to a more human register. And yet they manage to maintain the sense of impending doom. Which makes sense because this song is basically just slowed-down black metal of the Norwegian tradition.

The stunning and perfectly apt video for "If I Had a Heart"

And the Fuck Buttons remix.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fag Cop - Complete Shit Volume 1

Fag Cop – Complete Shit Volume 1 7”
Eat Records, 2008
Acquired: Fag Cop Live Show, New, 2008
Price: $5
Once I went to see Fag Cop in the basement of the Eighth Street Taproom and I couldn’t hear right for three straight days. I blame that show for the lion’s share of the hearing damage acquired from years of going to shows without earplugs. Seriously, everything was dulled for THREE days after that show. Because these motherfuckers play loud. Loud is overrated. Something used as a substitute for substance. Granted, considering that literally anyone can start a punk band, punk rock really doesn’t need to have a lot of substance. Which is perfectly fine. Everything on this 7” is distorted to within an inch of its life. The guitars, the drums, the bass, the vocals. All of it sounds like it’s going to fall apart if you so much as look at it wrong. As much as I think it takes minimal effort to make noisy punk rock, Fag Cop was one of the better Lawrence bands from the post-Anniversary era. They seemed to give less of a fuck than other bands, which I liked. The fun they were having was genuine, or seemed genuine at least. Despite the hearing damage, their live shows were a blast, and it barely needs to be mentioned that a band like this is built for live shows. The recordings are more like an obligation rather than something seriously labored over. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eprhyme - "Shomer Salaam" 7"

Eprhyme – “Shomer Salaam” 7”
K, 2009
Acquired: KJHK Music Staff, New, 2009
Price: $0

Eprhyme makes "Iconoclastic Neo-Hassidic Hip-Hop." I’m not sure if he wants that to be his defining quality, but when you’re a Hassidic Jewish rapper it kind of has to be (and it's the headline on his website so, you know). Unless you’re rapping about bitches and money, but even then you’re gimmicking. You’re that Hassidic Jewish rapper who raps about bitches and money and ISN’T THIS IRONIC AND FUNNY. So on. Etcetera. Eprhyme presents transparent messages of faith, peace, love and tolerance over beats heavily incorporate traditional middle eastern instrumentation. It’s all pretty hokey and plays like God rock. That said, I’m clearly not the target audience, and despite my own personal beliefs I do appreciate an artist who can articulate his or her faith in a way that is not heavy handed. The point of God rock is to beat you over the head with The Message, whereas it is much more interesting for an artist to approach faith on a personal level. Eprhyme has a Message, but there is little meaning to it because it’s all surface level stuff. It is obvious that these things are important to him. The dude very clearly cares about his faith and his community and has the best intentions, but good intentions can’t make up for lackluster emcee skills and surface level raps.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Billy Bragg - Workers Playtime

Billy Bragg – Workers Playtime
Elektra, 1988
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $5

Billy Bragg’s songs usually fall into three categories: Love songs, protest songs, and love songs that double as protest songs. Despite its title and propaganda-poster cover of Chinese workers unwinding after a long day of labor, Workers Playtime is almost entirely comprised of straight up love songs. 8 love songs, 2 protest songs, and 1 love song that is also a protest song (or protest song that is also a love song). Workers Playtime also sports Bragg’s best lyrics sheet and fully realizes that full-band sound Bragg played around with on Talking to the Taxman About Poetry after years of his solo dude-with-an-electric-guitar records. Though the numbers make Workers Playtime look top heavy with love songs, closing track “Waiting For the Great Leap Forwards” is probably the best, most effective political song Billy Bragg ever wrote. It’s incisive and clever and funny and sad and inspiring. It’s the love songs that kill me though. They’re probably the sappiest love songs Bragg has ever written and yet they still hit me right in the gut. They show that you don’t have to choose whether you are a lover or a fighter, you can be both. Honestly, I’m probably too close to the subject matter to write about it objectively. I’ll go through spells where I’ll listen to nothing but Billy Bragg in the car. I’ll literally delete everything else off my iPod and put it on Billy Bragg shuffle for weeks, which makes me think my Billy Bragg phase isn’t quite over.  

(I know Mr. Love and Justice himself isn't posting these videos, but it is rather funny that so many of his songs on Youtube contain preroll adverts when the cover clearly reads "Capitalism is Killing Music")

When I was at SXSW in 2008 I was walking down Red River and heard this song coming from a parking lot. "That sounds kind of familiar?" I said to myself. "Is that Billy Bragg?" And sure enough, there was Billy Bragg playing in a parking lot and I went in and watched him play an updated version of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" and became a Fan. And thanks to the internet, which has everything, I can see that exact performance. 

"She's Got a New Spell"

"Little Time Bomb"

Monday, August 5, 2013

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Whenever, If Ever

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever
Topshelf Records, 2013
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way shall we: The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die is probably the most unforgivably awful band name I’ve heard all year and I spend my free time giving shit to bands from Brooklyn who are too lazy to come up with anything better than some one-word noun. It’s like a joke that got out of control. Maybe it is a reaction to the fact that all of the good band names are taken (which I can’t argue, it’s pretty much true given the aforementioned name-your-generic-band-after-something-equally-generic trend that seems to haunt the indie music world these days). I approached TWIABP&IANLATD’s from a hate-listen standpoint. The band’s name was so convoluted I wanted to make sure their music was equally hateworthy. And then I was wrong. And I love being wrong. It is pretty much my absolute favorite thing about writing about music.

Naturally, I was totally wrong about Connecticut based octet TWIABP&IANLATD’s debut full-length is a remarkably adept collection of sweeping, atmospheric post-rock tinted second-wave emo. Fortunately they have taken all of the best bits of bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Texas is the Reason and the Promise Ring for an end result that sounds like American Football reconfigured by Explosions in the Sky. It’s the good emo, and despite that tag that the band is destined to wear if only for a lack of a better term, they band avoids crybaby lyrics and pour all of the emotional resonance into big builds, great melodies, vocal delivery and dreamy guitar lines. My favorite track—“Gig Life”—builds up from a melancholy little acoustic guitar number dripping with homesickness into hooky little jangly guitar licks and a warm, comforting bass line.

I keep coming back to this album because there is something very comforting about it. There’s some nostalgia at work, but I feel like there is a lot of nostalgia in the songs. There’s a theme of Home that seems to run through the album’s ten songs. This is the sound of a lot of the music I loved in high school that made it through the ringer and I still love just as much today. I like that they don’t shroud their music and lyrics in mystery. I like that they sort of remind me of Taking Back Sunday if Taking Back Sunday wasn’t terrible (screamo elements are used sparingly and effectively on Whenever, If Ever). I like that this band has a lot of heart. Sometimes you can’t tell. Sometimes you’ll find a band hell-bent on getting their song on “One Tree Hill” or with some great desire to achieve critical acclaim, but TWIABP&IANLATD just seem to be going for it. They’ve somehow managed to pick and choose elements from the cream of the emo crop and churn out something that, while not all that original, is affecting and promising. And sometime’s that’s all that matters. Personally, I rarely tend to give a damn if a band breaks new ground or not, just as long as I can keep their CD in my car stereo for two weeks and get so hooked that I don’t really want to listen to anything else. Honesty trumps ingenuity any day of the week in my book.

*Or sextet or septet, the line-up appears to be malleable.

"Gig Life"

"Heartbeat on the Brain"

"Getting Sodas"