Monday, December 29, 2008

Records I liked in 2008

well, it has been another busy month with no posts.  i actually have been planning this post for several weeks, but i wanted to check it twice before finally putting it out there.  no discussion, just a list of the records i liked in 2008. most links provide either artist-sanctioned downloads of individual tracks (whenever i could find one), streams of full albums (mostly at, or streaming tracks as a last resort... with a couple exceptions*.  

i hope everyone else is also still finding new music they enjoy.

top eleven:

the black crowes - warpaint (stream warpaint)
the gutter twins - saturnalia (download "idle hands")
melvins - nude with boots (stream nude with boots)
modey lemon - season of sweets (download "milk moustache")
no age - nouns (download "eraser")
oxford collapse - bits (download "the birthday wars")
parts & labor - receivers (download "nowhere's nigh")
prisonshake - dirty moons (download "crush me")
scorch trio - brolt! (stream three tracks here)
times new viking - rip it off (download "my head/r.i.p. allegory")
the wedding present - el ray (download "the thing i like best about him is his girlfriend")

second top eleven:

cheap time - cheap time (stream tracks here)
dead meadow - old growth (download "i'm gone" and "what needs must be")
don caballero - punkgasm (stream punkgasm)
endless boogie - focus level (download "the manly vibe")
magic lanterns - high beams (download "deathheads hawkmoth")
nissenenmondai - neji/tori (stream "pop group")
the shaky hands - lunglight (stream lunglight)
suffocate for fuck sake - blazing fires and helicopters on the frontpage of the newspaper. there´s a war going on and i´m marching in heavy boots (stream blazing fires...)
vandermark 5 - beat reader (stream 'further from the truth (for walker evans)" here)
wale - the mixtape about nothing (*download here, because it was meant to be given away in the first place)
witch hats - cellulite soul (stream cellulite soul)

honorable mention:

atlas sound - let the blind lead those who can see but not feel (download "river card")
blood on the wall - liferz (download "hibernation")
bonnie "prince" billy - lie down in the light (stream lie down in the light)
david holmes - the holy pictures (stream the holy pictures)
the dirtbombs - we have you surrounded (stream "ever lovin' man" here)
home blitz - weird wings (ok, technically weird wings is a portion of home blitz' self-titled full length which was released in 2007.  sue me.  stream tracks 11-15 here)
koushik - out my window (download "lying in the sun")
ted leo/pharmacists - rapid response (*buy here, support worthy causes like this and this)
stephen malkmus - real emotional trash (download "cold sun" and "baltimore")
mudhoney - the lucky ones (download "i'm now")
portishead - third (stream third)
the roots - rising down (stream rising down)
subtle - exitingARM (stream exitingARM)
ten kens - ten kens (stream ten kens)
torche - meanderthal (stream "healer" here)
why? - alopecia (stream alopecia)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Peter Brötzmann / William Parker / Hamid Drake - Never Too Late But Always Too Early [LIVE]

I'm not much of a writer when it comes to describing jazz (and you could probably argue that I'm not much better with  other music).  But, I know what I like.  As a former sax player, I envy Peter Brötzmann's intensity and stamina. I love Hamid Drake's sense of rhythmic imagination. I love almost everything I've heard with Drake and William Parker playing together.  So, naturally, I love this massive two-disc live set.

If you already enjoy modern jazz styles, I think you will enjoy this too.  If you are a newcomer, there's no time like the present.  These three musicians are among the most (dare I say) important innovators on their respective instruments in the last 40 years.

The Wedding Present - Watusi

You can't swing a dead cat in a room full of aging hipsters without lashing someone who owns a copy of Seamonsters.  With good reason.  What I don't get is why more people don't also adore the follow up, Watusi.  

Lyrically, it continues the usual themes of unrequited love and narcissistic heartbreak.  Musically, however, the band built on the shredding guitar template and adopted a somewhat more diverse sonic palette.  Recording with Steve Fisk may have helped.  Listen to Fisk's contemporary project Pell Mell (posted yesterday, here) and you may hear what I mean.  

It's difficult to find this album in any format right now.  It is not for sale at any of the major mp3 stores. I could not even find it posted on another blog.  Hopefully, Island Records will not hammer me as hard as they did Negativeland.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Killing Capitalism With Kindness - An Xpressway Records Compilation

The early 90s were apparently a very prolific time for musicians from the land of the long white cloud.  College radio dorks like me dropped the needle on anything from the Flying Nun and Xpressway labels that crossed our path.  Ultimately, Flying Nun got most of the attention, but Xpressway was clearly the more adventurous label.  

Killing Capitalism With Kindness was an Xpressway compilation of artists - some of whom were familiar to international college radio dorks like myself, but many of whom were not - leaning towards the lo-fi, experimental side of kiwi indie rock.  

Every song on this comp was intentionally recorded in "substandard" conditions.  Songs range from hauntingly beautiful to smartly melodic, with fuzz, hum, and tape hiss serving as just another instrument.  The collection was assembled by Peter Jefferies of This Kind of Punishment, who close out the set with the dark and stirring "Reaching an End." 

Pell Mell - Flow & Interstate


[I have been very busy lately with work and family.  Free time has been at a premium.    To those who have commented and written, thanks for the encouragement!]

For whatever reason, there is a disproportionate amount of music released in 1992 that has always dominated my turntable/CD player/computer/iPod playlists.  Among my very favorites from that year, and from all time, is Pell Mell's third LP Flow.  This is gorgeous instrumental guitar rock music with just the right combination of noise and melody and quite a distinctive style.  It certainly borrows elements from surf music and krautrock, but from my perspective this mostly sounds like... well, it sounds like Pell Mell.

All you middle-aged heads like me remember the major label feeding frenzy of the early 90s.  For Pell Mell, it was kismet.  Microsoft used a snippet of one of their songs (I think it was "Flood" but I am not sure, and the interwebs fail me on this search).  Pell Mell's former manager was working as an A&R rep for DGC.  I suppose that was as much "buzz" as one could have ever foreseen about for an anonymous, scattered,nomadic instrumental band which rarely played live and almost never toured.  The result was Interstate, another gorgeous record which picked up where Flow left off.

Interstate was not gorgeous enough in the sales column, apparently.  Pell Mell recorded another record for DGC but they got downsized instead.  The resultant album - Star City - wound up on Matador.  

A few years later I had a pleasant surprise watching the second episode of HBO's excellent Six Feet Under.  Fans of that program should instantly recognize the first song on Interstate.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The 1985 - Nerve 80

Since my friend John commented on my last post, I will respond by taking food out of his mouth.

The 1985 began as visionaries.  In the mid 90s, the most common indie rock touchstones were from the early 70s - a la Neil Young  - and the early 90s - a la Slint.  The early 80s were treated like that kid in middle school who still peed with his pants around his ankles.  A handful of bands, though, dripped with golden inspiration from the likes of PiL, Gang of Four, Devo, MX-80, and Contortions.  Among those prescient tastemakers were Pittsburgh's own The 1985.

The '85 were not mere revivalists.  There was a (most likely) conscious similarity to contemporaries like Nation of Ulysses and Arab on Radar, and a (perhaps more) coincidental sonic kinship with The VSS and Clikitat Ikatowi.  

Nerve 80 was the first of two full length albums from the '85.  I am proud that I contributed to its creation, while also disappointed in my inability to gain them any greater exposure.  Several dozen copies of the CD are likely still in the possession of "John," occasional commenter on this very blog.  If you dig this CD please consider making contact with him for a hardcopy, as well as his more recent musical adventures in ((microwaves)).  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cul de Sac - China Gate

Closing out my posts for this weekend, here is my favorite album from Boston's Cul de Sac.  Except for the intro and outro tracks and the occasional found-sound voice sample, it's a completely instrumental album.  

Cul de Sac appear to draw inspiration from several musical touchstones: raga, krautrock, psychedelic, free jazz, prog, surf, noise, electronic, and probably other stuff that I'm even less qualified to fake my way around discussing. 

If you like China Gate, don't stop here.  Cul de Sac have several great records, including a studio collaboration with John Fahey and a two-disc live collection from a intercontinental tour with Damo Suzuki.  

Primordial Undermind - Yet More Wonders of the Invisible World

Most fans of the Twisted Village and Ptolemic Terrascope varieties of psychedlic rock are well aware of Wayne Rogers' and Kate Biggar's musical travels from Crystallized Movements to Magic Hour and, presently, Major Stars.  The truly obsessive have also been following Eric Arn, who preceded Kate as Crystallized Movements' second guitarist, and who currently leads a nomadic and itinerant band called Primordial Undermind.  

This was Primordial Undermind's first LP, released in 1995.  Most tracks are fuzzy psych with a melodic, poppy bent and the occasional nod to eastern styles.  Mixed among these are a few moments of psychedlic noise freakout bliss - the proverbial money shot for folks like me who were curious to hear what "that other Crystallized Movements dude" was creating.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Royal Trux - Sweet Sixteen

I think this album is genius, and I think the following review from Rolling Stone nails it perfectly... except for the 1-star rating, that is.

"Virginia's Royal Trux mix bad Company biker blues, Southern rock, synthesized AM drivel and arty college experimentation like an underage bar goer mixes drinks: slamming 'em down till they come back up as regurgitated sonic swill. Combine that with a trailer-trash-chic image – skintight bell-bottoms, cowboy boots and whiskey-warped expressions – and you have an underclass shtick that has made the Trux underground faves.

On their sixth underproduced album and second major-label release (yet another indie band signed in Nirvana's wake), singer Jennifer Herrema works hard at sounding trashy, slurring lyrics in a raspy tone a la Nazareth. She hisses ultranasty lines like "Sweet 16 and never been clean" alongside guitarist and vocalist Neil Hagerty's own thin warble. Indulgent wah-wah guitar solos bump into disjointed drum beats.

Every song on Sweet Sixteen eventually lapses into a meandering mess, even on tunes where the Trux attempt to mimic Zeppelin's repetitive rhythms or the Allman Brothers' jams. Instead of respecting the music they bastardize, the Trux treat it as low art, approaching '70s rock like a cocky adult playing a kids' game. By mid-album, you begin to wish Lynyrd Skynyrd had crashed this recording session and kicked the Trux's pretentious asses into some sort of cohesive groove." (RS 757)


Royal Trux - Thank You

Much has been made of the major label feeding frenzy in the years following Nevermind. It left many a hipster scratching his head and asking "did they really think this would appeal to the Wreckz-n-Effects-loving masses?"

For what it's worth, Thank You was Royal Trux' most accessible album to date. Everything is relative, of course. This probably would have been far more accessible around stoners' basements everywhere in 1971 than it was around Tower Records in 1995.

Royal Trux took on a full band for this record, as well as Neil Young's then-producer of choice David Briggs. The result was a blissfully jammed out rawk record cut live in the studio, and a presage for the remainder of Trux' run.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


the old hit meter rolled over 1000 hits already.  in honor of this most arbitrary metric, everyone gets high this weekend.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gapeseed - Project 64

I used to gobble up stuff like this as fast as people could put it out.  Angular, dissonant rock with equal parts chaos and melody.  Maybe a cross between Sonic Youth and Beefheart.  Polvo was the obvious leader of that pack, but Gapeseed deserves mention as well.  

Legacy?  As I've written before about other records on this blog, web searches turn up only the most rudimentary information about Gapeseed.  For what it's worth, I don't plan to throw this CD into my sell pile anytime soon.  Then again, demand for regionally obscure indie noise-pop is unusually low right now.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Miss - No Radio

When this came out I thought The Miss were destined to be among the great undiscovered nouveau noise rock/no-wave bands - like my local favorites The 1985 (of whom I'll probably post something here eventually).  

Nouveau noise rock/no-wave?  "Come again," you say?  Well, you could sorta dance to these bands in a quirky sort of way, like Devo, Pop Group and Liquid Liquid.  They were atonal, like MX-80 and DNA.  They had a thick rhythm section driving most of the songs, akin to Jesus Lizard, Craw, Slug, et al.  And some of them actually got kinda big.  Well, Pitchfork big, anyway.  Liars.  Ex Models.  And so on.

The Miss did not get big, but that was certainly not for a lack of recorded effort.  This one and only LP could have easily stood its ground against all comers.  But it never had the chance, and alas here it is on my blog instead.  Enjoy.

Grafton - Blind Horse Campaign

In case anyone is branding me as some indie rock oldster in full-on mid life crisis, here's something from this century.  Grafton is a heavy rawk trio from Columbus, OH - the most hospitable city I've ever visited, for what it's worth.  

You could easily mistake Grafton as an offshoot from Laughing Hyenas and/or Mule.  They also cruise down the same highway as Rye Coalition and Tight Bros From Way Back When.  Not enough RIYL references for you?  How about this - AC/DC.

If that doesn't do it then you obviously do not like rock music.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Death of Samantha - Come All Ye Faithless / Laughing in the Face of a Dead Man

I've had these in my queue for a while.  I am putting them up today mostly because of a post earlier this week over at Willfully Obscure.  You can also find the Death of Samantha LP Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants over at Feelin' Kinda Froggy.

DoS is hard for me to describe because (1) I wasn't aware of them when they were actually together, and (2) it's impossible for me to ignore their future collective and individual endeavors (Cobra Verde, Gem, GBV).  They were from Cleveland, so it's no crime to hear some Pere Ubu influence.  However, this is definitely closer to straight ahead rawk than Ubu ever was.  

Come All Ye Faithless was their third and final LP.  Some say it's their best.  I say it's best not to choose sides.  Laughing in the Face of a Dead Man is an EP released between their first LP, Strungout on Jargon (which I can upload too if there are no other takers), and Where the Women Wear the Glory...  It has a rippin' cover of "Werewolves of London" as well as my personal favorite DoS song "Yellow Fever."  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Timber - Parts and Labor

Quite an enjoyable and schizophrenic album, this one. Way out here in Pittsburgh, this is what we assumed The Knitting Factory must sound like. There are songs that remind me of the Minutemen's virtuosic country-punk-funk. There are jangling, clanging, angular pop tunes a la Yo La Tengo, Railroad Jerk, and Antietem. Ghosts of no wave, horny jazz and a couple noise/experimental jams round it all out.

I can't tell you much else about these folks. The drummer went on to play in the slightly more prolific Run On (maybe I'll up one of their albums sometime down the road). Aside from a track on the Matador comp New York Eye & Ear Control and a pre-LP single with an alternate (in my opinion, superior) version of the track "Stupid Reasons," I think this is all they ever did.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

oh yeah...

also while i'm here, just to set the record straight there is no fucking way this lady is getting my vote to be a heartbeat away...

Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. "She looked in my eyes and said, 'Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.'"

no news is no news

i've been pretty wrapped up with work and other stuff for the last couple weeks.  however, relief is on the way.  there are a half-dozen albums in the hopper, anxiously awaiting my sophomoric critical accompaniments.  should be plenty more up here by this weekend.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Flower - Concrete Sky (1987 - 1990)

I've always had a soft spot for the indie rock happening in NYC in the late 80s.  Sonic Youth of course, but also DustDevils, Nice Strong Arm, Live Skull... that stuff was very popular among the WRCT rock DJs when I started in 1990.  

This is one that slipped under the radar but should not have.  Flower definitely shared some of the sonic dissonance with the aforementioned bands, mixing in a bit of Joy Division's darkness and Mission of Burma's melodic sense.  After Flower, two of these guys went on to form Versus.

Concrete Sky is a compilation of Flower's total recorded output - the Hologram Sky EP and Concrete LP - plus a live track from the compilation NYU's Sorority Sampler.  It's all out of print, originals and reissues, so don't feel guilty.

Garden Variety - Knocking the Skill Level

Nowadays, of course, you can't say the e-word without conjuring the horrors of asymmetrical haircuts, eyeliner, and really bad music.  However, some of us thirty-somethings can remember a time in the early 90s when the word "emo" did not necessarily mean "teh suck."  

Equally drawing inspiration from Rites of Spring, Jehu, and the wide, wide world of pop punk, the second wave of emo (presuming we all agree that the first wave began and ended in DC - Rites of Spring, Embrace, Gray Matter, et. al.) burned brightly for a few years before Carraba and the Fall Out Boys gave the e-word whole new meaning*.  

Which brings me to Garden Variety, who caught lightning in a bottle with this album.  If, like me, you prefer Frame and Canvas and Yank Crime over Every Night Fireworks and Suicide Invoice, then have a listen.

If you like this record I suggest heading over to Wilfully Obscure and grabbing the New Sweet Breath singles.

P.S. the Garden Variety singer's next band was Radio 4, who similarly practiced "dancepunk" before that genre also became synonymous with "teh suck."

*crybaby kiddie-punk shit

Tiger - Shining in the Wood EP

From 2000-2003 I lived with a couple friends in their big old house in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  One of them really loved this CD.  I got it onto my hard drive pretty soon after I heard it.  It's an EP released in America by Bar/None records, featuring the "Shining in the Wood" British single plus the B-sides from two other British-only singles.  

Judging by the dearth of information online, it seems like this is just one more band of which find memories live on among the relative few. That's too bad.  Anyone who enjoyed the Pixies' guitar buzz, the retro-analog groove of Stereolab, and th' faith healers' poppy streak probably would have been ga-ga about Tiger.  

I haven't found anything else in the blogopolis, so if you have some other Tiger records please share the wealth, eh?  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Strike - A Conscience Left to Struggle With Pockets Full of Rust

Using late 70s British punk, ska and mod as touchstones, The Strike put out their first album in 1996.  If my fruitless google searches are any indication, it is still being slept on today.  That is surprising, especially considering that its release was preceded by a spilt 7" with basement-show darlings Dillinger Four.  I would'a thought there were thousands of young socialist whitebelts out there, bored to tears with their worn-out copies of London Calling and All Mod Cons,  chomping at the bit to drop a thrift store needle on this.  

Lacking in originality perhaps, but so what?  If you like the sound of '77 London, then you'll be plenty tickled with this.

Baby Astronauts - All the Pancakes You Can Eat

My friend Steve turned me onto this record at WRCT sometime in the early 90s.  He said they were "Minneapolis' Minutemen," which isn't too far off the mark.  To my ears they were also sonic contemporaries of Homestead Records mainstays like The Embarrassment, Salem 66, and Big Dipper.  

The record was pressed in a series of 1000 copies with unique cover artwork.  Each cover was cut from a huge original painting that must have been - if my math is correct, and I like to think that it is - over 1000 square feet in size.  

The attached image here is not my copy, by the way.  I found mine at Jerry's in Pittsburgh somewhere along the way, but it's packed away in a stack of LP boxes at the moment.  This image is blatantly swiped from the blog one base on an overthrow (thanks dude).

Download and enjoy, because unless you look hard you'll probably never find a copy of your own.  There is also a CD version out there, released by Big Money Inc., which includes 14 bonus tracks.  If you happen to have one let me know.  I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Lot Six - Gwylo

I never would have known about this record at all were it not for my summertime DJ gig at WRCT in 2002.  This was a band who, on this album at least, was willing to experient and mix styles over the course of nine tracks.  Often that's just another recipe for shit sandwiches, but when it works - and it works on Gwylo - it can be awfully satisfying.  

I hear influences like Fugazi and Jehu on dynamic rockers like "This is Entertainment."  "Last Flight of the Spruce Goose" is all Tex-Mex desert shuffle.  "Coincidence Reprise" makes some lo-fi experimental strokes.   "The Tiny Tin" dips into the psychedelic effects toybox.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nothing Short of Total War (Part One) - Blast First comp (1989)

Tonight it's a pigfuck compilation double shot.  If you like the TnG comp posted earlier you'll probably love this.  Released in 1989 by the Mute imprint Blast First, Nothing Short of Total War was a who's-who of the indie pigfuck noise rock scene on both sides of the pond. 

Don't let the compilation tag fool you.  This is meant to be played from beginning to end, and you'll understand once you press play.  Don't let the familiar titles fool you, either.  This is not some cheesy label sampler rip-off.  Most of these tracks are live, demo, or alternate takes.  

I guess we shouldn't hold our breath for Part Two, eh?

(sorry for the rapidshare link... it's a big'n)

God's Favorite Dog - Touch n Go compilation (1986)

It probably goes without saying, but this compilation was the beginning of Touch n Go's salad days.

1. Butthole Surfers: Eindhoven Chicken Masque
2. Killdozer: Sweet Home Alabama
3. Scratch Acid: The Final Kiss
4. Hose: Down By The River
5. Happy Flowers: Colors In The Rain
6. Big Black: Every Man For Himself
7. Big Black: Crack Up
8. Happy Flowers: All I Got Were Clothes For Christmas
9. Hose: How Many More Times
10. Scratch Acid: Holes
11. Killdozer: Sonnet
12. Butthole Surfers: The Legless Eye

Love Cup | Hum | Dis- | Steakdaddy Six - Twelve Inch Records "Single of the Moment" series

The artwork for these singles is as hard to find as the singles themselves nowadays.  I have to admit, I don't own any of 'em myself.  I forget where I stumbled upon these mp3s but I'm glad I did. 

Twelve Inch Records can describe these better than I can:

Lovecup - Tearing Water b/w Juggernaut
Single of the Moment #1 (1992)

Every scene, every era has a great unsung band and Love Cup is that band for Chicago-Urbana in the early 90's. They found a perfect balance between metal and indie rock and influenced my band [Poster Children] and had an even greater influence on Hum. 

Hum - Hello Kitty b/w Roar, I'm a Tiger
Single of the Moment #2 (1992)

Jeff Dimpsey (formerly of Bad Flannel and Poster Children) takes up the bass after Baltie leaves to form Mother and Andy makes his last appearance on guitar and vocals. Recorded in the big city of Chicago with Brad Wood at the soon to be very hip IDFUL. This single moves even closer to the now familiar Hum sound.

Dis - Ed Was Solace b/w Girl Song
Single of the Moment #3 (1992)

Dis was the only 12 Inch band not to hail from the twin cities; they were a trio of Albini familiars hailing from the city of Milwaukee. Their song Ed Was Solace was their entry into the hearts and minds of the Twelve Inch family. Chris Fuller played guitar and sang, Rob Sieracki played bass and sang. Matt Morgan played drums. Recorded with finesse by Steve Albini in his home studio.

Steakdaddy Six - Rubber Pants b/w Play
Single of the Moment #4 (1992)

This single was recorded by Hum drummer Brian St. Pere at his home studio. Two drummers, heavy guitar and wah-wah bass sounds like a recipe for disaster but these guys pulled it off with panache and a sense of humor. They were the figurehead band of Twelve Inch, releasing all of their music on the label.