March 02 2013 Drop Box Notes


Notes 03.02.13

Well another month has passed without incident. Picking up where last month left off, this month’s batch of new releases continues the trend with a number of excellent releases in a wide variety of genres. I’ve had a few extra minutes to drop some notes about the releases this month, and have also included a few nuggets from last month as well.

I am somewhat addicted to the FIDLAR (Fuck it Dude, Life’s A Risk) record. The debut from this Los Angeles based proto-skate-punk (see a new sub-sub-genre of punk!) is interesting beyond the fact that it also signals a revival of a beloved sound from the early 80’s hardcore scene (think Descendants/All, Black Flag and the Circle Jerks) updated with modern sound recording and splashed with early southern flavored new wave (B-52’s, Dash Rip Rock) and the Orange County punk scene (Agent Orange, Channel 3) all perfectly balanced. In short, there is nothing like this currently in the punk universe. Catchy melodic choruses, with California retard themes. Once you hear “Cheap Beer” you will be hooked. The album is short in time but long in songs. Awesome crunchy guitars! Try “5 to 9”, “Wake Skate Bake” and “Wait for the Man.”

First up this month, is The Fiery Piano. Apart from the crappy and somewhat deceptive band name, Second Space is pop great record. Essentially a bedroom project, the sound is somewhat like Bright Eyes, and the electro-indie-pop is catchy, and at times gorgeous.  This debut LP, which Gustaf Montelius recorded in his home of Stockholm, Sweden, opens with an instrumental which flows nicely into the album’s centerpiece, the insanely catchy “ More Like A Tiger, Less Like A Dove.” For a one man record, this is not self-indulgent or precocious like most of these types of projects. Try, “Keep Dreaming On”, “Companions” and “Pegasus.”

I recently read an article on “noise rock” as a genre. As I thought about some of the bands mentioned, Velvet Underground, The Birthday Party (more about Nick Cave later!), Sonic Youth, and Scratch Acid, as well as a number that were not, Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, The Contortions, Arto Lindsay, and the entire Amphetamine Reptile roster in the late 80’s, it dawned on me that Pissed Jeans, on its latest, and IMHO greatest record, Honeys has finally achieved the perfect balance between noise terrorists and melody. From Allentown PA this is a working person’s hardcore band. The distinguishing feature from hardcore as a genre, is that there is no metal influences (or prog rock signature lyrics/ death metal decapitation soundscapes). It would take a while to sort the differences in writing, but trust me, you no the differences when you hear then. In the noise genre, there is still a garage rock undercurrent that is palpable, and unlike hardcore, there is actual singing as opposed to growling. More to the point, on Honeys, Pissed Jeans translates their considerable live performance to a solid record. Try “Cafeteria Food,” “Romanticize Me” and “Teenage Adult.”

Moving to the other end of the rock spectrum is Matt Pond (no longer going by Matt Pond P.A) who writes solid alt-rock songs in the vein of the Replacements. For those who know me, the inclusion of The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand in the drop box is not a surprise. I have followed this band for the last 15 years and still play on my iPad songs from the debut, Deer Apartments in 1998. Over the span of 8 LPs and 8 EPs, Matt Pond is consistently excellent. This record continues the trend. Catchy electro rock with thoughtful lyrics, these records suck you in and I often catch myself singing along. Like the greatest college rock albums of the 90’s (Marshall Crenshaw, dB’s, Smithereens) these are traditionally structured modern rock songs that do what all great songs do – they touch you emotionally, and make you want to sing along. So, put this in your car, turn it up loud, and feel the positive vibrations emanating forth. Try “Hole In My Heart,” “Let Me Live,” and “Love To Get Used.”

Another sunny pop record is Alpaca Sports. Much like last years San Cisco record, this is an alternative pop record of the highest order. It is hard to not like a record where the chorus of the song is “I used to kiss her…just for fun.” This is another one person project, from … wait….I’ll bet you can guess….Sweden. This time, Andreas Jonnsson, from Gotenberg, is the tunesmith on the self-titled Alpaca Sports an immensely enjoyable jangle pop record. Andreas gets some help in the form of some great back up vocals from Amanda Akerman and a couple of other friends that add highlights to these sunny songs. Not much you can say, really. Jangly to the max, this is pure candy. So, with that said, be forewarned, this can be easily overplayed, and puts that fun record that was so popular last year to shame. Try “Just For Fun,” “I Was Running” and Telephone.”

Pure Love is something of a punk super-group comprised of former Gallows singer Frank Carter and former Hope of Conspiracy/Suicide File guitarist Jim Carrol. Pure Love is a long way away from either of these bands hardcore roots. This is as the name suggests punk rock for the big screen in the form of Anthems. Frank Carter can actually sing and these are well formed, punk songs tinged with power pop (think Cheap Trick/ Blue Oyster Cult). When you need a loud rock record to play for your friends without wanting to scare them off – this is it. Like always, in a perfect world some of this would be on radio, but as you know – it is not. “Beach of Diamonds” was made for radio and would fit nicely on a Gaslight Anthem record. Try: “Handsome Devils Club,” “Riot Song” and “Bury My Bones.”

Ready to enter the mod garage? Palma Violets distill elements of the Jam/Who with the Arctic Monkeys, and for a band that formed in 2011, are already touted as the next big English thing. Formed in Lambeth, England, obvious influences are the Libertines. Like all of the records in the drop box, this is not perfect, but if 180 is any indication of where they are going as a band, then the hype is real. While I have finally conceded that popular radio may never see a guitar band again, it is precisely why I love music is bands like this who form, release a couple of youthful blast of energy into the ethos, and then either breakup, write shit or die. Hopefully that doesn’t happen here…but the odds are that it does. So, enjoy this for a time, because this is a pretty damn sweet record. Try “List of the Summer Wine”, “Step Up for The Cool Cats” (Love the mellotron!)  and “I Found Love.”

Like the Guards record last month, the National Rifle record took me by surprise. (I note here that The National Rifle is the 3rdPennsylvania based band in this month’s drop box). The National Rifle is from Philadelphia, and Almost Endless is their debut record). You know how there is certain sound that drags you into listening further to a song? Well, this record has a ton of tat particular sound. Maybe its Hugh Moretta’s voice, or the harmonies with keyboardist Lynna Stancatto, or the crunchy guitars. But whatever combination of elements, this record has it for me. Lyrically, the album is themed around frustration and the songs emphasize the inability to release tension through repetition.  If you can get past playing “Almost Endless” on repeat, try also “Night High” and “Coke Beat.”

Nick Cave is older than me. That is old. He also should not need any introduction. He is the former leader of the Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, and Grinderman, an author, screenwriter, actor and odd looking dude. And he has made a record in Push The Sky Away that I am positive will end up on many of the year end best of lists, and frankly, deservedly so. This is a masterwork in the true sense of the word. For those unfamiliar with the genre, Nick Cave delves in murder ballads but this record is very accessible to the casual listener. I saw some recent video from this tour, and it is captivating. Try “Wide Lovely Eyes” (Sounds a little like Bono here), “Water’s Edge” and “Push The Sky Away.”

On Out of View, London hipsters the History of Apple Pie contextualize early indie heroes like Pavement, Pixies, Throwing Muses through a blender adding layers of feedback and singer Miki Berenyi’s sharp vocals with heaps of pop melodies into a catchy assortment of tunes that will put some bounce in your step. Sure it is reminiscent of the 90’s college rock (originally called alt-rock ie. alternative to rock n roll) but the pleasure derived from the experience is hard to deny. Start with “Mallory” which is four minutes of psychedelic pop awesomeness, then try “Your So Cool” and “Do it Worng.”

Keeping with the aggressive garage sound theme of this month’s drop box, Scottish indie pop trio of Eilidh Rodgers, Ruary MacLean, and Rachel Aggs better known as Golden Grrrls also bring around the 60’s garage sounds in a fresh way. Opener “New Pop” sums up where we are, 35 years after the Buzzcocks broke open the punk pop barrier. There is always something interesting in boy-girl vocals, and although Golden Grrls is lumped in with what is quickly becoming the indie lo-fi scene, there is more going on with this record than other contemporary purveyors of this sound. A scant 30 minutes of playing time, but it passes quickly and leaves you wanting to hear a little more, a mark of distinction in the glut of new music hitting the world as seemingly everyone has a band. We’ve Got is a consistently good record, though be forewarned, there are some thin moments ( Paul Simon) but in context, it maybe I’ve not spent enough time with the record to discern the lyrical charms of this song. Try “Older Today”, “Take Your Time,” and “Date It.”

This is probably a good time to bring up modern guitar god (winner of the 2013 Godlike Genius Award from NME) Johnny Marr (ex of the Smiths, Modest Mouse & The Cribs) and his first solo record The Messenger. Although Marr claims that the Smiths invented indie ( not really true – I’d put Joy Division (“Love Will Tear Us Apart” 7”) , Buzzcocks (Spiral Scratch EP), Television (“Little Johnny Jewel” 7’’) and The Nerves ( The Nerves EP) at the forefront of the who started it first debate, but it is hard to argue with the melodies this guy has written over the past 35 years or so. All that said, The Messenger is a straight forward indie rock record that has some great guitar work and leans heavily towards the type of music he was writing with the Cribs as a gun for hire. Although the vocals are a little weak (somewhat the same vocal tone throughout) there is enough here for a good time as long as you mix this within a playlist and do not play the whole thing from front to back. The guitars shimmer, the choruses are catchy, and although this record will fade quickly from most people’s memory given the difficulty of comparing this album to Marr’s previous bands, particularly the Smiths recordings which still sound relevant and amazing after more than 30 years. Note: If you are going back to check, then skip the Morrissey solo years which are crap. The first Smiths record blows the doors off of everything Morrissey recorded by himself. The reason why that record is till amazing is of course, Johnny Marr. Try “Upstart”, “Generate! Generate!” and “New Town Velocity.”

Speaking of people who have been around for a while, but not nearly as prolific, Kevin Shields finally completes a My Bloody Valentine record. Originally formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1983 the band’s lineup has since 1987 consisted of founding members Kevin Shields (guitar and vocals) and Colm Ó Cíosóig (drums) with singer-guitarist Bilinda Butcher and bassist Debbie Googe. If you have not heard Loveless, a record which I put in the dropbox a last year, then go back and take a listen. Released in 1991, the album which took 2 years to make and nearly bankrupt their label (Creation) is a masterpiece. After the critical acclaim of that record, Shields, an admitted perfectionist, has claimed he has shelved 7 albums worth of material in the interim. So how long has it taken to release this new record, the bands third? 22 freakin’ years. Was it worth the wait then becomes the question. I had given up long ago; when suddenly without warning, m b v was dropped on the world on February 3, 2013. On m b v , after listening to the record with my headphones for a week and trying to not make the inevitable comparisons to Loveless, Shields has definitely captured the dynamic dissonance and the impenetrable wall of sound that changed guitar music forever. You have to think about what music means to you when you listen to m b v. This is about textures and how those textures make you feel. For example, on “Who Sees You” there is a feeling of claustrophobia and a sensation of tightness in your chest as the sonic assault relentlessly pounds you. Gripping. Try “Who Sees You,” “New You,” and “In Another Way.”

Iceage have previously appeared in the drop box and so it is not a surprise that the follow-up to New Brigade (one of Pitchfork’s best albums of 2011 receiving an 8.4) should also appear here. As noted in Pitchfork’s review of New Brigade, Iceage have found the sweet spot for punk rock “mixing the black atmosphere of goth, the wild-limbed whoosh of hardcore, and the clangor of post-punk. Such continues the trend here. Maybe Danish punk rock is ready for wide exposure, because Your Nothing is actually a better record with a bulkier sound. Perhaps it’s the move to Matador, or more likely, the band which is a road beast often playing chaotic shows, is more accomplished in both sound and structure. This is classic punk rock ( not street punk) that as mentioned above finds the soft underbelly of this particular genre and rips it wide open. Try “Coalition” “Morals” and “Everything Drifts” ( shades of Husker Du).

Similarly, The Men improve on their massive second record Open Your Heart which also appeared here last year. Like Iceage, this is a stronger record than the previously stunning record. However, unlike the Iceage record, the band is taking their sound in some new directions, muck like the Replacements did in their career arc and of whom The Men remind me.  For example, the Replacements followed up their punk record Sorry Ma Forgot To Take Out the Trash with the powerful Hootenanny. Which begs the question; will The Men’s next album be their Let It Be? From the get go The Men signal their new direction with the sweet countrified punk of “Open the Door”. Look the Byrds influences on New Moon are undeniable, as is the fact that the band acknowledges that they recorded this gem in the Catskills (like The Band). My god, they could be secretly Canadian. There is some Crazy Horse (see Neil Young reference – more evidence that they are Canadian!) references here, but the most powerful elements definitely owe a debt to the Replacements.  Try “The Seeds”, “The Brass,” and “Bird Song.”

This is probably a good time to talk about the Parquet Courts. Admittedly I missed this one the first time around. But heck, at least I found it. They have played a number of shows with the aforementioned The Men, and like The Men are based out of Brooklyn. Where else given the sound of this record. Like a punk rock Strokes, the band consisting of Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar), Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Andrew’s brother Max Savage (drums) are likely where we are going with modern punk rock – sharp fairly witty lyrics, twangy guitars, and plenty of attitude. I’m looking for their debut cassette if you can find it, but on their official debut Light Up Gold, they are a fully formed punk rock machine. This is a quick listen and there are sounds you would recognize from the first days of British punk but filtered though decades of sweat, the Hives, and moving to New York from Texas. Great stuff here. Reminds me a little of David Thomas of Pere Ubu vocally. But for most of you, this will likely be not a helpful reference. Anyway, Try: “Donut Only,” “Light Up Gold II” and “Tears O Plenty.”

Son Volt is Jay Farrar’s project formed in 1994 after the collapse of one of the best bands of the 1990s – Uncle Tupelo. Son Volt’s first life was surprisingly brief with only three albums recorded between 1995-1998. However, Jay’s released a number of solo records in the interim and his form of alt-country has stood the test of time. Finally, and after 20 years; Jay Farrar has reformed the original band and is now paying tribute to the country side of his roots head on. This is the Bakersfield sound (Buck Owens, Wynn Stewart and pedal steel player Ralph Mooney) lovingly performed. Honky Tonk is exactly what it is – 11 songs of pure country. Not for everyone, but in my view, there are few records as lovingly constructed as this one. The pedal steel work is prominent and that sound makes some people grit their teeth. For me, having loved the cowpunk of the late 80s of K.D. Lang and the Reclines, Beat Farmers, and Rank and File, this is a palate cleaner for your listening pleasure. Really, try this after the Parquet Courts record and you’ll get the idea. Try “Hearts and Minds”, The Wild Side” and “Angel of the Blues.”

Phoenix returns after a four year hiatus, with a new record entitled Bankrupt!. I have no idea why the title, but if you liked the previous record, which was massive, then you will like this one as well. The French electronic rock pop band’s 5th album, Bankrupt! Is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2013, so you will be able to tell everyone how good it is, and that is sounds very similar to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which was released in 2009. Look a four year gap in releases after the massive success of that record is understandable. Perhaps the album title is a signal that they are not bankrupt of ideas because like Green Day after Dookie, over-exposure on the level of the songs “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and “Too Young” is pretty difficult to overcome. So, what is the new record like – pretty amazing. But don’t take my word. Try: “Trying To Be Cool”, “Entertainment” and “Chloroform.”

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