Friday, January 31, 2014

Hot Water Music - "Moments Pass"/ "Another Way" 7"

Hot Water Music – “Moments Pass”/ “Another Way” 7”
No Idea Records, 1999
Acquired: Crossroads Music, Used, 2013
Price: $3
Fun fact, accidentally playing “Moments Pass” on 33 transformed this track into a really good doom metal song. At its proper speed, “Moments Pass” still grabs you by heart. The combination of Hot Water Music’s emotionally charged (read: emo-tinged a la a more energized Sunny Day Real Estate) riffs and Chuck Ragan’s sandpaper vocals have always been appealing to me. Yet for some reason, I only listened them for a brief spell at the end of high school when I was ape for Alkaline Trio. Alk3 and HWM released a split around that time (2002) and I must have listened to it a hundred times. Alkaline Trio’s cover of Hot Water Music’s “Rooftops” and HWM’s covers of Alk 3 tracks “Bleeder” and “Radio” were enough for me to order No Division from interpunk and to acquire its predecessors A Flight and a Crash and Caution through various channels. Based on the strength of these tracks, I’m thinking it’s time to dig up those albums considering I’ve totally regressed and embraced the music from my 16-18 years and “Moments Pass” ignites some severe joy in my heart and gut. Plus, it's always nice to be reminded that despite all the sink holes, invasive species, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida isn't all bad.

"Moments Pass"
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"Another Way"
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mad Scene - Falling Over, Spilling Over EP

The Mad Scene – Falling Over, Spilling Over EP
Homestead, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $1
Odds are, if a band’s album’s cover art looks like it might be associated with Flying Nun Records, the band is probably affiliated with Flying Nun Records. Not only did the Mad Scene release their debut album A Trip Through Monsterland on Flying Nun, but founding member Hamish Kilgour is the same Hamish Kilgour from the Clean, which excites me to no end. I don’t know what it is about this album’s crude pastel image of a table spilling over a bunch of shit, but there’s something about the alluring amateurishness that matches the bands you typically found on Flying Nun. People who weren’t career musicians who made some of the most blissful alt-pop you’ve ever heard. I was just talking about Flying Nun with Jenny yesterday, as she just fell in love with Lorde and of course I had to get on my “You know what else is from New Zealand and paved the way for all kiwi pop?” soapbox which she has probably tuned out a hundred times. Oh, to live in New Zealand in the early 90s. Beautiful scenery, excellent weather, and a government that funds the countries arts and music scene.

Despite the New Zealand roots, the Mad Scene was based in NYC. In addition to Flying Nun, the band was signed by a veritable who’s who of fantastic indie rock labels throughout their career (Homestead, Merge, Siltbreeze). While the sparse, post-punk forward title track is a bit sloggish, the two tracks on this 7”s double A side are as joyful and pleasant as the album’s cerulean vinyl. The guitars on “People to Talk to” chime and jangle in that way that only guitars from Oceania seem to chime and jangle. There’s a post-punk backbone to that track, but the delicious sunny riff shines over everything. Vocal duties on the more indie-pop driven “Paper Plane” are handled by Kilgour’s foil Lisa Siegel, who delivers the vocals in way not dissimilar to Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley (who, by the by, has been part of the band’s revolving door lineup throughout the years). Wonderful stuff. Now excuse me while I try to track down their full-lengths.

Here's "Choose" from their Merge-released sophomore LP Sealight.
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Barbara Manning - "Don't Let it Bring You Down" 7"

Barbara Manning – “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” 7”
Forced Exposure, 1990
Acquired: Crossroads Music, Used, 2013
Price: $2
Years ago, I chronicled my affinity for Barbara Manning’s voice in a write-up of her album with the SF Seals. In my head, Manning is probably best known for singing the lead-off track on Stephin Merrit’s side-project the 6ths, which seems slightly a shame because her own stuff is absolutely lovely. Even when she’s singing other people’s songs, as she does here with a celtic-inspired version of Paul McCartney’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” there is an intangible charm that immediately wins me over. Manning isn’t someone who is going to be renowned for her pipes, but her down to earth vocals are precisely why I like her music so much (her cover of Portastatic’s “Through With People” is also great, by the way). One of my favorite aspects of indie pop has always been not-professionally-trained singers having their way with pop songs. There is a real beauty in someone with a human-sounding voice singing a delicious pop hook in a world where mainstream pop songs are produced like sausages. Did I mention how good this cover of “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” is? I’ve listened to it five times in a row this morning and it is so pleasant. The way this song feels huge with just a jangly guitar, some light percussion, a celtic flute, and some aptly timed vocal harmonies on the chorus is a feat. The b-side, “Haze is Free (Mounting a Broken Ladder),” is a sparse and simple lo-fi affair that perfectly captures feeling of being in a pitch-dark bedroom after a nasty break-up and features lines like “I wish I could mail you a vial of tears.” It’s an interesting contrast to the pop majesty of the a-side, but welcome indeed.

Of course, I can't dig up either of these tracks on the web, so here's another Barbara Manning cut from roughly the same time period. Taste the 90s!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Love as Laughter - "Do You Experience Alien Boredom?" 7"

Love as Laughter – “Do You Experience Alien Boredom?” 7”
K Records, 1996
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $.50
Sometimes I gotta be in the right mood for this stuff to work on me. I’m talking indie rock with pop tendencies pushed so far into the lo-fi sphere that it sounds like it was recorded in a Laundromat with every machine set to its spin cycle and all of the equipment intentionally pushed over onto the floor, semi-broken, put back together again and used to record music. It sounds like shit, but that’s the point, and the A-side of this Love as Laughter 7” is totally working its charms on me. This is the sort of weird thing I have come to expect from K’s International Pop Underground series, which is about as spotty of a series as you’re like to find. Some of these are godawful, some are absolute gems, and some are just plain pleasant, easy, if slightly forgettable alt-pop. Honestly, some of the stuff that is self-awarely lo-fi sounds like garbage if there isn’t a little diamond of a song buried under all of the rubble. Fortunately, both “Do You Experience Alien Boredom?” and the even dirtier sounding “Idol Worship! Idol Worship! We Offer Sleep to You!” have enough going for them at the base level that they sound just fine even though they sound like they were recorded on busted old cassette tapes found at a thrift shop.

Enjoy this little gem here in all of its glorious sloppiness. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Low - "Hatchet (Optimimi Version)" 7"

Low – “Hatchet (Optimimi Version)” 7”
Sub Pop, 2007
Acquired: Kiefs, New, 2007
Price: $0

I am fairly certain I acquired this on Record Store Day, 2007, which if memory serves correct was the first big RECORD STORE DAY. Back when you could just grab free 7” singles. Back before the regimented high-dollar releases that sapped the joy from Record Store Day. It’s great for the record stores, don’t get me wrong, and people still get giddy about weird/rare stuff, and while I always peruse the list of RSD releases I’m rarely moved (the exceptions were the Limited Edition pressing of the Hold Steady’s Heaven is Whenever which didn’t even come out and the vinyl version of Pavement’s greatest hits collection Quarantine the Past which had a different track list than the CD version and I own and has fucking awesome cover art and I thoroughly enjoy). I’m just set in my ways though. If GBV or the Mountain Goats put out some RSD exclusive thing I’d be on that like my in-laws inbred Labradors on a dropped chicken wing. All that said, I don’t think this was an official RSD release, just something Kiefs had surplus of and blew out the door. Or maybe I’m remembering it wrong, it was like SEVEN YEARS AGO. Christ, I used to be a young pup! Consuming all the new music all the time, never letting up, reviewing 8 new albums a week for music staff. I was definitely overdoing it. The drawback is that there are very few albums from 2007-2009 that really, really stuck with me. Those that did were almost exclusively made by bands I already liked, like Low’s Drums and Guns. This 7” was apparently released with vinyl copies of that album and includes remixes of the breezy, lighthearted “Hatchet” (for me, "Let's bury the hatchet like the Beatles and the Stones" became one of the most memorable lines from any song during the 00s)paired up with the bleak and sinister “Breaker.” That said, the Optimimi Version of “Hatchet” makes the track even breezier with some groovy piano bits and a new vocal mix and “Breaker” only gets bleaker as all but electronic drums, haunted synthesizers and Mimi Parkers ethereal vocals push their way to the forefront with hypnotic results.

"Hatchet (Optimimi Version)" - This remix has an official video! Neat!
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"Breaker (Dub Plate)" - A bored person's version of a video.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Low - "Venus" 7"

Low – “Venus” 7”
Sub Pop, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $3
As far as I can tell, the “Venus” 7” falls somewhere between the band’s early breakout albums Long Division and The Curtain Hits the Cast and two of their best albums: Secret Name and their masterpiece, Things We Lost in the Fire. What we get on “Venus” is the sound of a band who has just figured it out, and it’s wonderful. I have long admired Low for their ability to just as compelling as any major indie rock band while playing at half the speed. The benefit is an atomosphere and moodiness unrivaled in the realm. “Venus” is a stunning example of the magic that happens when Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker harmonize. It’s not as epic as some of their later tracks, but there is something about the quaintness of this track that puts my heart at ease. It’s just so easy to love, but then again, so is Low. Kudos to them for staying relevant and continuing to make kick ass records (most notably 2007’s sparse and haunting “Drums & Guns” and most recently, the absolutely teriffic The Invisible Way). B-side “Boyfriends & Girlfriends” is a spare and hypnotic dirge that forecasts towards the darker edge of Low’s discography.  


"Boyfriends & Girlfriends"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Los Campesinos! - "You! Me! Dancing!" 7"

Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!” 7”
Wichita, 2007
Acquired: Los Campesinos Mail Order, New, 2009
Price: £5
I feel like I must have been at every show Los Campesinos! played at the 2008 SXSW. I definitely know I cut in line to get into a day set at Emos and didn’t feel bad about it because no one in line was even paying attention and, besides, I wanted it more. The show was basically magic: cluttered, exuberant magic. During “You! Me! Dancing!” Gareth jumped into the crowd, which on paper seems like a cheap ploy to force audience engagement but it WORKS EVERY SINGLE TIME. “OH MY GOD THE GUY SINGING THE SONG IS HERE AMONGST US PLEBES!” I probably said and loved the band even more. “You! Me! Dancing!” is like THE Los Camp! song. It’s the most towering single from their electric debut Hold On Now, Youngster... and best distills the band’s strengths, which is basically throwing a hundred different influences into a blender and serving up a pop smoothie. 1990s alternative rock in the guitars, Sarah Records songwriting in the clever, occasionally self-effacing lyrics, a genuine understanding of twee pop in all of its majesty without actually being twee pop itself, and A SHITLOAD OF GLOCKENSPIELS. Glockenspiels make it a party, it’s just a fact. Seeing seven early-twentysomething Brits crammed on that tiny stage in Austin is still one of my favorite concert experiences. In hindsight, Gareth Campesinos’ vocals are chirpy and thin compared to his room-commanding pipes on No Blues and Hello Sadness. Maybe the best portrait of the band is a sort of timelapse, side-by-side pairing of “You! Me! Dancing!” and their latest single, “Avocado, Baby” which is both way more in control of itself (although the wild quality of “Dancing!” is part of its charm) but about twice as face-meltingly catchy. I sometimes wonder if people don’t take Los Campesinos! seriously. Like all they think is “Oh, twee pop revival there’s no depth” because this is the stuff I worry about when it comes to bands I adore. As with the Hold Steady and GBV, I get defensive if people slag on Los Camp! Even with an absence of religion, I still found a way to be a zealot.

"You! Me! Dancing!'

"It Started With a Mixx"

And just because, here's the fantastic video for "Avocado, Baby"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Los Campesinos! - "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" 7"

Los Campesinos! – “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” 7”
Wichita, 2007
Acquired: Los Campesinos Mail Order, New, 2009
Price: £5
Have you ever heard a song where you just knew you were going to follow a band to the end of it all? It’s exactly like falling in love, because it is falling in love. There was a moment in 2008 when I looked past this hype machine image of Los Campesinos! that had been planted in my head based solely on the disco ball cover of their Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP and listened to the damn thing and realized that there, in the midst of my indie pop years, it was the most perfect thing I could have possibly heard. Following this band through the years has been one of the great joys in my life, and the only other bands that rouse me on a cohesive gut/heart/head level are Guided by Voices and the Hold Steady. So LC! are in very good company. Watching the band move beyond their playful twee-inspired glee into darker, truer territory has been a treat. That said, “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” is a total fucking mess of a song, and that is what made me fall so hard. The music is a jumble of things running into each other, and the accented boy/girl vocals feel like they are spelling one another because there are too many lyrics for the songs brisk tempo. It all devolves into chaos, and though it’s a little rough and a little silly, there’s just so much pure bliss that it feels impossible not to love this scrappy group. All of the joy of making music is on display on “You Throw Parties…” and b-side “Don’t Tell Me to do the math(s),” and it’s a special thing, because these humble beginnings are the high watermark of a lot of bands. And compared to the concurrent masterworks of LC!, these two songs sound like the quaint rumblings of 8-year old children fucking around in the family room.  

"We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives"

"Don't Tell Me to do the Math(s)"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lois - "Press Play and Record" 7"

Lois – “Press Play and Record” 7”
K Records, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Price: $.50
While Lois has never been my favorite of the 1990s indie pop lady singers, the tracks on this 7” so perfectly capture the gauzey look of the early 90s that they come across as rather charming. The music is incredibly ramshackle, populating the same streams that fed grunge as well as the sweet and cuddly incarnation of punk rock that was twee. This is her first release, so it's a little rough, but again, you can't kill the DIY charm of the early 90s. The spare, acoustic b-side “Long Time Gone” works better with Lois Maffeo’s voice than the jangly pop of the a-side (and the majority of Lois’s discography). It strips away any hint of sweetness and doesn’t feel strained, and while I don’t love the song, I much prefer it to the rather forgettable nature of her usual output.

"Press Play and Record"

"Long Time Gone"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Li'l Pit - "Feeling Good" 7"

Li’l Pit – “Feeling Good” 7”
Kill Rock Stars,
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25
No doubt, I grabbed this little baby from the Love Garden Shotgun Room because of the KRS and because of the Mike Watt on Stand Up Bass. Watt also produced this strange attempt at cool jazz by alt-rockers (Porno For Pyros’ Stephen Perkins dishes up drums on this one). Leave “Feeling Good” to Nina Simone, I say. This one’s a bass-heavy wash. For kicks, here is the record's ancient website from Mike Watt's hootpage circa 1997s.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Let's Wrestle/The Love Language - Split 7"

Let’s Wrestle/The Love Language – Split 7”
Merge, 2010
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2010
Price: $6
This is a Record Store Day exclusive, no doubt purchased because I got up early and didn’t want to leave Love Garden empty handed. Even though I think $6 is a bit excessive for a 7”, I fucking love Let’s Wrestle. And their contribution, “I’m So Lazy,” is an exemplary slice of the slacker-tinged alt-rock the band worked to perfect over the course of their early EPs and first album, In The Court of Wrestling Let’s. The aforementioned first album was a little overstuffed for my liking, and I don’t know if I ever made it all the way through, but their single “I Won’t Lie To You” is one of those songs that pops up every now and then and I’ll stop in my tracks to enjoy the pure, sloppy glory of that number. The Love Language is a band I’m not familiar with, but their contribution to this 7”, “Brittany’s Back,” is a damn good piece of middle of the road indie rock thanks to the fact that it sounds like it was recorded through a camcorder, which paints an intriguing film over the song.

Let's Wrestle - "I'm So Lazy"

The Love Language - "Brittany's Back"

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ben Lee/Pony Up! - Split 7"

Ben Lee/Pony Up! – Split 7”
Dim Mak, 2004
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $1
I know two things about Ben Lee: 1.) He was in a quasi-supergroup with Ben Kweller and Ben Folds called the Bens. 2.) According to the Ataris, he sucks. I know lots of things about bands I’ve never even heard. This is the first time I’ve ever heard the music of Mr. Lee, and while I wouldn’t say he sucks, perhaps his clumsy-trying-to-be-cute snoozefest cover of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” probably isn’t the firmest ground to stand on when casting judgement. After all, I used to think Ben Kweller was lame until I realized he was a brilliant pop-smith. So I’ll just leave the forgettable “Float On” cover alone for now. Besides, I bought this 7” for the Pony Up! side. This is the Canadian all-girl twee group’s very first release, and it’s a bit rough but as endearing as all of Pony Up!s stuff. The track “The Truth About Cats and Dogs (Is That They Die)” from their 2006 debut LP Make Love to the Judges With Your Eyes was a fixture on my twee-based radio show Pop Rocks! in the late 00s. In the two years between this 7” and their full length, the band grew from ramshackle Riot Grrrl meets Jonathan Richman novelty to a magnificently tuneful pop group.

Ben Lee - "Float On"

Pony Up - "I Heard You Got Action"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Lawrence Arms - Fat Club 7"

The Lawrence Arms – Fat Club 7”
Fat Wreck Chords, 2001
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $.50

“Porno and Snuff Films” was the lead single and lead off track from the Lawrence Arms third album, Apathy& Exhaustion. This was the first song of theirs I ever heard and it was the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship with one of Chicago’s best punk bands. This is the same as the Fat Club 7” listed on Discogs, but it is not pressed on transparent purple vinyl. Either way, it contains “Overheated,” one of my favorite Larry Arms b-sides. Only because it came on shuffle one day and I sat back, said “Oh shit” and thought about how the Larry Arms always have the best b-sides. It’s funny, because I started off as a total Brendan Kelly guy and evolved into a Chris McCaughan guy. I think it’s an id/superego thing. Brendan Kelly is all the raw, brutal, piss and shit elements where Chris McCaughan is the more sensitive, emotionally ravaged stuff. Together, their dynamic and the way their little venn diagrams overlap make the Lawrence Arms a band I consistently root for and patiently await each and every release. Good to know their new album, Metropole, is comin’ out on the ‘taph on January 28!

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