Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The New Pornographers - High Art, Local News

The New Pornographers – “High Art, Local News”
Matador, 2005
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2005
Price: Free

I think the greatest compliment I can pay to the New Pornographers is to say that they produce great b-sides. The best b-sides, really. I can’t think of another band who has released more single-quality tracks on castaway promotional singles, compilations, and iTunes exclusive downloads. “Graceland,” “Speed of Luxury,” Toronto cover “Your Daddy Don’t Know,” and “High Art, Local News” are absolute monster jams worthy of mass radio airplay. Granted, it’s not that surprising or special considering that the New Pornographers make albums that are loaded front to back with monster jams. Still, I got this one-sided 7” for free with my purchase of Twin Cinema and it straight up kicks ass. The New Porns’ grip on modern power-pop may have slipped over their last couple of albums, but Twin Cinema was one of the catchiest, most rockin’, most fundamentally enjoyable records of the mid-00s and this b-side so craves to be on the album’s tracklist proper. There just wasn’t room, I suppose, and that’s fine because there’s a certain thrill that comes with discovering that some castaway b-side is actually something mammoth. Actually, it’s like digging up a wooly mammoth while doing some routine gardening. “Wow, I was enjoying this but HOLY SHIT A MAMMOTH!” Thrilling. Scintillating. And now I’m going to have this rollicking song lodged in my head all day.

"High Art Local News"

Monday, April 28, 2014

Modern Baseball - Sports

Modern Baseball – Sports
Run For Cover, 2012
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2014
Price: $5

I professed my love for Philly’s Modern Baseball earlier this year in a review of their terrific sophomore LP You’re Gonna Miss it All. The group’s pop-punk meets twinkle-daddy emo revival meets wry/relatable anthems in the vein of Los Campesinos! dynamic easily won me over. Before listening to that album, though, I listened to Sports. The group’s debut is a bit more raw (not that much, really) but the groundwork of falling in love with girls who only want to stare at their iPhones and the blend of humor and unsaccharine emotional heft was promising. Then again, I have a thing for reedy vocals and big emotional declarations so maybe I’m biased. While the band didn’t evolve too much between albums, Sports is definitely more on the twinkly emo spectrum and it doesn’t serve them quite as well as the high energy blast of You’re Gonna Miss it All. Either way this is a band I’m excited to watch grow because as much as I enjoy their first two records, I know they’re absolutely capable of knocking me on my ass an album or two from now.

"Tears Over Beers"

Friday, April 25, 2014

My Morning Jacket - "Off the Record" 7"

My Morning Jacket – “Off the Record” 7”
ATO, 2006
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $1.50 

I dabbled in My Morning Jacket’s early discography but never got around to their fourth album, Z, thanks to the weird DRM that came with the album. Coupled with the bad reviews, I didn’t even bother (Note: According to Wikipedia, Z actually got very postive reviews so I don’t know what was going on back in 2006 and I flat out shunned this album). A couple years later my friend and fellow DJ Nick Dormer played “Off the Record” for me and I changed my tune. I don’t think I ever got around to listening to Z in its entirety, but the groove of that track and the hook in the chorus got to me real good. It was such a 180 from the atmospheric alt-country/folk I was used to from Jim James & co. There’s almost a reggae vibe to the track despite upstroked guitars being the only vaguely reggae-ish trait. The song is just fucking smooth as hell. The b-side “How Could I Know” sounds a lot more like the My Morning Jacket I know. It’s gorgeous and an excellent pairing with the more adventurous single on the A-side. My Morning Jacket is one of those bands I keep meaning to get into. I have all their albums on the hard drive and I know for a fact that I really like their album It Still Moves and their sound in general, and yet for some reason, I don’t bother. Which is weird, because this stuff is basically what I would call “Bearded Dad Rock.”

"Off the Record"

"How Could I Know"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mount Analog featuring Karl Blau - "That's How I Got to Memphis" 7"

Mount Analog Featuring Karl Blau – “That’s How I Got to Memphis” 7”
K Records, 2008
Acquired: KJHK Music Staff, New, 2008
Price: $0

Mount Analog is the guise famed Portland producer Tucker Martine operates under, and for this 7” he wrangled fellow northwesterners Karl Blau and Laura Veirs for an absolutely fantastic cover of Bobby Bare’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” I’m a fan of all three aforementioned musicians. Martine is one of the best producers in the game (I recently raved about his collaborative work on Richard Buckner’s latest Surrounded) and Blau and Veirs are a couple of my favorite songwriters from way back (Blau’s BeneathWaves and Veirs’ Year of Meteors are near and dear to the old ticker). Did I mention this track is just wonderful? It’s breezy and laid back and it’s the perfect soundtrack for a front porch on an early summer afternoon with a cold beer. Blau’s off-kilter croon is just the best. The b-side is a moody, experimental-leaning tune “inspired by Jobim’s “A Felicidade.” It’s fine, but there’s really no reason to listen to it when you can just listen to “That’s How I Got to Memphis” a hundred times on repeat.

"That's How I Got to Memphis"

That's How I Got to Memphis from Karl Blau on Myspace.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Morrissey - "You Have Killed Me" 7"

Morrissey – “You Have Killed Me” 7”
Attack, 2006
Kief’s Downtown Music, New, 2007
Price: $1

“You Have Killed Me,” the first single from Morrissey’s 2006 album Ringleader of the Tormentors was one of my top 10 favorite tracks of that year. I played it to death. I haven’t heard it in 8 years, but listening to it now, holy shit, I must have listened to this song 100 times. The production sounds weaker than I remember. I remember it sounding much more majestic, but it’s still wonderfully hyper-dramatic and has these big, swooping strings that make Morrissey’s personal life sound like the only personal life that really matters. On the flip side, “Good Looking Man About Town” is a legitimate b-side and a quality one at that. It sounds like the Smiths! I mean, the guitar player is obviously trying to riff on Johnny Marr and doesn’t hold a  candle, but Morrissey’s voice is seemingly ageless. Also, the cover image of Moz lounging on railroad tracks is absolutely perfect.

"You Have Killed Me"

"Good Looking Man About Town"

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Moon Seven Times - "My Medicine" 7"

The Moon Seven Times – “My Medicine” 7”
Parasol, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25

Whilst combing the erstwhile Alt-Rock 7” section of the Love Garden Shotgun Room, one of the record labels that immediately sent a record to my keeper pile was Parasol. Parasol covered all angles of the indie-pop spectrum and released records by bands that were great but never quite made it as big as they should have (Wolfie, Strawberry Story, The Like Young) in addition to releasing a hundred plus records from random bands no one has ever heard of. Which is great, because they’re often the sort of bands who contributed one magnificent track to the world and then faded into oblivion. Champaign, Illinois’ The Moon Seven Times weren’t necessarily one of those bands, but the three dream pop tracks on this 7” are more than serviceable.  Lynn Canfield’s vocals lend an unfortunate 90s-ness to the whole affair, but just a little bit. All is forgiven, though, since overall these three tracks are quite pleasant. The whole “ethereal dream pop” angle tends to produce a lot of boring music and requires a bit more effort than your average alt-rock since if the songwriting isn’t up to snuff or the music isn’t ornately beautiful enough you run the risk of putting the audience to sleep (which was mostly rectified by bands amping up the reverb and distortion and calling it shoegaze). That said, the Moon Seven Times are snoozy, but have just enough gumption to keep me from falling out of my chair.

"My Medicine"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Modesty Blaise - "Christina Terrace" 7"

Modesty Blaise – “Christina Terrace” 7”
Spirit of ’86, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $.25
“Christina Terrace” is a strange sort of track. Despite being produced by a British band at the height of the Britpop explosion, Modesty Blaise sound more like a band from Flying Nun Records in the 80s. There are some wonky synths, some lighthearted ooh-la-la-la backing vocals that feel like they were tacked on with actual thumbtacks, and some guitar solos that sound like they were recorded off of an answering machine. It’s a wonderful little track that sounds like it could completely dissolve any second. B-side “Nothing Sacred” slows things down to a crawl but retains the backing vocals and simple guitar solos and actually provides a nice contrast. “The Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band in the World” is a hilarious send-up to rock and roll majesty that sounds like a Kinks track and boasts such witty one-liners as “I saw them in town/so they can’t be that great” and “When will you learn/ You’ve gotta dress in black/ You’ve gotta play your guitar when it’s behind your back.”

"Christina Terrace" 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mirah - "Cold Cold Water" 7"

Mirah – “Cold Cold Water” 7”
K Records, 2002
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2010
Price: $3
The sweetness in Mirah’s voice has always made her lush indie-pop all the more compelling. On “Cold Cold Water,” the lead-off and stand-out track from her second album Advisory Committee, she makes you fall in love and then immediately breaks your heart. Phil Elverum lends his trademark atmospheric production as he did for a number of K Records bands during a sweet spot in the 00s. The gorgeous sonics do the world building around Mirah’s aching break-up songs. The b-side on this 7” is a sadly ho-hum, demo-sounding version of “Cold Cold Water” that pales in comparison to the studio cut.

"Cold Cold Water"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Up All Night: A Paternity Leave Soundtrack

Up All Night: A Paternity Leave Soundtrack
Three weeks in and Jenny and I have developed our routine in re getting Rosie to sleep. It involves putting the sweet little nugget of joy in her crib, where she sleeps in three to four hour stretches, wakes up to feed, and goes right back to sleep! What a perfect baby, amirite?! Haha. Just kidding. She rarely sleeps, and when she does, the only way she will stay asleep for a two-hour stretch is sprawled out on my chest in the IKEA chair next to her crib. We do this from about 9PM to 3 or 4 AM or whenever I can’t stay awake any longer and I’m assured Jenny at least got a few hours of meaningful sleep in between feedings. Basically, it’s just like in the movies. It’s like every parenting stereotype you’ve ever heard. Thinking about having kids? You best be able to easily adapt.

On the plus side, it’s brought Jenny and I closer together. We’re like a couple of doughboys in the trenches, fighting for survival. Constantly trying new methods and tricks in an effort to get our daughter to sleep on her own. Our mantra is this: Three Months. In three months, everything will be much, much better. She will be out of her fourth trimester where she’s basically still a fetus and will have blossomed into a cooing, smiling, toe-sucking toddler. That’s the dream, right?

Anyway, these long stretches of serving as a human bassinet have given me a lot of really rewarding daddy-daughter bonding time with the added perk that I get six hours to catch up on reading all the great books I have lying around the house. Just kidding. I’ve been trying to finish Dune for weeks and every night I take it to the little makeshift end table next to the chair and every night I just sit there and play FTL: Faster Than Light or 2048 on the iPad (it’s not all for nothing, however, because I am now REALLY good at those games).

Right before Rosie was born I invested in a cheap-yet-wonderful Bluetooth speaker that serves as the bedroom’s stereo system. Since I can’t very well listen to the Hold Steady at 2AM with a slumbering infant sprawled across my torso threatening to wake up at the slightest twitch/sound. So I’ve loaded up my iPhone with the quietest music I could find on my computer. It’s quite actually quite nice once you get past the exhaustion. Here are some of the greatest hits.

Vashti Bunyan – Lookaftering
Jenny loves the soulful, folky ladies and in the first days we had Rosie, this album was playing constantly. Just so lovely and calming.

Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)

Once the Vashti Bunyan wore out, Jenny started listening to Gillian Welch nonstop. This album, in addition to Soul Journey and Revival, is still what plays throughout the day. These albums are so great I’ll even put them on in the middle of the night.

Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle

It’s hard to find a more sonically peaceful record in my collection. Iron and Wine was the first thing I put on the phone for these late night sessions.

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans

I’m not religious, but I love it when musicians examine their faith in song. On Seven Swans Sufjan Stevens filters the Bible through his personal life and where they intersect. It’s a gorgeous, deeply personal album that subsists almost entirely on banjo and huge vocal harmonies. It’s actively unadorned compared to his extravagance “50 States Project” albums Greetings from Michigan and Illinois (I culled the quietest tracks from those albums and they usually round out a particularly nice hour of ouri evenings).

Papa M – Whatever, Mortal
Whatever, Mortal is a masterpiece from David Pajo, one of indie rock’s most legendary journeymen. His work with Slint, Tortoise, and the For Carnation established him as a pro, but his solo work as Papa M, Aerial M, and as Pajo is where he is at his best. Whatever, Mortal is his best album. It filters the post-rock leanings of his former bands through a folky lens and the results are breathtakingly lovely and honest.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon


Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Last but not least is a massive chunk of Mark Kozelek’s complete discography from Red House Painters to Sun Kil Moon to his self-titled efforts. This is bedtime music for weirdos. His music is the bulk of what I listen to because it’s the quietest and his discography is absolutely fascinating. His latest album, this year’s Benji, is pure, unfiltered, rambling storytelling brimming with heartbreak and tragedy. Going from the straight-forward folky tunes from Red House Painters’ Songs for a Blue Guitar to this new raw shit, you get an interesting portrait of this dude.