Monday, June 29, 2015

Linda Smith - "Till Another Time" 7"

Linda Smith – “Till Another Time” 7”
Slumberland, 1993
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2012
Price: $1

The dreamy lo-fi pop of Linda Smith’s 1990 “Gorgeous Weather” 7” gives way to a fuzzy, languid shoegazer vibe that jibes well with her new label, Slumberland. “Till Another Time” sounds like it has a buzzsaw running through it. It feels much akin to the recent crop of Slumberland shoegaze-revival bands that resurged like mad at the end of the 00s. The b-sides have a bit more jangle but on the whole were a lot quieter and I ended up taking a nap somewhere in the middle of it all.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kyuss - Blues for the Red Sun

Kyuss – Blues for the Red Sun
Dali, 1992
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $2
Somewhere in 2012-2013 I became fascinated with metal. It didn’t last, and barely any of it stuck outside of Liturgy, Mastodon, and Kyuss. I never was a stoner, but I find stoner rock and stoner metal deeply satisfying. Blues for the Red Sun just hit the spot on this lazy day off. The wife and child are off attending to a bridal shower and I’m home alone cleaning up the little loft-area of my in-laws’ house that I have marked as my territory while we are here. The chugging riffs are of the Black Sabbath variety that speak to my soul, and while the music is a little too attached to vintage heavy metal and the shadow of Metallica, there are some really nice psychedelic touches and doomy riffs that really make this something new and something a little off-center. It’s impossible to listen to this without the context of guitarist Josh Homme’s and bassist Nick Oliveri’s later band Queens of the Stone Age. That is also inherently chained to this mythical notion of desert metal. Of dudes loading up on drugs, driving out to the desert, hooking up a generator and offering up tasty riffs to the various cacti and fauna for nothing. Blues for the Red Sun is a bit amateurish (Jeff Garcia’s vocals are abrasive in that cheesy hard rock style that basically IS the 1990s), but there are moments of greatness in the jamming. I hate jamming, but somehow in the context of stoner rock it strikes a nerve. I can groove out a little. Turn my brain off a bit and just live in the dude world for a minute.

"Green Machine"

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I never thought about being a father beyond the distant, commonplace, “Sure I want kids” box one checks on their list of life goals. Jenny and I never even made a conscious decision to have a kid. We had talked about it, she really wanted one, and I rebuffed, and it went like that for a little while. We were living in Minneapolis, 500 miles away from our families, not making enough money, we just weren’t ready. I told myself we weren’t ready. Couldn’t do it. And then one summer afternoon something in my caveman brain took over and I said OK. OK we can roll the dice and see what happens. I don’t know what came over me. I still don’t know, but I bet Jenny will tell you that the spirit of our unborn daughter had something to do with it, and after spending the last year and a half with Rosie I am inclined to agree. Something unreal took over and we got a little miracle.
            But all kids are miracles, aren’t they? And your own kids are always the most special ones. The meant-to-be ones. Couples tend to talk about kids in an abstract way without ever being fully prepared for the amount of devastation they will do to your life and worldview. Fathering is total annihilation in the best way. I used to be a total asshole and now I can only be a little bit of an asshole because I have to help this tiny person understand how to not be an asshole. It’s a beautiful thing.
            The thing I wasn’t prepared for was how much I would like being a father. I remember coming home from the hospital with Rosie and, after getting settled in, going to Target for some groceries/weird post-pregnancy requests from Jenny. It was the first time I was apart from my family and I kept thinking to myself, “I’m someone’s dad!” and beaming. I was so proud of that, I still am. Every single day. It’s barely speakable how much I love this little girl.
            Mondays are my day to watch Rosie while Jenny works her 9 to 5, and they’re the best days. I wake up and make Rosie and Jenny breakfast. Jenny leaves for work and Rosie and I play in the toy room upstairs and I listen to the latest episode of the Indoor Kids podcast and drink my coffee. If it’s nice out we go outside and look at the cows in the pasture next door. If it’s really nice out I’ll pull out the wagon and haul Rosie up to the chicken coop and the barn to see Bart the barn cat. Then I put her down for a nap. She refuses to sleep in the crib so I’ll lay her down and usually take a nap with her. Then we have lunch, play in the living room, watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Doc McStuffins and she will dance to all the songs. Then more toy room and then another nap if I’m lucky. And then more toy room or living room activity until Jenny comes home and I make dinner.
          It’s totally exhausting and every day I feel like Rosie and I come through a little bit closer, and that is worth more to me than any paycheck or creative satisfaction. Being a dad is what does it for me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I’ve never had an answer until now.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Like Young - The Timid EP

The Like Young – The Timid EP
Polyvinyl, 2005
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2015
Price: $1
I know the Like Young best from a terrific little EP they released in the mid-00s called Six at Midnight. They covered doo wop and soul songs from the 50s and 60s and by golly if it wasn’t fantastic! Especially then, during my deep twee years. I don’t remember if I ever heard any of their original music, but my affinity for that covers EP was enough to take a flier on this 7”. It’s some wonderful, synth-assisted indie pop with dual boy/girl vocals with a sound reminiscent of the pure, unapologetic pop of Ozma or Wolfie.  AND DAMNIT IF THE LIKE YOUNG ISN’T COMPRISED OF FORMER MEMBERS OF WOLFIE!! I think I knew that, somewhere deep in the swamp of my music knowledge. Wolfie was one of my favorite indie pop bands back in the day and I loved them for the fierceness they brought to a genre often bogged down by overbearing preciousness. The Like Young harness that same fiery energy and while their music is sweet and a little adorable, there’s also a little edge. Not a lot of edge, but a little to offset the tweeness. Like many married couple bands, the Like Young dissolved along with Amanda and Joe Ziemba’s marriage, which is a bummer because man they made some sweet, sweet music together. 

"I've Been Used"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Superchunk - Here's Where the Strings Come In

Superchunk – Here’s Where the Strings Come In
Merge, 1995
Acquired: Discogs, Used, 2015
Price: $14
Jenny and I used to joke about my record collection being our “Cancer Fund.” So when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and the bills started piling up, I started listing records on Discogs. I didn’t go crazy, I just pulled out the ones I knew I didn’t really need. Unfortunately, since this straddled both 2014 and 2015, I had two deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum’s to meet, which weighted in at $4,000. I got the hospital to knock off a big chunk of what I owed them because we don’t even make enough money to pay rent anywhere, so that was cool, but the bills were still a headache. I did pretty good! But of course, I’m useless and for some bizarre reason I created a wantlist on discogs so I could counter all of my good hard work. I only bought three records, and only when the prices were just too good to refuse. And I bought them under the guise of “LIFE IS SHORT ENJOY YOURSELF.” Of course this was one of the records I bought, which is weird because I don’t think I had even listened to this album all the way through before it showed up on my doorstep.

While I hadn’t listened to Here’s Where the Strings Come In, I bought it without thinking because it contains one of my favorite Superchunk songs: “Detroit Has a Skyline.” Jesus Christ, just put that song on in the car, roll the windows down and try not to get in a wreck as you scream along at the top of your lungs and bash the dash with improvised faux-drum fills. If I found a karaoke bar that had that track on tap I’d never leave. It’s one of the great rock songs of our era and I dare you not to let this song grab you by the throat and drag you across the ground for three minutes.

Unsurprisingly Here’s Where the Strings Come In is as solid as every other Superchunk record. I can’t think of a band with a more stable discography. After the first couple of primordial records from about On the Mouth on the level of quality has never ever dipped (and you could probably even make it from No Pocky for Kitty on depending on how sentimental you are). There really isn’t a point where the wave crests; it just keeps rolling along, perfectly surfable. Strings might be the point where Superchunk showed no signs of letting up on the sweet-spot indie rock. It was cancer money well spent. Now if only I can get Indoor Living for a sweetheart deal…

"Detroit Has a Skyline"

Friday, June 12, 2015

Linda Smith - "Gorgeous Weather" 7"

Linda Smith – “Gorgeous Weather” 7”
Harriet Records, 1990
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2007
Price: $.25
My experience with Harriet Records is limited, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of my favorite bygone record labels. I’ve always thought of them (and idolized them) as a sort of American Sarah Records. When I hosted Pop Rocks!—an indie pop worship showcase on KJHK—Harriet artists got a ton of play. The Magnetic Fields, Tullycraft, the Extra Glenns, and any band featured on the label’s amazing compilation The Long Secret were A-OK in my book and got a ton of play. The lo-fi production values of Linda Smith’s dreamy pop makes for an interesting listen and reminds me why I am constantly looking for the little illustration of Harriet the Spy on labels when I go record hunting.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Feelies - Only Life

The Feelies – Only Life
A&M, 1988
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $3

This album crept into my life while I was hosting Alternative Flashback at KJHK and came at me full force when I randomly found it in the basement of Half Price Books St. Paul. Of all the HPB’s I worked for, that one had the best records. I don’t know what it was. All that cool indie, alt-rock stuff just seemed to flow there milk and honey style. When I went in to interview for shift leader I found a copy of Billy Bragg’s Talking With the Taxman About Poetry and knew it was meant to be. The hardest part was that my co-workers all had great taste in music and it was often a fight for the best shit. Those were the days!

So this Feelies record is great. Their debut Crazy Rhythms gets the most attention but this is the one that stuck with me. It’s a marvelous blend of jangly alt-pop and Velvet Underground influenced rock n’ roll (an influence that is further driven home by the cover of “What Goes On” that closes the record). Despite the major label, Only Life feels incredibly insulated from mainstream influences of the outside world. It eschews all the bad habits of the era and feels (only) timeless. It’s what we talk about when we talk about College Rock. 

"Too Much"

Friday, June 5, 2015

Elliott Smith - "Division Day" 7"

Elliott Smith – “Division Day” 7”
Suicide Squeeze, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2004
Price: $4
“Division Day” provides stark contrast to the bleak, depressive tracks on the “Needle in the Hay” single. After his eponymous second album, Elliott Smith lightened up a bit. He embraced his pop sensibilities and started turning out brighter, more upbeat fair like “Division Day.” That’s not to say he all together abandoned the sad, low key stuff, but the balance of the two styles on his third album, Either/Or, makes that record his best. “Division Day” is the missing link between that record and his major label debut XO, and is a solid top-ten track from a discography so consistent and excellent that compiling such a list would be akin to pulling teeth. B-Side “No Name #6” is a throwback to his earlier records, but has enough skip in its step to keep anyone from being bummed out. Overall this 7” is a delight.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Laura Stevenson – Wheel
Don Giovanni, 2013
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2015
Price: $8
The primary function of my year end lists is to create a shopping list for future record shopping. If a record cracks my top ten, I’m almost always gonna buy it if I can find it for less than $10 used. Laura Stevenson’s Wheel got a tremendous amount of play in 2013, so it’s nice to have this beauty in the collection. Stevenson has a punk rock pedigree, which earns her my ear, and her untrained voice lends an honesty to these songs that you’ll never find on the albums of the autotuned darlings of the day. That untrained-ness doesn’t stop Stevenson from belting out lines, to great emotional effect. Wheel is a supremely beautiful record, one that I can apparently put on a year after last hearing it and feel my body flooded with its power. It reminds me so vividly of the last months we spent in Minneapolis, riding my bike everywhere, enjoying the serenity of Minnesota in the springtime. I’ve gotta few albums like that in my arsenal. My Minnesota albums. Ones that, if I listen to too much I start missing that place to an unbearable degree. Someday soon, Laura Stevenson is going to kick everyone's ass and people will say, "She came out of nowhere! Such greatness!" and I'll be here over exaggeratedly pointing at this record and saying, "This came out like four years ago!" 

"Runner" - Brilliant summer jam, highlighting Stevenson's pop-chops, which are excellent, as you can see.

"The Wheel" - But my favorite bits on this record are the quiet, soul-poking ones that serve as a gravitas delivery vehicle.