December 09 2012 Drop Box Notes


12.09.12

As the end of the year approaches, I have decided to clean up some things I missed along the way this past year. So, this month’s offerings include some albums from as early as January that were either missed, ignored, or re-discovered (Chairlift, Empires, Delorentos, and Django Django, all come to mind) as well as some new releases, and some that are still awaiting release (Yo La Tengo doesn’t come out until January 15, 2013). At the end of the month, I’ll drop into the box a playlist full of what I thought were the best songs of 2012 and my picks for best albums of the past year. If you’ve been keeping up with the drop box, you’ll find that you have most of the albums that will appear on a large number of best of the year lists including Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Consequence of Sound. If there is something you missed, feel free to drop me a note, and I’ll add it to the box.

First up is a reissue. Old 97s reissue Too Far To Care the band’s 3rd record after 15 years was not only their major label debut but demonstrated the band at the peak of its powers effortlessly blending country and rock into a potent mixture. Punks loved this band because the tempos were in synch with the punk ethos, and they were already familiar with other attempts to find the balance between punk and country in the form of Rank and File, Beat Farmers, and KD Lang and the Reclines. Check out “Timebomb” a masterpiece in the genre. This is a 2 CD effort with the first CD the original album plus a couple of rare outtakes and a promo. The second CD, They Made A Monster: The Too Far to Care Demos features 11 previously unissued demo recordings from the original album sessions. Try “Timebomb,” “Just like California” and “House That Used To Be.”

Freemantle, West Australia’s four piece indie pop-stars, San Cisco are huge in Australia, so they are not huge in the U.S. ( I have no idea about Canada J). They should be massive, but in the glut of new music, and the new regionalism that is developing, they have largely been ignored state side. I hope that will change, because these are catchy, enjoyable sing-a-long songs with some great hooks. This is their debut album, but the disc includes the EP with the killer song “Awkward” featuring the boy-girl vocals of lead singer Jordi Davieson and drummer Scarlett Stevens. (Check out the great old school video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukNOaKeUEQY ) This is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year: Try also “Rocket Ship”, Wild Things” and “Stella.”

Los Angeles’ Allah-Las (get it?) play better than there weak ass name. On their self titled debut, Allah-Las is essentially a 60s California beach garage psychedelic sound played through a modern lens, and frankly, for a couple of record store clerks from LA’s best music store “Amoeba” the music is like the fabulous Fleshtones, balancing the two major influences. Think small smoky bar at the end of the 1960s with the Doors as the headliner. You’ll get the feel. Try “ Busman’s Holiday” (http://youtu.be/IpRh5bChBSM ), “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) (http://youtu.be/fiJYecS0vU0 ) and “No Voodoo.”

 As you might have guessed, Canadian music hold a special place in my heart (April Wine, Triumph, Moxy, Prism and Trooper – the 70’s were awesome!). What I find most interesting is the creativity of bands coming out of the great white north. A prime example is Toronto’s Crystal Castles who on III capture the feel of the city in the winter. Ethan Kath met Alice Glass are the perfect duo with Ethan producing the tracks and Alice’s creepy ethereal vocals laid over the top. This is video game melancholic music but rewarding when you are in the mood. There is really nothing like this out there commercially and Crystal Castles occupies a unique niche in the indie world. Well worth the exploration. Try “Plague” (http://youtu.be/JxVm2_ojQtk ), “Affection” (http://youtu.be/JCVPB6eMN4I ) and “Child I Will Hurt You.

In a similar vein Vancouver vocalist Claire Boucher who records under the name Grimes, has produced a record that will likely end up on a number of top 10 list this year. Visions is an electro-pop record for lack of a better description and is filled with a vast array of styles and influences and words do not adequately describe what is going on. This should make sense as she is much smarter than me, having studied Russian literature and neuroscience at McGill. This is a very satisfying record, full of very interesting song structures. Try” Genesis” (http://youtu.be/1FH-q0I1fJY ) “Oblivion” (http://vimeo.com/38987284 ) and “Visiting Statue.”

Brooklyn’s Chairlift is one of the albums I missed earlier this year. I’m not sure why, because this is the 80s synth-pop that I loved growing up when I was a kid. Recall New Musik or perhaps the Reels? Probably not. So check them both out. Here is New Musik’s “Straight Lines”: http://youtu.be/9Ysr0A14o24 ) ( I had no idea these guys looked like this!!!); and here is the Reels doing “Love Will Find A Way” (http://youtu.be/FTp0Cf2k_7E) (from 1979 – love these outfits!). Anyway, as synth-pop finds its way into the mainstream consciousness, Chairlift are on a roll. “Bruises” from 2008’s Does You Inspire You? launched the band as also launch the 4th generation iPod Nano to the world. Fast forward to 2012 and in January, Something is released with more of the extremely pleasant pop. Try “ Met Before” (http://youtu.be/atKuhrPnLq8 ), “Amanaemonesia” (http://youtu.be/98XRKr19jIE ) and “I Belong In Your Arms” (http://youtu.be/3e8Ql9qFA2o ).

Adelaide, South Australia’s Atlas Genius debut record was released in Australia in January, but didn’t find its way to these shores until June 2012 where Through The Glass was released as an EP. With a clean indie pop sound these songs should be a hit with the young hipster crowd. Try “Trojans” (http://youtu.be/Sd2yr12abg8 ), “Back Seat” (http://youtu.be/PeAUf-VeXbE ) and “Symptoms.” ( Really there are only 4 songs on the EP and one of them is the acoustic version of Trojans. You’ll like ‘em all J).

Sticking with the EP pattern, Birds of Tokyo released This Fire earlier this year and while I missed it the first time around, this is also a gem and also from Australia. From Perth, this EP was released domestically in October, but has been available in Australia for more than a year. They are recording their 4th album March Fires which is due out in March 2013. For now, this will have to do. The music is in the same vein as Carolina Liar and Augustana.  Try “This Fire”(http://youtu.be/sSpwcAvoo2o ), “Glowing in the Streets”, and “Boy”.

Sweden’s 1000 Gram are an enigma. Stepping away from the fervent rock n’ roll emanating from this part of the world, 1000 Gram occupy an entirely different niche possibly because the band (comprised of Germans and Swedes) have fought hard to find middle ground for their electro-acoustic indie music. This is a singer-songwriter type record with sweeping melodies and some Strokes influences, particularly on “Cut Me Some Slack.” Try: “Come Back To Me,” “That’s How We Love” and “We Ain’t Waiting.”

Since we are already talking about Europe (having moved on from Australia) it is just a short distance from Sweden to Denmark, where we find the Blue Van channeling 60s soul music through its hip filter. Would You Change Your Life?  is the 5th album from this band which has toured the U.S. continuously throughout their existence and have even played Austin City Limits. This album rocks and you will find yourself singing along at various points. This would be a great band to see live. Think Hives as a soul band.  (Just a note – the Blue Van is derived from “Den blå varevogn” which is what we would call the “short bus” in America). Try “Would You Change Your Life?” “Wake The Tiger” and “Tightrope.”

West Yorkshire’s Above Them, 2nd LP Are We A Danger To Ourselves hints at what is quickly becoming a resurgence of punk rock as a viable form of music. I put this in the drop box last month, but removed it to make space, so here you are again! In the past year there have been several spectacular punk rock records dropped into this box ( Mezingers, Static Jacks etc.), and this is the first of three such great punk records this month alone (including Hostage Calm and After The Fall reviewed below). For those who follow this genre and its various subgenres (of which there are a great many) the past couple of years have been a little flat, but things are starting to come around. This falls into the Rise Against type of punk rock. Straight forward lyrically, this is melodic punk rock without the political bent. Try “Temper Like A Hand Grenade,” “Giving Up On Sorrow” and “Something To Keep You Positive.”

Hostage Calm extend the pop-punk genre a little bit bringing a mixture of punk rock and hardcore to Please Remain Calm which is the Connecticut bands second full length. This is Ultimate Fakebook type territory: Melodic punk pop with the catchy bits in all the right places. Try” Brokenheartland”, “Don’t Die On Me Now” and the amazing “May Love Prevail” (with its throwback 60’s sound!).

After The Fall bring something different to the punk rock mix. Heading back to Australia, where the band is from, they have incorporated the rhythms of their forefathers, the Saints and Hoodoo Gurus, to capture the power of the fertile rock scene and update it for the second decade of the 2000’s. There is a hint of Nirvana in these tunes, and that possibly may be from the vocals of Ben Windsor which are forceful and energetic, particularly on “Nothing But Black.” Bittersweet is the band’s fourth album and the growth of the band is clearly evident particularly on “The Fire Is Gone” which should be a hit anywhere. So, in three albums this month, I’ve covered but a few of the punk genre’s range, so if you never thought to give punk rock a try, maybe now is the time. Try “The Fire Is Gone,” “Bittersweet,” and “Dirty Sheets.”

I’ve liked all the prior Classic Crime records, so it is not surprising that I would like the new LP, Phoenix. This Seattle based band formed in 2004 and released their first three records on Tooth and Nail, so there was no shortage of distribution. Phoenix is a Kickstarter financed record as the band left the label. Phoenix continues the Classic Crime sound falling somewhere between rock and hardcore. At its heart, the band’s sound is melodic rock with big choruses. Rather simple I’d say. Try” Beautiful Darkside”, “What I’d Give Up” and “You And Me Both.”

Titus Andronicus have appeared in the drop box recently as I dropped the new release, Local Business and the bands first record The Monitor last month. However, what I neglected to drop was a mix tape put out by the band in March of this year that streamed free for a week. Well, for those who missed it, here it is in all its glory. The Mix tape will give you some idea of the bands influence, which is in the alt-rock sweet spot: Thin Lizzy, Bobby Fuller, Weezer, Replacements etc. Full track list here: http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/03/download-titus-andronicus-llc-mixtape-vol-1/

  Try: “Treatment Bound (Replacements cover)”, Heroin (Velvet Underground cover”) and “Undone [The Sweater Song] (Weezer cover).”

 If Joy Division and T-Rex had a love child, Empires would be that band. On Garage Hymns you get just that – an LP full of garage rock hymns. Although this is only the second lp from Chicago’s Empires, the songs are fully realized traversing territory similar to the National, but this is definitely more up tempo and anthemic. From the opener “Can’t Steal Your Heart Away” to closer “Lord Have Mercy” this is a breathtaking and spectacular record that sounds amazing. You will not be disappointed. Try “Hell’s Heroes” “Shame” and “We Lost Magic.”

Until next time, here is this month’s list:

1000 GramKen Sent Me [2012]

Above ThemAre We A Danger To Ourselves [2012]

After The FallBittersweet [2012]

Allah-LasAllah-Las [2012]

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave [Deluxe Version] [2012]

Atlas GeniusThrough The Glass [2012]

Birds Of TokyoThis Fire EP [2012]

Blue Van Would You Change Your Life [2012]

Chairlift – Something [2012]

Classic Crime Phoenix [2012]

Concrete KnivesBe Your Own King [2012]

Crystal Castles(III) [2012]

Dash Rip Rock Black Liquor [2012]

Delorentos Little Sparks [2012]

Django DjangoDjango Django [2012]

EmpiresGarage Hymns [2012]

Evens – The Odds [2012]

Ex-CultEx-Cult [2012]

FoxygenIntroducing Foxygen (Promo) [2012]

Green DayTre! [2012]

GrimesVisions (Deluxe Bonus Edition) [3CD] [2012]

Grizzly Bear Shields [2012]

GuardsIn Guards We Trust (Advance) [2013]

Hope And Social – All Our Dancing Days [2012]

Hostage CalmPlease Remain Calm [2012]

Jellyfish Stack-A-Tracks [2012]

Kate NashDeath Proof EP [2012]

King TuffKing Tuff [2012]

Knife & ForkThe Higher You Get, the Rarer the Vegetation [2012]

Nations AfireThe Ghosts We Will Become [2012]

New Bruises – Chock Full Of Misery [2012]

Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is An Animal [2012]

Old 97’sToo Far to Care [15th Anniversary Edition] [2012]

Organ ThievesSomewhere Between Free Men And Slaves [2012]

PolicaGive You The Ghost [2012]

Retrospective Soundtrack PlayersThe Catcher In The Rye (Advance) [2012]

San CiscoSan Cisco [2012]

Sharon Van EttenTramp [2012]

TennisYoung & Old [2012]

The 1975Sex [2012]

The Babies – Our House on the Hill [2012]

Titus AndronicusTitus Andronicus LLC Mixtape Vol. 1 [2012]

WalkmenHeaven [2012]

Yo La TengoFade [2013]

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