Category Archives: Review

The Top 24 Songs of 2015

dr-quinn-et-les-indiens

The Revenant, 2015. 20th Century Fox

Top 24 Songs of 2015 (Thank you Philadelphia, hyphens)

24. Warm Thoughts – Intangible

Elliot Babbin is the drummer of Touché Amore. Warm Thoughts (formerly Dad Punchers) is his nostalgia-fueled bummer rock project on the side. ‘Intangible’ has a lucid arrangement that builds off a stock Casio drumbeat, where dreamy weezery-rock is boiled down and refined to its sweetest crux. Their full length Mar Vista was the greatest ‘Polaroid for an album cover’ style album that ever tickled your wild and unmanicured old man ear hairs. Certainly far more enjoyable than any other overblown emo reincarnation mumbo jumbo.

23. Nice Hooves – The Gall

The title track off the ‘The Gall’ is deafening, vehement meditation on a single moment of an Every Time I Die Song. A biker meth masterpiece.

22. Antarctigo Vespucci – I See Failure

Hard-to-pronounce project of power duo Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock return with a full length record of beach rental property anthems. The bombastic closer of Leavin’ La Vida Loca takes a somber look back at drinking rum out of ceramic mugs. ‘I See Failure’ is sentimental at a glance, but it sincerely validates the moments that lead up to it. Could easily be the blockbuster sequel to Bomb the Music Industry’s Vacation.

21. Kylesa – Moving Day

The best part of a new Kylesa release is the one or two shoegazey 90’s songs that Phillip Cope contributes amid all the yellin’ and psyched out swamp rock. Cope is unafraid to get completely lost in down comforters of grandiose delay and other swathes of effect pedal mire. Thicker than Alan Thicke himself. 10/10 Sony Discmans.

20. Timeshares – Naive

Hunky pop-punk band Timeshares have grown up a little and gone alt. country and it is glorious. Ten out of ten single coils. These are your stompy, rag time Gin Blossom saviors. One insanely infectious & joyous hootenanny party song after another. I guess this is growing up.

19. California X – Nights in the Dark

California X sound like they unearthed the perfect overdriven amp tone while searching for fossil fuels to get buzzed off of. Smooth stoner rock with heroic guitar leads that could be direct translations of the 8-bit audio snippets that play when the princess is rescued. I wish there were a hundred more bands like this.

18. The Body and Thou -The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills

Sounds like hallucinating about being eaten by headhunters, while succumbing to fever in the deepest trenches of South America’s premier tropical rainforest.

17. Bangers – Trousers of Time

Miley Cyrus named her last album after this band and with good reason. UK gravel-springsteen outfit Bangers released a fantastic record with an embroidered cockatoo on the cover called Bird. This album teetered between dissonant punk races to the finish and big rural chords that take their time in taking shape. Bangers tamper with melody and dissonance with powerful results. Easily stands out from other org-core efforts and it also truly has the loveliest album cover of 15. Look at it.

Bangers-Bird-Artwork-1700-1022x1024

16. Frank Ocean – Bruce Valentine

Frank sings about a flaming Chevy Malibu in the wake of a Zuma County beach sunset. Its charred frame a metaphor of lost love in the face of painkiller dependency. A galactic empire of keyboards rise and fall around an Earl Sweatshirt verse, while the distorted sample of Phantom Planet’s ‘California’ skirts around a ricocheting Roland TR-808. The album that almost was…

15. The Armed – Paradise Day

Detroit destruction punk. If this was featured on Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, those gorilla monsters from Ghost would have come alive from the shadows to tare your chosen character apart limb from limb. A blast of catchy pop swaddled by Kurt Ballou’s quicksludge static.

14. All Dogs – Skin

Skin is a dark, desperate, completely gorgeous ode to whatever goo the human soul is made from. It has four different parts – beginning in the shade and careening through desperate confession, before dying in a dazzling, young dinosaur fuzzcendo. Sincerity pours of Maryn Jones and foams up all smokey and burning. A haven of grunge, with grout always hidden just beneath the surface.

13. Sumac – Thorn in the Lion’s Paw

Tough to pick the best track off The Deal. They are all filthy, cowboy ballads for sitting solitary around fires on cold prairie nights. Sumac is the ultimate fantasy sludge-metal team assembled by sludge ball nerds at their kitchen tables. ‘Thorn in the Lion’s Paw’ is chaotic alabaster guitar and mad man hammered piano, until de-tuned twang succeeds to neon Miami heat. Their follow up is being recorded in a church.

12. Glocca Morra – Secret Drinker

This is the last song these bastards ever put out before Glocca Morra broke up and their members became professional apiarists. A southern gothic that embodies staring into the abyss that stares back into you. Pleaded vocals gradually become drowned out by sweet, sweet chunks of guitar, in lieu of the twinkly passages of Morra’s back catalogue. It was the beast that killed beauty. A stand-up guy of appalachian highs in mother’s eyes/Could do no wrong/Could never die. (2008-2015).

11. Macklemore – Downtown

She got 1988 Mariah Carey hair/Very rare, mom jeans on her derriere/Throwing up the West Side as we tear in the air/Stop by Pike Place/Throwing fish to a player, Macklemore relents in the dramatic build up to the years most unexpected and operatic chorus. If you hear ‘Downtown’on the radio then turn it off, because this track should exist only as heard/watched on the official music video. That’s just where ‘Downtown’ lives. Unabashed feel-good rock opera that is completely different than anything released this year.

10. Spirit Club – Sling

The collaboration between Nathan Williams and Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings was slightly underwhelming, as was the new Wavves material. But Spirit Club got everything just right, and then some. Crawling heavy metal fuzz, drawled out stoner masterpiece of a record. Spirit Club’s debut captures that magic of a song’s first incarnation with the happy accidents that arise out of recording at home. ‘Sling’ delves in the splendor of lo-fi heartache. What Arnold from Hey Arnold! would really sound like if he laid down some jams in that crazy room with the giant window panes and the pre-gentrification Brooklyn skyline rotting in the background.

9. Modern Baseball – …And Beyond

Modern Baseball are secret princes of cow punk. This song is so fucking great. It starts with this cool shuffling drum beat and EMOTIONAL guitar before we get a funky ass thumpin bass and a false start, only to be followed by downtrodden telecaster canoodling. Serious saloon closing time cowgirl serenade. Ten out of ten spurs. You know how it ends? With more of that funky bass line. A left field approach from Modern Baseball that is altogether charming and utterly addictive.

8. Baroness – Kerosene

If you are an adult then smoke pot and listen to this right now. Then imagine the damp latex skin of monsters from 80’s movies, and the punk detectives that chase them through time, firing their laser bullet slugs. Rejoice in the little muffled explosions of ‘Kerosene’ that bring in the rainy city street of ‘Fugue,’ which finally declares itself with ‘Chlorine & Wine.’ Purple is a succint attack of a non-concept album foray into mushroom growth and battlefields. A record without singles, because every song is a single. Complete with plenty of Southern picked country and sparkling solo’s fuzzed out in classical Baroness grandeur. Triumphant.

7. Joey Bada$$ – Paper Trail$

Sure everything is 90’s alt. punk but what about 90’s hip-hop? B4.da.$$ is passionate and heavy. It cuts through to something that wasn’t necessarily invited. Bada$$ raps like someone who both loves what they’re doing and is pretty goddamn amazing at it. A hard hitting beat and scratched back vinyl recalls another time you may or may not have experienced. Joey Bada$$ leaves room in his music. It has space to breathe, but it pummels you all the same. His acclaimed album brings to mind 2014 buzz word ‘swagger’ and reinvents its meaning into something  invigorating and palpable. Relentless yet without the exhausting theatrics of Kendrick.

6. Viet Cong – Continental Shelf

The band name that people who love to be offended, loved to be offended by. ‘Continental Shelf’ is if Grizzly Bear got super stoned and covered Iron Maiden. Low laying mantra of creepy, table-saw guitar behind funereal march bass that softens only in an ethereal chorus. The accompanying music video is a spot on visual counterpart to how ‘Continental Shelf’ haunts your head. But unlike all of the other obscure art rock bands your roommate or basketball coach or liquor store clerk told you were great, Viet Cong’s 2015 album was actually enjoyable.

5.  Alabama Shakes – Shoegaze

Every member of this group is a force to be reckoned with. Everyone from the thunder fingered bassist to the guy who plays the triangle is contributing something staggeringly good. Then there’s Brittany Howard, who just fuckin’ destroys anything that wasn’t upheaved by the band. Whether it be with more sweetness or with sultriness. It was no surprise when the long awaited Shakes follow up turned their grief-stricken Motown into celebratory music to hang out on the clothes line of fast living and good weather. How awesome does this song sound. Like carrying briefcases full of money, in the 70’s because you are wearing a YELLOW SUIT.

4. Titus Andronicus- Fired Up

Rise up and dance and jump off the couch and get all fired up. TMLT is not art to digest or critique. It is a surface to leap from and land in. Titus Andronicus attacks with the cadence of rowdy bar-band punks. They have single handedly pioneered the genre, possibly by accident. Patrick Stickles never fails to sound like he is challenging you to a fight. A brawl, but against one’s own ego, upon layers of sax and ‘yano. Feedback resembling a constant, phantom harmonica.

3. Sam Russo – Crayfish Tales

Sam Russo’s debut LP Storm embodied how it feels to be indoors while sleet piles up outside. Singer/songwriter/story teller beard man Sam Russo does his job with fuckin’ complete and total mastery. In a sea of guy’s with wooden guitars, Sam Russo is a rusty, coal burning steamship. His follow up, Greyhound Dreams took that feeling on the road to introduce you to new characters and places. ‘Crayfish Tales’ is a narrative of letting go, gypsy cocaine and falling asleep in the car. Of a sky that looks like it’s trying to snow but unleashes hailstones instead. This song originally appeared on a split with Arby’s delegate Brendan Kelley.

2.  FIDLAR – West Coast

FIDLAR ruled the landscape of 2015 between the watchful gaze of two life-size R. Kelly manikins. This is a hazy yet fond recollection of youth. But the sense of urgency here is false. ‘West Coast,’ even without Henry Rollins, is the beautiful realization that your hard living and fifty beer a day lifestyle has finally caught up with you. You’re dead. Life flashing before your eyes. Puke pooling on bathroom tiles, failing out of college and driving up piss-golden landscapes flicker like frames from a far off projector. Checked out/Waiting for the weekend is a final affirmation that you are embarking to that big tidal swell in the sky. The damp grip of the Grim Reaper’s hand is absent. It is just you and any memory you can hold on to. You smile. Prepare for another lifetime of messing it up all over again.

1. Hop Along – Sister Cities

Joe Reinhart and his beat up G&L decimated 2015 by plucking the most interesting lead guitar I’ve heard in 47 years. It’s like endless rays of prism glass bluegrass filtered through ferocious folk punk. All the while lead vocalist and chief song writer Frances Quinlan pushes the comforts of vocal alliteration to spill gripping stories of American life in the places between suburbia and downtown. We see the people beyond their poverty and what happens inside the houses off backcountry roads. The way in which the syllables of ‘eels twisting through the eye sockets of the horses head,’ are sung is defining in itself and one of many cinematic moments on Painted Shut.

Help! My uncle’s gone insane!
In his room he sits shaking a geranium!
Outside, the old dog resigned
Leaves heavy tracks for the father dragging the rifle to find

This song is so good that there are two formal recordings of it – the Shaking Through rendition technically came out in 2013, but it is the ultimate telling of ‘Sister Cities.’ Hop Along recorded it again for 2015’s Painted Shut, with even MORE unfettered guitar solo’s. Despite having a quaint discography, Hop Along are unequivocally one of the most exciting bands to come out of anywhere. I could wait another three years for a third LP, as theirs is the sort of craft that can be dwelt upon and invested in for good. There are just too many nuanced moments and so much brilliant prose buried in Quinlan’s snarl for their music to ever seem stale.

I know you had to shoot that dog I loved so much/I know you had to do it, Quinlan refrains from atop infinite, driving road trip mix-tape momentum. You don’t know where the battered car is going, but hopefully by this time you have come to realize that it doesn’t really matter.

 

 

Runners Up & Honorable Mentions

Torche – Loose Men

Self Defense Family and Touché Amore – Low Beams

Saintseneca – River

Kowloon Walled City – The Grift

Pusha T – F.I.F.A

Father John Misty – Bored in the USA

Loma Prieta – Roadside Cross

Dogs on Acid – Sun Bleached

Mutoid Man – Dead Dreams

The Front Bottoms – West Virginia

Fashion Week – Heroin Chic

The Weaks – Frances Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge On Philadelphia

Red City Radio – Rest Easy

Best Album from Ghosts of Best Years Past that Still Holds Up

Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Indie music, Review

The Best Thirteen Albums of the Year 2013

TENIERS-painter-and-family

Red City Radio – Titles

Oklahoma City is the city of red that these men hail from. Take the always reliable dueling gravelly/melodic vocal attack and throw it out of the van, because everybody participates on Titles. One giant, hollering voice, in one unified battle cry after another. ‘Joy Comes with the Morning’ is the epitome of grizzled pop with its superbly crafted hooks delivered with intensity instead of irony. Weathered shanty’s like ‘Two Notes of an Octave’ and ‘The Silence Between’ just make you feel alive. Titles is empowerment music as well as a fulfilling foray into the underlying truths of org-life. What more would you expect from a band that closes out a jam with ‘I am a fucking juggernaut.’

Pity Sex – Feast of Love

Lo-fi (don’t call it a comeback) emo. Even the purest, priciest and highest grade heroin isn’t this warm and fuzzy. See ‘Hollow Body,’ and allow it to wash over you and do weird things to your veins. Mazzy Star-esque lulling over shoe eyed crescendos fit for a post-rock outfit. Tracks like ‘Honeypot,’ ‘Smokescreen’ and ‘Sedated’ ensure hazy hallucinations. But as dreamy as they may seem, the songwriting here is well paced and focused. The band name truly mirrors the actual act of pity sex – resounding as sweet, youthful and massive, yet altogether content. At their best with ‘Fold,’ a blurry longing about being tortured by nostalgia.

Fidlar – Fidlar

‘Cheap Beer’ sets the tone for a record of debauchery and racing towards Mexican borders to allude police capture. Hear it and watch them burn down a subculture of beach bum wannabes. The full length debut of FIDLAR (Fuck it Dog Lifes a Risk) barely bothers to wipe the rabid froth from its Miller Lite breathed mouth. Surfabilly and 60s garage rock muddled with the temperament of red eyed youth, make for sloppy, jaw punching songs executed with impressive technical ability. ‘Wake Bake Skate’ is like the escape to a sunnier place ruled by 40 oz. aluminum cans, seen behind plastic wayfarer frames smudged with white dust. Wallowing in a gritty life beyond over abundant reverb and Instagram filtered images of surfer girls. ‘Cocaine’ evokes Cuban drug dealers building makeshift empires, while ‘No Waves’ achieves some strange beauty, as it surrenders to binging, and yearns for a perfect left on a sunset shore. This is a place far beyond the beach.

Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond your Wildest Dreams

An orchestra of a million guitars perfecting classic punk music. Party rock with uber attention to detail that is rife with slacker energy. You can always hear someone doing something interesting on their instrument, even in the most composed of moments, which makes this an unlikely headphone record. If you listen closely, you can hear trophies and lawnmowers falling off the walls of a garage. All while winning over the hearts of neighborhood girls who will eventually move past their band guy phase. But on ‘Separations,’ Diarrhea Planet sound like they’re gonna keep keepin’ on, because they love what they’re doing. ‘Kids’ is a lethargic jam that encapsulates the slow motion nature of life’s most poignant moments. When the drums fade, and he says I’m a singerrrrr, and the double tapping swings in, everyone just looses it. If at that moment I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams doesn’t win you over, then you don’t deserve to wear that bandana on your head, you traitor. More than enough shredding to be considered a metal band, but they’re having too much fun to be that.

California X – California X

Amherst, Massachusetts has churned out the sleeper hit of the year. This self-titled full length is nothing but fuzzy sludge comprised of gooey molasses. ‘Sucker’ is the anthem of a summer shore superhero. Triumphantly torching his cape in sandy bonfires, as a balmy lead relentlessly serenades a perfectly sanguine and propulsive trance. ‘Mummy’ feels like relying on your car’s momentum to cool yourself off with wind while plowing through humid climates. ‘Lemmy’s World’ is reminiscent of a certain Foo Fighter’s song about forever, but with louder drums and a stoner grin. California X’s debut will drive cavities into your sweet tooth. I’m looking forward to whatever they come up with in 2014.

Coliseum – Sister Faith

Coliseum simply demonstrating that they are, and have always been a force of nature. Primitive punk, with some of the most infectious leads I’ve heard from a hard rock band in a while. Surfy guitar and scarce pedal work make extra room for throbbing bass. Partnered with always striking lyrics, Coliseum have attained a sound all their own. The second half is really where Sister Faith picks up and and drives its Bayou city knife into your stomach. Brought into fruition with ‘Black Magic Punks.’ A mother fucker of a tune that celebrates the authenticity of the underground, over superstition and Santeria. The way Ryan Patterson says Blaaaack Jeans is unforgettable. Coliseum treads over new territory, with shadowy serenade ‘Late Night Trains’ and the left field pop-sludge of ‘Fuzzbang.’

Russian Circles – Memorial

Hands down the best instrumental release of ’13. Manages to sound so much bigger than yourself, even though its just being generated by three dudes from Chicago and a slew of pedals. I’ve always admired how they can stretch out a minor chord and make it sound so enriching. Seamlessly transitions from monumental heaviness (Deficit) to breathtaking grandeur (Ethel). Heaps of paranoid guitars that sing and bellow. And the drums – those gah’ dang drums. They hold your hand and never let go through the splendor of ‘1777’. The pick slide in ‘Burial.’ I want to discuss all the little nuanced moments on here like hungover bank robbers reminiscing about the night prior, over diner food. ‘Memorial’ revives the composition of ‘Memoriam,’ with Chelsea Wolf adding an ethereal presence. Her voice is the ideal human instrument for Russian Circles’ sonic pallete. A pallete that is becoming deeper and richer with age. Bury yourself in this like a collapsing snow fort.

The Flatliners – Dead Language

What most passive indie rock and metal groups don’t have – a kid with golden pipes. Songs about shunning urban rivalry are brought to life by Chris Cresswell’s throaty voice, wrapping itself around each and every single syllable. The layering in of acoustic strings brings The Flatliner’s usual hyper form to a more organic state. Accenting the heart that their material has always had. Dead Language is clean and energetic, with the urgent stride of an ex-ska band. Their lack of gimmicks is a shock to the system. The astounding ‘Tail Feathers’ relays like montage music to stealing what is yours, to begin with. ‘Sew My Mouth Shut’ and ‘Quitters’ are invigorating and bright. No filler to be found – everything is a victorious progression from the superb Cavalcade. On ‘Brilliant Resilience,’ those golden pipes touch on a more personal, story telling approach. The Flatliners’ move to the fringe of folk punk is highly successful.

Doomriders – Grand Blood

Nate Newton screaming ‘fuck’ at the tippity top of his lion lungs in ‘Bad Vibes’, is one moment that contributes to the royal status of the Doom. He still has the most gut wrenching howl in metal. Half pipe ripping thrash leads have been replaced with iron beds blanketed by eleven ton quilts. Still present, but buried under RIFFS. Lyrics inspired by the world’s cruel hand, and not mythology. ‘Gone to Hell’ sounds like a hitman’s life regrets, while ‘Dead Friends’ is everything that the future of metal should be. Both veer pleasantly close to good old fashion rock & roll. Even in murkier territory, they have a celebratory vibe that somehow always rings brutally honest and poignant. ‘Back Taxes’ is the soundtrack to a party where ancient artifacts are being thrown into a pool by dudes in denim vests, except the pool is filled with fire and the fire is filled with Camaro frames. ‘Death in Heat’ is a noisy, sludge burner, with marching ring outs. Doomrider’s blue period and the darkest hour of a complete triumph.

Iron Chic – The Constant One

The Constant One can be considered gruff punk, but Iron Chic make it weird and they make it art. You can detect this immediately as ‘The End’ fades into the boldness of ‘Bogus Journey.’ This is meaty indie rock that merits all of your attention, because it’s just that damn juicy and full of flavorful gusto. On ‘Spooky Action at a Distance,’ there is the sliest undertone of humor chased by the inevitability of death. You can never quite tell if Iron Chic is wallowing in defeat or rejoicing in the strangeness of it all. However, when human anguish is relayed in a giant singalong, you can’t help but to not give a fuck right alongside them. Feedback and noisy interludes makes the medicine go down with a lovely harshness, especially with ‘A Serious House on Serious Earth.’ ‘(Castle) Numbskull’ is a much more passive and sonically unique change of direction from prior material. But Iron Chic has always had an unmistakable sound that is overpowering in the best way. You’ll even find a reference to the Gin Blossoms on ‘Truly Miserable Experience’, or perhaps it’s a nod to how 90s alt. rock is impacting the punk scene, fifteen years later. Authentic sincerity foretold in a bizarre, surrealist landscape. Akin to eating a steak that has been syringe injected with dopamine.

The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk

While you sleep, The Front Bottoms have been building a devoted following with their ecstatically delivered acoustic punk jams about leaving youth behind for more youth. Great storytelling with visceral narratives that grab you and paint specific places and people. The Front Bottoms are linguists armed with huge hooks, brutal honesty and a knack for mixing metaphor with confrontational truths. Sobering up as you grow older is punctuated by sex, getting stoned and all of the weird places that you end up at night. Brilliant references and themes cross so often, its like songs within songs within songs. ‘Funny You Should Ask’ hops from knife fights to posing in photographs to longing for the girl next door. But the Bottoms are most compelling when they’re earnest, on tracks like ‘Santa Monica’, with I wanna confess it in a whisper that’s just loud enough to make out/I want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch/I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom. ‘Twin Size Mattress’ is a contender for best single of the year, with a sentiment that just weighs almost more than one can bear. The gang vocal delivery of No fucking way! is enough to solidify Talon of the Hawk as a present day classic.

Captain We’re Sinking – The Future is Cancelled

More perfectly crafted melodic punk from the land of Pennsylvania. Bound to the Philly scene by the water they drink but related to The Menzingers by blood. Lyrics that range from contemporary hyms to quirky storytelling. Loneliness, drinking oneself to death, family, and leaving home all comprise the once bright future. Song structures that are more complex than the straightforward race from intro to outro. Perpetually churning feelings of apprehension into drunk bravery. Where sometimes the chorus is regret, or its trusting that all these missteps will amount to something, and sometimes its not there at all. ‘You Have Flaws’ blurs the lines between religion and self medication. The surmounting tension of ‘Montreal’ will remain with you long after the feedback fades. ‘More Tequila, Less Joe’ is a sprawling powerhouse about ‘seeing yourself in strangers eyes and knowing how you will die.’ ‘A Bitter Divorce’ continues on a theme of not just growing out of places, but people. Female vocals make for a somber duet that just wrenches in your chest. The urgent chords of ‘Here’s to Forever’ are thrilling, parted with constantly shifting percussion that make it a standout. The Future is Cancelled does not just dwell on the hardships of youth, which is the smoother route taken by many artists. Captain We’re Sinking spin a series of yarns about shunning remorse and what happens in the second act. It seems odd to state, but there’s an eerie magic about these songs. The sort of album that is waiting for you to make it your own personal gem.

Restorations – LP2

11298_fullsize

‘D’ begins LP2 with swirling tones and ringing that erupts into an uplifting something or other. Its hard to tell – Restorations just combine it all. Boisterous, groove-laden rock with the ethos of instrumentally grounded metal? 90’s alternative with twangy sludge-punk? Shoegaze and baroque salsa? LP2 never really settles, as it changes from warmly atmospheric to rugged, without fair warning. Has more stomp than the lower key LP1, with every facet of the bands attacked refined. The people sung about in the tales of LP2 are you and me, grounded in the monotony of daily life. The choruses are seemingly mundane things we say to each other on a regular basis; I was listening to Bob Seger/while she was listening to Pete/with a wry smile she says to me/well which side are you on?

Modern phrases of philosophy are strewn about with glimmering strings and faint organ. ‘Lets Blow Up the Sun’ is magnetizing, unfolding like a mantra, with dark forests of delay to get lost in. ‘New Old’ is as much of a ball of fire as it is the voice of an avoider generation; You in the corner shaking just staring at your phone/singing “I gotta get outta here. I gotta go home.” Absolutely go see them if they happen to mosey through your town. To hear how these gentlemen create such an intangible, yet riveting noise is a gift. LP2, as well as their New/Old 7,” have cemented Restorations as the most essential band of 2013. New/Old includes a single absent from the full length called ‘0.014.’ A ballad that tells the true story of a tortoise that escaped from the zoo. It is very important that you listen to it.

Also Deafheaven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Review

A modern gentleman’s guide to 13 Top Ten spring anthems

13. Arcade Fire – Month of May

Devender Sellers said it best:

On their Grammy award-winning album The Suburbs, the Arcade Fire explore the implications of growing up a suburban, disconnected child. On the track “Month of May,” Wil Butler curtly sings that the month of May is “a violent thing/ In the city their hearts start to sing./ Well, some people singing sounds like screaming./ Used to doubt it but now I believe it.” Any police officer will tell you warming weather brings out more activity and crime. In this Ramones-style rock song, the realities of city life awakened by spring awakens hibernating desires, both good and bad.

Arcade Fire addresses the ills of a season that resemble a hard boiled egg’s decorative shell. An inviting array of soft pastel shades brushed in hypnotic patterns. But this is an egg that was missed on the hunt, and left out of the basket. As the sun beats down on its shell, the inside becomes an acrid haven of rot, riddled with bacteria.

12. God is an Astronaut – First Day of Sun

These titans of post-rock hail from Ireland, where everything is in a permanent state of green n’ misty. So it’s no wonder that they have such a natural ability to capture the essence of spring, in First Day of Sun, via folding synth-like guitar waves and delicate harmonics. Imagine time lapsed photography of a wild flower peeking a bud above thawed ground. The tiny plant unfurls ever so gently, born into a climate where everything has a smell, after the lifting of winter’s muting veil. There is no crescendo, as you never actually witness the expanding of petals. The build up, growth and regeneration are the focal point of God is an Astronaut’s peaceful commentary on the span of time between two opposite seasons.

11. Matt and Kim – Ice Melts

Chemically enhanced road salt eats away at your car’s exterior metal shell, but a loose fire hydrant valve washes it all away. Snow tires kill your gas mileage, while cracked windows let a constant breath of warm air in. The blue nights  and filthy slush estuary’s of winter have been challenged by the chants of Brooklyn kids playing hopscotch. Matt and Kim can always be relied upon for records rife with blossomingly awesome celebratory power pop. Adding bursts of brass to Kim’s tenacious cymbal hopping shakes that hard water right off the city sidewalks, like it was never even there.

10. Harvey Milk – Mothers Day

A surging organ partnered with a string quartet, aboard a gondola that drifts down a canal. The current is so still, that the surface is like a glass coffee table for flower buds and dust. Yet something sinister and monolithic lurks from a far. Closes in. The dirty amplifiers from an Athens, Georgia  guitar shop slowly rise, at first, disguised with the organ’s hum, like a bloodthirsty alligator wearing sunglasses. You don’t have to holler about obscure space mythology to be in a metal band. The avant-garde habits of bands like The Melvins and Floor, are triumphantly elaborated upon with Harvey Milk’s showstopper from Special Wishes. Slow down a ZZ Top song, slow it down a little bit more, sing about your mom and you have something resembling this.

9. My Morning Jacket – I’m Amazed

They began in the backwoods, hushed and subdued like most alternative country outfits. Somewhere along the way they found Prince and let psychedelia rule their harry hearts. The rhythm of earth turns with blissed out southern rock harmony and a groovy bass line. My Morning Jacket follows the relationship of light rain on tiny leaf buds, all the way to the dawn’s detonation of viridian. And what a refreshing morning it is. Jim James is as impressed with the natural world as he is by its lack of justice, wrong devotion, and what they want him to believe. This jam couldn’t be more positive, but it’s begging you to wake up and smell the flowers. Flowers being a metaphor for the shady corporate agenda.

8. Youth Lagoon – Afternoon

If Schroeder from Charlie Brown had a Korg keyboard and a Mac loaded with garage band in his lonely bedroom, this is what it would sound like. I can’t hear this and not envision animated birds chirping at the brim of a cave, where a grizzly bear is stretching it’s four-month-stubbled jaws with a long awaited yawn. Everything’s muffled, as if behind a rainy window pane, or a mask of congested sinuses. The delightful caress of whistling is  the perfect serenade to bring the world out of hibernation. Only to find it’s raining and go back inside to play bear themed video games on Bear Box 360.

7. Banner Pilot – Spanish Reds

Banner Pilot play hectic melodic punk like it’s their day job just as much as a nightly passion. Their sharp songwriting is always kept relevant by how the final result consistently sounds live and uncooked. The melody of the chorus strikes every chord in the heart, beckoning the emotion of an old wooden Meatloaf song. Banner Pilot asks where the sun is before they question what moments really make it feel like the world is right, somehow. Here, it’s ignoring the monotony of dead end jobs while drinking red wine in bed all day with the ladies, waiting for the rain to stop. As a red breasted robin observes it all, from outside the window. April showers bring mayflowers, and mayflowers bring pilgrims. Pilgrim’s learned to play guitar and taught their grand children, who taught theirs, who moved to the mid-west, plugged their instruments in and kind of forgot about Europe. Loosing an hour of sleep never sounded so right.

6. The Naked and Famous – Young Blood

Like a ritual chanted by a tribe of post-apocalyptic Indians, adorned in neon face paint, coaxing a space god to bless them with rain and a lucrative harvest of bio-engineered corn.  You can almost feel the dandelion spores brushing against your cheek. This New Zealand electro-indie outfit stood out from their counterparts with the 2011 full length Passive Me, Aggressive You. It was an album of  power-pop that projected  a dark minor key cadence, and buzz hampered guitar drop ins.  The weird, echoed voice of a thousand young savages frightening you with the pure beauty of sound.

5. The Horrible Crowes – Cherry Blossoms

The brilliant side project of a guitar tone genius and a gifted storyteller. On their semi conceptual album exploring a breakup, The Horrible Crowes reflect on a long winter that didn’t end without broken bones and permanent stains. Named for those pink flower buds that get all over your car. In this instance, they’re discovered on the hood of some old automobile after some vixen obliterates a charming gentleman’s heart. Spring is observed as foreboding, where Winter is a solace from the boys of summer, who lay waiting to snatch up yo lady-friend. Cherry Blossoms strikes a splendid balance between bitter and sweet, which is how I’d imagine the actual flower petal to taste.

4. Dropkick Murphys – Fields of Athenry

If Boston had its own currency, Ken Casey’s grinning green mug would be on the front of the five dollar bill. Dropkick almost owns the entire Spring holiday season, and are working on taking over Cinco de Mayo next. They figured out that power chords, bagpipes and tin flute sounded great together and decided not to stray. Part that with a celebration of the relentless spirit of the working class, and you have the reason for DKM’s success. Fields of Athenry is actually a traditional Celtic folk tune about a farmer who steals food for his family, during the great famine. He is imprisoned in Botany Bay, Australia, and when Ken tells us about that waiting prison ship at the build- up, it makes me want to wind surf on a river of corned beef.

3. American Steel – Every New Morning

Dag naggit this tune makes me want to shove pollen up my nose and sneeze as hard as a human being possibly can. Back when American Steel had unbridled, sloppy elegance and screamed every word like words were something that kept a man breathing. If you got drunk all winter, and woke up in the sun on a March day, then this one is for you. The deconstructed bridge of wallowing, the build up and that fuckin lead just makes me want to grab a small tree bulb and violently cram it into the soft, cradle of earth’s soil to water it on a regular basis until I have a vast field of lilys to flee drunk and broken through.

2. Leatherface – Springtime

Leatherface is a crusading band that helped pioneer what the kids call ‘melodic punk.’ Track number seven on the 1991 classic, Mush, invented a home for nostalgia in punk music. And I got a spring fever. A fever for more sweet smelling guitar chords bowed under an ash lunged British man wailing about the kind of hope that lives only in history. Brings you back to that place where everything is new, clean, free, and with so many things left to see. The ache that Frankie Stubbs carries for that time is tangible. Calling out for it with the swash and buckle resonance of a Pogues basement show. Except that rare place never came into fruition, and the only prescription I need is more Leatherface, grittier and prettier.

1. Frank Turner – Photosynthesis

If the concept of folk art translates to mean handmade or homemade, than Frank Turner is some solid folk. Photosynthesis examines crossing that strange bridge from your 20’s to your 30’s, and then draws a comparison to plants; to how they derive energy from the sun, as a means to simply live. But plants are rooted to the ground, and Frank says fuck being rooted to the ground and fuck plants. This is a defiant manifesto against growing up and ditching all your dreams. But most of all it’s about growth, and not being in a rush to turn into a big, dead, tree with a pension plan. An acoustic driven anthem, with arena rock capacity. Listen to this one outdoors, on a morning when your local weathermen are reporting outside and have their sleeves rolled up. Bright yellow sun, along with jovial battle cries that rally against those who have given up, shut up, and sat down, truly make a great medley. Chlorophyll? More like borophyll.

Or if your partial to something more seasonal, be well cognitively equipped with a modern gentleman’s guide to 13 Top Ten summer anthems

1 Comment

Filed under Folk punk, Indie music, Nature, Review

Bird Eater ‘Utah’ Review

Bird Eater conceives the sort of music that brings two worlds together, at a blindingly red prairie horizon. These are the worlds of hardcore and ye’ old American west. Imagine Earth’s Hex: Or Printing in the Internal Method bunched up with Converge. It’s like the sediment in Clint Eastwood’s thermal coffee mug ground down with flakes of freight rail rust. The idea could pass for a gimmick, but on Utah, Bird Eater does not merely dance with this strange genre mash up, they embrace them in the upstairs rooms of brothel saloons until the caws of crows break the temporary solitude of morning.

Interludes like Carrion, Blood Grove and opener United Steel Apocalypse (USA) are clean passages of atmospheric guitar twang haunted by grunting dark horses and the chugging of trains. These trains are distant at first, but as they loom closer, the listener only anticipates being barreled over by a thousand tons of iron. The vocal manner is violent and relentless, delivered in gang unity over crushing breakdowns, re: Bovine Flesh Dance. The Crying Witch (La Llorana) relays the story of an ancient Mexican curse with building paranoia and frantic time signatures that give way to a foggy southern rock singed riff.

The stylistic inspiration of Bird Eater is varied. The most obvious being math dictated sludge, but hardcore punk and groove metal also brawl their way into the mix. Questions for a Ghost Maker grinds the hardest of cores, as it tells the tale of a weapon with a ‘pearl handed pistol grip and gun metal blue barrel’. The storytelling on Utah is surprisingly provocative, painting portraits that unite classic American western noir with present day elements. It Takes Days to Boil the Bones shifts between all these influences with swift capability, catching it’s acrid breath following the phrase: I’ll make you some ghosts/ I’ll make you so many ghosts/ I took the lung and broke two ribs/ It felt like roots under a shovel/ I left the rest white man buffalo style. Chase that with a shoot-em-up electrical guitar solo, and you have yourself a deal, sir.

This isn’t cowboy metal – it’s the soundtrack to the ugly lack of humanity in the most barren of places. A full length from Bird Eater is in the works and expected to be released sometime in 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Sludge metal

The Menzingers ‘On The Impossible Past’ Review

Chamberlain Waits and A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology were only glimpses at what these gentlemen have masterfully accomplished with their February 21st release, On the Impossible Past. Scranton, Pennsylvania’s The Menzingers have flat out created some kind of latter day masterpiece, made up of masterpiece songs like the masterpiece The Obituaries, which could’ve been the disc’s sole track. This is a documented record of what happens when the momentum of restless youth, merges, but does not clash with the perspective of seasoned musicians. It’s a series of stories that anyone can relate to, relayed behind guitar tone that fondly reminisces about things like The Smashing Pumpkins, Keds, and Kelly Kapowski.

Where their first two albums dealt more in social strife and present tense folk legends, On the Impossible Past is content digressing away with intangible nostalgia. The Menzingers delve in imagery that is ambiguous and just out of reach. Wrecked muscle cars, bad graffiti, and diner waitresses all compose the world these songs live in. Burn After Writing mentions the same blue cotton dress balled up on the floor that was once worn by the girl who ‘drinks beer from a bottle and dances in the street’, of Time Tables (from Chamberlain Waits).

Good Things contemplates the temporary nature of everything with a trampling surf-beat and barely dirtied chords. Lead single, Gates reworks the concept of 90’s era indie rock anthem and raises the bar all the way to the top shelf liquors, sending each frail bottle sailing to the ground. Mexican Guitars reflects upon drinking with old friends on porches, and playing songs from the radio on Squire Stratocasters. It’s among The Past’s low key jams, along with Freedom Bridge and Sun Hotel, where these guitars start to suggest a sullen west coast vibe. Ava House takes a great melody that climbs walls of tribal rhythm, accented by crispy, trebled bass notes.

Sheer 16th note speed is rarely touched upon. These songs feel like they’ve been broken down, scrutinized, slowed down and split apart. Put back together and reworked until each track achieves a distinct mood. On The Impossible Past is simple where it needs to be, yet complex and sonically layered when called for.Tom May and Greg Barnett have a vocal attack that is sweltering. Greg Barnett’s voice rolls, hums and shakes at all the right times, solidifying him as an unparalleled force in his trade. The duo’s Pennsylvanian accents drive right through to the beating heart and stir up strange smelling emotions. This gut stirring passion is the bread and butter of Nice Things, as well as the gloomy self titled track that acts as a segue. Nice Things has no verse or chorus. It just builds and passes, confronting the very notions of what constitutes a wealthy person.

On The Impossible Past is the gritty follow up to Pinkerton, that Weezer never made. But The Menzinger’s haven’t just made it better, they’ve made it their own. These twelve songs are defiant and promising in the face of defeat. But above all else, they’re incredibly immersive. Buy this and buy the Irish Goodbyes single, or just buy all their albums and listen to them in consecutive order for some weird, transcendental perception of timelines.

Leave a comment

Filed under Folk punk, Review

The Black Keys ‘El Camino’ Review

No one told me the funk police were in town. Corrupt proprietors of dirty Motown with the treads burning off bare alloy wheels. By now, The Black Keys have propelled well past back page Pitchfork obscurity into some weird niche where they are all together both popular and relevant. Whereas 08’s Attack and Release might’ve been too frigid and sparse for some, Brothers yinged the yang with fuzzy warmth. El Camino falls somewhere in between that futuristic New Yorky sound and laid back 70s rock.

Most of the record is made up of swanky tunes forged from tin, for sinners dancing in bars on slow nights. Leading single, Lonely Boy, is glittery soul while Gold on the Ceiling hammers in a badass Canned Heat style boogie. Little Black Submarines is stripped down from being already stripped down, with its lone acoustic strings and Auerbachs voice sounding like worn denim. But you don’t have to wait long for the distortion pedals and drums to kill the expectations of some unplugged ballad. I seriously prefer songs that are only half percussion. The impatience of drummers is a curse.

Sister is El Camino’s anthem for one handed driving down the sunset strip, sometime during the early summer of 1983. Along with Hell of a Season, both tracks have been blessed with dope beats. The best is saved for last, with Nova Baby. It bears resemblance to a 60’s girl group pop song, and just has The Black Keyettes written all over it. Rhythm and blues are the main cylinders of the constantly blazing revolvers in their arsenal. It is, however, a bit unfortunate that the blues now exist in mere trace form and I long for the days when it was just two guys, a guitar and a (pizza) drum set. But all in all they’ve aged gracefully. Bass lines, pianos, organs and backup singers have only emboldened that once simple sound.

Junk funk still reigns supreme by two men who have near perfected the art of it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie music, Review

Rosetta/Junius Split Review

Discussing a split between Rosetta and Junius while not mentioning outer space is crazy and I refuse to do it. Planet Earth and outer space have a strange relationship. On one end you have this ball of ocean and chunky continents inhabited by people and animals living in towns and jungle cities, ruled by singing orangutans. Coordinately, humans perceive space as some sort of “solar system” with even more orbiting chunky masses, and Boba Fett dodging all kinds of laser beams. The real mystery is whether or not all that ink and star have some kind of collective cognition that, in turn, perceives Earth. By the axiom that the galaxy acts by a set of laws and principals that dictate its nature, Earth’s presence is tangible and space can intelligently recognize our planet. The natural relationship between our globe and the galaxy is confusing, so celestial philosophy is probably better explained musically.

Junius’ corner of the split is a lot like Earth. A Dark Day with Night is a controlled bedlam of angelic grandiosity, refined through a silvery channel. There are definite influences from The Cure and even The Deftones, which may be off-putting to those expecting something heavier. In relation to the prayerful Rosetta, Junius has a human quality to them, as they sound more wondrous of their surroundings. Think of the obligatory stock computer desktop; desert sunrises and rocks made smooth by years of gentle river currents. Fire Head melds this imagery with explosive crescendos and the unlikely element of indie rock. The signals they broadcast into the heavens either slowly disappear or reverberate into Rosetta’s omniscient presence.

Rosetta is everything surrounding Earth, protecting and cradling, while slowly destroying the planet. Violent and endless, just like their saga of TMA’s. The third, aptly titled TMA-3, is not a stretch from those prior, yet still remains consistently awesome in prototypical Rosetta fashion. TMA-3 won’t win over any new fans, but it should appease current Rosetta-nauts. The percussion work halfway through is worth mentioning, as it confirms their secret weapon of brilliantly subtle drumming. There are even some refreshing modifications in the down tuned riffage that reigns over the  hushed electronic soundscapes percolating the track, with both hands. Fourth of July, the sludgiest Soundgarden has ever gone, has been made even sludgier. Though not as elegantly executed as Homesick (A prior cover), it still enforces a murky tar pit of churning guitars and clean singing, ala genre brethren City of Ships. Despite the apocalyptic tone, 4th of July invokes a new sensation from Rosetta. It is the weightlessness experienced through crushing density, and how it can feel like letting go. A feat Rosetta should do more often, because there is something enlightening about recognizing the absurdity of outer space’s infinity in the face of  annihilation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie music, Review, Sludge metal

‘The Revival Tour 2011 Collections’ Review

The spell of The Revival Tour is a magical time, when musicians leave their bands and wives behind to play their hearts out across distant lands. They forgo eighty pound amp cabs and drum kits for acoustic guitars, violins, mandolins and other tools of the folk trade. It is a time where each artist naturally unites into a new super group,that only exists on the road and through live music and the subsequent YouTube videos of their performances. Fortunately, Ten Four Records was kind enough to assemble some studio cuts of choice Revival jams.

Chuck Ragan, who is slowly becoming the hardest working man in folk business, contributes two fresh tracks. On the Bow is a bold, bold, bold a cappella marked by each tour mate’s distinct bellow, with instruments unplugged and unhanded. Bedroll Lullaby carries a sturdy gruff and brings back that toothsome harmonica with a carefree melody. Dave Hause, of The Loved Ones counterbalances with a cleaner sound. Prague veers towards gypsy punk, while Pray for Tucson is downright Amurican, right down to the roaming pedal steel guitar.

Dan Andriano sounds great out of his trio element, with a ridiculously warm voice that resonates perfectly over big, open acoustic guitar chords. His strength as a solo artist is well earned, and he most definitely has a bright future if he were to veer off on his own. Hollow Sounds is a charming ode to the ladies, when they’re a thousand miles away. The more introspective, Me and Denver, could easily be fleshed out with percussion and fuzz pedals. Brian Fallon’s much anticipated Goodnight Irene has finally made it to the studio, but is sadly devoid of Jon Gaunt’s haunting fiddle. Instead, this ‘calm before the storm’ version has the subtle tremolo string and brightening back up vox treatment. No Weather, a simple highlight, is beautiful and as dark as a cigarette smoke stained lung.

This collection is much more than a mix tape. The varying musical backgrounds of Ragan, Andriano, Fallon and Hause are not important on the Revival Road, as they have been allied into a whole new storm. It is a route that was once sketchy and uncharted territory, but now a gleaming anchor for the genre. Who knew acoustic guitars would be what saved punk, after all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Folk punk, Review

Mastodon ‘The Hunter’ Review


The white whale is back. Back from battling the devil with Rasputin in outer space. The Hunter is the latest gift from Georgia’s greatest sludge metal quartet,  a decade after their debut release.

Black Tongue sets the tone and is shockingly devoid of any lengthy instrumental introduction. Just some menacing guitar tone, jazzy cymbals and the phrase: I burned out my eyes/I cut off my tongue/I sealed them with all of the silver/And now I have none. It is as if Mastodon has relinquished their senses, free to drift wherever they may please. Curl of the Burl is a composite of sleazy riffs and a vocal hook about the contorting knots of tree bark. If a film is ever made about Jesus’ carpentry career, Curl of the Burl would play in its entirety during the obligatory montage scene.

Blasteroid is an arcade born bonfire of blistering harmonics, Leviathan style screaming and…melodic punk. Stargasm is definitive Mastodon territory, with its trippy southern metal groove solidified further by Brann Dailor’s furiously technical drum storm. Dry Bone Valley commences with Russian Circles-esque post-rock, but quickly cuts into post-prog with Dailor at the vocal helm. Thickening follows, with its old west saloon bass line and compression laden axes that spiral upwards in an involute curve.

Many risks are taken and almost all of them are triumphant successes. Creature Lives is unlike anything a single band in this genre has ever taken on. Think of an oil tanker shipwreck surfacing from the depths of a frozen bog, while giant brass Christmas bells sway over flickering red n’ green lights. Bedazzled Fingernails is exceptional, with its neon banjo fury and delirious time signatures. There is no shortage of traditional Mastodon. All The Heavy Lifting is as heavy as it is catchy. Spectrelight’s attack is quick n’ sludgy instead of atmospheric; reminiscent of Crystal Skull or I am Ahab. The Sparrow and The Hunter slow it down, allowing for some majestically psychedelic guitar work. The Sparrow has Mastodon at their most Pink Floydian. Acoustic guitar strings, pedal boards and prolonged drum build ups are really all a man needs to survive.

Though there isn’t a certified elemental concept, the presence of wood seems to resonate throughout The Hunter. The accompanying album art is audacious and to the point; a bull mask with echoed features that AJ Fosik crafted from wood. The process seems to be linear between both artists. Mastodon has managed to carve something astounding out of raw materials and with their bare hands, yet again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Beards, Drugs, Mythical beasts, Review, Sludge metal

Chuck Ragan ‘Covering Ground’ Review

When listening to the hot n’ bothered melodic hardcore make of Hot Water Music, it’s difficult to put co-front man Chuck Ragan’s solo work into perspective. Amongst the “aging punk singer with an acoustic guitar” genre, Chuck’s solo endeavor probably has the firmest roots in true bare bones folk. Prior albums like Gold Country and Los Feliz are a far cry from HWM’s frantic guitar work and emotive vocals, but Covering Ground comes closest to Ragan’s flagship band. Instead of ten tunes relying solely on his trusty acoustic, each track has its own exclusive brew of instruments and guest musicians. Solo artist doesn’t quite fit the bill anymore, as fiddle blazer Jon Gaunt and stand up bassist Joe Ginsberg have become Chuck’s bona fide touring and recording band.

There is a noticeably more at east approach with Covering Ground, despite the ever present woes of both restlessness and contentment faced east of California. Many of these woes are love songs, either about a distant lady or a fickle mistress called the road. Valentine is given new treatment with the vocal touch of Audra Mae, backed by a serenade of plucked strings on a river bound gondola. Audra appears again on Come Around, which is a surprisingly uplifting and lighthearted jamboree. Meet You In the Middle has the same forward fierceness of California Burritos, with Brian Fallon paving a gravel road in the background.

Chuck Ragan’s voice has aged like bourbon in a barrel. It’s worn velvet, heavy and sympathetic. The man could literally sing the polish off a buffalo’s horn. Covering Ground has a good deal of slow jams, and there is considerably more reverb than listeners may be accustomed to, but Ragan’s capacity for melody remains eloquent. Nomad By Fate blends a soaring chorus with a defiant road warrior bridge. Wish On The Moon has a similar feel, with an unexpected transition to Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love. It also has the best driving fiddle riff I’ve heard in years.

All directions finally lead to solace and the realization that there “ain’t no wasted time covering our own ground.” But the album doesn’t end with settling down or giving up. Over a dreary lullaby of finger picked strings, Chuck still sounds like he’s prepared to pack up his bags again and traverse new landscapes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beards, Folk punk, Review